The Problem

Modesty Panel Thoughts: I Want to be Big and Immodest

Recently, the bra blogosphere of Bosom Bloggers have been posting about modesty in a series called The Modesty Panel.

I’ve been enjoying the Modesty Panel posts, finding it interesting to reflect on each blogger’s interpretation of what modesty means to her.

I do admit, to clarify my thoughts on the Panel posts, I did look up a few definitions.

From Merriam-Webster: Modesty

1. freedom from conceit or vanity

2. propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

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From Merriam-Webster: Propriety

1.obsolete : true nature

2. obsolete : a special characteristic : peculiarity

3. the quality or state of being proper or suitable :appropriateness

4. conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech

********

The Modesty Panel posts encouraged me to reflect on how I’ve thought about my body, my sexuality, and my identity…and how it has changed drastically over time.

My earliest memories I have regarding modesty are about shopping for clothes. I don’t remember wearing many “little girl clothes”. I recall entering Juniors sizes at a very early age …and since these clothes were for older girls/preteens, we would gravitate to the more modest selections. I learned I wasn’t like other girls my age, and since I was different, I should cover up and be modest (freedom from conceit or vanity).

My figure developed quite early, and at a young age I discovered that adult males and females looked at me sexually. The silent acknowledgement made me uncomfortable; however, with that knowledge came the understanding that physical appearance was something that could be used to gain attention.  Since my appearance was something I could control (to a degree), I naively concluded I could control the sexual attention directed my way. I learned propriety and what is commonly known as dressing modestly or immodestly.

The teenage years (ugh!) were confirmation that outward appearances and behavior, the choice to be modest or immodest, can be manipulated to elicit a specific response from society. You want to get into trouble? Dress or act immodestly. You want praise? Dress or act modestly. More confirmation (and to the teenage brain, powerful stuff) that we can control attention directed our way.

I will admit once I left the South and headed West, my wardrobe and ideas of propriety changed. In some ways I missed the certainty of the Old Southern Rules, while understanding what had really happened was all of the southern nuances were exchanged for…

The One and Only Big Rule: If you are considered attractive, you are free to wear what you want; if you are considered unattractive, you must cover up.

Or, to put it in context of modesty….if you are attractive you have the right to dress and act immodestly because some of the people who look at you will think you’re pretty and perhaps funny or interesting; if you are unattractive you must dress and act modestly because no one wants to look at or listen to an unattractive person.

******

My adult views and fashion interpretations of modesty and propriety have changed many times. My behavior and choices have been influenced by my workplace, motherhood, illness, and weight.  My fashion choices; however, have been primarily influenced by availability. In short, what I would choose to wear is not available in my sizes. I continuously project a fashion facade that isn’t me.

I project a Momsy, modest facade because those are the clothes commonly available in my sizes.  This dress, despite being designed better than most (in my opinion), designed with sleeves that would actually accommodate my wide shoulders – is a perfect example of a modest, appropriate for many occasions dress the fashion industry has decided a big woman like me should wear.

Caslon Tie Front Shirtdress (image from Nordstrom’s).

My fashion tastes run more classic with an edgy feel. Despite the dress pictured below being perfectly suited to my build, I usually can’t buy designer clothes like this Alexander McQueen dress – well cut and made with bold, sophisticated patterns, because they aren’t available in my size.

Alexander McQueen Stained Glass Print Wool Crepe Dress (image from Nordstrom’s).

And if available daytime wear isn’t appropriately lacking in design to keep me modestly free from conceit or vanity, evening wear is enough to discourage me from leaving the house. I am usually left to choose from stock like this:

Patra Front Twist Jersey Gown (image from Nordstrom’s).

I can not adequately express in words how the above pictured, appropriately modest Patra gown is NOT my style….Except by showing you a picture of what is my style…

Escada gown.

Again, buying a well designed, unruffled, unbeaded, non-satin, modest and appropriate gown from a designer is almost an impossibility…because I’m too big. Society (and apparently fashion designers) has decided a large woman isn’t allowed to look attractive or draw attention to herself in a beautifully designed gown because such behavior would be immodest. 

