Saturday, December 27, 2014

Femininity and Modesty

One of the things on my mind that has not left me alone for over a year has been modesty, femininity, and how I dress. I’ve been taught modest dress my whole life but never has it reached my heart until now. 

I've dressed modestly perhaps out of fear of disappointing people or sending the wrong message or just because I like the modest look, when it truly should have been a matter of the heart.   I know that it wasn't, because back when I was in my 20's I'd go out salsa dancing to clubs by UC Davis with my dance partner, and I'd wear the appropriate (but inappropriate) apparel, and I loved it because I felt really beautiful and free.

Yes, I was showing too much, but immodesty is far more than that in my opinion.  It's an attitude as well; a you-go-girl, if-you-got-it-flaunt-it attitude, rather than reverence and gratitude for the body God has given us stewardship over.   Anyway we may dress or act that is meant to grab attention: tight clothes, baggy clothes, all black attire, bright makeup, name brands, loud hair, body piercings/tats, super high or flashy heels, words on clothes, etc.  These are distractions and there are too many to mention, and new ones everyday like the "smart" glasses or earholes.  Each is, in it's own way immodest, and reflects some message the wearer wants to conveyEach draws attention away from the person, their soul, their spirit, their countenance, to focus on that message.  

My Journey
I grew up only wearing dresses when required unless you count a few short skirts.  My everyday attire was mostly shorts, t-shirts and jeans though, a lot like my husband!  Leaving to serve as a missionary in Chile for 18 months I thought I would die wearing dresses or skirts everyday.  I made it through just fine, but returned to pants immediately.  They are so much more flattering on me and easier to wear!

While I was busy dressing down, strangely, I convinced Pat to start dressing up for work, since I figured we could get past the teenager look at this point in life.  He looks really nice nowadays, but I never thought to do anything for myself.   After all- I’m mostly home right? I’ve been content to dress up on Sundays and call it good.  My kids can be reminded once a week that I'm a beautiful mama, and that's good enough for me.  But I stumbled upon several blogs by accident a couple summers ago while researching stuff for Trek.  I know it wasn't be accident and have been really thankful for what I've learned.

"Modesty is an appendage to femininity and femininity to Godliness”- Caroline at Modest Mom blog.

What I have learned from these mothers blogs has made me grateful to be a daughter, a daughter of God in a way I've never felt before.  I feel like the least I can do is show that gratitude in how I dress. I want my countenance speak of God and his love and my Savior, because people are looking for truth- many of them children who have never been taught about God at all.  I want to be an example like the women who have been examples to me, because maybe someone can come to Christ through me.  

I have always felt that if I hadn't been born in the church, I would have found it eventually.  I would have been drawn to the light, to those women I admire, to the missionaries, to the plan.  I know there are others out there like me.  But how can they find the truth if we don't stand out at all?  I want to be different with the peace the gospel brings.  I have made covenants with Him and I want my dress to reflect that. I want to look so Christlike that children are drawn to me; children that need help.  Or mothers that want a refuge for their families from the storm...
From a 2015 conference talk by Elder Nelson, A Plea to My Sisters...
"Thirty-six years ago, in 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball made a profound prophecy about the impact that covenant-keeping women would have on the future of the Lord’s Church. He prophesied: “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”5
My dear sisters, you who are our vital associates during this winding-up scene, the day that President Kimball foresaw is today. You are the women he foresaw! Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers!6
We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!7"

So over some months I felt like I was having an extreme makeover. I was kind of worried about how selfish that seems to be because I really was thinking of my looks a lot, but I kind of feel like I’m in a how-to-dress boot camp and that it needed to happen years ago. I’m excited to have a daughter to do this with someday. 


I decided to experiment with more skirts and dresses, or at least if I am wearing pants, to wear a tunic type top that covers the butt and crotch area and looks more feminine.   Before anyone starts getting upset, please let me say that how a woman dresses is extremely personal because she knows what she looks well in, or at least how she feels comfortable, and the same article of clothing can be both modest and immodest depending on body types.  Also not everyone is convicted simultaneously to act similarly. This was my experiment.  

