Modest Dress

A Jewish woman reflects upon modest dress and the changes it has brought to her life How Dressing Modestly Gave me More Confidence About My body the article is an interesting read but what struck me most was why she began dressing modestly. She was simply following a code of conduct.

I had never thought of myself as a naturally modest person. I was the “bikini/short-shorts” gal who, in the summer before college, started covering up, not because she cared about modesty or because she thought dressing immodestly was wrong or detrimental, but rather because she was adopting an observant Jewish life and modest dress was part of halacha. Just as the Jewish nation accepted the Torah saying “naaseh v’nishmah” (first we’ll do and then we’ll understand) I took on modesty in a similar way.

Her modesty and understanding of  modesty grew from there:

But then something happened – I remember so clearly the first day I wore a long skirt to the mall at seventeen years old. A guy passed me by and gave me the old “up down,” but my “up” and my “down” were covered up, and I actually let out a quiet “yes!” when I realized that I was able to retain ownership of my body that he couldn’t gain access to. Which makes me understand that I have always been a modest person who was conditioned by societal values to behave in a way that conflicted with my innate values and left me feeling violated on a regular basis.

The letter of the law helped her understand the spirit of the law. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a widely accepted standard of modesty within the Church anymore. or at least a standard of modesty is rarely taught or enforced.

Once at a Parish I was visiting,  I saw they had a dress code (the same dress code of St. Peters I believe)  It asked the men not to wear shorts or tank tops, it asked women not to wear shorts, tank tops,  no bare shoulders were allowed, skirts/ dresses had to touch below the knee. Chapel veils were not part of the dress code but they were available in the back.

Now maybe some people were offended upon reading the standards. But the notice didn’t state it was immoral for men to wear shorts or for women to wear tank tops it just requested the parishioners to follow these basic standards when attending Mass. It was a code of conduct to follow and guess what? The Parishioners followed it;  The entire church (which was packed) was dressed to those standards. Well beyond these simple standards in fact.

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