Girls gone mild

In last week’s Newsweek there was an article entitled Girls Going Mild(er) which discussed a supposedly growing movement of young women shifting toward a modest dress style as opposed to the pantyless celebs and bead begging shirt lifters that saturate the media.

It seems like a couple of concepts rolled into one confused theme. The core of the “modesty” movement with it’s books, sites, and fashion shows, is from varied religious backgrounds, all emphasizing purity and virginity. However, while the article does briefly address the ebb and flow of fashion trends based on societal mores, it is primarily focused on religious pride and virtue as a road to aesthetic clarity.

It’s a fairly well written article summarizing the influx of conservative values into the mainstream while that same mainstream is simultaneously clamoring for every nudie shot of celebs or any pretty spring breaker we can get. But, one point was sorely missed in the article. From my point of view, it appears that not only the pious, but also those considered alternative, and many considered fully within the mainstream are also rejecting the overtly sexualized daily wear that was recently somewhat popular (at least in the press). As I look at the hundreds of stylish young women in the halls of the fashion program I’m involved with, and in general just living in a pretty large city, it doesn’t seem the average young woman is buying into the image that most media outlets continually reiterate that she is buying into.

The Newsweek article’s angle, and other’s like it, make it sounds like the only people rejecting the flashing brigade are the devout and dressing the part, when actually it’s probably more accurate that most people are rejecting it.

I’m sure lots of people would disagree with me, and perhaps it’s geographic, but particularly in daily wear, most young women aren’t dressing in a way that would make poeple blush. Granted there are tons of very young girls who are highly sexualized, and do dress in provocative ways. But, I would contend the bulk of women are not dressing that way, and so a “movement” supposedly organized to reject a style, appears to be partially creating it. It’s possibly for their own needs to serve the agenda of empowering themselves as relevant when perhaps they’re not. To me it seems like another avenue to use dress as subtle behavior control, with questionable motives, and even more questionable support that it’s even an effective method of achieving the goal of changing people’s actions.

There are a ton of popular and scholarly books and articles about modesty in dress and its reasons, psychology, purposes, and success levels for its goals. But, within mainstream Western society this whole thing seems blown out of proportion and a little self-serving and narrow, let alone possibly pointless and ineffective for its purposes.

Not be confused, this not at all a rant against religion or modesty by choice–It is a comment on the over simplification of people’s view on dress as a behavior modifier as well as a route to judge other’s morality.

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1 Comment

  • Emily July 31, 2007 07.46 pm

    I think defining what’s “modest” is hard. Wearing a Polo shirt and capris is just, well, ordinary to me. Not necessarily a commentary on where one might rank on a naughty scale. Conversely, there is great debate over women who show more skin and their intentions. After all, it’s what men want to see, and no matter how much someone says, “I do it to feel sexy,” you have to wonder if that’s really the truth or if they’re trying to be a woman in a man’s world. Regardless, conforming isn’t the answer.


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