For most of my adult life I have heard women opine that high fashion is too extreme, that they feel both dismissed by that world and simultaneously pressured to achieve what for most of us is an impossibly slender standard. And for most of my adult life women have seemed resigned that there wasn’t much the average woman could do about it.
Today a refreshing change of attitude is taking place. Women are no longer taking it on the chin. What I can only describe as a grass roots movement is taking place in women’s interaction with the world of fashion. And their approach is something I never would have expected.
They aren’t storming the citadel, picketing designers or burning any unmentionables. They aren’t making huge political statements or calling for rallies. What they are doing is much simpler and vastly more brilliant. Without any kind of fanfare countless women are getting off the bus.
I can see it where so many are rejecting current trends looking instead for that fabulous find in vintage thrift shops. There is a resurgence in home-sewing partly due to Project Runway and such shows that speak to so many who have dreamt of being a fashion designer. I also think that the decreased quality control and fit displayed by current RTW has made a lot of women contend that they can do better. And they go home, dust off their sewing machine, and honestly, many of those women are sewing better garments than are offered at the retail stores they used to frequent. Not only is this new wave of home-sewers mimicking current fashions, but a sewing subcategory has come about – vintage sewing – where there is a deliberate adoption of fashions from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, eras whose designs are perceived as achieving that intriguing contradiction of feminine modesty and sexy allure.
I had briefly heard about the “Modest is Hottest” movement and I was curious because it sounded like it was in accord with these other counterculture responses to fashion I now see. That is why I was delighted when a coworker of my husband’s invited me to her “Modest is Hottest” party. I couldn’t wait to experience firsthand what it was all about.
“Modest is Hottest” is an organization in and of itself and can be found on the web. It has also become the slogan for a movement within Christianity and many church’s women’s ministries have their own version, which is what I attended. So technically it wasn’t; but it was, because the message was the same. Christian women are reaching out to other women to validate their beauty, to discuss how each woman can enhance and enjoy her attractiveness, and how to do that without sacrificing her sense of integrity or modesty. The movement reaches out to all women, but especially to girls and young women, with the message that you don’t have to dress in an overtly sexualized manner to be a beautiful woman.
The concept of propriety has been unfashionable for so long that it appears cutting edge to even discuss it. Modesty is not prudishness the movement contends. Modesty is discernment; doing the right thing at the right time. So the movement does not ask you to reject high fashion or to eschew buying pretty clothes. What it asks is that you be discerning in how you wear your clothes, and that you demand, with your dollars, that fashion world meet your need for clothing that is lovely, commands respect and admiration, and leaves something to the imagination. Because the movement holds, if something is not left to the imagination then you won’t command respect or admiration in most public settings. Many might dismiss this as common sense, but this message is very counter to what the media has marketed to women in that we are often told that we should command respect and admiration no matter what, even if we show up at a business meeting in our best and barest mini-dress. Hence many women are confused about what is expected of them in various settings.
In the past a woman who rejected negative fashion marketing pretty much had to go it alone. If she spoke up she was considered a malcontent, an obnoxious complainer. So a lot of women did their own thing and kept quiet about it. But now there are various groups such as thrift shoppers, go-green shoppers, home-sewers and Christian women’s ministries that are giving a voice to that discontent and coming beside those women who reject objectification. Is this a portent of things to come? Right now it is small, but I see it growing. It is lighting a fire and at some point mainstream fashion designers are going to have to respond.
Now that will be something to see.
Will propriety come back into fashion?
Is the vintage look returning
or is it just a passing fancy of a few?
What do you think?
Next Post: Thursday, August 19, 2010: Fashion Advice Gleaned from the Modest is Hottest Party – To be posted if I am not too gutted to even write because my darling five-year old enters kindergarten on Wednesday!