Before these days of modest fashion, modest dressers found lots of obstacles to dressing modestly and fashionably. Today, there are so many great clothing lines that either choose to make modest clothing by design or create modest items in
their general collection that coincidentally flow with the fashion trends. These trends have helped the modest modern dresser, but there will always be certain issues the modern, modest woman will have to deal with.
Here are some of our most annoying or funny challenges that we find in dressing modestly. We would love to hear some of your daily hurdles in dressing modestly!
One small piece of the storm surrounding Harvey Weinstein has been a resurgence of the question of whether modest clothing prevents rape. Mayim Bialik brought the issue back to the limelight when she wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. In it, she implied that she had never been assaulted because “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.” (She later retracted that implication on Twitter.)
It shouldn’t need saying, but modest clothing doesn’t reduce sexual assault. If it did, there wouldn’t be any assaults against burka-wearing Muslim women or long-skirted and cloaked Jewish women.
Brands like ours certainly disprove Mayim’s implication that dressing modestly is less attractive. There are so many great fashion lines out there that put effort into making modest dressing women feel beautiful. Just cast an eye over the huge stable of fashion bloggers who pull together amazing outfits from the modest pieces that are in regular fashion stores.
But it’s possible that modest dressing can make a difference to sexual assault, just not the way you might think.
It’s not about the clothes.
It’s about the mindset.
Women who’ve chosen to dress modestly generally feel more self-confident. They project an aura of assertiveness, of feeling comfortable in their skin. Contrary to popular myth, modest-dressers are not just victims of patriarchal brainwashing, nor are they ashamed of their bodies or scared of being assaulted.
One example of the power of covering up comes from looking at how powerful women dress. Check out how much skin is shown by female CEOs, politicians and other important women. The more power you have, the less skin you show.
Psychologists hold that sexual assault isn’t about sex. It’s about power. Choosing to dress modestly takes back the power into women’s own hands.
Note that the key word here is choice. This fascinating video shows a Muslim woman liberated from ISIS in Raqqa ripping off the abaya she was forced to wear to reveal equally modest clothing beneath. She wasn’t objecting to wearing modest clothing; she objected to the modest clothing she was forced to wear. It’s the modest clothing we choose that empowers us.
Modest clothing sends a clear message that this woman is not a man’s plaything, eye candy or entertainment. The aura of confidence that surrounds modest dressing women might just deter a number of men who, like all bullies, feel free to cat-call, comment or grab at an easy target.
In talking about modesty and the choice people make to dress modestly, there are various reasons that people cite as their impetus to dress modestly. A very common one is religious beliefs. Through the many different religions or spiritual value systems, dressing modestly is about uplifting yourself to higher spiritual realms and lessening one’s dependence on the physical world. However, it is very interesting how religions define their own guidelines. Comparing Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism, we have found many similarities as is expected, but also a few differences. Where do these differences come from? How do people reconcile these differences?
Buddhism dictates that dressing modestly is a purifying quality for everyone, not just for monks. The guidelines of Buddhist dress is less focused on the physical requirements and more on the type of clothing. The cloth should be simple, undyed fabrics that wrap around the body and do not fasten or have buttons but rather are knotted. In the Buddhist religion, the clothing should mainly represent that one is peaceful, restrained, committed to the holy life and is harmless to all beings.
In Christianity, because there are so many sects the dress code can change from suggestive to strongly enforced with clear guidelines. In general, the Christian stance towards modest dress is to pay attention to the clothing you choose because your clothing should cover your body, not reveal or imply the shape of your body. Clothing should not be worn to draw attention but to rather dissuade the focus on the physical body and encourage the inner beauty to become apparent. There are sects that suggest physical markers as modest, such as covering one’s shoulders and upper arm, wearing skirts or shorts to at least knee length and avoiding shirts with low necklines. These qualifiers help identify an idea of modest dress for a Christian.
Hinduism has taken similar modest concepts as other religions but much of the way Hindu’s dress today is affected by factors such as class, geographic location, and political influence. Over time, the standards of modern dress have fluctuated and therefore the dress that is most iconic to Hindu religion is the Sari, worn by women and the Dhoti, worn by men. These two items mainly cover the legs, shoulders and a piece of the cloth that wraps around the midriff, although may sometimes show parts of the waist. The emphasis here is put on the cloth covering up the body as a symbol of grace. Again, an example of how modest dress is defined by a value system with strong cultural influences.
In the Muslim religion, as in many other religions, the stringency of modest dress varies between communities or enclaves of practicing Muslims. The dress code can be very stringent as with the Naqib, the headdress that covers the face to the Hijab, which only covers the hair and part of the face. Both worn by women in an effort to avoid drawing attention and because the prophet Muhammad instructed his people to draw their head coverings over their chest. This instruction explains the length of the cloth that is used to cover them. In Islam, there is also a standard expected of men to keep themselves covered from their navel to their knees, but even a shirtless man would be seen as inappropriate in many situations and looked down by his fellows. All these restrictions are made in the same effort, to remove the apparent emphasis on physicality and create an environment of spiritual growth.
The last example, although indeed there are more, is Judaism. In stricter Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, there is an outline for the standards of modest dress from which within a wide range of standards exist. For women, it involves wearing shirts from the collarbone to the elbow, and for the lower half, only skirts are allowed and they must be from below the knee to the ankle. The men also are expected to dress in shirts with pants and some communities even expect a suit Jacket to be worn with a hat. Modern Orthodoxy, has more relaxed definition which reflect more of a spirit of modesty rather than strictly defined guidelines.
