Shopping for dresses for my seven-year-old daughter is as epically frustrating as trying to find cell phone service in an elevator. Everything is too short, too skimpy, too adult, too sexy, too much! The fashion industry apparently thinks seven-year-olds should start dressing like Victoria’s Secret catalogue model-wannabes. Like me at 20 years old!
Yes, (*strike my breast*) you read that right. This modest mama was once the epitome of an immodestly UNdressed single woman. To illustrate: Halter tops in all the M & M hues were my uniform for Saturday evenings. One New Year’s Eve, I made the mistake of stopping by my grandmother’s before heading off to a club. She slanted eyes at my bare back and shoulders and miffed her head away.
“I don’t like that,” she bristled. “Go put a jacket on.”
I should’ve listened to wisdom’s style advice because the “accidental” brushes against my skin oozed slime and beer breath.
One working Saturday morning, my idea of office-appropriate was wearing tight jeans and a white T-shirt to the firm. My brutally honest co-worker/friend barked out, “Why’d you bother wearing a shirt if all you wanted to do was show off what’s underneath it?” —as if he was the offended party!
And on one casual Friday in another law firm, after slipping on spaghetti straps that showed off my tan, I single-handedly changed the office dress code. A memo was immediately issued on “What Not to Wear to Work” –without mentioning names but describing my outfits.
I don’t know what I was thinking then — Oh yeah, I do. I thought that women who covered up had zero self-confidence in their bodies. But mainly, I believed that in order to be a fashion icon who got noticed, I had to be a slave to what the polished pages of In Style and Marie Claire’s summer issues dictated. And I was right: my revealing outfits DID garner a lot of attention…like a skunk’s road kill.
What woke me up from my zombie obedience to the trendy fashion cult was when a friend passed on a book about modesty. Up until then, I never considered how my clothes would affect men, nor my accountability in trying to help them live chaste lives.
By God’s grace, I began to understand that I was a temple of a Holy Spirit and that I should best veil that temple and treat it with reverence so that others would do the same. A startling awareness just clicked: women who cover up, in fact, have every confidence that they are loved for what they are inside, not just for what they look like, or for what society instructs them to look like.
Finally, I looked upon wearing my Sunday’s best to Mass as a way of glorifying the King of Kings not only in adorning the hidden virtues of my soul but also through my body. The inconveniences of heat and bulk quickly faded against the significance of modeling purity to my daughters.
I haven’t been castigated or whistled at since upgrading my wardrobe from Hoochie-mamaland. On the contrary, when my three girls and I go places after daily Mass in our dresses, I receive the loveliest compliments on their appearance. (I confess the one indulgence of having three little dolls is dressing them up. Triple delight!)
Oh, I’m sure the judges and contestants of Project Runway will unanimously roll their eyes at my concealed shoulders and knees and any day now I expect a squadron of fashion police will arrest me for violating the mandatory cleavage exposition rule. But since I’m a modesty yardstick for a 7 year old and her impressionable sisters, the bar’s got to be set higher than mainstream secular media. Color me a willing fashion victim.
To the fashion nazi out there, watch out! This modest mama is taking matters into my own hands and fighting style with the industry’s weaponry: I’m unsheathing my scissors, loading up on spools and firing up that sewing machine. Ready to attack all that plush fabric that I will chirpily shop for!
Say a pray for me… I’ve only sewn curtains and throw pillows in all my life. And I’m no Maria Von Trapp.