25 September 2009

A modest proposal

Modest clothing covers both nakedness and the thought thereof. Immodest clothing draws attention to what is beneath it and calls nakedness to mind. And let me also say that less the notable exceptions of hard-won weight loss or true anorexia recovery, no one earns her body, and thus it is a very silly thing to show off.

Right up front I'll tell you I haven't kept all these rules. Metanoio. Further analysis below.


--Cleavage, except on busty society matrons at formal events. I'm pretty sure you have to be at least 60 to qualify for this.

--Clothing which appears to have been painted, pasted, or spackled onto the body or a part of the body, no matter how much skin is covered in fabric. It is very possible for a turtleneck, layered tops, or a floor length dress to be immodest, as my beautiful associate notes below.

--Tops cut so low that everybody gets an eyeful when you bend over

--Ill-fitting clothing resulting in gappage and overhang

--Exhibitionist undergarments (vanity or peekaboo straps)

--Clothing through which undergarments are visible

--Midriff exposure (unless you're dressed traditionally in India--yes, culture is also a part of this discussion. But let's stay focused.)

--Skirts or shorts shorter than low to mid-thigh (please note, a skirt's length is measured from the highest point of its slit, not its lowest point on the leg).

--Clothing which makes it obvious that the wearer is wearing a thong or is lacking one of the two standard female undergarments (sorry, hippies).

--Clothing with detailing which draws attention to the places where everyone already pays attention without the helpful direction of seams, sequins, or stripes.

--Clothing with "cute" expressions like "Eye Candy," "You Wish," "Please Mentally Rape Me," etc.

Time for another episode of Good Idea, Bad Idea

--Unlined skirts or dresses without a slip

--Also, athletic events are not an excuse for cleavage or cling. You can wear a t-shirt. It will not kill you.

Inappropriate for church includes all of the above plus:

--Cleavage, ever. This includes bridal parties. I cannot believe this needs to be spelled out. A bride can still look absolutely beautiful in a wedding dress that shows she belongs to her husband alone rather than everyone. If you must cleave, save it for the reception. And then ask yourself, especially if you're the blushing bride, why must I cleave? Why do I want a whole bunch of people looking at my boobs?

--Clothing requiring specialty underclothing (halter, criss-cross, asymmetrical, or no straps or a low back: all these call attention to what's under your dress, since it obviously isn't standard). This excludes by definition spaghetti straps and strapless or backless tops/dresses. Save all these "cute" items for garden parties.

--Scoop necks, deep Vs, and loose collars of any kind. Kneeling, folks. Think about it.

--Skirts shorter than knee length. Bowing, ditto.

--Heels so high that you can't walk in them without wiggling

--Anything clingy or tight on any part of the body

--Also, dresses or tops with buttons must be checked for gapping. If two-sided tape can't take care of it, retire that piece or buy the next size up.

"Style" is one of the falsest aspirations of humanity. No female has a right to wear any particular article of clothing, even if she looks great in it, even if it's what everybody is wearing, even if it's so cute and she really really likes it. Also, for maternal types, they're not "my clothes" if they don't fit me. Get some that do for early pregnancy, postpartum transition, nursing, and whatever else throws off your measurements--that's what thrift stores are for. My wardrobe is a mile wide in sizes and an inch deep in any given size. Sigh.

Now, I realize that it is very difficult to buy clothes for your exceptionally unique body, for someone your age, etc. Girls, deal with it. There are certain styles which simply cannot be worn modestly on certain body types, and certain styles which are immodest, period. I'm sorry. Your body may also be proportioned such that you have to select certain styles of clothing to modestly fit your largest measurement rather than your smallest one. I'm sorry about that too. I don't like it either. I'm fully aware that it often doesn't look as good as we all want to look, and the misery of having a size that big in your closet.

The shame!

There is someone for whom every woman gets to look great and dress as strappily, clingily, or minimally as she wants, and that's her husband. Save it for him.


HappyFox said...

I totally agree with everything you said. If, however, you can point me to a slip that doesn't have one of those horrible skinny waistbands, I'd appreciate it. That's the main reason I'll go slip-less, if the skirt/dress will allow it (no see thru being the standard).

Gauntlets said...


I am going to complain about just one more thing: classy modesty is more easily achieved by the rich. It's like those old movies where the British lady was dressed to the nines in expensive fabrics, but the indigenous tribal people were paraded about in all their nakedness. If we think that was just a bunch of filmmakers trying to be sensitive to cultural difference, we're blind.

Class (strata, rank, money) plays into this, too. It always has.

Marie said...

