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!