In the News: Modest Dressing

Thursday, September 15, 2011
These days modesty seems to be more and more recognized in the fashion world -- not just in the fashion blogging world but in the retail sector as well. Professor Reina Lewis sought to investigate this further with a research project titled "Modest Dressing: faith-based fashion and internet retail." Throughout the project, she had three objectives:
  1. To discover if the expansion and diversification through e-commerce of clothes for modest dressing is creating a new retail and style category of 'modest fashion' that has the potential to transcend specific religions and reach out to consumers across faith groups.
  2. To explore the extent to which 'modest fashion' is beginning to be recognisable as a form of dressing adopted by women from different faith communities.
  3. To evaluate the social and personal impact of modest fashion for the future development of interfaith dialogue and religious/secular community relations.
I had the pleasure of meeting with her last November and it was so great to discuss modesty on an academic level when for me I live it everyday without really thinking twice about it. If you're interested in reading about the project's main research findings, read their PDF summary here. You can also listen to the papers from the project's symposium, Mediating Modesty.

I'd love to know what you all think about this subject, whether you hold the belief to dress modestly or not.

34 comments :

  1. That's awesome!

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  2. I'm glad that the fashion wold is catching on the to what we have been into all along. I hope trends like midi skirts and wide leg jeans stick around for a LONG time ^_^

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  3. I am trying to get better at this. Mostly, wearing skirts and dresses that are closer to my knees than my crotch. :) I have always been modest with my chest...not that I have one. I think modesty is beautiful.

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  4. Modesty is always relative and a personal thing. For example, Mormons choose to cover their shoulders and wear skirts to their knees. I am not Mormon, I am a Christian. I view modesty as a way to show that you see your body as a temple. No one needs to see my goods but my far-into-the-future husband! I show my shoulders and I wear shorts. That is my choice and a result of the convictions that God has placed on my heart. I respect strict modest rules, but I have not had the convictions to change how I dress so as to cover my shoulders, etc. I don't have modesty in the #1 spot in my mind, but I do know where the line is for my personal beliefs.

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  5. Great post. I love modesty. Honestly,there's nothing attractive about showing off your bumcrack and belly button,etc. I love being modest.

    xo
    rachelsayumi.blogspot.com

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  6. Oh I'll have to check that out.  I do think people should dress modestly but sometimes it's okay to show a bit of skin (when appropriate XD) I think I dress pretty well and am usually very well covered up (though sometimes I do wear shorter dresses (but I usually have tights on or bike shorts underneath). I don't get why girls feel the need to wear barely there clothing..its gross :p
    So even though its not part of my religious beliefs I do think its good to dress modestly if you can.
    http://www.closet-fashionista.com

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  7. That's really cool! And I love the thought that modest fashion bloggers such as yourself could have an impact on fashion. That's just awesome!

    I'm Baptist and dress what I believe to be modest. I have other friends who are more fundamental who have their own stricter convictions of what modesty is (basically the only difference would be that they don't wear pants).  Anyways, I love that you, Kayla, Meredith and Erica (and so many others that I don't follow as closely) proudly declare your modesty!

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  8. To me, dressing modestly is just being decent and knowing what works for your body type. I know that there are people that have religious beliefs that dictate their wardrobe, and perhaps to an extent mine helps me pick the things that I pick. But I think it's also just a matter of taste for me honestly. I'm not going to wear super-low cut tops without something underneath, nor super-short mini skirts because it wouldn't be me. And I think blogs like yours and all the others that are out there show that there's way more to style and fashion than hem-lengths and shirtlines.

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  9. The problem is, people think that people shouldn't judge them based on their appearance without understanding how the human brain is wired. How you feel about yourself is proven in how you dress your body. It all comes down to what you want people to pay attention to--your cleavage or your words. If you consider yourself an intelligent, personable, interesting person who can truly connect with others, that will show in how you dress. You won't dress to get the seedy attention of others, but to bring the attention to your face so you can better interact with others. That said, there is the opposite extreme of dressing dumpy or frumpy and not projecting yourself as an attractive or even clean person. There is a lovely middle road where modesty is both respectful and fashionable, and you walk that road with grace, Elaine!

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  10. So interesting!  I like that different faiths/interfaith seem to be an important part of the study.  I think we all need to focus more on our similarities.  It's great that modest dressing is also getting attention in the fashion world. "non modest" dressing is just the norm for a lot of brands and customers don't even think about it, what it means for them which I think is more of the problem.  Frankly, I didn't think about it much before reading modest fashion blogs either!  My only worry would be that everything is very divided and strict and orderly (like the divide between modest and non modest, which would differ for everyone of course) and sometimes that creates judgmental climates because it's easy for us to tell someone what they're doing "wrong".  I do not hold the belief to dress modestly at all times but I do hold the belief that we should all think more about what's behind the ways we choose to dress.  

