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April 22, 2010


Melissa May

That Fall line is fantastic! Lots to like there. It's a shame that what trickles down to mainstream outlets is less fashionable and modest than what originally makes it to the runway, especially when the runways is great stuff like this!

Personally, I find most of my favorite clothes at thrift stores, where I'm able to get my hands on higher end pieces that would normally be out of my reach.


This is interesting. I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering just how a certain piece of clothing has made it's way to JC Penney (and I love that scene from The Devil Wears Prada where she describes how the "blue" sweater makes it onto Andy's back). I often wonder why someplace like Penneys doesn't employ a mom or two on their advisory board to find out if moms (and they are the ones who do most of the buying) will actually buy these clothes for their daughters!! Personally, I find about 83% of it totally unwearable for my girls. When it comes to fashion for children, I just do not understand producing clothes that are immodest, but also terribly unflattering and uncomfortable. But I guess that isn't just children's fashion that suffers from that!

Melissa May

And not to just pick on Penney's, because I actually do a fair amount of shopping there, but remember a few years ago when they had that commercial with the mom and daughter getting ready for the daughter's first day of school? The daughter asks her mom if she looks okay, and the mom yanks the daughter's skirt up a little higher and says, "There! Now you're ready". Or something to that effect....that went over like a lead balloon! I think it got pulled shortly thereafter because of the complaints.

Anyhoo, Alexandra, I also have a little girl who's only 18 months, and my husband was so shocked at the swimming suits available for little girls in the girl's dept. It took us awhile to find one we approved of and when we did, we bought it asap even though it was months away from warm weather.

Oh, that little girls could just be little girls again.....*sigh*


I'm not sure I necessarily agree with you, Lizzie. I believe we need good designers in the fashion industry who will create modest designs, but I do think there are major problems with modesty in the fashion industry, and I certainly don't think the majority of runway fashion can be referred to as "modest." I'm glad Cristina Ortiz was asked to leave, and kudos to Ferragamo for that, but there are many other designer labels whose designs I wouldn't refer to as "modest" by any stretch of the imagination. Also, department stores like J.C. Penney get their mass market designs as an adaptation of trends set by the famous names in fashion, so I would say that J.C.Penney and Bergdorf Goodman ARE indeed connected. Just my opinion! :)



You do indeed have a point that mainstream market is connected to high end. I have worked for both mainstream companies and high end. Mainstream does steal a lot from the designers to keep up with trends. But which designers would you accuse of sending immodest ready-to-wear fashion down the runway? I understand there are those who get away with anything (Dolce & Gabbana) but a designer's first priority is to make a statement. When you get to the high end markets cheap slutty statements just don't cut it. Because people do not buy it.
As far as what trickles down to mainstream, don't forget that pop celebrities have a great deal to do with what gets trickled down to the mainstream market. The worst offender being Lady Gaga. I don't know how she does it but she seems to make the most expensive clothes in the world look cheap.
However, you are correct in that mainstream retailers do steal designs from high end labels. I was actually used as an intern once to buy something from Vera Wang (as if I were a customer) and then bring it back to Ann Taylor for it to be knocked off.
In the end it is in the best interest of my industry for women to be wearing more clothes...not less.

Michele Ashman Bell

I found your blog through Meridian Magazine and was very excited to see that someone else has found a platform for promoting modesty.
I am an author and wrote a book called, "A Modest Proposal." The whole idea for the book came about because I spent so much time with my daughters trying to find modest prom gowns and dresses for dances, and then, after spending $200.00, going home and altering the dress to make it modest. I do believe that beautiful style and clothing design and modesty can exist together and some of the blogs and comments on your site prove that it's true! Thank you, thank you!
Michele Ashman Bell


I have often thought that the fashion industry is not the enemy, but, you do have to question the people who invented those low cut jeans that cause womens' bottoms to be half exposed when they bend. You know the ones I mean. Whenever I see a female "butt crack", I shudder within myself and feel like the world has just become an uglier place.

But, I have noticed that upper-class/more expensive fashion retailers are much more modest than the mainstream. What does that tell us? Women who demand respect in society, who go places, are in fact dressed modestly!

In Canada, we have an excellent, affordable and modest designer in Alfred Sung.

Thanks for this post.


This post was so cool. I definitely never thought about the difference between designers and the stores. Thanks for this.


I go to FIT too! Forgive me for saying I had no idea there was another soul there who loved both fashion and modesty. And I promote exactly what you're saying to everyone I speak to about fashion; high end fashion is, indeed, bought by more conservative women who want to look respectable. There's always exceptions of more contemporary brands who are merely there for shock factor, but the established houses have tasteful clothing. I love searching for the modest trends from the runway, most recently being long sleeve dresses! They are really quite elegant, and cover up to the neck, and the length goes to the knee. Imagine that! The problem is that many times certain trends won't trickle down to mainstream, as Lizzie said, because it won't sell. Then again there is hope: anyone see maxi dresses? Women all over New York were wearing them last summer, and they were long flowing knit dresses that went to the floor. While most college goers prefer their "butt crack" jeans (it is offensive, isn't it?) I really do see trends of modesty coming back, even with jaded New York women.

