A Different View of Modesty 


Photo by Gretchen E.K. Engel

Work boots are always appropriate

If you’re one of my Facebook friends, you already know this. I rail against the modesty movement. Growing up in the church in the 80s, the whole one-piece suits only rule made me mad on so many levels. Despite being short, I have a long torso, so wasn’t that easy finding a suit that fit. Secondly, I honestly wanted to highlight my best feature – a flat stomach. Not in a sexy “come hither” way but in a way that someone dresses to highlight long thin legs or muscular arms. I wanted to do the same when I had to don swimwear because even the most confident teen is a bit self-conscious. Now that I’m older and sport a stretch-mark iced muffin top, I’m happy to wear a one piece or tankini with a long top.

The thing is that I do dress modestly. That is I dress appropriately for the situation and to convey the image I want to portray.

I recently went on a business trip and opted for a button-down top and skinny jeans, something that would be appropriate for a casual meeting and one of my favorite combinations. However, I thought about the client and the location and realized it wasn’t the best choice. I opted for regular jeans and a plaid shirt which turned out, as I expected, to be the perfect choice.

This week I’m on the road again. Most of my days will be outside, so it’s cargo pants and layered shirts. I even have my coveralls for chilly mornings.

How do you define modesty? Is it what you can or can’t wear or is it dressing for the situation and the comfort of yourself and others?


About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

4 comments on “A Different View of Modesty 

  1. Gretchen, I’ve been wearing the work-from-home look for years now… I like jeans or capris, and printed tees that usually (but not always) have a fun design on the front. I don’t typically wear that to church, though–I do try to dress up with slacks or a skirt and a nice top, but it depends on the occasion, and whether or not I’m even well enough to go, which this month I am not.

    I don’t know where the one-piece suits rule was the norm. I never encountered it at any of the churches I attended.

  2. I wrestle with this. Because modesty is not only dressing to keep your bits covered, it’s dressing to not draw attention to yourself. But as a businessperson, I kind of need to draw attention to myself. So I try to dress in a way that fits my “branding” as a speculative fiction writer and editor. I figured I had got it right when a colleague at PENCON complimented me on my “Renaissance Girl” blouse. But then, was I drawing attention to myself? Is it immodest to dress in a way that people comment on.

    Flip side: at a writer’s conference once I was wearing a very plain long skirt and a relatively plain, sort of old-fashioned-looking top. Someone asked if I was Amish.

    • I think there’s a difference between wearing something flattering and eye catching versus drawing attention to ourselves. Otherwise wouldn’t costumes be wrong? Or formal attire? Now wearing either as everyday wear would be a different story.
      The “drawing attention ” aspect is exactly why I changed my clothing choice for my business trip. I wanted to blend in.

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