These expectations of dressing modestly are all just an attempt to create something tangible. The goal, of course, is to elevate oneself through the seeking of a spiritual life. In addition to the spiritual aspect, it can help to create stronger bonds between man and his(her) fellow, developing relationships based on internal beauty versus external beauty.
There is no doubt these guidelines are not true for everyone in every religion, there are variations and personal choices people make in how to follow each guideline. Surely, we have failed to mention certain religions that have modest dress ‘rules’ but this piece is just to offer some insight into the similarities and the differences. Feel free to share the standards you follow in your religion below.
As we approach the end of the summer and the new school year, anyone with children is starting to think about all the school supplies and books they need to buy. But, in addition to the typical and necessary things children need for school, new clothing somehow always finds its way to the shopping list.
It seems as though the clothing is becoming smaller and skimpier and as such, encouraging our children, especially for school, to choose modest items is proving more difficult. Because of this, many schools are opting to establish dress codes or even uniforms. Although this seems like a great solution to a widespread problem, it actually creates many challenges for parents, students, and teachers.
The dress code, which is often the first choice, is great because it allows the school to set guidelines while maintaining the ability for students to express themselves and be unique. A dress code can encourage unity among students, greater productivity in the classroom, save time in the morning and instill a real world appropriate vs. non – concept. On the other hand, there are many challenges to implementing a dress code. The biggest problem with a dress code is the inability to enforce rules uniformly. Often teachers must make judgments based on rules that can seem unfair to students. Especially with rules like the fingertip rule (where shorts and skirts should rise no higher than the tips of one’s finger), which varies greatly based on a person height and length of their arm or legs. Leaving it up to a teacher to decide what is ‘too tight’ can even leave students feeling picked on and judged.
Overall, dress codes work to ensure that the school environment remains conducive to learning and while there may be obstacles to achieving that, it is the smallest and simplest way to maintain control.
What do you remember from dress codes when you were in school? How does that compare to the dress codes in our children’s schools today?
Being well known in Hollywood or in the entertainment business comes with a harsh price, having expectations placed on you to be and look a very specific way. That is why women (specifically women for this post) that do choose to cover up and stay ‘modest’ deserve a great deal of encouragement and recognition.
Identifying these women as leaders and example of courage and leadership is only fair because they are simply working harder than any of us to go against the grain and keep their clothing modest. The women chosen in this post were chosen for more than just their actual clothing, they are all beautiful and carry themselves modestly and without the typical flashy Hollywood persona, we have come to know.
Adele – a class act that is famous for her silly personality and classy disposition. Her modesty comes through in her behavior more than her physical clothing, even though her wardrobe is quite modesty. The added element of her love for her body type, despite many critiques, makes her a great candidate for a top modest and wholesome celebrity.
Mayim Bialik – famous for her role in Blossom and the more recent Big, Bang Theory, Mayim has always portrayed herself with the utmost respect and this came from the roles she plays on the screen and the way she dresses off the screen. Her commitment to her values is obviously a priority all the while maintaining her brains and her value as an actor in Hollywood.
Kate Middleton – the epitome of class and style. Kate holds an honorable position that has years of heritage and tradition, although that alone is not a reason to go against the modern fashion styles of her companions and dress more provocatively. And yet, her style is always modest and always beautiful.
Audrey Hepburn – the ever iconic and ultimately remembered for her tasteful modesty and humility, was the ultimate example of modesty. Audrey Hepburn, quoted once as saying that the most distasteful thing she ever did on camera was let her Tabby, named Cat, out of a cab into the rainy streets of New York!
Zooey Deschanel – known for her nerdy and bubbly persona, she rocks the alt-indie scene and carries the hit show New Girl with a great deal of modesty and charm. Usually seen in flowy skirts and high-collared shirts, which add to her seemingly down to earth approach to stardom. Another character that known more for her modest presence rather than her wardrobe alone. She is a perfect pick for this list.
In a world where celebrities and reality TV stars are stripping off their clothes at any possible opportunity, it’s really refreshing to see people choosing to behave differently. Although dressing modestly in a layman’s world may seem nerdy, in the world of celebrities it can often be seen as rebellious. Despite that, choosing modest clothing and choosing to keep covered, can often be more revealing, forcing people to look past externalities and understand each other based on internal characteristics.
Who are your favorite famous personalities that keep modest and manage to stay in the groove?
Women who choose to follow a religious or cultural dress code are often grappling with what defines modest dress as, well, modest. Although different cultures may vary on what is considered modest, there are certain standards that are accepted as modest dress.
Modesty is a way of life. It is about choosing to keep things private that today have been exploited. That means for some women, trying to dress modestly is about minor technicalities like covering up past their elbows and knees or concealing their ankles. However, for other women, it may mean avoiding sheer fabrics or very tight revealing clothing. The concept of modesty is an important and personal one, and therefore different opportunities to express oneself modestly should be available.
Modesty and chastity are developed from within oneself, yet expressed outwardly. People as well should dress in ways that reflect their modest choices and beliefs and refrain from outwardly judging others’ choices in dress or how their modesty is conveyed.
Have you fallen into that trap of judging others for not being modest enough? Or bending the standards of modest dress? Share how you personalize the experience of modest dress below, I’d love to hear from all of you.