Robin Goodfellow

"How I survived 40 Lashes"



I didn't really know where to post this (it is related to fashion, though)...

But while possibly the idea that being something like a stripper is the extreme of immodest standards, the opposite extreme of forced (religious) sexual modesty seems much less human.

Yeah, you may get offended by scantilly clad people, but if anyone on here thinks what happened to the young woman (or any of the victims) in that story is the least bit okay, you pretty much lose all credibility.


Robin, is the extremity in the standard or in the enforcement? I spent junior high, high school, and college (12 years total) in Christian schools with dress codes some would consider extreme. As an example, I've posted elsewhere that a pastor's wife recently recommended I raise the hem of a skirt that was barely dress code by those schools' standards. If we violated the dress code, we would be asked to change, or sent home, or made to do an hour of community service. So the punishments weren't extreme, nor, of course, were the dress codes, by Iranian standards. I found some of the schools' policies a bit silly, but not inhuman. Also, attending those schools was my and my parents' choice. Whether a nation should legislate for modesty is another issue. I don't think it would necessarily be inhuman for a country to do so. The US actually does, with public indecency laws. It's just that the punishments in the US fit the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the crime, whereas I agree that system in Iran is unbalanced. But that there would be SOME government-enforced standards of dress is OK (or at least not inhuman or clearly wrong) in my book.

Also, I think people are confusing "immodest" with "trashy," and "offended" with "put off." Regarding the latter pair, clothing can be poorly designed and fit poorly. This gives an ugly impression, but I'm not sure it's really offensive. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that most often the ugly thing can't also be the immodest. Modesty is an aspect of humility, which involves not calling attention to oneself. Ugly things don't say "Look at me!" but the opposite. I guess that makes ugly things literally offensive, in the sense that an icky odor is offensive, but not "offensive" in the "morally repugnant" sense we usually use the word.

Regarding "immodest" and "trashy" or "cheap," as the Lady Gaga example shows, trashy and cheap are where the behavior in wearing a garment meets the garment's inherent covering abilities (or lack thereof). I saw a ballet on Saturday in which almost all the ballerinas had skirts of the same, mid-calf length and similar cuts of the bodices and sleeves. The ballerinas dancing the roles of the harlots made much different use of their costumes than the principal dancers, and that's how the audience recognized them as harlots. Of course, all the costumes would have been considered beautiful in themselves. This is why what seems to the uneducated the same dress from, to use the example above, Vera Wang and Ann Taylor, may look modest in the high-end incarnation and less so in the off-the-rack incarnation. Those who can afford to wear high-end clothing have usually learned how to "act like a lady" while wearing it, while those who have not been exposed to refined behaviors are less likely to act refined in their unrefined clothes. (As a general matter; my whole point is that "expensive" does not equal "modest" and "inexpensive" or "cheap" does not equal "immodest" or even "trashy.")

Robin Goodfellow

My point is that in western society, you'd never tolerate a woman being brutalized for not dressing enough like a "slut", compared to the example in the article, where a woman was brutalized for not being modest enough... and there was nothing to stop it because it was "acceptable" to do that to her.

It doesn't matter what the reasoning behind it was. It's simply wrong to beat/lash/etc. someone because they don't uphold a society's standards of dress.


Robin I think this issue is a straw man. These societies are clearly about the oppression of women & not anything having to do with modesty.


I'm still confused by how broad your "etc." is. We don't beat or lash anyone in the US for any crime, and I don't think our society would stand for it if we did - even the most heinous crimes. The Supreme Court wouldn't, but that's another matter.

So, would it be acceptable to fine people for failing to uphold a society's standards of dress? (Did I read years ago some town was going to try this for sagging pants?) To jail them overnight? To send them straight home? To exclude them from certain public spaces? For example, while the Supreme Court has held a person cannot be held in contempt of court for wearing a shirt that says "F*** the draft" (without the censoring), you can get thrown out of the press box in the Supreme Court's chambers for not dressing according to the Court's decorum standards, which I hear are pretty high, usually require a suit jacket.

Again, are you saying standards of dress just aren't something there should be laws about, or is it Iran's laws in particular that are wrong?


Back to the original post. In short, "Do not blame high-end designers for how hard it is to find modest clothing at average- and discount-priced department stores." This is different than saying, "Don't blame the fashion industry." For most of us who haven't studied in Milan or interned with Ann Taylor, the "fashion industry" is everyone from Ralph Lauren himself to the dress buyer at the local Ross or TJ Maxx, including lots of magazines and movies in between. In the affluent western world, it's more or less a completely supply-and-demand market. As the original post says, what there's no demand for doesn't generate profit, so it doesn't stick around for more than one season in stores. Demand is created in lots of ways, from just the reputation of a couture designer, to what celebrities wear, to what appears in magazines, to recommendations on blogs like this, to economic factors that influence how much people are willing to spend on clothes. Which stage and people in this process are to blame for the lack of modest clothes in mid-level departments stores? Seems there's lots of blame to go around. If, however, people refused to buy immodest clothes, there would be more modest clothes for sale.

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