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In defense of modesty

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Modesty has fallen out of vogue. Fashion has always interested me. Perhaps it was due to the fact my mother was a tailor and sewed most of my clothes as a teenager, and also my elegant wedding dress. She had an eye for materials, style, and colour, and cut out her own patterns to enhance our figures with fashionable modesty.

I did some modelling in my late teens, but we modelled clothes, not bodies. Now, excessively thin “mannequins” strut down runways with a staccato walk and blank faces, looking strangely inhuman.

The fashion industry is causing health problems for young women. Our society is obsessed with weight loss, diets, and the desire to achieve a perfect body. Teenagers, influenced by what they see on TV and in magazines, often struggle with bulimia or anorexia. Parents can help their children not to develop eating disorders by nurturing self-esteem and encouraging healthy attitudes about nutrition and appearance.

The way a woman dresses says a lot about who she believes she is. Women who feel comfortable with their bodies and have a healthy sense of self-worth usually dress fashionably rather than provocatively. Our bodies are an amazing gift from the Creator – we are fearfully and wonderfully created and we need to dress in a way that demonstrates we respect ourselves and others.

Scriptural standards

The Bible expresses some valuable things about God’s definition of ideal femininity. Creating woman from a rib (Genesis 2:22) speaks of femininity with hidden power and vitality. The rib protects some of a human’s most important organs, and is fundamental to structure and strength. In spite of its critical function, however, the rib is concealed from view. With each stroke of Eve’s creation, God reiterates his desire for her to be modest. The prophet Micah (6:8) includes modesty as one of three fundamental keys to following the Lord.

Proverbs 31:25 speaks of the woman who clothes herself with strength and dignity. Perhaps if we stressed these inner qualities, rather than surface attributes, young women would feel greater freedom. For example, a return to uniforms would be less expensive and certainly acceptable in our multicultural world. Seeing students mount the bus wearing uniforms from private schools, I get the impression they have greater freedom to be themselves and interact with each other.

A lack of decorum has also crept into some of our churches. It seems that anything goes regarding clothing. Contrast this with many European cathedrals that don’t even allow women to enter wearing sleeveless tops that bare shoulders or dresses above a certain length. Propriety, after all, isn’t only attractive, but graceful, and draws attention to the whole person. Dressing modestly allows us the freedom to consider each other’s character instead of only appearance.

I’d like to encourage my sisters, regardless of age, to be confident women who are clear about their values, won’t compromise their bodies, and won’t allow either peer or fashion pressure to mould their standards. We will remain every inch attractive women.

The Duchess of Cambridge was fashionably and elegantly dressed when she visited Canada last summer. She is a wonderful role model in terms of dressing modestly, and her inner beauty shines forth at all times. We need more prototypes, rather than passive imitators, in our world of fashion trends.

—Esther McIlveen is a writer from Richmond, B.C

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