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Modesty, again. I just don’t get it.

This is outwith the normal posting schedule, but I’ve just go a flickr invite to add my photo to the ‘Is the Modest? flickr group (despite having contacted the guy specifically asking him not to invite me again a couple of years ago. He’s obviously forgotten). The group is meant to be for borderline outfits where you have to discuss whether the thing is modest or not.

I just don’t get it! AT ALL. What precicely about this outfit would not be modest, even borderline not? The tiny bit of bare calf? The fact that there’s a belt around my waist? Are bare arms unacceptable now? What is going on?

21.7.10: blue and turquoise

By the way, I would point out that dressing modestly isn’t an aim of mine, and if someone thinks that I’m ‘parading my body’ in any particular outfit (not this one, obviously) and the menfolk who see me get distracted from their work, then frankly that is their problem not mine. But see the term modest flung about everywhere and I just want to understand WHAT MODEST ACTUALLY MEANS.

Please, someone explain this to me.

P.s. By special request, here’s a link to an older post where I explain why I asked not to be invited to the group in the first place.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Veshoevius 20 October 2010, 2:29 pm

    I read one of your older posts where you discussed why you left this group in the first place and you made some excellent points (you should link your post here!) – especially where you questioned why is it considered women's responsibility to cover up and not men's to control their immoral thoughts – completely agree with you.

    Modest or not this is a very cute dress on you!

  • sacramento 20 October 2010, 2:35 pm

    You ares so funny…
    There is a Spanish proverb that says: modesty start where your beauty ends.
    I do not know if it translate but you guess what it means.
    I do not believe controlling expression. And to me, the way I wear colthes is a way of expression as valid as any other…
    I love, love the idea of this short dress over a skirt. Why shouldit be always worn with trousers????.

  • interrobangsanon 20 October 2010, 3:29 pm

    What irks me is the idea that someone can define someone else's modesty.

    I was raised to believe that the idea of personal modesty is just that – personal. Many modern discussions of modesty center around the idea that people dress in a manner that makes them feel personally secure and comfortable in how they look. For some that may mean full length skirts, for others minimizing cleavage, for even others it could be a bikini. The one constant is the idea that it's a personal sartorial choice based on how an individual feels in different types of clothing. So a website that asks others to decide? No, not their call.


  • FashionTheorist 20 October 2010, 3:29 pm

    "Modest dress" often means something very specific, conforming to (often religious) codes of dress. In this case, I'd guess it's your exposed upper arms; the religious dress codes with which I'm familiar prohibit the exposure of the arm above the elbow.

    I have the same issues with 'modest' dress that you do: not only does it perpetuate a gender-based double standard, it seems to absolve men of sexual responsibility. There also seems to be little interest in holding guys to standards of modesty, which I find objectionable too.

    Yet, as a person with a fondness for layers and vintage clothing, I also often find myself pegged as a 'modest dresser.' Considering my fondness for miniskirts and low necklines, I'm mostly just amused, but I'm also a bit disconcerted. A lot of my work with fashion has to do with the implicit and explicit messages our clothing sends, and it seems my clothing sends some people a message I totally don't intend, and I don't really know how to respond to it.

  • interrobangsanon 20 October 2010, 3:31 pm

    I wonder if it's something to do with perceived flashiness? It's a gorgeous outfit and you look fabulous in it — maybe the fact that it doesn't look like something non-descript and mass produced makes it immodest? Heaven forfend that you wear something that stands out a bit.

    I feel more than a bit squicked about the idea of debating whether or not someone's outfit is modest, and by extension, acceptable. Whooooole lot of cultural baggage there. Maybe once I'm done comps in a few weeks I'll fire up a post on modesty, and why I'm so uncomfortable with the label.


  • Franca 20 October 2010, 3:45 pm

    Millie – that's what I thought when I first heard of the modest dressing things – obviously I'm not modest, because in my mind modest meant simple or or plain, fading into the background. I talk about it a bit in the other post. You should totally do a post on it!

  • meegiemoo 20 October 2010, 4:09 pm

    I find talk of 'modesty' to be linked with religion and dressing in a way that will not be seen as 'tempting men'. Since I'm not religious and don't care about their rules and doctrine, I certainly wouldn't participate in a modesty focused group.

  • jesse.anne.o 20 October 2010, 5:04 pm

    This concept weirds me out so badly. On one hand, I do understand the idea of highlighting less-flashy and stylish ways to dress so there are those examples in addition to the more-flashy and stylish examples. (This is coming from someone who used to wear latex shorts to high school and was mistaken as a hooker at least once.) We should have the choice to present as we want to, each day executing a decision off that spectrum as we see fit.

    But the concept of modesty-over-all and the concept of deciding (anyone deciding) what is "modest" is beyond loaded re character, perception and responsibility.

    I do question what kind of person would start such a group. And also who would give a sh!t?!

  • ravelledsleeve 20 October 2010, 5:53 pm

    I remember your earlier post on modesty, though I don't think I commented.

    I find 'modesty' to be a very difficult concept, because the term is just so loaded. I don't feel comfortable wearing short skirts without tights, or strappy tops, or things that show a lot of cleavage, but I don't like to refer to this preference as 'modesty' (although I struggle to find another term to describe it!) because when I see other people talking about modesty it always does seem to relate to standards imposed on women from outside (and the fact that that flickr group is run by a *man* really isn't doing anything to disabuse me of that notion)…

  • Shallow Mallow 20 October 2010, 7:38 pm

    I share in your confusion.

    I prefer the sort of cloths that pass as modest (or as it were nearly do LOL) but I don't think badly of people who like to show a little flesh and although I don't I want to retain the right to.

    I completely agree that the reasoning (ie poor helpless boys must not be distracted by us harlotts) is a dangerous one (e.g. like you mentioned re. rape: Reminded me of that Italian trial where it was said that any girl wearing jeans invites rape -insert sound of my grinding teeth-).

    On the other hand it was a bit of a fight to get to cover up too. For instance growing up my Mother and I had a lot of fights about clothes because I turned sixteen and she decided I was to wear super minis and deep cut blouses. I strugged to explain why I didn't want to and there is no clear cut reason: I like a little bit of attention, I don't even think of sexual thoughts as sinful. (Rather the opposit. It 's only human IMO.)

    Low cut tops and mini skirts just aren't me. Go figure.

  • Katie 21 October 2010, 2:46 am

    If we all wanted to be modest dressers, we should just head back Victorian times, when not even pianos could show their legs. I'd like to think that times have changed enough for us to be able to dress as we wish to (although there's always a line to be drawn, of course). If people would like to dress modestly, that's fine. But I'd like them to be doing that because they wanted to, not because they're trying to manipulate the thoughts of the people looking at them.

    Because, really, it doesn't matter what someone's wearing: if someone thinks they look hot, they'll be thinking R-rated thoughts about them, regardless of their gender.

    I hope this guy gets the message this second time around and stops trying to include your photos in his group.

  • Terri 21 October 2010, 10:00 pm

    Modesty is in the eyes of the beholder…

  • Lorena 2 November 2010, 9:31 pm

    I have to say that I have also seen this word being used A LOT lately so it appeals to me what everyone has to say about this… as I also want to know !

    In my opinion modesty goes in hand with humble.
    Nevertheless it all depends a Terri says on the eyes of the beholder.

  • poet 14 December 2010, 9:26 am

    Thanks for linking to your two posts, very thoughtful writing! (I don't know why I didn't see this particular post earlier…) I agree that putting responsibility for men's actions (or even thoughts) with women is plain wrong… but well, I've said that already 🙂