Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Modesty is making news





"We want girls to know they can be beautiful and stylish and modest. We tell them first impressions are important. ... And what does it say if the first impression is showing everything?" —Inchi Sugarman, chair of the Sacramento Pure Fashion Show, an event designed to showcase modest clothing for teens (hat tip to Plugged In Online)


I read the above quote in Plugged In Online's Culture Clips with interest. As a Christian woman, I believe in modesty, and I applaud efforts to promote the concept, especially among young women. (More on that Pure Fashion Show here, and more about the Pure Fashion organization here.

Our goal is to emphasize a young woman's inherent dignity and therefore create in her a desire to dress and act in accordance with that dignity. We understand that many young women today are losing their sense of innocence at a very young age, and Pure Fashion aims to reverse this trend by offering a fun, exciting and effective virtue formation program that can impress the hearts and minds of young girls at a very critical stage in their lives.
--From the Pure Fashion website

All across the modesty spectrum

The so-called modesty movement appears to be gaining momentum, online as well as in real life. A quick Google search immediately turned up a wealth of sites dedicated to modesty and/or modest fashions. Some of them, like Eliza Magazine, have some connection with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the magazine's founder, former Ford model Summer Bellessa, is a Mormon.) Eliza Magazine also has an online blog.

In fact, several of the modest fashion sites seem to have LDS connections.

I even ran across one that was Muslim-connected, which I have to tell you, I balk at. I would NOT want a Taliban-like control over my clothing decisions, and I'm not about to don a burka.

Even that polygamous sect that made headlines in Texas recently is now marketing its modest fashions online now. Read "modest" as "something that Louisa May Alcott might have worn in 1865."

Some of the modest fashion sites I found did border on the frumpy, I hate to say. OK, some of the fashions WERE frumpy and unattractive. (Is it really necessary for a skirt to go completely to the ground to be termed "modest"?) Others, however, featured really beautiful, classy clothes that were flattering without being revealing.


Jen of Pretty/Modest

Some of the sites are mainstream and/or evangelical Christian. Pretty/Modest is a blog edited by the lovely Jen, who also blogs at Shining City. Jen writes:

I'm kind of a 'classic' girl, tending to dress more like Audrey than a Britney. In fact, Britney isn't even part of my dialect. There's some Marilyn thrown in there, but I tend to be of the persuasion that a woman can be sexy without revealing cleavage, bellybutton, buns, long stretches of leg, or any combination thereof. Head-to-to prairie rat wear is out of the question: one can dress attractively without leaving so little to the imagination as most women today do. If I find pretty things that are also 'modest' - as in, they cover attractively - I'll mention them. Gladly. It's not quite as hard to find lovely, fashionable clothing that is still ladylike as some would have you believe.

"Modest" does not have to mean "ugly". And frankly, that "modest" stuff sticks out like a sore thumb in public, not in a good way - and a lot of the people wearing it are, honestly, anything but modest about wearing it.


The blog goes beyond garments to showcase unique and beautiful jewelry and accessories.

Other sites cater to brides who apparently want to leave a little something to the imagination when they walk down the aisle. There are some really gorgeous wedding fashions at Beautifully Modest. I wanted to post a couple of pictures here, but all the images are copyright-protected. I encourage you to check out the site yourself.

Will girls go for it?

While I applaud the movement, I'm wondering just to what extent it will catch on among teen-aged girls and young women. It seems to me that a young girl would have to have a motive to be modest--and that would have to be directly related to a desire to practice her faith.

All young girls know what attracts the average boy, and that's the more skin, the better. Today's popular music, especially the hip-hop genre, glorifies girls who show it all. As far as the entertainment industry goes--even those young actresses and singers who start out with wholesome, squeaky-clean images, seem to end up shedding those values along with their clothes.

So what would prompt a beautiful young girl with a terrific body to keep it relatively covered up? In my view, only Biblical and/or religious principles would be the motivating factor. (I would like to think that any young woman who valued her innate dignity and true worth would be on board with it, but frankly, I'm a little cynical.)

Anyway, I've always believed there's no reason for a modest woman to look like a frump. It's possible to be perfectly modest and look fabulous at the same time--and now there are websites, magazines and clothing companies aimed at helping you do just that.

(The dress pictured above is from Christa-Taylor.)

14 comments:

Ann-Marie said...

Excellent post, Cindy.

Since I’ve been overweight since birth, I’ve rarely worried about modesty. I just obsessed more about wearing clothes that would hide my big girl flaws. I still believe plus-size fashion is severely lacking in just about every aspect, and it infuriates me to no end. We’re the MAJORITY!!! We’ve got money, and all we ask for is fashionable, flattering clothes! (off topic, but I’m just sayin’).

Truth is, I’ve rarely felt sorry for girls who were slender and “unable” to find clothes. In my mind, they could wear just about anything (including ridiculous prairie garb) and look great, compared to curvy girls who either look too revealing in anything or just downright lumpy!

Since I work in an all-woman environment that deals with girls building self-esteem, I see your point and agree girls tend to try to look like what they see on the media – which is rarely modest. I was talking to a mother the other day of a teen girl, and she told me they struggle between fashionable and “flirty” almost every time they go shopping. In fact, I’m passing these sites on to her. Thanks for the links!

Cindy Swanson said...