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  11. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment!

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  12. Hi Elaine. I just wrote a post about this exact same thing a few days ago. Great minds, huh!
    Since moving to Tonga with my husband as missionaries, only six weeks ago, I've really needed to think about how I dress and the messages it is displaying to those around me. I've always been a more conservative dresser than a lot of my non Christian friends, but Tonga has really changed my perspective and motivation when it comes to selecting outfits. In Tonga, modesty is key.
    You would never wear jeans or pants to the office or church or have your shoulders bare (not even in a modest sleeveless blouse) and the reason for doing this is always out of concern for others, and to show that you value traditional culture and are maintaining your faith.

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  13. I don't dress modestly for any particular religion, but mostly for
    myself. Thanks to my family and background I've always been a demure
    sort of dresser. Anything too short or revealing would make me feel
    overexposed and uncomfortable.

    Still, as Kerry points out,
    "modest" is a relative term. I would guess that most people would call
    themselves relatively "modest," or else they wouldn't dress the way they
    do.

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  14. This is a really interesting research topic, and I think something worth examining, particularly since it can bring women of different backgrounds together. In an era when so many young girls are wearing short skirts and short shorts and midriff tops because that is what is "in style," it's important to show that there is an alternative - and one that allows you to be just as fashionable (if not more so) while maintaining your sense of self-worth and not putting your body on display, so to speak.

    Everyone interprets modesty differently and everyone has their own personal standards, what they are comfortable with, etc.. There are a lot of women who simply prefer to dress conservatively, as I do, and others who have to learn to dress conservatively (particularly for professional reasons, etc.) and I think your site and others are great for demonstrating that dressing modestly is not boring or matronly - and in fact, it is incredibly fashionable and fun!!! Dressing modestly often requires more creativity and developing a better sense of one's personal style so that you can interpret the "trends" in ways that work for you - which is much more exciting than following the scantily-dressed crowd, anyways!

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  15. S. I came to that conclusion as well; unless you're a nudist, I think everyone holds some belief of modesty.

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  16. This is a great discussion, and it just goes to show that modesty transcends religious doctrine. There's a book I love on this subject by Wendy Shalit, a writer from the Jewish faith, called "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue." She eloquently argues that our sexualized culture has become oppressive in the fact that it has labeled modesty as unnatural and prudish, when in fact it can be a form of empowerment. When we refuse to follow the whims of the fashion world, we are showing confidence in who we are. Thanks, Elaine, for showing that kind of confidence!

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  17. First of all, thanks for visiting my blog! I hadn't expected it since you experience quite a high level of traffic and I mainly just read your posts without leaving much evidence of my presence. Thanks for stopping by!

    I am really interested in reading the research you mentioned. There is something to be said for "blogger behavior". Anyway, I'll pop over and give it a go!

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  18. girl, that picture of you is GORGEOUS! :D

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  19. I'm so happy to see the change in fashion trends in that they're leaning more towards modesty. I think it's pretty simple in that Modest dressing equals Classy. If you want to be taken seriously, be respected as a woman, feel more confident - dress modestly.

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  20. I am not a 'modest' dresser in particular (I'm a practising Nichiren Buddhist, raised Catholic) but I enjoy visiting and reading your blog because you find practical ways to dress stylishly on a small budget! Your choice to dress modestly is not really very apparent, you are just well dressed which I think is the most flattering thing women can do with fashion. Living in NYC, I see far too many young women in particular thinking that displaying your body in unflattering clothes which are apparently on trend is the way to be noticed and unique. It's not. I am pretty open about my body - as an actor I have appeared nude and have no problem with nudity in general (I think Europeans are generally a bit more open about that) but I recognise there is a time and a place for these things. I don't wear micro-shorts because they look AWFUL on me and I feel lumpy and out of proportion. Same reason I don't wear skinny jeans with flats - they just don't suit my body shape.

    I think the study is a fascinating idea - particularly the inter-faith nature of it. We DO need to find more ways that we are similar and stop finding ways to point fingers at others and scream about how our differences are so terrible. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and keep writing! - Rachel

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  21. Rachel, thank you so much for your comment! It's nice to read from another point of view.

