Friday, March 19, 2010

Modesty and Joy in Fashion

I'm fascinated by my friends' clothing, hair and makeup. More than once I've tried to ask them about it--how did you learn to put on eyeshadow? Where do you shop? I dance around what I'd really like to know: how did these lovely women come to be at peace with appearance? For me, it's an ongoing crisis--how to give due attention to how I look without becoming surface-centered? How to find the line between the attractive and the immodest. For fashion--as a culture and commercial venture--is quicksand. Money and hours disappear; vanity thrives.

Now that I have a daughter, I want an answer--a prescription for dressing well and modestly. Marimar is only 9 months, but soon she'll be 14 and I'll need a reason for why this skirt is inappropriate and that piercing is offensive. I'm working on some guidelines---I'd love your input.

First, I'd want to address whether we ought to give up claims to beauty and dress plainly for warmth and cover. Take the model of the fashion ascetic. This is a person who doesn't give much thought to her appearance. She doesn't wrangle beauty for herself. Her eyebrows go un-plucked and her legs unshaven. Her wardrobe is all tee shirts and cargo pants. This is a fine model to follow. Many would benefit from its simplicity. But it suits a lifestyle that's removed from the world--a life of relative solitude. Think of the religious orders in their habits.

Living in the world, being defined by our relationships, it makes sense to mind our appearance out of Charity for our fellows. (I might wish to abandon the razor and trips to the mall but I'm sure that D would be depressed by it.) After all, fashion comes down to color and form and these things can communicate God's cheer. Accepting this, what are some rules to help us stay on the straight and narrow?

I've come up with some criteria for choosing fashion items and styles. It's not rigid. I'm trying to arrive at something that prohibits both the lewd and the puritanical--the miniskirt and the burka. Here goes.

Question to Ask Yourself When Considering a New Style or Article of Clothing:

*Does the article obscure my personality? Is it so distracting that another person might have a difficulty concentrating on what I'm saying or doing? (Dyed hair, heavy make-up, facial piercings.)

*Does the item advertise my fertility by throwing emphasis on sex organs or erogenous areas of the body? (This is the obvious one: Low-cut shirts, string-bikinis, etc.)

*Does the article/style require a high level of upkeep or hamper my ability to perform my duties? (High-heeled shoes, finicky make-up regimes, anything that makes you a slave to the mirror)

*Does the article/style make reference to a person or culture that is known for his/her/its immoral behavior? (If someone says you have porn-star hair, you may need to rethink the look)

*Does the article/style advertise its own expense? (If the item's main attraction is a brand name or logo, then it probably isn't modest.)

Now, her are some positive and fairly "safe" ways of adding to visual appeal without threatening modesty:

*Rejoice in color and texture.
*Rejoice in the seasons--find patterns and colors that harmonize with your surroundings.
*Do homage to admirable people and cultures by imitating them.

No comments:

Post a Comment