02 March 2005

Does Modest Mean Frumpy or Unfashionable?

What do you think of when you hear the words "modest clothing?" If you're from a certain background, you may associate that phrase with young ladies who dress like young ladies, who value themselves enough to try and avoid tempting men into lusting after them. If you're from a different background, you might associate that phrase with the words "frumpy," "unfashionable," or "unflattering." Why?

There are probably young women out there who have completely bought into the idea that if you wear the current fashions, you are therefore dressed attractively. For those of us who are disgusted by girls whose low-cut jeans and high-cut shirts reveal parts of their body and items of clothing better left hidden, we know that dressing "fashionably" does not equal dressing beautifully or attractively. Yet, a woman can still look "fashionable" or classy without wearing a dress shaped like a burlap sack. So why are even some otherwise good Christian girls giving in to the latest fashions for mini skirts or low-cut tank tops?

There are probably many opinions on this, but I think it is because a lot of girls who try to dress modestly end up dressing quite unattractively. On most women, the baggy denim jumper with white turtleneck just isn't flattering. Yes, you're covered, and you're unlikely to temp men to lust, but your clothes don't have to be quite so unflattering to be modest. Ladies, God made you beautiful, and even though you are called to use wisdom and prudence in how you show that beauty, you don't have to hide it! I was taught that there are deficiencies and excesses, and that virtues lie in the middle. For instance, the deficiency of courage is cowardice, and the excess is recklessness. We all know what the deficiency of modesty is, but is there an excess? Prudishness, perhaps? Maybe that is not the right word, but I hope you see what I'm getting at. Is it possible that wearing a baggy, shapeless dress that completely hides your womanly figure is as unfeminine and unladylike as a tight mini-dress that shows too much of it?

In my never-ending search for pretty clothes which don't offend my ideals of Christian modesty, I have scoured the web for businesses which cater to those who wish to dress modestly. I came across this site which has links to numerous other sites offering modest clothing for sale or patterns to sew modest clothing. After going through these sites, I began to see a trend. They are almost all affiliated with or catering to some religious group--Christian, Mormon, Muslim, or Jewish. And while the last three generally have nice-looking clothes, a lot of the Christian offerings could be described as "frumpy." (If you wear these kinds of clothes and are offended by what I say, I apologize, but I will not retract the expression of my opinion.)

For example, these dresses and jumpers. If you have what I have heard called "the hips for childbearing," this sort of thing can be most unflattering.
Or these. I'm sorry, but unless you are under the age of 7 or have just walked off the set of "Little House on the Prarie," you probably should not be wearing dresses with poufy sleeves, or anything called "Prarie Dress #49."
Others look to the past for modest clothing. While I think that Regency, Edwardian, and vintage dresses are lovely, you probably shouldn't go for this look unless you really want to attract attention. It's best to save such things for more formal events, and look elsewhere for your everyday clothes.

On to the websites who are catering to non-Christians:
Look how pretty and, well, normal the clothing offered by Jewish sites is. (Yes, that last one has a "Victorian" collection, but they have more "normal" looking and pretty clothes as well.)

The Islamic clothing site listed there has jumpers and some clothing that would probably attract attention on the average American street, but they have some things that might be found at your local mall, if your local mall sold pretty, modest clothing (mine doesn't have much). They even sell pants!

For girls in search of a prom dress or young ladies looking for a modest dresses for brides and bridesmaids (are you tired of seeing strapless bridal/bridesmaid gowns in church, too?), the Mormons seem to have the right idea. While the regency and renaissance wedding dresses displayed on some of the Christian sites are quite nice, there are also nice things available for those of us who like more modern clothes. Some of the Christian offerings are not so bad, but on the whole, the others seem to have better selections for those of us not into historical dress or the burlap-sack look.

So, see, Christian young ladies? You can find clothing that is modest and nice-looking, without attracting unwanted attention.

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