When I was younger, I fed my love of fashion a steady diet of women's magazines. Seventeen, Vogue, Elle, Self, Glamour—I read them all. One of my favorite features was Glamour magazine's "Fashion Don'ts"—a photo spread of women on the street, a black bar obscuring their faces, who had been caught committing a fashion faux pas. Bad wardrobe selections were corrected on a page of "Dos" with models donning stylish solutions to these fashion choices gone awry.
Somewhere around age 19, my love of fashion started to wane. Though I liked looking at the pictures in women's magazines, I grew weary of the articles they featured, which mostly focused on women flaunting their sexuality. It seemed that in order to showcase high fashion, one also had to be hypersexual. As my values shifted, these magazines no longer matched my morals or how I thought the world should be. Fashion simply wasn't a good fit for me. And besides, who was I kidding—I've never had a natural sense of personal style. Take a peek in my closet and you'll know what I mean.
But no woman can escape fashion completely. We're bombarded with messages and choices about what to wear. As I moved through my 40s, and now at 50, I've noticed how many women in my age range try hard to dress as if they're still in college—even high school. The lines have blurred between what's appropriate for women.
And yet how we dress matters. Clothes make a fashion statement because they say something about us. Since reading Dr. Juli Slattery's article, "Is It Okay to Be Sexy?," I've been assessing the message my clothes give. Is this blouse too revealing? Are these pants too casual for the occasion or location where I'm going? Do I need to trade in my bathing suit for something a bit more modest? Rachel Marie Stone addresses the question of modesty in her excellent article, "The Real Meaning of Modesty." She tackles this hot-button topic with thoughtfulness and care, and helps expand our view of the benefits and challenges of modesty, which, it turns out, is first and foremost an attitude of the heart.
Between yoga pants and thongs that peek out the backside of low-rise jeans, we've lost a modicum of modesty when it comes to dress. Margot Starbuck reveals seven of these fashion trends that would do well to go out of style. We don't need a neon sign (or a mini dress or plunging neckline) to announce that we're beautiful. So why, as women, do we so often rely on outer adornments to say in flashing lights what our personalities and smarts can say much louder and more clearly?
After reading these articles on modesty, Mark Twain's famous quote keeps coming to mind: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."
Women have been influencing society with fashion since the beginning of time. Case in point: Eve and her fig leaf. Clothes are necessary. And what we wear reveals a lot about our creativity, our sense of style, our values, our body image, our self-respect—our heart. What's your closet telling you?
Marian V. Liautaud