"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.)