“It’s impossible to find modest clothing.”

If you frequent religious blogs and magazines, you will often hear that women’s fashions are “becoming more risqué each year,” and that it is well-nigh impossible to buy modest, flattering clothing.  Not only is this mantra harmful, since it encourages women to fear fashion and wear denim skirts and prairie dresses; it is not even true.  The stores still carry plenty of low-rise jeans and backless dresses, but in the last ten years a number of fashion trends have arisen that any self-respecting girl can wear:

1.  The Midi-Length Skirt

This mid-calf length has been a thing since… 2009, I think.  Vogue made some fanfare about falling hemlines, and ever since then I have noticed the “midi” category on various clothing websites.  It’s not always even the most flattering length, but you can’t deny it’s modest.  Search for “midi skirt” on GoogleImage, and see what you get.  I’m sorry, but nine times out of ten, denim skirts are just plain dowdy.  Why not choose something brightly colored and made of soft, feminine material?

 

 

2.  High-waisted jeans/pants

All right, anti-pants ladies: take a look at these babies.  Would a man ever wear pants like this?  In France I believe they are known as “carrot pants” (from the shape), and they are a staple on French fashion blogs like the cherry blossom girl and cachemire et soie.

Now, I realize that this particular silhouette is not flattering on everyone, and it can also be difficult to find at a reasonable price.  70′s style high-waisted jeans are easier to find these days, however.  Check out this Jane Birkin-inspired look:

I think women are finally realizing that drawing a line across the widest part of your body (avec low-rise jeans) is the opposite of slimming.  Cinching in your waist is always flattering and feminine, and you will not have to fear the dreaded plumber’s crack.  Go for the high-waisted look, I say.  Hipster girls (and Zooey Deschanel in particular) have wrested it out of “mom jeans” territory.

 

 

 

3.  Mad Men

Fashion bloggers love love love Joan Holloway!

Thank God. I’ve personally had my fill of ill-fitting denim, tired tank tops, and sad androgynous flats from Urban Outfitters. When did we start thinking “dressing up” was only for special occasions and that it’s somehow appropriate to perpetually “slum it”? In my humble opinion men and women should be expected to look…well…like men and women, not like teenyboppers or like they’ve been home with the flu all weekend or like disheveled vagrants.”

Preach it!  I am all for the return of wiggle dresses, red lipstick, and the Latin Mass.  Let’s have some 1962 fashion with our 1962 missal, my traddie sisters!  If you want to try the look, see this beloved Mormon fashion boutique.  I’m not kidding.  Also, Etsy is a wonderful source of pretty clothes both vintage and modern (although most shops don’t allow returns, which sucks tremendously).  ModCloth has a lot of pretty things, but the dresses tend to be too short, which hurts my optimistic argument.  Darn.

(Before I move on, I simply must gloat for a moment: while nosing around SF the other day, I found a pair of vintage Ferragamos very like the shoes in the picture above for… $25.  Gloat, gloat.)

When I see a well-dressed girl these days, most of the time I find her look pretty modest!  It’s the fashion miscreants who let it all hang out.  Some of the worst offenders are college girls who wear leggings as if they were pants, which is one step above wearing tights as pants.  My dears, if you are going to wear leggings, you MUST wear a dress or tunic that covers your bum; and if you tuck your leggings into Ugg boots, top them with a sweatshirt, yank your hair into a ponytail and paint your face orange–thereby becoming a mindless drone in the undergrad Ugg army–the angels will weep.  Get ye to Garance Dore and the Sartorialist, and get a look of your own.

But I won’t let the traddie girls off the hook either.  I used to be like you: the modern era made me nauseous, and I wished I had been born in a different era.  Since I couldn’t dress like Eowyn, I refused to find a fashion role model I had any hope of emulating.  I let my hair grow to my waist, but I usually wore ill-fitting jeans, sweatshirts, and big white running shoes, so the medieval hair was wasted on me–that was in high school.  When I got into my little Catholic college, I bought a lot of long skirts–no denim ones, thankfully; but they all came from stores (scoped out by my mother) that cater to Ladies of a Certain Age.  I wasn’t consciously trying to be a prude; I just had no idea how to create a look, and I wanted to be on the safe side.  But from conversations I had with my college friends, and from experiencing a healthy bit of rebellion against the dress code–not to mention an excursion to Italy–I came to realize that my Eowyn-or-nothing attitude was actually prideful.

