Fashion and Modesty, A Style Reflection

This article in, The New Orthodox, by Amanda Coen, got me thinking about modesty and style.
It describes some changes in traditional Hasidic dress in Crown Heights,
Brooklyn, among the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Orthodox Judaism. The
author explains, “Orthodox women follow the Torah’s laws of tznius, or
modesty, where elbows and collarbones must be covered, stockings must be
worn and skirts must go past the knee.”

Two Orthodox women, Mimi Hecht and Mushy Notik, are experimenting with new approaches to traditional garb. They founded MIMU MAXI, a clothing line that adheres to the rules but offers more varied and colorful choices. Apparently, according to the article’s author, “the gentrification of their neighborhood has brought them a whole new audience (and dressing modestly seems to be “in”).”

“The world is slowly waking up to the idea that leaving something to the imagination is more beautiful,” states Hecht. “With style icons like Kate Middleton, Olivia Palermo not to mention many runway looks increasingly turning to long dresses and skirts, there is something very beautiful and fashionable about dressing modestly.

I had to click over to their site, and found some terrific skirts:

This is the MIMU Edge skirt. $48.
And this is the Bon Voyage. $52, but sold out.

As a woman, I applaud any other woman’s desire to dress more authentically with her personality. If she chooses to strictly adhere to a religious code that prescribes her wardrobe, and that suits her, that’s all good too.

I am not a follower of any formal faith, so I have no religious basis for my ideas about modesty. But I’m sure I fall to the “Modest” end of the spectrum. I love skirts to the knee and below. Even my swim wear consists of board shorts and a rash guard, over a bikini top. No cleavage for me outside the house, just ’cause that’s how I like it.

If you read my blog, you know I hold a “march to your own drummer/wear
what you love” philosophy for all, and stand on no “rules”, except for
moi-meme. How about you: is modesty a concept you take into account? Is it “in”, as the designers in this article suggest? Does your religion or culture provide guidelines about how to dress? I am fascinated, as always, by the variety of our thoughts.

Happy Wednesday, it’s raining like kittens and puppies here!

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  1. I'm an Atheist who happens to dress modestly. But I do it by choice, not because a patriarchal religion imposes a dress code on me. You can't discuss the subject of modest dress honestly without confronting the reason for it.

    Incidentally, I have seen some Orthodox women in NYC who look relatively stylish, but the looks pictured above are extremely frumpy.

  2. Some of my biggest adolescent wars with my parents were about clothes. I still battle the voices in my head that say I look "outlandish" or "inappropriate". But I never gravitated to skimpy clothes. I'm a hippy at heart, all flowy and loose. As I age, I'm even more comfortable with covering up. It frees me up. I don't worry about tugging skirts down or trying to keep my shirt from popping a button. I can look people in the eye without thinking they're looking at my chest. That's just me, though. I don't mind other people doing what they feel. I do think it's sad, however, when I see women of any age dressing "sexy" because they need male approval to feel good about themselves.

  3. Kittens and puppies? I know cats and dogs, this is a new one to me.
    I just do my thing without thinking too much about modesty or rules or whatever.
    I dabble. No religion. I agree with what you said and I like the examples you are showing.


  4. I, too, tend toward modest dressing. Suppose part of it is from long-standing body image issues which I'm overcoming. Part is because I'm just more comfortable and warm being a bit more covered up. I do hold to a Christian faith and believe that it honors my God and my husband to be modest in my dress and behavior. I'd be that way anyway, so it's not a question of "control" or "suppression". It just is.

  5. Most of my clothing style preferences just happen to also be "modest". I guess I just like lots of fabric around me and am able to carry off quite a bit of it if I choose. I've been told that I "float" when I walk. I'll go with that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Remarkable what those ladies are designing; very attractive!

  6. Very thought provoking post Patti!! Personally I dress modestly. I'm just more comfortable that way. Always have been.
    I think some of the problem is some people these days dress inappropriately for the occaison. The miniskirt, tube top and stripper heels are GREAT for the club…but not for the funeral. There are times when a more "modest" dress is required. Unfortunately many people these days haven't got a clue !!
    And I saw that ensemble of mini-skirt, etc. at a FUNERAL. Really…..

  7. I have mixed feelings about this and I think my issue is with the word "modesty". It calls up religious and societal control of women. That is very different from liking one's neck, knees, upper arms covered for comfort, to focus attention on some other feature or because one feels 'leaving something to the imagination" is more attractive. Those motivations seem the opposite of 'modest', yet the outfit may be the same.

  8. I love that second outfit! Very nice. And nice to finally check back in and see that you are still here, doing what you do! ๐Ÿ™‚
    — Anne (formerly of TFF)

  9. I like a floor sweeping skirt as much as I do an arse skimmer. The word "modesty" makes me cringe, it's such a Victorian concept and a way of repressing a woman's sexuality. Much as I cringe at tourists in India visiting sacred places in boob tubes and booty shorts I believe that anything goes.
    I agree with Curtise, those skirts are nice but nothing I haven't seen in the shop windows of every UK high street shop and probably at a fraction of the price and Kate Middleton as a style icon? WTF?!! xxxx

  10. I think every woman should dress according to how she feels the most comfortable and if that means mini, maxi skirt (or any length in between) then so be it! Personally, I've always erred on the more modest side but not guided by any kind of religion and I don't care if it's in or not, I don't think it's ever going to change lol. And yes, it is simply true, when you leave something to the imagination, it's all the more attractive.

