Thursday, 15 January 2009

I have a penchant for transparent blouses...

...which is strange because after living in Jerusalem last year, your friend who has been known by a sobriquet synonymous with "nude" came to better understand principles of modesty that had previously eluded her (I told my mother I wanted to wear hijab - I like this and this). I have been fascinated by how my perception of modesty has changed (and will still be changing, cf. post title).

My flat in the Old City of Jerusalem was situated next to a neighborhood where many religious Jewish families lived, so I was often walking around women who exemplified a type of modesty that led me to view the BYU dress code as a standard for modesty as one par with the level at which movie ratings offer a standard of appropriate content. Part of my revelation about modesty was understanding how clothing is only one expression of modesty. I have often operated under the mistaken impression that if certain body parts are covered, then I'm being modest. I have failed to realize, however, that if the covering is primarily over-stretched lycra, I haven't actually concealed anything but my natural coloring, right? So for these women, modesty wasn't faux modesty (my xs Shade shirts are sighing in the closet), but by covering their feet to their wrists to their collarbones, these women presented their bodies as something private, something holy. And they were so beautiful! I was amazed by how their modesty set them apart from other women, really a tangible difference in their demeanor and how they carried themselves, as women who understood themselves as women - perhaps who understood the power and beauty and sacredness of their female bodies and reflected their understanding through the respectful discretion with which they presented themselves through clothing. Perhaps also as respect for God?

Dressing is more of an adventure for me now, more of a thoughtful process. I love thinking of it in terms of keeping my body mysterious to everyone but my husband. I also really love how, by thinking of my body as something more holy (also holiness= apart, separate) and sacred, it has become to feel more holy and sacred to me; like, the virtues I endow it with, it more fully engenders. And I love how it changes how I interact with people, I am much more comfortable, much less self-conscious, I can focus more on experiencing the ideas and content of human interaction than on the style or presentation or material aspects of our interaction. And I'm enjoying how modesty is influencing other areas of my thought, like ideas about purity (like, physical cleanliness).

I know many of you have understood modesty far earlier than I, so- what does modesty mean to you (and I'm talking about this as a personal, subjective principle (ie, not as a cultural force or how one's modesty is related to another person's righteousness (you know the conversation I am averting))? On a material level, how has it influenced your sartorial choices? And how has it influenced your theories about other aspects of life? Have their been events, changes in your life that have affected how you think about modesty? Do you know where I can find any modest skirts?


Chicken Little said...

For me, things happened very differently. Growing up, I had a very poor body image, and always hid myself under dark colorless clothes. It was an extreme form of modesty and not for the right reasons. When I went through the temple for the first time, six weeks before I got married, I came out feeling more loved, more confident. I started to add brighter colors to my wardrobe, indulged in shorter sleeves and wore fewer turtle necks. I still dress modestly, but in a less extreme way and it has made me happier. Everyone has different lessons to learn with regards to modesty.

Courtney said...

I've been thinking a lot about this and what I wanted to say, so sorry it took me so long! But here's what I have to say.
Somewhere between a couple and several years ago, I realized that it wasn't all about me. (shock!) I noticed in every conversation, I was turning everything around to how that applied to me, reminded me of something, had to do with me, was just like me, me, me, me. I was very shocked and embarrassed! It's taken a lot of work to just listen to others and not constantly chime in with my own life story, but in this way, I learned the importance of not constantly drawing attention to myself. While this may sound like a humility issue, to me, it is more of a modesty issue. I am still embarrassed to admit this tendency, because it is still something I must remain mindful of. So that is one thing that modesty means to me.