I am not a Tolkien character, or a medieval princess, or a regency noblewoman, or an antebellum debutante.  I am a middle class daughter of the twentieth century.  I was born into a post-Chanel world of simplified garments, little black dresses, knee-length hems, and women’s trousers.  If I want to look beautiful for myself, I can wear anything; but if I want to be beautiful for others, I need to embrace a beauty that will not prevent others from relating to me.  I can’t go to work in a chiton, to the drugstore in a farthingale, to church in a hennin; so I can either sulk about it and wear the saddest modesty-rags I can turn up from the Vermont Country Store… or I can make a choice to find good in modern fashion, and aspire to the best of it.  Life is too short to waste on “if only,” and there is so much beauty anyway…

 

There are those who would find Audrey’s bare shoulders scandalous and Francoise’s trench coat subversively androgynous, but according to the norms of our culture, there is nothing debauched about either of these images.  Neither woman looks like she belongs in a nightclub or a centerfold, and an ordinary man could talk to Ms. Hepburn without smirking or making a lewd joke.  Maybe I’m a hopeless reprobate, but I’d rather risk men noticing that I’m a pretty young woman than frustrate all their hopes of future marital bliss by dressing like a Dominican novice.  Think of all the sinners we could rope back into church if they knew there would be pretty girls there!  :-P

About flirtyintrovert

I love reading blogs more than talking to people. I'm trying to change that by writing a blog.
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15 Responses to “It’s impossible to find modest clothing.”

  1. dannyfrom504 says:

    DARLING!!!!!!!

    i had no idea you linked me. color me flattered. you are NOW on the blogroll. i better see you posting more now Dear. i get the feeling you’re a nerdy lass……and i like that. lol. i’m sure your style of dress is quite *rawr*. lol.

  2. Julie says:

    Amen, amen, etc. I agree with you that the pessimistic view is harmful. Plus “sad modesty-rags” made me laugh.

    In my experience, if you go out with your paycheck to your suburban mall, and expect to fill up a wardrobe from scratch with knee-length skirts and appropriate-neckline tops, you will probably be disappointed. But if you shop like a normal person and build up your wardrobe over time and from a variety of sources, it’s easy to look modern and stylish while staying modest. My secret weapon in the past has been Eddie Bauer — sure, it’s a little soccer-mom all together, but they can be great, comfortable basics (esp for those who need tall sizes) that strike a good balance between femme and frump. I have some EB skirts that I get compliments on all the time.

  3. Bellita says:

    I wore a midi-length skirt just the other day and so know exactly what you mean about it being modest but not also flattering. :P It was khaki, with an a-line cut, paired with a bright turquoise blouse. I put the outfit together because I wanted something that I could wear both in church and on a walking tour, and it was the closest thing (color-wise, at least) that I already had to a “safari dress.” Anyway, it looked fresh and bright at Mass, but then felt really wrong–dowdy, even–on the tour. :(

    Skirt length is such an issue with me. I love modest lengths, but find that because of my height (or lack thereof) and my lean figure, I pull off the shorter lengths much better.

  4. danny: yay, you found my blog! Got a big grin on my face right now…

    Julie: I totally agree. I used to go to Macy’s and try to find the prettiest things in the store… finally I realized that you have to know what you want BEFORE you leave the house. It takes a lot of thought and research before you can safely go shopping, and it can take a few years to build up a fully operational wardrobe (wow, that sounded sinister. like we’re plotting to blow men’s minds instead of their home planets. >:-)

  5. Bellita says:

    @Flirty
    I realized that you have to know what you want BEFORE you leave the house

    So true! And even then, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to find it.

