An anonymous commenter popped this question into the suggestion box:
I would love to see a post on your thoughts of modesty and self image. How much is the revealing of skin related to self-love and respect? What if a woman confidently wears short dresses and/or reveals cleavage, but may appear to others to have low self-esteem because of the skin factor? Where is the line drawn to the amount of attention you want your body to have compared to the amount of attention you want on your overall persona? I guess this turned out to be a mish-mash of ideas. My main point: What to do if one likes the look of a suggestively-revealing item for the sake of fashion, but is not modest in its nature?
Even putting aside the fact that modesty is a multi-faceted concept that holds different meanings to different people, this is a tough question to answer. My initial response is that it comes down to knowing your audience. Wearing revealing clothing because it feels good and looks good is every woman’s prerogative … but doing so at a conservative board meeting, or in a court of law, or while teaching algebra to a classroom full of high school juniors can cause quite a stir. And whether or not that stir is fair or warranted, if it arises you’ll have to deal with the consequences. Understanding the expectations tied to various settings is always key, but even more so if you want to dress in ways that might be considered revealing. You want to feel comfortable and confident yourself, but you likely want those around you to feel comfortable, too. Wearing a dress that’s cut to the navel the first time you meet your significant other’s parents is more likely to make waves than set anyone at ease. Possibly including yourself.
And yet, you can’t always know your audience because you can never know in advance who you’ll see you on any given day! You may dress in a low-cut top for a casual party at a friend’s house, but you can’t control the invite list. You may think that wearing a micro-mini to a rock show in a tiny local bar is totally fine, but how could you know who’ll turn up? And even if you could magically predict who will see you, you could never control exactly how you’d be perceived. No matter what you wear, some people will look at you and feel awful – about you and/or about themselves. Some will feel fantastic. Some will be utterly indifferent. And you will never know which is which, and you couldn’t change their minds even if you DID know.
As for how self-image ties into revealing clothing, that’s another sticky wicket. Do some women wear cropped shirts because it gets potential partners all hot and bothered, and that attention feeds ego? I’m sure they do. Do some women wear short skirts simply because they adore their lovely gams? Absolutely. Can you tell which is which on first glance? Not a chance. But people jump to conclusions more often than they take the time to investigate. And that means that if you love the look of revealing items for aesthetic reasons you should absolutely wear and enjoy them, with the understanding that some observers will make assumptions about you as a person. Which isn’t fair or just, but acknowledges that while your dressing choices are under your control, the opinions that others form based on your dressing choices are beyond your control.
So that’s all extremely vague and basically my way of saying that I don’t know how to handle this. Not in a general, here-is-my-advice-to-all way. Instead, I’ll tell you how I make MY decisions about when to reveal and when to conceal:
- I am far more likely to wear something super short or low cut at night.
- I prefer to wear revealing clothing to fancy occasions wherein dressing up or dressing differently from my personal norm seems fun and carefree instead of contrived.
- I will wear miniskirts to the office, but only in winter and only with tights.
- I am apt to do revealing outfits for one of two extremes: When I know nearly everyone who will be in attendance, or when I know no one except my husband and will be entirely focused on him.
- I nearly always balance revealing with not-revealing. I can remember only one time that I paired a tank top cut to mid-chest with a miniskirt. Most of the time I do tight with loose, short with long, skimpy with modest.
Over to you: Do you think there is a way to broadcast that your revealing clothing is about YOU, not others? How and when do you wear short, tight, low-cut items? How do you think self-image factors in?
Image courtesy fabiogis50.