Style and Styling

The Modesty Trend

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In Support of NOT Letting It All Hang Out…

Happy day, dear reader!

I hope yours is going swimmingly! In a previous post, I mentioned that off-the-shoulder and cold-shoulder tops are disappearing from the stores as the modesty trend increases in popularity. In terms of fashion, this generally means dresses with higher necklines, and lower hemlines. Maxi skirts were the first wave. Midi skirts and dresses were part of this trend,too, although when worn with the crop tops popularly shown with the midis, maybe modesty wasn’t what the designers were thinking. I can remember the street style wave of blouses and shirts buttoned to the neck topped with statement necklaces, and how fresh they looked after years of necklines plunging lower and lower.

It’s interesting to posit on where this is coming from, and why, since as the brilliant Amanda Halley says, “Fashion is a response, not an island.” I’d love to delve into that discussion over a coffee or a beer, but that will have to wait! Let’s start with a…

Definition of modest

1a: placing a moderate estimate on one’s abilities or worth b: neither bold nor self-assertive tending toward diffidence 2: arising from or characteristic of a modest nature 3: observing the proprieties of dress and behavior DECENT  4a: limited in size, amount, or scope: a family of modest means b: UNPRETENTIOUS: a modest home

Some dress modestly to adhere to a religious rule or code, whether they want to or not. Others choose to dress modestly because modesty is a personal value for them, like economy or aesthetics is for another. This is my situation. Modesty is one of the personal values that ranks quite high in my listing. Modesty means different things to different people. My definition of modesty will not be the same as yours or anyone else’s. Posting myself on Instagram might be considered immodest to some, but for me it’s just a part of my business. I can’t tell you by numbers what is immodest for me; I can’t say a skirt above here, or a neckline down here is too much. It’s more a feeling. I put something on, and it’s just not right. It may be lovely, but I just can’t go there!

The neckline and length of this dress fit with my definition of modest,
but might not work for someone else’s definition!

Another piece to take into account is context. Where am I and who am I with? I might wear an outfit out to dinner with my husband, that would feel immodest in the light of day. I wear a two piece bathing suit at the beach. It seems the right place to do so. Everyone has to work this one out for themselves! I know quite a few parents who have nixed two piece swimsuits for their daughters, but allow dresses too short to bend over safely in. I don’t consider it hypocrisy, just confusing.

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For some, dressing modestly means not drawing attention to one’s self, falling in with 1b from Mirriam-Webster. For some it means wearing all black, grey, tan, or some other neutral. Modesty might mean no flashy jewelry, or anything expensive. It may also mean not showing skin, but what skin seems to vary. I have seen school dress codes that prohibit showing the collarbones, but nothing about how long shorts or skirts need to be! The well known fingertip-rule for skirts and shorts is a notoriously bad one as everyone has different proportions, and fingertip length on one person may cover all and be indecent on another! Frequently, modesty is taken to mean no cleavage, tummies, shoulders, or thighs showing. Have you ever noticed that most modesty rules refer to women, and rarely to men? Odd? Not when you consider history and power structures.

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So what do I make of the modesty trend as it plays out on the runways, and filters its way down into the shops? I’m good with it, and am hoping it will make it easier to find things I like. I’m tired of “fixing” things with a cami. I imagine mothers of teen and preteen girls will appreciate it as well, but I’m not sure the girls will. We have been living in a let it all hang out, super snug, hypersexualized fashion wave for an awfully long time, and it’s all they’ve known, so the longer skirts and higher necklines may look fresh or frumpy to them, there’s no telling!

What’s your take on the modesty trend? Do you love it? Or loathe it? Let me know in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,


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