One fashion rule that often gets overlooked is dressing modestly. As a college student and young woman in Florida, I get it- Dressing modestly is often called out as being misogynistic, unnecessary, and downright impractical - especially on a hot summer day in the sunshine state. Despite all of these reasons for not dressing modestly, I thrive on the practice. Keep on reading for three strong reasons why you should consider doing the same!
Dressing modestly is morally correct.
Far too often in secular culture, morals are left up to the responsibility of the viewer. However, moral and ethical considerations are important to take into account when building a healthy community.
It's simple. What we wear has an impact on others around us whether we intend it to or not. Therefore, we have a moral responsibility to consider what we wear; and choose to wear the clothes that take in to account the wellbeing of others and ourselves. Dressing modestly contributes to altruism, a beneficial quality of society.
Saint Thomas Aquinas writes about this in his 1948 Summa Theologica when he states "But those women who have no husband nor wish to have one, or who are in a state of life inconsistent with marriage, cannot adorn themselves with this intention of provoking others to lust, they sin mortally… and the same applies to men in this respect”". Here, St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us of how wearing clothing with the intention of leading others to promiscuous behaviors or attitudes toward us fails to consider the goodwill of others.
Philosophers and theologians like Aquinas aren't the only people who have contributed to this research. In fact, scientific researcher Aswathi has found that modest clothing is correlated with a decrease in objectification and dehumanization which sometimes is a prelude to sexual violence. In 2017, Aswathi writes “Provocative clothing that leads to deviation from routine modesty norms approaches objectification”, According to other research,“ It was found that when wearing underwear or a swimsuit, a person could be viewed as a mere body that exists for pleasure and use of others (Bartky 1990)... Other studies found that swimsuit-wearing women expressed more body shame and performed worse on a math test than did sweater-wearing women (Fredrickson et al, 1998). As we can see from this research, it is important to take into consideration the context of the norms in society when considering attire because it can decrease the prevalence of sexual violence and impact the wellbeing of others.
Dressing modestly could improve your performance.
In addition to the moral implications of attire, there are also psychological benefits for dressing modestly. For one, research suggests that dressing modestly can improve performance. The symbolic meaning of what we wear has an impact on our performance. According to psychology researchers Adam & Galinsky, “The current research suggests a basic principle of enclothed cognition - it depends on both the systemic meaning and physical experience of wearing clothes… In Experiment 1, physically wearing a lab coat increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat. In Experiments 2 and 3, wearing a lab coat described as a doctor’s coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing a lab coat described as a painter’s coat” (Adam & Galinsky, 2012).
In another 2019 study, Zheng & Wu found modesty to be correlated with an increase in subjective wellbeing or happiness and a decrease in depression. The study findings read "Modesty, often defined as a goal-direct self-presentational behavior, is highly beneficial to behavior health regulation, self-efficacy, interpersonal relation, and group performance…These findings suggest an important role of modesty in promoting well-being”.
Together, these studies suggest the potential benefit modesty could have on our wellbeing and performance.
Dressing modestly has practical implications.
Dressing modestly also has numerous practical implications. For one, having modest clothing provides effective sun-protection that reduces chances of obtaining skin cancer and other sun-related illnesses. In fact, in Linos et al, 2011, researchers found shade and protective clothing to be more effective than sunscreen. There are many light weight fabrics designed for breathability on the hot summer days. For colder days, dressing modestly can easily be a remedy for dressing warmer. Wearing heavy tight-knit layered fabrics are the key to staying warm during the cold winter months (or days if you live in Florida).
Also, dressing modestly is easy to move in and makes everyday activities easier to complete. According to one anonymous blogger from the 2020 feminista journal article regarding the ethics of modest fashion, "Modest clothing is often more comfortable and easy to get around in. Revealing clothing is often tight, which can be uncomfortable and restrictive". In other words, modest fashion accommodates for an active life-style.
The next time you’re thinking about what you’re going to wear for the day, consider choosing modest clothing that will increase your performance and wellbeing, increase altruism leading to a healthier society, and protect you from the sun while giving you comfort and ease of movement for all of your daily activities!