It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Batsheva Haart is one of the stars of Netflix's newest reality show My Unorthodox Life, which follows a family that left an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in favor of living more modernly in New York City. But as the family's matriarch, Julia Haart, and her four children adjust to the "outside world" in different ways, the growth of the eldest daughter Batsheva is illustrated by way of her fashion evolution. Namely, the introduction of pants into her wardrobe — something that she wasn't allowed to wear growing up.
"It was an interesting transition because when I did start wearing pants, I just wasn't used to seeing my body in that way," the 28-year-old tells Yahoo Life. "It was like a whole new experience for me."
Her decision was highlighted in an episode of the series, which featured a conversation between Batsheva and her husband Binyamin "Benn" Weinstein — whom she met and married at the age of 19 within the religious community — and a larger debate amongst her family members who believed it shouldn't be a big deal for Batsheva to diversify her wardrobe. To Batsheva, however, putting on her first pair of pants was an extension of a body image journey she'd been going through since leaving her hometown where she solely wore clothes that covered her collarbones, elbows and knees
"It took me time to not analyze myself so much. When I started showing my arms, I was like, 'Oh, I have arm flab.' All of these things that I never exposed before, except for like at home in my PJ's,'" she explains. "People outside of where I grew up or outside of ultra-religious societies are just raised being more confident in their own skin or at least showing off things. It was something that I had to have inner talks with myself about and be like, 'You have a beautiful body, you're a beautiful person, don't overanalyze yourself.' And I think that helped me in a lot of ways."
The transition is one that she's spoken about on her TikTok, where she has 1.4 million followers.
Despite her unique upbringing, Batsheva says she has a "positive" outlook about body image, which she credits to her mother, Julia. "My mom raised me to be very confident," Batsheva says. "My mom was always good at giving us compliments and making us feel really good about ourselves."
Outside of their home, however, Batsheva says women in her community weren't encouraged to think about their bodies at all.
"In my specific experience, the baggier your clothing was the better person you were. So it was kind of anti-body image all together," she explains. "It was definitely not a discussion whatsoever because you weren't really supposed to be thinking about things like that. I don't think I thought about it that much."
Still, she wasn't immune to insecurities.
"I actually always struggled with my legs and having to wear skirts that were below my knee because I'm so short," she says. "Even when I was still living a very strict religious lifestyle, I shortened my skirts. It just made my legs look longer and that made me feel more confident about myself."
Her eyes were later opened to the many ways that she could play around with fashion to look and feel her best as she became a student at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. During these earlier years living in the "outside world," Batsheva experimented with shorter dresses and skirts, sleeveless tops and at 27 years old wore her first pair of pants.
"I've learned different ways to pose and wear clothing like high-waisted skirts or pants that elongate my legs and give me that taller look. So definitely having the freedom to choose what I want to wear for my body type is very liberating," she says. "Learning to love my body and being able to show it in the way that I want to, instead of like listening to the specific guidelines was very empowering for me."
Now, as people of all ages look to her social media platforms for fashion inspiration, the young woman makes an effort to emphasize just how important it is to not only embrace different body types, but also to dress as they please. She even made that message quite clear by wearing a power suit that read the words, "My body my choice."
"Where I came from I had a lot of guidelines on what I could not wear. So it was kind of about me saying, it's my body and it's my choice to decide what I wear and what I want to put on it. It shouldn't be anyone else's decision," she explains. "And I think that goes for just everyone in general. Everyone has different styles, what they like, and it's not anyone else's place to really tell you what you can and cannot wear."