9 Empowered Purim Costumes

by Sue Tomchin

Dressing as Queen Esther is never out of fashion, but we think it’s time to branch out. While one obvious choice is to pull your hair back in a tight bun, throw on a black robe, accessorize with a lace collar, and large, dark-rimmed glasses and go as the honorable RBG, here are some other empowered women worth emulating this Purim.

Proudly Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman used “Hava Nagila” as the music for her gold-medal winning floor exercise routine at the London Olympics in 2012, one of a total of six Olympic medals she has won. In 2018, she's become an icon in the fight against sexual assault after giving a powerful statement against her abuser, Larry Nassar, during his trial this January. And taking her message even further, she recently appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue with the words "Women don't have to be modest to be respected." written down her side. So get out your tights and leotard, put your hair in a topknot, hang medals on ribbons around your neck, and you’ll strike gold in the Purim costume parade. 

Berated at the start of her career for her distinctive profile, her Brooklyn accent, and her refusal to be anything but herself, Barbra Streisand showed us all that being unambiguously Jewish, strong and gorgeous are not mutually exclusive.  The bestselling female vocalist of all time, she was the first woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a major Hollywood film. Along the way she has received two Oscars, 10 Grammys, a Tony, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honors. To create a Purim costume that will make them say, “hello, gorgeous,” check out this Tumblr post to see what Babs wore in some of her iconic roles. Don’t forget to belt out a few bars of “People” while you’re at it.

"This woman's place is in the House—the House of Representatives," declared “Battling Bella” Abzug, a lawyer, social activist, and leader in the women’s movement, as well as an influential member of Congress. Outspoken and indomitable, her signature look was to wear a vibrant hat. Whether colorful, wide-brimmed, or perfectly round, this identifiable accessory always made a statement—just like the woman who wore it. So embrace Bella’s audacious attitude and don some headgear this Purim remembering, as Bella asserted, “It's what's under the hat that counts!"

Fearless is only one of a slew of accolades that we can think of to describe the work of feminist icon, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. Co-founder of Ms. magazine and of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she has been on the front line in the fight for women’s and human rights for the past 50+ years. This January, on the day after the inauguration, she served as co-chair and speaker at the Women’s March on Washington. To suggest Steinem’s liberated style, dress in a black top and slacks and a low-slung wide belt.  Wear your hair straight, parted down the center, put on large glasses and carry a copy of Ms. under your arm to complete your costume. 

When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg coined the term “lean in” in her bestselling book, she ignited a national discussion about women’s leadership and how to break down both professional and personal barriers. And she puts her money where her mouth is: she has created Lean In, an organization dedicated to building women’s leadership and creating workplaces that are inclusive and fair, qualities we admire. So don a well-tailored dress and heels, comb your hair into a bob and carry her book at your side and you’ll be paying homage to one of the world’s most powerful women. 

The jersey wrap dress she designed made women of all shapes and sizes feel amazing.It’s considered so influential that it has been enshrined in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But what makes Diane von Furstenberg a woman worth emulating is the vision and drive to succeed that have inspired her to create lines that we love, from clothing to cosmetics to jewelry to children’s wear. And we can’t forget to mention her work and philanthropy promoting leadership for women and girls. So pull out a wrap dress from your own (or your mom’s) closet, let your wavy hair loose on your shoulders, and channel the beauty and flair of DVF!

Before STEM programs for girls became commonplace, astronaut Judith Resnik showed the world that women could soar in the sciences. She earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and was recruited to the space program going on to become, in 1978, only the second woman and the first Jewish woman in space. Mission specialist on the first voyage of the Discovery space shuttle, she was killed in the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Celebrate Resnik’s bold legacy with astronaut attire.

Though small of stature, she’s had an outsize influence on how we talk about sex. Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s spirited discussions on radio and television played a major role in introducing generations to forthright and non-judgmental conversation about sexuality. Born in Germany, she was sent to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. Gutsy and whip-smart, she immigrated to British-controlled Palestine, trained as a sniper and was wounded in Israel’s War of Independence. Relocating first to Paris and then the U.S., she worked at Planned Parenthood while pursuing a Ph.D. and post-doctoral work in human sexuality. To pay tribute to Dr. Ruth, put on a colorful suit, brush up on your German accent, perch horn-rimmed glasses on your nose, and declare: “When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.” Use props at your own discretion. 

The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty features a tablet bearing the immortal poem by Jewish poet Emma Lazarus that reads, in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” That, plus the fact that it has been a symbol of welcome for millions of refugees, makes the “lady with a lamp” a powerful gal for Purim attire, especially in light of current restrictions on immigration to U.S. shores. Order a costume or use an old sheet, some spray paint, and a whole lot of green makeup to make your own.