Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2004 / 24 Elul, 5764
Fads shift, modesty stays in style
Call it the Backlash of the Bellybutton. Fashion trends are veering in the
direction of modesty.
Layering is in, waistlines are up and hemlines are down. An editor for
Seventeen magazine calls it "The '50s sexy-librarian look." Library books
or no library books, I call it good news, and I know I am not alone.
Mothers who have spent hours sorting through the pre-shrunk, double-shrunk,
Barbie-size ensembles trying to find clothing that will cover their
daughters, let alone comply with school dress codes, will welcome more
modest clothes with open arms and credit cards (take note, retailers).
The trend toward modest clothing is good news for every female who has ever
played Truth or Bare -- that awkward little game where females find
themselves constantly tugging, adjusting and stretching articles of
clothing in an effort to be covered and protected from the elements,
unwanted gawking and occasional drool.
I never did well with the Red Light Look. I was the mother muttering in the
store when everything on the rack looked like it was pulled from Britney's
I was the one scowling at mannequins for dressing like hookers. I was the
agitated shopper asking managers of the junior departments who made Madonna
First it was boys with their pants hanging beneath their boxers. Pants
sagged so low, the boys had to stoop over and grab their crotch hovering
somewhere between their knees and ankles to keep from tripping. Unable to
walk in an upright position, physically fit young bucks were reduced to
doing a slow geriatric shuffle with a macho quotient of negative nine.
As soon as the boys began hiking their pants up, girls let theirs
down. The ensuing backside reveal became known as plumbing. (My sincere
apology to every plumber with pants that fit.) Plumbing became a hallmark
of postmodern feminism: Equality through overexposure.
And now, modesty is making a comeback. The great divides are back under
wraps and it's so long, thong.
Modesty may be touted as the latest fashion trend, but in truth, it is not.
Fitted jackets, pencil skirts and pointed-toe boots are fashion trends.
Leather belts, beaded necklaces, chocolate brown, caramel and cranberry are
fashion trends; modesty is not.
Modesty is a virtue, and as such, it is a classic; always lovely, always in
style, always in Audrey Hepburn-good taste.
Modesty defies changing hemlines and ruffles with flounce. Modesty
transcends fabrics, feathers and the height of heels. Modesty is like the
little black dress, a timeless standard with which you can never go wrong.
While modesty is not a fashion trend per se, it does share a common thread
with fashion. Both modesty and fashion trends are spoken through the
language of clothing. The language of fashion can be one-dimensional with a
crude and unflattering let-it-all-hang-out transparency, while the language
of modesty is spoken with a complexity layered in beauty and dignity.
Fashion critics frequently speak of a young starlet being able to pull off
wearing a particular designer gown. They have the cart before the horse and
the ball gown before the beauty. A woman does not become worthy of a manner
of dress, a manner of dress becomes worthy of a woman of her body, her
soul and all that she is.
Who knows, maybe modesty the fashion trend will be as short-lived as red
pleather. Modesty the fashion trend may be ground into the runway under
next season's stiletto heels. That's all right, because modesty the virtue
will always be in style.
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© 2004, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.