  11. This is a very interesting topic. I look at modesty and how I dress in relationship not to religion, but to my nieces who are 11, 8, & 5. I always dress myself and ask the question "is this the image I want to present to young girls". I am their example in life. Being appropriate dressed is so important today when the media is sending sexualized images of young girls (thanks Abercromie). Our malls are full of teeny tiny clothing for young girls. It is very hard to find clothing for girls that is modest. I really do dress for them and for all young girls. I want to be an example for them.

  12. I love the diversity of style that I see every day, but lean towards modesty as I enjoy viewing the full range of self expression. Loved your post and the striped maxi. I would have been right on it if it hadn't sold out.

  13. I have a knee-jerk reaction against modesty, I think, which is probably due to the connection with religious groups dictating what women wear. I have a Jewish friend who does not observe the food laws, and says that she doesn't think God will love her any less because of what she eats. I suppose I feel the same about clothing – if you believe in a god, do you really think s/he cares about what you wear? It's really a man-made construct to keep people (women) in their place.
    Ooh, that's me on my atheist high horse!
    Wear what you like, show what you like. Some people will approve, some won't, but it's an individual choice, and I'm glad to be free to make it.
    PS. The maxis you've shown are nice enough, but they're just average maxi skirts, like many others available. Isn't it just a marketing ploy to target Orthodox women in particular? Or am I unduly cynical? Probably! xxxxx

  14. I think modesty is a nice antidote to the pressure for women to show off their bodies. Now that I'm older, my personal preference generally leans more toward the modest. However, I worry about some of the religious (and even non-religious) reasons for modesty. If the idea is that women "inflame" men and are then to blame for the supposed results (i.e. rape, beating, etc), then I'd be the first to wear something revealing and join the "Slut Walks" that are all about saying that a woman can wear whatever she wants, wherever she wants.

    I'm Jewish myself and am planning to do some research about the reasons behind women's traditional head coverings. Maybe the site you mention here will direct me to where I can get this information.

    Oh, and by the way, a woman who follows Orthodox dress codes is "frum." A woman who does so fashionably and attractively, even in a sexy way, is called A Frummer Babe.

  15. Here in Germany there are few rules, because there is little different religions. Christian culture has little importance in everyday life, most the Muslim adhere to their rules (which is not all Germans like). There is no such culture of diverse cultures with us – that's a pity!
    I myself consider myself to have modesty than my own rule. As I like it … I almost always wear skirts and long, no bikini – which is nothing more for a woman of 53 years. I feel comfortable in my own style that no one dictates to me.

    (I wrote that with "google reader")

  16. I don't worry or think about modesty at all really. It's all subjective. Like fashion. Maybe as my body ages I will change my way of thinking. I'm hoping I don't have to though.


  17. I definitely feel like adhere to certain levels of modesty, but at the same time I find myself equally chucking those ideas out the window. Overall, I like a balance. If I'm showing off any cleavage, I keep everything to the knee. If I'm showing off my legs, I keep my upper covered as much as I can stand.

    I prefer to be able to move and bend without showing off anything I don't want to.

  18. I'm fairly conservative but I draw the line at clothing that impairs my functionality or fights the climate. I reject the idea that the sight of an ankle, knee or elbow is an excuse for some ape-man to lose control.

  19. These are very stylish outfits for those who feel that modesty is essential. We really need to consider modesty, aesthetics and what our thoughts are concerning dress.

  20. Oh yes, I think modest clothing can be much provocative than skimpy clothing. I do love a dress with a high restrictive neck and long sleeves with a shocking plunging back. Do I have one? Non! What a gap in my closet!! Must go shopping…
    I find that as my skirts go higher, my tights go opaquer.

  21. Modesty is open to interpretation like so many other aspects of fashion, these looks are too covered for my liking but if they suit these women that's perfect for them. I do like to be a little more covered these days than I have in the past.

  22. Modesty isn't necessarily an intentional prerequisite for me, however, I am more comfortable in more modest styles. I save overtly sect for the bedroom or a date with my husband. Of course modesty is so subjective….while some feel a one piece bathing suit is modest, others would think any kind of traditional bathing suit is immodest. I applaud any effort to move away from women being defined by their sex appeal. Hugs to you! Serene

  23. I follow my own guidelines about modesty. To each his own. No wonder the Bon Voyage is sold out. It's nice looking!

  24. I've always leaned toward the more modest side of the spectrum, but like you, feel that this is a personal choice and that every woman should do what feels right to her. BTW, those "modest" outfits are really cute!

  25. To each their own. Dress for your own comfort. I kind of believe modesty is overrated.

  26. Modesty IS something I take into account. Recently one of my daughters gave me several pairs of shorts she had outgrown. I knew at a glance that I would not wear them, in spite of the fact that they fit. I think modesty, and how it is defined, is a sort of sliding scale depending on one's age.

  27. I'm all for modesty and style. I am outgoing but that doesn't infer that I want to expose my body to EVERY Tom, Dick and Harry. LOL At my age modesty comes easy!

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