Welcome to Shopping With Vogue, a series in which we sift through a fashion lover’s favorite store. For this edition, we shop with Batsheva Hay of the label Batsheva at the Crown Heights store Top Fashion.
Batsheva Hay of the label Batsheva is on the hunt for a Hanukkah look in Crown Heights—an epicenter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Judaism in New York City. Here, women typically abide by the laws of modesty known as tznius, and wear dresses to cover their elbows, necks, and knees. The men have beards and wear Borsalino black hats. Bordering secular New York, Crown Heights transforms itself during the holidays. Everything is just more….bright. It has the celebratory energy of the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting, just in Brooklyn and, well, kosher.
I haven’t really celebrated the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah since I was a child. Eight crazy nights? Forget it. If anything, I’ll light a half-burned Diptyque candle and call it a day. The holiday has been commercialized, and I feel its original meaning of miracles and rebuilding has been diluted. But Hay—and the energy of Crown Heights—have gotten me newly excited. She wants to buy a dress for the occasion, which bewilders me. Hay makes dresses for a living, and has pretty much reinvented the frumpy Yentl frock into a chic must-have. Still, she wants a real-deal one from Crown Heights.
She’s been to the neighborhood recently to shop for a religious gift for her and her husband’s anniversary. They got married eight years ago on the fifth night of Hanukkah, so the holiday is especially sentimental for them. “My husband loves a little Judaica gift, like a tallis and a gartel,” she says. On her trawl, she came across Top Fashion, a store specializing in modest clothes located at 382 Kingston Avenue, which is our destination this afternoon.
When I arrive, I’m instantly taken in by the store. A huge modernist chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and the racks are filled with skirts, dresses, and sweaters. A tiny booth near the cash register is stocked with religious paraphernalia: Shabbat candle sets and cards with religious figures. I stick out like a sore thumb here in my flares so tight that I feel like an encased sausage. I see Hay, who is wearing one of her own casual, green cotton floral dresses and hauling an Ikea bag full of fabric and shirts. A total modest angel. We are both warmly welcomed by the shop’s owner, Chaya Lerman. When I ask Lerman, who is sweet and smiling, how long she’s been working here, she simply says “a long time…a long time,” without going into detail. Batsheva chimes in, “A woman never tells!” Fair.