Here's another reasoning for covering private areas from a blogger, Erika Shupe : (for the whole post read here: )

Advertising agencies quickly prepared marketing research to find out the reaction of men to a woman wearing pants.  Do you know what they found?  Using newly developed technology, they tracked the path that a man’s eyes take when looking at a woman in pants.  They found that when a man looked at a woman in pants form the back, he looked directly at her bottom.  When he looked at a woman wearing pants from the front, advertisers found that his eyes dropped directly to a woman’s most private and intimate area.  Not her face!  Not her chest! (DWD, p. 49)”

And when we’re talking about wearing dresses and skirts I mean long ones, not mini ones.   When women wear slacks, short dresses or skirts, or ones with a long slit, men’s eyes follow the lines he sees right up her legs and complete the picture in their imagination.  (Women’s eyes do the same thing, but since women don’t have the same type of temptation their imaginations don’t complete the picture like men’s do.)

And yet,

“…when a woman dresses with dignity, men tell me that this appeals to their chivalrous nature.  Her femininity helps them to elevate their thoughts (not to mention their eyes).  It allows them to uphold a woman’s honor, to respect truth and beauty, and to grow in their role as a ‘gallant knight’ (DWD, p.14).”

 I have started to believe the the traditional dress of the Indians and Muslims have it right!  

I have been looking for longer tunic shirts, as a matter of fact, because then I don't have to worry about bending over either, and I've gone through my closet and gotten rid of all those shirts with plunging, or wide open necks.  I am happy to switch to crew necks since I’m tired of fighting with my necklines when I play with the kids or to pick something up.  Since I have no waist anymore, some skirts I've tried make me look dumpy and frumpy and in my opinion, much worse than a clean pair of jeans and a nice top.  Plus, unless your skirt is long and flowy, you cannot play with children on the floor, which is half my day!

Honestly, it’s nice shopping with a purpose for the first time. I’ve been learning about colors and seasons and experimenting with hairstyles since I usually just leave my hair down. 

I am really trying to figure out how to dress nice and put colors together and that is a huge thing for me, since I usually just do a $5 shirt from Walmart and wear a lot of black. 

I want to learn how to make my own skirts like this young girl is so good at! She is awesome!  I wish someone lived near me that had gobs of time to teach me how to sew!  But this is something I have been passionate about lately and Heavenly Father has really helped me to get started despite my lack of sewing skills.

I started visiting thrift stores looking for skirts and found a lot of great ones! And shoes, and tops!



Then I needed to supplement with a few new items which worked out perfectly since it had been a long time and I really needed new clothing anyway. I had just worn holes in my jeans and it would have been lame to go out shopping, and then a month later realize I want to dress differently. I thought it was neat how it all came together at the exact right time and how I found such good deals.

FYI- I did not have luck at traditional stores. Target- a bit. Marshalls, Burlington, Ross, had racks and racks of sleeveless, see through, low-cut, or otherwise impossible clothing.  Dress Barn was a bit better, but I didn’t find anything. I think it might be just that I’m older and the styles of today make me cringe. A lot of the colors and patterns just look like someone threw up all over it, and I guess I sort of prefer dressing conservatively. Go figure. 

So I over the next year, I have turned to the internet when I need something.  Here are the best sites I have found and love!
********************************************************************* I love this style!  This is mostly all modest, but a bit too expensive.  Still I can dream.  Love their tunic tops and skirts. Several modest sites in one.

sorella bella Missionary clothes website.  This isn't your mother's sister missionary attire.  (Or mine). Reinventing modesty

Baby 'O' Basic modest skirts all wardrobes need. Not much selection but darling. Know what your looking for otherwise it's overwhelming.  Cute stuff. Cute. Same as ModCloth.  Can be overwhelming, but huge selection.  lots of tunics shirts.  Made for larger women so order at least a size smaller than your normal size.

Then the regulars like Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Lands End, LLBean, etc.

