Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Ways to Make Modesty More Spiritual

One issue that Mormon feminists have is that of "modesty culture." (For more on "modesty culture," you can check out the definition, an awesome blog post at Experimental Criticism, and a blog post by me.) I think that most MoFems, myself included, wished that modesty revolved less around the length of your skirt and more around spiritual traits.

But that got me thinking - what is modesty that has nothing to do with clothing? When the For the Strength of Youth isn't talking about the specifics of clothing and appearance, it says
"Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him."
That part was great, but none of the rest of the For the Strength of Youth was super helpful for what I was trying to figure out. Upon some further exploration of, I found this entry (here):

I like this one a little better. Modesty is transfered from clothing choices to an "attitude," and behaviors.

Elaine S. Dalton said this in her talk Stay on the Path:
Virtue encompasses modesty—in thought, language, dress, and demeanor ... When we are modest, we show others that we understand our relationship with our Father in Heaven as His daughters. We demonstrate that we love Him and that we will stand as a witness of Him in all things. Being modest lets others know that we “cherish virtue” (“Dearest Children, God Is Near You,” Hymns, no. 96). Modesty is not a matter of being “hip.” It is a matter of the heart and being holy. It is not about being fashionable. It is about being faithful. It is not about being cool. It is about being chaste and keeping covenants. It is not about being popular, but about being pure.
This is a little more helpful in describing the attitudes, thoughts, and behavior. Essentially, what I get from this paragraph is that it is more important to have a relationship with Heavenly Father than to be popular, fashionable, etc. Modesty is about what is inside of you rather than what is outside of you.

So how do we figure that out? Telling us that modesty is an "attitude," "behavior," "thought," and "demeanor" isn't very specific. What thoughts are we supposed to be thinking? How exactly are we supposed to be behaving?

Behaviors of Modesty

So what are the behaviors of modesty? That's really not an easy question to answer. The definition of modesty outside of Christianity probably has something to do with being humble. But how do we have a demeanor of being humble without putting ourselves down all of the time?  

Here are a few answers that I've thought up. These are obviously not perfect and may not work for everyone, but I think they're a good start to answering this complicated question. 

1. Love yourself - We've all heard before that it's hard to love others if you don't love yourself first, but it's true! It's also difficult to take care of your body if you hate it. So much of our society and media today tries to tell you that you aren't good enough, that your body isn't perfect enough. Start working today to undo the harmful messages that are all around you. Try daily to think of parts of your body that you genuinely like. Stop buying magazines and comparing yourself to celebrities that spend hours a day working out and then are photoshopped in the pictures (check out Beauty Redefined to learn more about harmful media). Don't let yourself look in a mirror for entire day. Skip makeup.

2. Take care of yourself - You don't need to spend hours a day exercising and restricting yourself to an oppressive diet. But you should also take care of yourself physically. To me, all this means is maybe going out for a leisurely nature walk or trying to cut out fast food. It also means letting yourself relax and not get too stressed. Do some yoga or have a dance party with your friends. There can be good, helpful ways to maintain some healthy habits without making yourself unhappy. Also, eat the cake! If you want dessert, go reward yourself with some. Just make sure you don't binge eat on anything either - keep a healthy balance of eating good, supportive foods and fun, helpful exercise. Nap in the middle of the day if you feel like it. 

3. Love others - This one relates to #1. If you are constantly criticizing others around you, those thoughts are going to turn inwards. If you are worried about someone else's clothing, you're also going to start worrying about your own. That kind of poison doesn't leave you. It stays inside of you and hurts you. Mean thoughts towards others is also not Christlike in the least. How can you love and serve others if you're secretly calling them fat or slutty? Answer: YOU CAN'T! Next time you catch yourself criticizing someone else in your head, try to replace the thought with a positive one. Think about instead how their hair looks great, or how they're really good at making friends, or how talented they are. You don't have to go overboard and make yourself feel bad (because we're not comparing ourselves to others, right???), but you should try to banish the negative thoughts you have about others.

4. Be grateful - It's not always easy to be happy with what God gave us. All of us go through a terrible combination of puberty, high school, and more that make us dislike at least part of our bodies. But think about how remarkable we are. Our bodies are so miraculous and complex that scientists still haven't figured it all out - we still don't even know why bodies need sleep! And God created that all. When you pray at night, thank Heavenly Father for the individual amazing things your body does. Go outside and feel the sunlight on your skin. Lay with your eyes closed and pay attention to your breathing. I believe that an attitude of modesty is caring more about what your body DOES rather than how your body LOOKS. 

5. Be creative - There are so many awesome ways to make, recreate, recycle, or decorate clothing on Pinterest. I've got a million of them right here. Try a few of the ones that appeal to you. Learn how to sew or crochet or whatever. Learning a new skill will again help you to value what you can do over your appearance. Take pride in your work and wear it boldly. Personalize it to show off your unique personality. Even if you've made a mistake in your artwork, no one else will notice. Go up to people and brag about it (I don't mean really get in their face brag, but more like "hey look! I made this! I'm pretty proud of myself for making a goal and accomplishing it! Now I have this awesome product I love!"). Creating your own clothing pieces will allow you to make it as modest as you like it. You'll also begin to care less about the cost of clothing or the brand names. You can spend your extra money on more worthwhile things, like having fun with friends. You'll feel more comfortable, because your clothes will actually fit your size, unlike clothes at stores that are very hit or miss.

Those are my ideas, at least. I would love to hear if you have any great ideas for how you make modesty more spiritual! Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions below.


  1. I'm a huge fan of your blog. I'm not Mormon, or even vaguely religious at all (born and raised Catholic, but have been an Atheist for almost ten years now), but having grown up in a heavily populated LDS area with many LDS friends, it's refreshing to hear other interpretations of what it is like to be a woman and a feminist while still maintaining your beliefs.

    1. I'm happy to have your thoughts here, no matter what your religious beliefs. And thank you! Your words are very encouraging, and welcome!

  2. I like your post but I think you're a little too dismissive of why clothing choices are important. What you wear should be an expression of your understanding of who you are. The dress code is meant to help people understand how to do that. I do agree that the spiritual aspect of modesty gets overlooked too much.

    1. Sorry, I don't believe that is true. What you wear should be a combination of what makes you feel comfortable and what makes you happy. I am not responsible for the way other people judge me based off of my clothing, just as I am not responsible for their thoughts and their sins. I actually wrote another blog post about how wrong and arbitrary it is to make assumptions about people based on something as shallow and consumerist as your clothing choices, which you can check out here: