Fabric that is big, ugly, unflattering, and sweltering hot… Does this come to mind when you think of modesty? In 2013, we'd love to take this old term and give it a new definition. But where do we look to define Modesty? Who should define it? Should cultural standards impact our decision? Should we encourage young women to be set apart from society in how they dress when the options for such are so limited? Should we even have a blog promoting modesty, when “modesty" itself is based on the lack of self-promotion? There are many noble causes, should the way young men and women dress even matter in the grand scheme of things? The answers to these questions vary from person to person. But within the fabric of our society is a thread of faith. Faith should inspire growth, change, and healthy standards of behavior in many different areas. Modesty in conduct, which includes the way we dress, is a Christ honoring principle AND a healthy behavior choice.

How then do we determine what is and what isn’t modest?

There is more than one dictionary to define words and phrases. The Webster’s Dictionary was once the place to look; now ANY online site claiming to be a reliable source is used. The Urban Dictionary is quite crass at times, but I found their definition of the word “modesty” to be humorous and thought-provoking. It states, “Modesty is the art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.” This is a secular view which implies people who aim for humility are really actors striving to draw more personal attention. Why does secular society see a humble or modest expression, reflecting one’s desire to honor God and others rather than oneself, as pretentious? This social media, “like my post,” driven society is desperate for attention. We are so desperate that we buy what we can’t afford, pretend our life is what it isn’t on Facebook, and work to gain a following to feel like we “are somebody.”

Here's a valid thought…Wouldn’t young men and women wear styles that are more modest if their music and television role models dressed in more modest clothing? I believe they absolutely would. The need for ATTENTION we all have, gets a strong fix from shock value. SHOCK VALUE occurs as a response to loud and obnoxious opinions, “in-your-face” behavior, and “I’ll wear what I want” styles. This cycle of attention fulfilled through shock value promotes selfishness and more risky societal behavior.

What to do? We can’t redefine modesty in totality because it represents an ever changing principle influenced by the culture, faith and upbringing of its time. It isn’t a term anyone can give absolute guidelines on.

And the look of a modest woman has changed so much over the years. At Top Buttons, we debated whether or not to even use the term “modest” at all, because of the disgust most teens have when they turn the term over in their mouth. It appears that modesty makes most young people think of layering big ugly clothes and gives the feeling of "being controlled." We discussed whether we should use the word “classy,” but that infers “rich” by many people. We do like the phrase “fashion with extra fabric,” but this is a bit long to replace “modesty” with. We also know some other religious communities might be offended by our standard of the term which does not reflect their own. While we respect modest style expressions, at Top Buttons, we recognize that extreme modest styles could be impractical and not easily attainable for young women who do not sew their own clothes and want to dress in a way that doesn't alienate them from their peers.

In 2013, we resolve to talk about, encourage, and redefine this principle with all who are interested. We would love to have you weigh in on the matter. Is it possible to redefine modesty? Or should we throw it out and use a new term? Can we help young women to see this term in a different light? We’d like to know…what do you see when you think of modesty by today's standards? Do you feel it's reasonable to encourage young men and women to have some boundaries in their clothing styles? Why or why not?

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Garrard

Written By: Sarah Powers