Body Image, Feminism, General Life

To Wear, or Not To Wear? (A Discussion On Modesty)

The internet has been buzzing recently, and it’s all about modesty.

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First it was The Modesty Panel: a fascinating look at the different perspectives on modesty from various body image/bra fitting bloggers from around the world. Then, the web erupted when the news of Sarah Minder hit. (For those of you who have just crawled out of your cave, she is the Washington state high school senior who was instructed to “cover up her cleavage” or be barred from her prom.) This story hit every major media outlet like a lightening bolt in a storm, and evoked cries of “discrimination”! (It evoked cries of “bullshit!” from yours truly.)

This got me thinking about the topic of modesty. I said to myself “Jessica, what does modesty mean to you?” Turns out, it means quite a lot.

You see, modesty is one of those topics that you approach with caution. Talk about it to the wrong person, and you’re being screeched at that it’s “The Man’s” way of putting women “in their place”. (Seriously people, stop screeching. I’m not going to listen to you if you’re shrill, and I might punch you in the nose.) I don’t particularly like those people, and don’t want them screeching at me, so let me get this out of the way right from the get-go: I believe that grown women should be able to wear whatever the hell they choose.

With that being said, I think that modesty is one of those multifaceted topics that requires a lot of thought, and a good long look at all sides of the topic. Because let’s face it: there are certain situations in which modesty is appropriate. There are certain situations that it is necessary, and there are certain situations in which I don’t give a flying fart in space what you’re wearing. Allow me to outline:

If you are working in an office: it might be appropriate to dress for that setting. I don’t think it’s necessary to wear a miniskirt to a board meeting. If you are representing a company or business, you are serving a client. If you are working for a company that serves tightly-knotted, conservative older people, perhaps you should dress the part. And for the record, don’t even think about crying “sexism”. The same goes for men: Don’t show up to a board-meeting in an Ed Hardy deep-v and acid washed jeans. I’m not going to take you seriously as a businesswoman/man if you don’t dress the part.

If you are at church: Again with the conservatives, people. If the situation calls for it, it may be good to cover up just a little. I’m no church-goer, but I think the general consensus is this: if you would wear it to the club, you probably shouldn’t wear it to church. This is another one that goes for guys and girls alike. If it’s likely to make Great Aunt Ida fan herself and faint, you should probably tuck it back into the closet, and save it for a Saturday night.

If you are at the beach/Wal Mart/the Club,etc: Wear whateverthefuckyouwant, honeychild! The beach is one of those places where I expect to see various bodies in various stages of undress. If you want to wear that itty-bitty bikini or those teeny-tiny speedo shorts, go for it. I’m not judging you. In fact, I’m probably a wee bit envious of that rockin’ confidence that you possess. You work that suit, friend, and you look damn good. Same goes for if you’re headed to the club in a bodycon dress that hugs your body in just the right way, and makes you feel amazing. You don’t just FEEL amazing, you LOOK amazing too. Don’t forget it! And if you want to wear your pajamas to Wal-Mart, go for it.

If you are a child/teenager: This is going to be a controversial one. (And it’s also where the “grown women” parts of my beliefs comes into play.) I’m tapping my fingers together in anticipation of the angry comments/emails that I may receive. Bring it on, folks. I’m ready for debate. I strongly believe that it is important to instill this in our children: wear what you want, wear what makes you feel beautiful. BUT, be mindful of the rules, because they damn sure apply to you. This is in response to the prom-dress-fiasco, specifically. I don’t like the fact that so many people are siding with this girl because she “can’t help it”. Like she’s some superspecialsnowflake, and the rules should somehow not apply to her, simply because of her body. I don’t wanna hear it. There are resources out there for us boob-y ladies. Blogs, retailers, tailors: you name it. We aren’t the only ones “suffering”. Tall girls get called out in school for wearing “too-short” shorts, just because they have long legs. Busty girls get called out in school for showing “too much” cleavage. Boys get called out for wearing offensive tee-shirts, or too-saggy jeans. Are these rules silly? Some of them, yes. Are they necessary? I think so. Because school is not a fashion show. It is an educational facility, not a catwalk. I don’t know about you, but I went to highschool. In theory, the whole “No dress code, freedom of expression, FUCK YEAH!” thing is wonderful. In practice, it would never fucking work, not in a million years. Let’s not teach our children that the rules don’t apply to them. Let’s teach them how to work around it, how to make them work for them. And if they don’t like the rule, let’s teach our kids how to go about changing it the right way.

So there you have it, folks. For those of you who get turned off by walls of text:

TL:DR: Wear what you want, in moderation. Exercise common sense. Teach kids that dress code rules still apply/can be changed the RIGHT way.

Like anything, there is a time and a place for modest dress. And while everyone has differing opinions of what “modest” means, exercising some common sense never hurt anyone. I realize that this is only scraping the surface of such a complex idea. I also realize that some of you still believe that modest=sexism/being put down by “the Man” and this more important then anything I’ve outlined above. I’m open to some intelligent debate, but if you come at me screeching, I’ve got a punch in the nose with your name on it. πŸ˜‰

4 thoughts on “To Wear, or Not To Wear? (A Discussion On Modesty)”

  1. Interesting post, and while I disagree with you on some points, I’m not gonna’ come at you screeching πŸ˜‰

    While I don’t agree that modesty on it’s own is being ‘put down by the man’, I believe forced modesty is. And it’s not always sexism, in a lot of cases modesty is used when referring to women’s dress and is used as a tool of control, but there are situations when men who dress flamboyantly are discriminated against. My argument would be the office senario you described above. I know this is incredibly idealistic but I don’t see why someone having bright pink hair and tattoos means they can’t do a job. I don’t see why someone wearing nipple tassles and thongs means they can’t do it. I think we need to stop judging people on how they dress. This applies to men and women.

    Secondly, the fact modesty in places like church is often only applied to women is something I have a massive problem with. What I mean by this is, men can wear a Tshirt and jeans to church. If I were to wear a T shirt and jeans, it would be ‘immodest’ because of my shape. Unless I wore one several sizes too big. Yet a dude wearing the same thing would be fine? I’m not a church goer but I feel there’s far too much emphasis in religions about how people look rather than what they do

    TLDR: people shouldn’t care whether someone dresses modestly or not and should care about the person.

    Sorry for a bit of a rant, it’s a topic I find really interesting πŸ˜€

  2. The concept and definition of modesty is widely varied across the world and in the sub cultures of America as well. The above comment indicates that in her experience wearing a regular sized T-shirt in church would be considered immodest because of her shape. While that may be her experience or her expectation should she go to church (and I am not disagreeing, I personally went to a church where if your dress wasn’t collar bone high you were glared at and whispered as it, before some old lady felt the need to come put their hands on your collar and tug it up to the “appropiate” height), that is not what modesty is for my current area. (I stopped attending that church as soon as I was free to live on my own.) I wear yoga pants and a T-shirt to sunday school most every week. Yoga pants… And no one ever comments, but I always wait half expectantly for someone to say something because of the sub culture I grew up in. But I can honestly say, my SS class cares more about me as a person then whether I wear yoga pants or a dress. Would I wear to SS what I wear to the club (well the common type of club if I was able to go…) Yup… Because I also wear yoga pants to go out for an evening with my friends… If it’s really fancy I wear jeans. Now back in my youth, I did the cleavage barring, short shorts/skirts and all that jazz… But wearing those clothes didn’t make me feel better so I don’t wear them. (As a side note, it was while in that phase that I met Jesus through the love of some fabulous women who never made me feel bad for what I wore.)

    However, even wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt in the Arabic country’s is considered immodest and is ground for death. In remote cultures complete nudity is normal and is not considered immodest.

    In the end.. You have to consider your culture and sub cultures, and because this is America, I can wear what I want when I want, but not without consequences that are reflective of my sub culture.

  3. Good article, but not everyone has “common sense”… hence the need for dress codes and rules. I completely agree about teaching kids that things like dress codes DO apply to them, and need to be followed, but can be changed.

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