I’ve read a number of posts in the Modesty Panel exploring how modesty is imposed on women by society due to religious or societal norms. For most of my adult life I’ve found modesty (freedom from conceit or vanity) imposed on me by fashion designers who have decided I must look a certain way – covered up, shapeless, and styleless.  Modesty definitely has been imposed upon me more on the freedom from conceit or vanity perspective, because who could possibly feel conceited or vain about her appearance in most of the clothes allowed to be made and sold in larger sizes?

I have been very encouraged by some of the new online retailers showcasing well designed fashion for larger figures. I look forward to appearing a little less modest, and feeling much more beautiful in public, soon.

Here is a listing of some of the Modesty Panel blog posts I’ve found:

Boosaurus: Growing up in the Christian Homeschooling Subculture
Braless in Brasil
Bras and Body Image: What I wear is none of your damn business!
By Babys Rule:  Modesty and Breast Implants
Contrary Kiwi:  More clothes = more holiness?
Faustine’s Foundations

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8 thoughts on “Modesty Panel Thoughts: I Want to be Big and Immodest

  1. Style and size could really have an entire post devoted to them because I’ve found a serious lack of the former once the latter crosses a certain border. Online retailers are catching up a little with the demand, but you’re right that it’s harder to find edgier or more refined looks like the two you showed above. And if you can find them, you usually need to shell out some serious money. I’m glad you weighed in on this topic too as I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s unique perspective. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s that 41″ bust; 43″ hip barrier for most brands – L or XL. For high end fashion like Escada, probably a 36″ bust, maybe a 38″ hip -size 8?

      I’m even sized out of large busted brands because my overall bust size, waist, hips are too big. Most of the tops are also designed with straight shoulder seams – so I know I can’t wear them. My shoulders are just too wide.

      Ironically I measure a 16/18 but find myself fitting into 14’s…if they are cut to fit wider shoulders. I wear L tops if they have dolman/raglan sleeves or sleeveless and cut generously in the chest. 16 bottoms generally fall off of me (like the shorts I bought this season). I am just very strangely shaped.

      The biggest determinant for me is the waist to hip/bust ratio. It MUST be 8″ or greater. That’s why I can’t wear 90% of plus size clothing, I think.
      Most of it is based on a 6″ ratio. Designers assume someone with my hips, shoulders and chest has a larger waist….and it just isn’t so.

      I think I’m supposed to be taller, too…but at least I can have clothes hemmed to solve that problem. That includes shirts, too. Almost all of them are too long.

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  4. When I think about modesty, I think of my mother who, although not directly, conveyed her views about modesty from as far back as I can remember. Her view, although we never discussed it, was unmistakable and quite demanding. Go put on another blouse, are you wearing a bra, those shorts are too short are just a few ways she conveyed her view on modesty and I certainly got the message. My views on my body came mostly from friends and complete strangers. Comments on my chest, skirt length and sex appeal came from these sources in the form of jokes about a girls boobs to a critique about my choice of tight jeans or a skirt length. It is a wonder I have my own opinion about these subjects as I realize so many others have had quite an impact and most of it made an impression. Admittedly, modesty is a work in progress as I consider myself conservative in my dress, but in some ways I am not certain where the limits are. In general skirts are too short, blouses may be too revealing and high heels too likely to draw attention to me and my legs. The modesty panel has certainly made me think about what modesty means to me. The answer for me is I need to consider it as it is in some ways the first time I have thought about it, as an adult although the subject has come up literally hundreds of times. In some ways modesty means, to me, fear I will not live up to others expectation of how I should look.

    • Excellent insight. I think women experience many conflicting expectations about how we look – it’s dizzying.

      Perhaps the older we get, the more we forget to question our choices, and make choices from habit? I think that’s what I’ve done….

      Modest/immodest. Right/wrong. Pretty/ugly. What a mess.

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