Gauntlets: Agreed! I can't tell you how many times I've walked by Coldwater Creek in our mall (right across from Victoria's Not-so- Secret... which I tell my girls not to look because they are not nursing their babies and are not being modest... any other approaches? Not that we go to the mall that often- maybe once a month to go to the indoor play place or Target) and thought how lovely, flattering, feminine, and modest the clothing on display looks. But, looking at the price tag... $70 for a skirt! Ugh!

Second, I agree with your descriptions. My own personal flaw has specifically to do with bra straps! What can I do to not have the straps always falling off my shoulders and playing peek-a-boo? Does this mean I am ill-fitted? It's an embarrassing problem that I don't know how to solve! I've obviously tightened the straps, but they mysteriously loosen. And I'm always a different bra size anyway with pregnancy weight gain, post-partum giant boobs, and slimming down after. Any thoughts?

HappyFox said...

Marie - have you tried racerback bras? Not always easy to find, but they worked for me when I had that problem.

Gauntlets said...

Marie: I pine after Coldwater Creek, too. :(

Bra straps: Self sticking Velcro helps. Or, if you're really handy, you can sew a little slip of fabric into the shoulder seams of your clothes, a little slip that secures your bra strap to your clothes via a hook and eye closure or a snap. I'm not explaining this well, because I'm stupid. Does anyone else know what I'm getting at?

JenniferH said...

"--Clothing with "cute" expressions like "Eye Candy," "You Wish," "Please Mentally Rape Me," etc."

Doesn't everyone especially *love* seeing this on very young children? While waiting for an annual checkup this week (sans children, practically a spa day!) I came across a celebrity photo in a magazine (most certainly NOT "People" because that's so trashy!) holding her daughter, a toddler wearing a bathing suit that read "Juicy" across her backside. Nice. Do I really want the neighborhood member of familywatchdog.com watching my little girl from across the community pool deck because I've dressed her like a little prostitot? Ick.

Megan said...

I too have been horrified by what I see in children's clothing especially girls. My daughter just moved from the toddler section to girls, and it is soooo hard to find anything cute and appropriate. Now mind you she is only 3, but those things just aren't right for any age. I was shocked that the 5T shorts for her were actually shorter then her brother's 24 month shorts. Don't get me started on the things written on them.

Thank you for your words about modesty in church. My husband has commented that he has difficulty with women who show so much cleavage at the communion rail. While he tries not to look, his sinful flesh often gets the best of him. I must admit that as his wife I find myself a little angry with my sisters in Christ. Then there was the day that I could not help but notice that the thirteen year old in the pew in front of me was wearing low rise athletic pants with the word " Juicy" on her rear.

Anonymous said...

I have a question for you ladies.

How would you approach a situation where there are young women in our church who repeatedly dress so inappropriate it's totally a distraction to everyone.

My husband (the Pastor) and I have had this discussion. He does not want to talk to these girls or their parents because they are the "trouble makers" in the church and he is just so tired fighting so many battles with this family. They are a very difficult family and the type to make a huge scene about ANYTHING you tell them. He doesn't know if he's ready for yet another battle.

Just to give you an idea. A few Sunday's ago, one of the girls was sitting in the narthex in a chair, I was about 6 ft. away, standing. I could see her panties from where I was standing. That is how short this girls dress was. These two girls literally come to church looking like prostitutes and I don't know what to do. I know the girls totally get off on the idea that literally every man in the church gawks at them. We also have two members in our church who are previous sex offenders. No joke.


Anonymous said...


Both the girls and their parents are aware that there are previous sex offenders in our congregation.
That's what I mean by these girls get off on torturing and tantalizing these men. They are an extremely disfunctional family and rationalizing with them is close to impossible.

Rebekah said...

Happy Fox, totally agree that slips have serious design flaws. What gives?

Marie, you could probably jerry-rig a racerback from your regulars with a something like a glasses strap, too.

Anon, that sounds like a job for the crustiest old lady at your church. Have pastor recruit her to tell them what they need to hear? This whole topic is rough on pastors since it's so easy to accuse them of being the pervs when it needs to be addressed.

Sir Cuthbert said...


If these girls are openly and deliberately trying to make men lustful, isn't that a violation of "thou shalt not commit adultery," according to the explanation in the Small Catechism? Isn't it also intentionally causing those who believe in Christ to stumble? If they and their parents have been warned and refuse to repent, shouldn't they be excomunicated?

Karin said...

I read almost all of the 65 comments on the other discussion. Immodest runs ammuck amoungst boys as well. I am sick and tired of boys pants falling off and my dd has thought we should go to goodwill and stock up on belts to throw their direction.

