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By Rebecca Bratsman

Modesty Manifesto

No crocs, no denim skirts, and no sweats in public. These are just a few of the rules my sister and I made up for ourselves as teenagers.

Some other guidelines we still follow: pantyhose always makes you look like a lady, jewelry should be fun, and dark denim is always a good bet.

Thinking of myself as merely modest brings to mind large flower-printed floor length dresses with sensible flats and a boxy cream cardigan to accessorize. And that’s not really my style.

What I also don’t want to look like is a store-front window with all of my, ahem, goods up front for display.

And I don’t want to be mistaken for anyone in my mother’s generation (bless their hearts, but I don't).

Fashion Rules to Live By

Here’s where my fashion rules come into play. I have to decide:

  • Do I look too casual? If I’m trying to buy some makeup at the store counter, will the salesclerk help me or will she dismiss me as someone not worth her time? It’s obvious if you only step into the high school hallway that casual is an epidemic. Are pajama bottoms and slippers really okay in the grocery store? 
  • Does the tunic shirt really work with my body shape? Or can I really pull off leggings? Not every style makes me look slim and svelte. Some styles, no matter how much I love them, always make me look an instant 20 pounds heavier. That brings me to, 
  • Do my clothes fit? If I want to gain a quick 10 pounds, I buy my clothes a size too small so that I look like I’m bursting out of them. But who wants to ever look heavier than they are? Not me. I buy clothes that fit and skim my body and don’t make me look like everything shrunk in the wash. 
  • An undershirt (in white, black, or a complementary color) can solve almost every modesty shirt problem. But leggings don’t serve the same function when you wear them under shorts. 

Style Inspiration

I also like to keep a fashion icon in mind when I'm dressing. Some of the style classics are the always chic Audrey Hepburn or the classically beautiful Coco Chanel.

Personally, I prefer Julia Roberts for during the week style and Anne Hathaway’s look on Sunday. And when I say Julia Roberts, think Julia-Earth-Mother with earth colors, ethnic bags, and comfortable shoes. And not Julia as Erin Brokovich with crazy push-up bras under a tank top and a mini-skirt.

On Sunday, I love pulling out Anne Hathaway inspired polka-dotted blouses with pencil skirts and modest kitten heels. To me, she always looks like a wholesome girl, a little bit like a bowl full of polka dotted raisin oatmeal. And I like that look on the Sabbath.

Find a style icon that embodies the look you’re going for. No Hollywood starlet is going to be 100% modest is hottest, but you can find a good number of them who wear clothes that only need a little bit of tweaking to make appropriate for you.

When you’re on your quest for your modest style inspiration, ask yourself this question:

When I first look at a picture, do I see the whole person?

If your eyes gravitate to an actress’s legs or a model’s cleavage, then that girl is more interested in showcasing her goods than letting you see the real her. Remember that when you get dressed in the morning.

And for heaven’s sake, leave the crocs at home.

Rebecca Bratsman writes from the perpetually chilly Northwest where she wears sweaters into June, winter coats to watch the fireworks, and never, never goes to the beach in a bathing suit. Brrrrrr.

What fashion rules do you follow? Leave a comment here to share!


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