Modesty means different things to different people and with that, their definition of what does it mean to dress modestly, also changes. Abstract things such as beauty, style, elegance, and modesty are hard to summarise in words but we recognise them when we see them. We look at things and people and exclaim how chic they are, how mesmerizing, how modest! However, even labeling someone with such adjectives depends on the person who is assigning those labels. What might seem enchanting to someone might be hideous to others. So, the question arises, how can we so definitively summarise what modesty is and how it translates into the clothes we wear?
While we have previously dived into what modest clothing encompasses today and how to dress modestly, when we bare it down to the essentials, it all comes down to what modesty means to the individual. And what exactly are we planning to achieve by dressing modestly. Once we figure that part out, the rest is just wearing clothes that match our principles.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines modesty as “a mode of dress and behaviour which intends to avoid the encouraging of sexual attraction in others”. However, many might disagree with that definition. After all, your life choices and your fashion decisions have more to do with you than others. But the one thing we can all agree on is that dressing ‘modestly’ means dressing in a way that does not show or accentuate our bodies.
People draw the line of ‘modest’ in different places...if you wear leggings and a top to a beach, some might consider you to be modest. But others might label you as being immodest for highlighting your legs in the same pair of leggings in a different situation. Thus, we think it’s important to have that distinction for yourself and not let anyone else’s opinion on what it means set the definition for you.
Because they like it. That is the simple reason. But if you dive into it further, you will hear various reasons from people all over the world:
It’s Empowering... Many women find modest-wear to be empowering as it takes away the focus from the shape of their bodies and brings it back to their personalities. It gives them the option to keep the attention on who they are rather than what their body looks like. Billie Eilish usually prefers boxy fits for this exact reason and keeps the focus on her music instead. Similarly, modest clothing is also the preferred way of dressing on occasions where people stand up for a cause, and prefer to keep the attention away from their individual selves, while making their voices heard for a communal cause instead. This was seen in the Armenia Visual Arts Performance in Los Angeles where members of the She Loves Collective staged a performance in loose-fitting garments and designer Anet Abnous even added a pair of Alta 8 black lace arm sleeves to her performance outfit for an extra touch of modesty.
It’s Freeing... Modest clothes, ironically, can be more freeing. It gives you liberty to not have to constantly obsess about if your tummy is sticking out in that too-tight dress, if your skirt is riding up your thighs again, or if that dress highlights your muffin top. The body positivity movement is finally gaining momentum and all bodies are being appreciated and loved. However, the truth is, some of us still feel critical of our body and how it looks, unfortunately by our our selves. Loose-fitting clothes with longer hemlines give you the prerogative to slouch on the couch without worrying about what part of your body is sticking out from where and some women find that very freeing.
It’s Comfortable... Revealing clothes are just simply outside many women’s comfort zone. While some women feel very comfortable and confident with crop tops and booty shorts, some don’t. And feeling either way is perfectly ok! But keeping your comfort zone in mind is very important while choosing how to dress. Fashion is all about feeling your best in a look that shows you in the best light. And some women simply feel their best when they are not revealing too much of they physical body.
For Religious Reasons... It is hard not to mention religion when talking about modesty. After all, it is one of the most frequent reasons that is associated with the modest fashion movement. However, to most people, that still ties it to their personal belief of what they think is right for themselves. Most women who dress modestly due to their religious affiliation do so because the reason for modesty outlined in their religious doctrine resonates with them. And if a particular way of dressing makes you happy, that’s all that matters.
The short answer? Hell No.
Modest does not mean that you have to dress frumpy. And it certainly doesn’t have to exclude style! Being fashionable is not proportional to how much skin you show and being stylish is not some unattainable dream for a modest fashionista. As long as you go for pieces that reflect your true sense of style, stick to silhouettes that feel right to you and your personality. A modest woman can still look fashionable without having to sacrifice her values or her style!
As long as you know the reason behind why you prefer to be modest, you can look at every clothing garment or outfit and ask yourself ‘Does it feel empowering? Freeing? Comfortable? True to my religious beliefs? True to my character?’ And if the look satisfies your reasoning behind choosing the modest fashionista life, go with it! Let's stop with the labels! You don’t have to wonder ‘What does it mean to dress modestly?’ The only thing you should wonder is ‘Does this match my personal idea of modesty?
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