Every summer NextWave receives questions from young adults relating to modesty and fashion issues. When the summer heat and the fashion beat turn up the temperature in clothing styles, many young people are left frustrated and confused as to how to build a stylish summer wardrobe without compromising modesty.
We especially receive a lot of questions from young women, many of whom have given up hope that finding modest yet stylish clothes is possible.
Here are just a few of the comments regarding clothing that we received this summer:
“Do you have any suggestions for modesty during the summer? I live in Southern California, where it gets really hot during the summer. Shorts are short, and tanks are cool. What should I wear? – Jessica”
“I live in a small town where there are about three clothes stores that consist of Walmart, Target, and Khols. It is literally three hours to the nearest mall. The clothes that are modest are either too big for me or look like an 80's flash back. My closet is screaming for help and begging for new clothes. But I just don’t know where to start. What should I do? – Samantha”
“I have gotten to the point that I hate shopping… I can shop for HOURS and try on MILLIONS of outfits, and only go home with a handful. Too low, too short, too tight…these are only the beginnings to the problems with decent looking clothes today! And if decency is not a problem…style is! Because if it fits…it looks like old lady stuff! – Mary”
Clearly, [many] girls are struggling to find a balance between dressing stylishly and dressing modestly. Although it takes commitment, patience, and often a little extra hard work, it is most definitely possible to stay stylish and modest with your wardrobe.
So… what is Modesty?
…[Women should] dress in a way that veils the special mystery of our bodies that should be reserved for our spouse alone. Modesty is closely related to the dignity of persons and our call to live out … chastity.
In his book If You Really Loved Me, Jason Evert offers young women a view of modesty:
“So what is modesty? It is not about looking as ugly as possible. It's about taking the natural beauty of womanhood, and adorning it in a way that adequately reflects her true identity… her outfits, posture, and mannerisms don't distract from this. She's aware that her body is [a priceless treasure].”
Thus, our goal for fashion should be to build a wardrobe that is fun, stylish, and yet reflects our desire both to respect our own bodies and to uphold the purity of those around us.
Girls, in a society that constantly tempts us to lower our standards, [it’s encouraging to have] young men out there who are willing to fight for our purity and encourage us to dress modestly. Here are a few of the comments guys have emailed us regarding modesty:
“I’m not sure if girls realize that for a guy, girls who go for the sexy look all the time are very often thought of as cheap and lacking self-respect. A woman of style and self respect any day of the week! – Martin”
“As a guy in my 20s, when I see what girls are wearing and what the style is today it makes it all the harder to stay pure in heart. I think many young women don't realize the signals they are sending men with the way they dress. – Tim”
“I live in Chicago, and especially during the summer a lot of women do not dress modestly. How may I help encourage women to dress modestly? – Anthony”
“Please tell the NextWavers that there are plenty of men like myself out there who would much rather see girls dressed in a feminine yet proper manner. – Gordon”
Guys, be encouraged that you have an important role to play in upholding the purity of your female friends. [Encourage young women to have] the courage to dress modestly and resist temptation from cultural and media influences.
Also, by your outward signs of respect and admiration for modest young women, you will encourage them to keep their standards high.
Practical Tips for a Modest, Stylish Wardrobe:
As you begin shopping for modest clothing, it’s important to acknowledge that not everything you see on the clothes rack at the mall is going to meet your modesty standards. You will have to be selective and picky in the clothes you choose, and it will sometimes be frustrating and difficult.
However, shopping for modest, stylish clothing is possible, and it can also be fun. Following are some practical tips for your next shopping trip.
Write down your modesty standards
Before you begin shopping for new clothes, write down a few modesty rules that you’d like to maintain for yourself. These might include personal standards such as: no midriff-barring shirts or low-rise pants; no low-cut or cleavage-showing shirts; no mini-skirts, etc. If you write your standards down before you go shopping, you won’t have to decide what your standard should be while starring at an immodest-clad mannequin in front of your favorite department store.
Be a copycat
Since we don’t have a lot of modest role models coming out of the fashion industry to help us choose a modest wardrobe, it often helps to find someone whom you admire for their style and commitment to modesty, and try to
imitate their wardrobe. Ask this person where they shop, and for their advice on finding some stylish yet modest outfits.
I have a girlfriend who I greatly admire for the fact that she always looks fashionable, and yet I’ve never seen her wear a single immodest outfit. My friend has become a fashion role model for me, and she’s always happy to tell me where she purchased her clothes.
Style vs. fashion: recognize the difference
One of my friends recently pointed out an interesting observation to me. She said that what our society considers “fashionable” today doesn’t necessarily mean that it is stylish. Many so-called fashions marketed to young women are merely passing fads that will be “in” and “out” of fashion faster that your bank account can keep up with them. Thus, when you go shopping, look for clothes that transcend the latest fashion or fad – clothes that are always classic and stylish – no matter what the latest “fashion” happens to be.
Start with the basics
Begin by building a basic wardrobe of classically stylish pieces. Look for skirts, shirts, and pants in basic prints or solid colors that you can easily mix and match to give yourself the most options for your wardrobe. This approach will not only keep you in-style no matter what the current fashion fad happens to be, but it’s also a cost-effective way to shop: many outfit combinations out of a few basic pieces.
Choose cool fabrics
A practical way to stay modest and cool during the summer is to pay attention to the fabrics you choose. Cotton or linen will keep you much cooler than polyesters or stretchy fabrics like acrylic or nylon blends.
Once you have some basic stylish pieces in your wardrobe, you can change the look of your outfit dozens of ways by accessorizing. Colorful handbags, shoes, scarves, or costume jewelry can keep you in step with the world of fashion, and yet allow you to maintain a high standard of modesty and dignity in the way you dress.
Remember the goal
Modesty in our dress and behavior is a reflection of a pure heart. Even though keeping high standards in the clothing you wear is often difficult in our fashion-frenzied world, it is possible and rewarding.
[Stephanie Wood, NextWave; Abstinence Clearinghouse, 21Sept05]