The desire to dress modestly does not come without questions. Whether you’ve only recently decided to be more modest in your way or dress, or if you’ve been dressing modestly all of your life, you will field questions regarding your decision quite frequently.
A question that is asked on a frequent basis is:
Q: Why does it seem as if modesty lies upon the shoulders of women? Why are we required to dress modestly so as not to offend the opposite sex or entice them to stumble spiritually?
Fellow modest blogger, Ally, crafted a great response to this reader’s question.
A: In today’s society, where the majority of magazines, commercial advertisements and retail establishments are baring more and more skin in the name of fashion and seasonal trends, dressing (and behaving) in a modest fashion is increasingly difficult. Clothing options for women are always evolving, while options for men stay pretty much static. Women, therefore, have much more to choose from. We make the decision every day when we open our closet doors in the morning or make a retail purchase. We decide what to cover our bodies with, how much of our bodies to cover and how our clothes should look and fit on our bodies. We are inundated with different cuts, styles, and ways to wear similar items: whether to wear our pants/skirts tighter or looser, how high or low we prefer our necklines, where our hemlines hit our legs, etc.
Because of all of the options that women have, it seems that the concept and implementation of modesty falls upon us. We are the ones choosing how to present ourselves. The way we dress will have an impact on not only the impression we give to others but the reactions we will receive. We are responsible for the image we project to the people around us and society in general. The attention that we attract is intricately linked to the clothing we wear. As an Orthodox Jew, dressing modestly does NOT mean dressing in an unattractive manner as to not cause any attention to myself. The Jewish concept of ‘tzniut’ (modesty) is to make yourself ‘attractive but not attracting’. This means dressing in a way that makes me feel confident, while making sure that I am not attracting unwanted attention because of what I am wearing.
I believe that this concept translates to the greater global definition of modesty and the expectation that modesty should be a woman’s prerogative. Men react to women in various states of dress differently. To think that men view a woman in a bikini and a woman in a business suit with the same regard is naive at best. Take a look at any ‘men’s magazine’. The women in those magazines are always scantily clad. When women dress scantily, isn’t attention what they are looking for? Can you blame a man for looking? Yes, men have urges; and yes, they should be responsible for controlling them, but c’mon…shouldn’t we help them out a bit? Is it fair if we dress provocatively and then chastise men for looking and lusting? No! If we expect men not to objectify women based on the clothes that they are wearing, then we should meet them halfway. Again, this doesn’t mean to dress in burlap and feel bad about yourself; it means to think about what you are putting on your body, how it might be perceived, and what attention you want to attract.
Clothes are a means to express ourselves and, as women, we are offered numerous ways to do so. Dressing modestly doesn’t mean limiting your self-expression. It means taking pride in yourself as a woman. It means knowing that you are not giving off the impression that you are a combination of sexy body parts, but that you are a whole person; an intelligent woman with a fabulous personality and confident sense of self! It means that the clothes you choose to wear don’t define you – you define yourself.
Check out Ally’s blog here.
What are your thoughts on the subject?