The Shameful Shadow of Modesty

<strong>The Shameful Shadow of Modesty</strong>

6 Ways to Rock the Midi Skirt this Fall (2)

As a modest dresser, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief as the temperatures drop at this time of year. And it's not because I'm one of those cold loving creatures- believe me, I'm a summer girl at heart. With autumn translating into tissues and Tylenol for me, why do I look forward to this time? It might sound strange, but the colder it gets the more I blend in with society. The less out of place I look on the streets.

During the summer, while everyone throws on tank tops and shorts, modest dressers try to fit in while subtly covering up. It feels embarrassing. You take a group selfie. You're the only one wearing sleeves, breaking the unspoken dress code . You glance at it after with your friends and flash them a quick, apologetic smile. They warmly smile back, understanding, forgiving you for your offensive clothing choices. You both move on, knowing this uncomfortable ritual will soon resurface. 

But as the chill sets in, sweaters, tights, boots, and beanie hats have everyone covering more skin. Just like me. I can walk through the streets or the airport, without getting those knowing, often pitiful glances, silently gesturing that "oh, she's one of them." In the cold, I feel normal. I feel at peace. I blend right in to that group selfie. No awkward smiles, finally.

Dressing modestly is something I believe in, It's an important part of who I am. But honestly? It's a part of myself that I am ashamed of. I am struggling, swimming against the tide in a culture that celebrates being who you are, no matter who that is (read: wear whatever the hell you want). I feel so much pressure to deviate from modest norms. But then deeply rooted impulse tells me not to dress that way. Not to buy that immodest item. But I feel so much pressure to ignore that voice. 

The comments are everywhere: "It was like wayyy too short but whatever." "Her dress was tiny but she looked so good". There's so much pressure to just not care, to just do whatever you want to do. But it feels like these rules only empower you to wear less, and don't apply if you choose to cover up more. In an age of 'no one's judging,' where we're supposed to be chill and fun, modesty feels so uptight, so antithetical to self expression.

There's a constant inner dialogue in my mind: If I didn't have to dress modestly, would I wear the things i'm wearing? Probably some of them. But I'd definitely be wearing other things as well, things I don't wear now. And would that be a closer expression to who I really am? Because that would be my uncensored wardrobe? But then I hear another voice- but dressing modestly is completely who I am! If clothing is an expression of the self, modest clothing presents my values, which are an essential part of my personality. So which is it? 

Modest Fashion feels like just a band-aid to a problem. You're ashamed of modesty so you find a way to conceal it with the current trends. The cleverly hidden modest dresser. But the point is you are hiding. 

But maybe therein lies the solution. Maybe the way to combat that pressure is to just stop hiding. Let's transform modest fashion into an expression of pride. Let's look the culture of "be who you are" straight in the eye and say, "Fine. I'll be exactly who I am. This is who I am." There needs to be a cultural shift, from modesty shaming to modesty pride. Modesty can be fashionable. It can be super classy. But until we learn to  love modesty without those benefits, without rushing to add those "but it's also _______" qualifiers, we'll still be hiding a part of ourselves. It's time to embrace modesty as an independent value; it's time that we proudly own modesty.

This piece was written by a contributing Modli writer. 



  • Amanda B - October 28, 2015, 4:40 pm

    A good part of the issue is practicality. Modest dressing in the summer is ridiculously uncomfortable. A long-sleeved shell under a short sleeved shirt when it's 85 outside with 70% humidity is impractical at best and dangerously overheating at worst. You overheat even more when you have to cover your hair, whether by tichel or shaitel. In winter, skirts (long or short) and stockings/leggings do not provide sufficient coverage to keep legs warm.

    Dressing modestly is a mitzvah, but someone needs to come up with a practical, budget-friendly way to do this that does not put your health at risk.