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  22. I do not consider myself a 'modest' dresser, like everyone I have my own personal comfort boundaries, but they are pretty wide. But I look at modest dressers the same way I look at people who eat vegan or run marathons. While it something that I can understand the motivation behind it I don't think it is ever something that I would do myself, and I really do admire people who can stick to a positive personal conviction. I enjoy when mainstream fashion branches out (in any direction) even when it doesn't benefit me personally.
    I only have a problem with these types of beliefs when people try to press them onto others. Which I have never felt from your blog Elaine.

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  23. Thank you, Loren. I appreciate your comment!

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  24. i've been fascinated by modest fashion blogs for the past year which is slightly odd considering modesty is not necessarily something i espouse. there are times when covering myself is advisable (i.e. when i go to work), but i don't hold any religious convictions that lead me to believe that certain parts of my body need to be covered. that's not to say that i think dressing modestly is bad, it just is not important to me. 

    my interest in modest fashion comes from my curiosity about how some religious people (in particular, mormons and muslims) relate to the fashion industry. i'm really glad an academic is looking at this now. i can't wait to read her work.

    and just as a disclaimer, i do want to say that the primary reason i read this blog because i like elaine's style. it's not just curiosity or fascination. i'd been admiring elaine's outfits for a couple of months before i realized this is a modest fashion blog.

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  25. Yes to modesty!  Modesty is not a barrier to being stylish, beautiful, classy, or even sexy (in a healthy, wholesome way--maybe it depends on definitions).  Modest does not mean frumpy or boring.  You demonstrate that very well.  I guess the one thing a modest dresser cannot be is over-exposed.  There can be debate about where to draw the line, but nothing "too short" or "too low-cut".  I like what Kate wrote about not attracting seedy attention--the guys I know who are eager to give that type of attention are not people you want paying attention to you.

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  26. I loved that article! I had the opportunity to talk to Reina about the very subject - she was so great to chat with! It's exciting to see the attention it's getting &that it's finally been published!

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  27. Would love to check out that paper!
         I don't consider myself a modest dresser,  but I do strive to dress appropriately for the situation. For instance, when I visited India, I had packed a knee-length skirt or two as well as pants, but ended up wearing only the pants. I noticed that no woman showed her legs (in public or at home) and I believed it would be the most respectful to follow their lead. Same thing at work - nothing too short or tight, no cleavage. I feel "professional" and more ready to work, and I avoid causing discomfort/embarrassment to others.
          To me, style is ideally a beautiful, unique expression of a person. I find it intriguing and amazing that everyone on this blog can express themselves with fun outfits and honor their religion at the same time.
          Added bonus: just about every outfit on this blog is bound to be work-appropriate, and Elaine is a thrifting goddess who proves you don't need to spend a lot to look great.  :)

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  28. Thank you for your comment, Kenda!

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  29. I think you can have all your bits covered and still look trashy. I aim for classy. I think especially in a work environment that not showing too much skin (or body shape) is a way to convey professionalism for both men and women. I respect the religious beliefs behind dressing modestly (I married into an LDS family) and I think it's interesting even if I don't follow it.

    Jenn

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  30. i choose to dress modestly not only because my religion teaches me to, but because i feel more comfortable about myself when i'm not worried about the length of my hemline or the amount of cleavage i'm showing. i'm a conservative jew and follow many mormon/lds fashion blogs because of the parallels in modest dress. i'm not forced to cover myself up, especially within my sect of judaism, but i don't feel comfortable dressing in short shorts or tank tops, even when the weather is 100ºF. a knee-length skirt and a tee shirt cover me up while keeping me from overheating and are what i feel best in.

    modest dressing, in my mind, isn't about religious teaching. i know a non-religious woman who won't wear skirts shorter than knee-length or shorts and doesn't have a single cleavage-showing shirt in her wardrobe. until a year or two ago, i didn't bother to pay attention to the mitvahs of modest dress but still refused to buy certain types of dresses or skirts because they showed my back or hit above my knee. the religious reason has only added to my reasons for why i don't wear certain kinds of clothing, but it isn't the only one.

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  31. I just stumbled across this blog today, and I am glad I did. I am Catholic, and I definitely appreciate melding fashion with modesty. Pope John Paul II addressed modesty quite a bit in his writings and talks on human love, and I know that has affected this young adult generation immensely (but, I am not aware of a hard-and-fast dress code for Catholics other than the occasional church that requires covered shoulders or heads). As one who used to dress immodestly (mistaking it for stylishness), one thing I've noticed since I switched to a more modest wardrobe: I feel much more comfortable and prettier. No more feeling exposed or feeling embarrassed (or sensing another person feels embarrassed). I think before I switched over, I was afraid modest would equal invisible or frumpy, but I am finally seeing that no, that's not the case at all!

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