    It’s so much like dating . . . ;)

  6. Blair says:

    Great, great post!
    Check out Modcloth’s “longer lengths” section under dresses. There is hope! ;)

  7. Bellita: You go on safaris? Wow, you’re halfway to stealing Frankie’s style already! :-)

    Yes, the midi is dangerous. I like the one in my post because it isn’t too long, it has a high, cinched waist, and the fabric is stiff enough that it “poofs” nicely at the top. I found some midi-length pencil skirts at Asos.com which also look flattering. Mostly, though, I try to stick to knee-length. I posted about the midi skirt mainly because I was irritated at Catholic bloggers moaning about how fashion gets skankier every year. It doesn’t.

    I *do* think you would look adorable in those 70s jeans. With a cute little plaid shirt and wedge sandals and your guitar, of course…

    Now, here’s something I’ve noticed about shorter lengths: to me, a short dress looks longer than a short skirt of the same length! I suppose it’s the unbroken line of color. Anyway, you might want to lean towards dresses rather than separates. Just a thought.

    Blair: I checked out ModCloth, and behold, you are right! I will have to go back there more often.

  8. And after reading Max Lindeman’s essay, “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls,” I hereby declare high-waisted jeans a Catholic Girl Thing:

    “Turning, I saw a girl step out of a Honda wearing a tight pair of jeans. They were not, I hasten to add, skinny jeans; they were cut ’80s-style, high at the waist.

    When the girl faced me, I saw that her glasses, too, were cut in the style of the Reagan Revolution: square, in every sense. But her legs—timeless. Perhaps her ensemble seems to spell out a mixed message? Not for me. I read: I am beautiful, but either don’t know, or don’t care.”

  9. And Blair, I love your tumblr. The world could use more Ruskinian style blogs.

  10. Bellita says:

    Re: high-waisted jeans

    Given how often I hike up my regular jeans, I’d probably be ecstatic in a high-waisted style, but comments from my fashionista mother are making me second guess myself. Every time I pull my jeans up a little more, she moans that I’m being “just like my father,” and then tells the story of the time he showed up for her sister’s wedding in pants almost halfway up his chest and she refused to talk to him for the rest of the day. :/

    Having said that, I haven’t tried any jeans deliberately designed to have high waists.

    On the other hand, I have worn 70s style jeans. They are my favorite cut!

    And you’re right about the unbroken line that makes a short dress seem longer (and more modest) than a slightly longer skirt. Separates feel more practical to me because I can wear them more often without obviously “repeating,” but I do prefer dresses.

  11. “Having said that, I haven’t tried any jeans deliberately designed to have high waists.” Ah, that’s the rub! They have to be cut that way, or else you’re just wearing pants that are too big for you. If you want to try them, I would suggest looking on Asos. (don’t know if they ship to the Philipines though) But you need to tuck in your shirt and wear a skinny belt and some jewelry to do the whole hipster thing. Right now I’m wearing the 70s jeans, a t-shirt with parakeets on it, and a medal of st. Mary Magdalene. :-P

  12. Jamie says:

    I don’t see any reason why you can’t dress like Eowyn. In the past year I’ve become a big fan of 70′s style maxi dresses (if they fit right. I can’t stand the empire-waisted ones.) And for winter, I’ve been wearing floor-length skirts with t-shirts. They’re marvelous, like wearing a blanket and you don’t have to shave your legs and if it’s really cold, you can wear yoga pants under them. One of them is meant for belly-dancing, I think, so it gets good swing when I walk. They’re not so good for work though, as they tend to get caught under the wheels of my desk chair, but I wear them around the house and out on weekends. If you’re in San Francisco, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t pull off the look.

    PS – I LOVE Francoise Hardy. My roommate and I like to listen to her “best of” album while drinking cream sherry out of teacups.

    • J’adore 70s maxi dresses! They are more hippie than Eowyn though, alas: Norse shieldmaiden turns out to be a fiendishly difficult look to pull off in the 21st century. I think there are some girls in Sweden who might, but they tend to go too punk, or too minimalist, or too rockabilly.

      Still, you’re making me want to grow my bangs out and try again. Also, can I come drink cream sherry out of tea cups with you sometime? That sounds brill.

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