I am a little surprised the boys dress isn't really brought up. Dd is sickened by the disgusting boys attire as well. I suppose this sort of dressing is less likely to show up in church but still is an American problem. Americans dress extremely poorly.

On the flip side dd has made beautiful 1950's era dresses and wears them frequently and what this gets her is a lot of stares. We are not sure if they think she is a freak or if they can't get over how nice she looks. I would hope it is the latter.

lisa said...

That's my day dream - 50s era dresses that you can nurse in - anyone run across some of these?
When I was "back home" last, my Nana gave me two of her 50s-esque summer dresses (bought at ROSS of all places!) and we went down to the seamstress and she added buttons for me on the front straps (and buttonholes that were reasonably unnoticeable). Nursing made easy - Oila! (That is if you have on a cardigan to hide the telltale nursing bra straps).

Neat-O. This is why I need to learn how to sew :)

lisa said...

haha - so I clicked on the article and loved the last picture. NOW I FEEL TOTALLY VALIDATED in my assertion that if we all wore linen tunics I would be a much happier woman (and on time to more functions - with two tunic clad children) :)

Gauntlets said...

Karin: I hear you. I hate "gangsta."

Lisa: Vintage clothes fit better, too, don't they? Almost like they were actually sewn for a woman's body, instead of a child's. Huh. ;)

lisa said...

Gauntlets, I got sucked into the black hole of Gottesdienst :) Your final comment was APPROPRIATE!

lisa said...

Just saw your reply:
And as someone who is kind of shaped, err..."boyishly" they make me feel like a lady. It's a Win-Win.

Hannah said...

My gentleman friend and I both read this article, and we agree completely. I love the various directions the comment thread has already taken. :)

Rebekah said...

I'm not convinced the saggy male garb is immodest so much as it is anti-establishment. I do think it's comparatively indicative of something . . . off . . . and suggests a confession other than a Christian one, to adopt Gauntlets' highly valuable assessment tool. But this may just be my perspective, as I've always found a dude's ability to parse much more compelling than his physique. :D

And just the tiniest of disclaimers since everyone over here is being weirdly civil to the point of . . . weirdness: I realize and did when I posted this that it is purely personal opinion and proposes (not imposes, if you'll be so kind) an arbitrary standard, and as always I don't expect people to agree with everything or anything I post here for my own amusement.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I have read some thoughtful and well composed suggestions and guides in promotion of the modest dress of women, such as the web pages of Ladies Against Feminism, and Pure Fashion. Your piece here ranks among them. Thanks for posting it. You do not know the potential good it might accomplish.

Rebekah said...

Thank you, Deacon Gaba. I'm afraid I'm a little rougher around the edges than the Ladies you cite, but they are fine company.

Ruth Gaba said...

One more note about church. If you are inclined to cover your head with a hat, bring a friend along to try it on. kneel infront of them and ask, "can you see my mouth?" If your friend can't, then it's not a church hat. Save it for the garden party. Pastor's don't want to fish around for your lips anymore than they want too look at your cleavage.

Rebekah said...

Ruth, indeed. Modesty in dressing means dressing in a way which is considerate of others, which has a variety of implications.

Untamed Shrew said...

I just have to say I hate the strapless, sleeveless wedding gowns that are all the rage. Cover your sinful flesh in front of your Most Holy God, and let your hunka burnin' love uncover it after the festivities.

Rebekah said...

No kidding, Shrew. Not to mention that it is such an unflattering style on so many people!

Luzia said...

This whole thing (personal appearance) is all entangled with rebellion in a thousand ways. We live in the age of "you can't tell me anything, you (fill in an) explitive!" But! The opposite is not true... We all have to put up with the in-your-face culture, and, no consequences allowed.

I sat in on part of a Christ on Campus event, sliding into a seat at the last table in the back. Staring back at me was the WAY to bare backside and thong of a young woman who turned out to be a bona fide Lutheran Deaconess, I learned later. I passed her a note, addressed "Dear Young Woman," in which I told her that I found being forced to view her naked backside offensive, and could she please think, from a Christian take, about those around her, and have the courtesy to cover it up.

Respect is a casualty of this cultural decay... And that is a bigger, even more widspread problem than the clothing issue... Disrespect is flying around in ALL directions, from all, inside and outside of churches.
We live in the vale of tears, God help us.

Untamed Shrew said...

You actually passed the CYA note?! My hero!!

Luzia said...

I most certainly did, and I dare anybody to call it any such nonsense as Protestant pharisaical legalism. Don't 'make my day'! ;-/