Excellent comments, Ann-Marie! I agree with you about the plus size thing, too. Most department store junior sections, for instance, feature only clothes that assume every teen-aged girl is tiny. There are some exceptions, but that's the norm.

Jen said...

Awww, thanks, Cindy! I really appreciate your featuring me!

Jennittia said...

LOVED this post!! Thanks for speaking out about modesty! And a huge thank you for the link to the bridal/prom site. A bit pricy, but got some great ideas for future use!!! I looked some at prom dresses this season and was very discouraged at the lack of material in the bodice section! I will tell many about "Beautifully Modest."

Ann-Marie said...

P.S. - Cindy, I linked to this post. Thanks!

Rodney Olsen said...

I know plenty of girls with Christian beliefs who still show far too much skin and some without a connection to God who cover up.

I think some of it comes down to teaching and modeling from those who are significant in the life of the girl.

I think fathers have a big role to play in letting girls know what is appropriate. I don't mean just the, "You're not going out wearing that" kind of thing, but in ensuring that their daughters know where their true self worth originates.

Donna-Jean said...

Cindy, thanks so much for writing about this! It's so important.

I subscribe to Eliza magazine (and I've found any LDS info in it is so obscure, you'd never know). In fact, they sent me free issues (for the cost of shipping) as samples to share with the girls and moms at my church. (I needed them in a hurry, and they trusted me to send the check, and sent it immediately, without knowing anything about me.)

Raising girls is getting harder and harder. Even the difference between our oldest (22 and now married) and our youngest (12) is stark - in Walmart yesterday, I noticed the bras for young girls were all underwire (what's with that?? I'm talking 30A for pete's sake!).

In our church, we have 'Virtue Club' - a once a month all-girl evening. I've taken the girls to the mall to look at clothes, and see what ones we can wear, what ones we can adapt (t-shirt underneath, for example), and what ones are simply never appropriate. Seeing the mall through teen eyes is an unforgettable experience.

At the end of the year, we have a banquet with a modest fashion show (I was inspired by Pure Fashion). It's do-able - but wow, it's not easy.

Our youngest just went through trying-and-returning bathing suits - on her third one, she's happy with the beautiful but modest look (Land's End. In our Sears, there's a Land's End section, and you can sit on couches and go through the catalog - and they'll ship it to your home for free).

I've been thinking of what modest means. With clothes, we tend to think it means 'cover up' or 'frumpy' or 'not stylish.' But in other things, it means an acknowledgement in your heart that you are good at something, but you don't flaunt it or brag about it.

That's how I'm teaching my daughter and these girls (or trying to :-) ) Their bodies are beautiful - and I've even said to them (trying to make a point) 'I would look awesome in such-and-such an immodest outfit, but that's not the point. I'm not to flaunt that part of me.'

It's one thing to battle this and come to terms with it at 50 :-) It's quite another at 12, or 14, or 17. For those patient enough to read this long comment ;-) please pray for the girls in your life, and the girls in your church. Their worldview is being attacked by things we could never have even imagined at their age.

Cindy, you got me going - I'm going to put some of this on my blog, and link to what you wrote! :-)

Kay Day said...

I think that value is an important link. If a girl can measure her value and worth by who God made her to be rather than by the attention she gets for her clothes - or lack thereof - maybe she will be better motivated to cover up.

There is a program for pre-teen girls called The Secret Keeper Girls. I cant' remember the author/ organizer of it. It is very good.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy said...

Cindy,

Coming from a guy's perspecive, my own actually, here's my view. I don't find any woman that dresses like a tramp attractive at all.I notice more than just the way they are dressed too. Do they have manners and some gravitas about them? If I see a woman dressed in a conservative dress attire, stylish hair and manners, that is more attractive to me than the above mentioned. I don't believe women have to be in frumpy attire.

Maybe I'm a minority, but I am impressed with a woman who has intellect, confidence that goes along with dressing sharply. Just look at Hollywood. Sure, there are some decent looking women, but there actions are deplorable.

Randy

Kosher Diet Plan said...

http://www.simchawear.com/blog/archives/2008/07/17/public-school-teenagers-covering-up-too

Public School Teenagers Covering Up Too. I welcome your comments on my article on modesty.

Assistant said...

Dear Cindy!

Thanks for mentioning Pure Fashion in your blog! I love your design and your classy outlook. Pure Fashion completely agrees with your statement: you don't need to look frumpy to be modest. Check out this recent news article about this topic and Pure Fashion:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/333mlbpc.asp

Please let us know if you have any questions. You can contact Pure Fashion through our website, www.purefashion.com.

God bless you!

Assistant said...

I don't believe that website posted correctly. Try this one, but make sure you paste together all parts, without spaces.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/
Content/Public/Articles/000/000
/015/333mlbpc.asp

God bless!

Jess said...

Oh my goodness, I am tearing from laughing at Jen's "prairie rat" quote. Hear, hear.

I have a theory in progress that fashion is in essence a conversation in which various parties get to make statements. By dressing modestly, we are saying, "I deserve respect." But I also have been thinking that by dressing in a way that is in touch with the positive parts of up-to-date fashion, we're saying, "I am part of this modern community." You know, in but not of the world...

I sometimes think that I never want to become so segregated that only someone who is exactly like me could relate to me. Then I would be living in a bubble!

Just musings!

Jessica
Owner, Sakura Rose Boutique
www.sakurarose.com

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