modesty & humility: you've got style continued

  Yesterday we began the quest to see how modesty and dress relate. If you have not read it yet, I would encourage you to do so.

As we discussed on Monday modesty cannot be summed up only in one's attire. In fact, there are many cases in the past and around the world where nudity and modesty are paired together. Take, for instance, Hiram Power's Greek Slave from 1846. This is a statue of a woman who, though completely naked, holds an air of modesty.

Then we look at other cultures. Havelock Ellis commented that "many races that go absolutely naked posses a highly developed sense of modesty." In New Guinie women will turn around if someone pays too much attention to their body. At the Pelew Islands women had the right to punish men by fines or even death if one were to pass by without permission whilst they were bathing. Then look at the Andamanese who would not remove their leaf apron in front of each other, "but retire to a secluded spot for that purpose."

With all of this being said, does modesty have anything to do with clothing? I believe yes. But, as you can see, it is dependent upon your society. If one of the Andamanese women were to come to America in nothing but a leaf apron they would be reckoned immodest. It is likely they would not be allowed in many stores or restaurants due to their dress (or lack thereof). But go back to their homeland and they are in appropriate attire.

Therefore, we must assess what modest dress looks like for us and follow suit. Even Cosmo, admits that there are things that are immodest and inappropriate. In 1997 they said, "Yes, it is possible to look too sleazy. Does your skirt run up your crotch when you sit down? Is your cleavage bouncing out of your blouse? On dates, avoid racy leather miniskirts and fishnets..."

In an episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy is being consulted by a sales clerk at a dress shop. The clerk shows Lucy a lovely dress with a somewhat deep v-neck. Lucy, caught up in the problem she found herself in, distractedly asks for a dress with a deeper v. The woman's eyes get big and Lucy realizes her mistake. She and the clerk knew no one with decency would dare go out in such a scandalous way! (Funny how times have changed, eh?)

In the Irish Times parents became concerned over immodest dress, claiming it makes their child look "too sexy for their own good." An excerpt from the article reads: "Modesty isn't a virtue kids see illustrated on MTV: how do you explain that dressing a certain way can send out all the wrong signals...?"

Society and the people know that there is such a thing as immodest dress. And researchers have even found modest dress redeems a woman and her dignity more than claiming a feministic approach of women can do whatever they want and reap no consequences. Findings on such analysis is discussed in Jessica Rey's video "The Evolution of the Swimsuit." You can watch it below:

Though we claim empowerment in wearing whatever we want, we are in fact subjecting ourselves to being viewed as objects instead of people. 

What we wear does affect the way people perceive us. Modesty is not about hiding our body, but approaching each situation with humility and dignity. 

What standards of modest dress do you think our society has for us? What is your reaction to Jessica Rey's talk? Do you believe that by dressing modestly we empower women or diminish them?

image: source