Jamie Sullivan's modest wedding dress from A Walk to Remember

Why Femininity:
I’ll tell you right now, most of this post is not my words or thoughts, but those of the following ladies.  If you have time to visit them, you will not be disappointed (unless the links have changed!).  I have tried to give good links and condense some of their thoughts for this post, but it is not where near as well done as theirs. 
I will try to source them appropriately throughout this post. Her comments are in green. Click on Modest Dress under her topics and read the handful of posts there.  She is very organized and very good at explaining. Her comments are in pink.  She also has a Modesty topic you can click on and she is the one who really gave me the heart for this, however it could take 3 hrs to get through all her posts.  Still it's wonderful. Her comments are in orange.  She did a special feature with Caroline (above) at Modest Mom Blog called She Wears Skirts Series.  You can click on that and read through the posts.

 “If more females would be ladies, more males would be gentlemen.” 

“God did not accidentally create me to be a woman.”

"Your dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady."
"There are 2 different types of femininity. There is the sexual feminine, who dresses in extremely tight, low cut, revealing tops, tight jeans which hug every curve of her body, make-up heavily applied and noticeable, and an extremely fashionable hairstyle. No one can deny she is a female, the clothes she wears make it obvious for everyone to see. My heart goes out to ladies who don’t know any better than to dress this way- especially young girls who don this attire to mimic the latest movie star, or worse yet- their mother.

“I don’t want to be legalistic… to throw in all my friends faces and expect them to exemplify modesty in the same way in their own lives. Rather I seek to most importantly show my husband and my children a modest wife and mama at home and teach my children clear gender lines, as those I hold dear to my heart have blurred the lines, thus wrecking their lives in the process.” 

“…one of the main reasons I wear skirts is to appear feminine… I feel passionately about being a woman in a world where gender lines continue to be blurred, and in many instances are completely non-existant.” 

“When I think about it, perhaps this is the least I can to do convey to the world that I am a daughter of God” 

 “As a mother guiding a young lady into womanhood, it is critically important that she gently teaches her daughter the importance of dressing in feminine, modest attire, and how to use accessories, jewelry, and makeup in a way that will not overpower her and draw unnecessary attention to herself. The worlds guidelines of what is appropriate for young ladies to wear can be very corrupt. Don’t misunderstand me- having your daughter dress modestly does not mean that you will raise a perfect child whose heart is set on the Lord. It’s just a small piece of the puzzle, way down towards the end of the puzzle. It can be a great blessing to a young lady to have a mother… teach… and show by example what a feminine woman looks like. It will not look the same for every family, but the BASIC principles of femininity and modesty remain and must be passed on. This is not old fashioned ladies, this is wisdom.” 

Sloppy dress and what we can do about it:

"If we look sloppy and ill put together and everyone knows that we are followers of Christ, when people think of Christian they will think “sloppy”. Take fashion into account, but don’t be a slave to it."

Are your straps showing?

“Wearing skirts can be an act of love to our brothers in Christ. While men are ultimately responsible for their thoughts, as sisters in Christ we should be willing to aid them in this. A skin tight shirt, or short skirt and shorts will be a stumbling block for some men, and honestly, why wouldn’t it? God designed men to desire women."

The Duggars,19 kids and Counting, are an example of this dedication to modesty and femininity. 
I am so grateful to all these inspiring folks!

I always thought being raised as a member of my church that we followed the strictest rules out of anyone; at least it always seemed like that. But since I’ve homeschooled using the Mennonites or Anabaptists curriculum (Rod and Staff) and met them at homeschool conferences, I realize we are actually fitting into the world pretty normal compared to them!  That makes me a bit sad.  They wear head coverings and there is a distinct dress they are required to wear be they men or women, boys or girls. Sometimes I just wanted to hug them for being distinctly different, and I can’t explain why.  Not that I want to be them, but I think it's neat.

I think that people of God are so similar ultimately. We may have different religions or doctrine, or be recently coming to know God, but he eventually leads us to the same place.

This is a good article about the Pope and how modesty is an attitude of humility and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. 

I like Caroline's story at Modest Mom blog about how when her mom became convicted that they needed to dress modestly, they did not have money to buy clothing and she could barely sew and so she only knew one pattern: a simple jumper dress.  The jumpers were not flattering, or what they would have chosen to wear, but it was what they had, and they would rather wear that than dress immodestly.  Then when she started attending a Bible study group at college, she really stood out, and her future husband thought she was just plain weird.  All the other girls wore jeans and t-shirts and dressed modern.  A quote from her husband:

"As I got to know her, everything about her said, 'I am a woman, made in the image of God, and if you were a true man of God, you would treat me with all the dignity and honor, according to the rights and privileges afforded me by my Creator'.” 

