This post is a response/follow on to Sandra’s post on Offbeat Modest Dress. It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do a post on modest dressing since when I first started my blog a year ago.
The reason I was going to post initially was because my photos were repeatedly invited to the Is This Modest? group (which now seems to have been pretty much abandoned, but there is a website which seems to still be going). I eventually asked the guy not to invite me any more (I’ll explain why below), and very polite he was too.
At the time, I had no idea what modest meant in relation to clothing. It seems that the modest dressing concept is a fairly common sense thing in the US, but in the UK it is rarely used. In fact, the only mention of modest dressing I can remember coming across was a feature on Muslim fashion in the Guardian. It does seem to be a mainly religious thing and I guess Europe is a lot more secular, and religious people are a a lot less fervent, which is maybe why it doesn’t crop up very much.
I would never have thought of myself as a modest dresser. I mean, I wear bright shouty clothes, and I like accessories and unusualy cuts. I want people to notice my clothes. Surely that is the opposite of modest – attention seeking!
But now I realise that modesty is all about being covered up and hiding one’s body shape (see Sandra’s post for more details). In which case I probably do dress modestly, as I rarely show any kind of skin, mainly for purely practical reasons of keeping warm in a cold climate. And because I am lazy with the epilating!
I did a bit of searching around the ITM website for the rationale behind dressing modestly and I really wasn’t very keen on what I found. The main argument seems to be that women should dress modestly so as to not lead the men that see them into temptation (which seems to mean cause them to think about sex – its about thinking as well as doing). There was no mention of men tempting the women who see them.
This assumes a direct correlation between seeing body parts and ‘temptation’, like thinking about sex is some sort of automatic response to seeing a woman’s belly or shoulders. Human desire is a bit more complicated than that! People get turned on by all sorts of things and situations, and as anyone who posts outfit to flickr will know, people have fetishes for just about anything you can think of, and many of them have very little to do with revealing the body.
But my main problem with this rationale is that it seems to absolve men from any responsibility for their own thoughts and puts it all on the woman and her clothing choices. And its only a small step from that to saying that rape victims only have themselves to blame if they were wearing revealing clothes.
More specifically in relation to the Is This Modest? group, the reason I decided not to add my stuff to the group was because its a group for outfits that are borderline modest, inviting people to judge whether they are ‘in’ or ‘out’. I frankly didn’t want to be judged by standards I hadn’t signed up to, and didn’t even understand.
The thing was that what was presumably borderline about my outfits always seemed to be that while I was completely covered up, my clothes were fitted. And you know I am a girl with a big bum and boobs and the offending thing seemed to be that you could see that. I just don’t think a straight shaped person would have been classed as borderline in the same way, so ultimately, people were asked to judge my body not my clothes (or different standards of clothing were applied to me because of the body I have).
What do you think? Does anyone here try to consciously (rather than accidentally, like me) dress modestly? I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who does and find out more about their reasons!