“A modest woman is right in her relationship with God. She is focused on living for him and not all about living for the latest fashion statement, or for a compliment on how she looks. A modest woman is humble in her spirit. She is not brazen or forward in her actions. She does not seek the attention of men. She does not strive to be the loudest person in the room (nor does she make it her goal to be the quietest)." 

LargeFamiliesOnPurpose- Modest feminine bathing suits.
There are many different levels of modest swimwear. 

Link for modest swimwear sites:  At girls camp swimwear can be a touchy subject.  Someone in our stake told me a story about a neighboring Stake President who had a great site for girls camp with a terrific pool that our Stake was a bit jealous of.  When it was brought up though, he said essentially that the pool was a curse.  Not only do they have to go back and forth with the girls on modest swim wear, but with their mothers who get offended.  Frankly I've always though it was ridiculous that we have to wear skirts to our knee, but then when we swim with the young men would could go out in our underwear!!!  That is what a swimsuit is.  It's just underwear that is a little more water friendly.  Why is that okay as long as it's a one piece?    

Why do we let them dress like that?

Some scripture references I've been reading.  The scriptures consistently point our focus back to our heart. Femininity is not weakness.  Look at Esther and the other women on the scriptures!
Romans 12:1-3, Colossians 3:2 Don’t become to preoccupied with dress. 1 corintians 3:16 ye are a temple of God… spirit of God dwelleth in you. Gen 1:26, Gen 9:6, Moses 6:9- God made us in his image Romans 12- Present our bodies as a living sacrifice 1 Corinth 3:16&17- Know ye not that ye are a temple of God? 1 Corinth 6:20 For ye are bought with a price- therefore glorify God in your body 2 Corinth 6:16 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate Mosiah 2:37 Lord dwelleth not in unholy temples Deut 22:5 Woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man 1 Cor 6:9 Body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. 

I am happy too share some of what I've been thinking about for much of 2013 and 2014.  It has changed my life similarly to how eating well will change your life.  When you think about who you want to be, and then make a point to do things on purpose to honor God, it is true happiness to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Mother Theresa: If you judge people, you have no time to love them.  I know that modesty means different things to different people and I would not impose or judge others since we are all raised under such different circumstances and have such different experiences.  So again, people, peace.  Sometimes my clothes don't work out so don't judge me if I don't dress how I'd prefer.  When you're overweight like me, you think less of what you'd like to wear, and more just trying to wear anything that doesn't look too awful

Caroline at the Modest Mom blog explains my feelings better than I ever could here about this:


Christy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I have never even thought about most of these things before but they speak to my heart. I have struggled over the years with my weight and body and just haven't been happy with any of the options out there. I was afraid of feeling "frumpy" when I found something I liked that wasn't 'fitted' (not that I ever wear anything tight on purpose lol) I have been drawn to t-shirts lately because they fit looser but I also want to look nice.

I know what you mean about wanting to look nicer at home. I used to try. I always wore jeans but with a nice fitted shirt. Then life got busy and messy and hard and my clothing and dress took a back seat. Lately it has been exercise pants and sweatshirts and I just don't want to be that person. I want to have pride in myself.

Thank you for sharing. Good luck on finding your color. I am a fall. Once I figured that out it helped TREMENDOUSLY in how I felt in my clothing. It will make a difference for you. Plus, you will find that ALL your clothes match. You will start putting colors together that you didn't realize you could do. Clothes you already have will be able to be combined into new styles. It is exciting! I love knowing that all my scarves or jewelry will match most of my outfits! :)

Karisa said...

Christy- I felt the same way. Struggling with weight and frumpy clothes. I grew up in the years of the grunge look and never really changed. I don't want to look preppy since I'm kind of a free spirit inside, but at least feminine. I am having the hardest time figuring out my colors. I don't know if I ever will!!! Anyway- every time I see pictures of you, you look cute with cute accessories, etc., so I think you're doing great!