Quick disclaimer: this post is basically just a less eloquent version of one that Gemma of Lipstick, Lettuce & Lycra wrote a couple of years ago – you can read it here.

I agreed with that post wholeheartedly when I first read it, and I found myself thinking about it again this week, when I opened up the Instagram app on my phone, and discovered that one of my outfit photos had been regrammed by the account of a religious group aiming to promote the concept of “modest” dressing.

And it really freaking annoyed me.

Now, I should say here that, under normal circumstances, I don’t have any problem whatsoever with people regramming my photos (Assuming they give proper credit, obviously). In fact, for the most part, I’m just incredibly flattered and grateful when it happens.

This time, though, the use of the photo – plus the caption and hashtags that accompanied it – strongly implied that I was:

a) A member of this particular religion – which I’m not. (I have no axe to grind with religious people, by the way – I just resent having beliefs attributed to me that I don’t share, and I think it’s pretty dodgy to use someone’s photo in that way without their permission. I’d feel the same if it was a political party, say, using a photo in a way that implied I was One of Them…)

and

b) Someone who puts a lot of emphasis on dressing “modestly” – which, nope, not into that either. Whoops.

full stripe midi skirt with red ballet flats and polka dot bardot top

And, I mean, the fact is, I DO dress in a way that I guess could be described as “modest”. I wear a lot of midi skirts, I don’t normally show much skin, and the closest thing I own to a mini skirt is still considerably longer than the kind of thing the words “mini skirt” probably suggest to most of you.

So, yeah, I guess by some standards, I dress “modestly”.

The thing is, though, I don’t do it with the intent to be “modest”, or because I believe women’s bodies should be covered up at all times, and I definitely don’t do it because I subscribe to any kind of worldview that likes to dictate how people should dress. (I’ll just stress again here that I have absolutely no problem with people who DO dress “modestly” for those reasons – it’s just that I don’t.) No, I wear midi length skirts because I like the way they look. I normally have my shoulders and arms covered because it’s often FREEZING here, and I can’t stand the cold. I wear one-pieces to the beach because I love the pin-up inspired style of them, and my necklines are generally high because I like them that way, and think they suit my figure better than lower ones.

But I also sometimes wear bodycon dresses and form-fitting skirts. I’ve been in flats or sneakers a lot recently because they’re more practical for my current lifestyle, but I have a large collection of 5″ stiletto heels, and you’ll have to prise them off my cold, dead feet. Oh, and I might love my retro one-pieces, but I also own a selection of bikinis, and I’m not afraid to wear them. (OK, I actually AM afraid to wear them right now, but that’s because I’m not feeling particularly body-confident at the moment, not because I believe women’s bodies should be covered up…)

So, while many of my outfits are what you might describe as “modest”, I would never describe myself as a “modest” dresser – and I’m always a little taken aback when I see other people label me in that way:  like the Pinterest user who’s turned more than one of my outfit photos into a graphic declaring that “modest doesn’t have to mean frumpy!” and who uses it to promote an ebook on the subject, say. I realise that not everyone who chooses to dress “modestly” does so for religious reasons – I know a lot of people who do it for exactly the same reasons I do – but, well, that Instagram account that used my photo without permission? They posted it directly above a quote post which said, “WOE TO WOMEN WHO DRESS IMMODESTLY.” And seriously, I don’t want to be associated with that kind of mindset. It’s not a belief I share, and, to be perfectly honest, I find it pretty offensive.

why I don't like being labelled as a "modest" dresser - even although I often dress in a way that could be described that wayI’ll just stress again here – because I have a feeling that this post is going to be taken the wrong way – that I’m well aware that not everyone who describes themselves as a modest dresser DOES subscribe to those kind of views. I know that, for lots of people, it’s just a handy shorthand they use to describe a particular style of dress, which they favour for any one of a hundred different reasons. There are enough people using the term because they DO believe so-called “modest” dressing is morally superior to whatever they’d term “immodest” dressing, however, for me to feel really uncomfortable when I see people label me that way. I mean, I guess if my style of dress is deemed “modest” then anyone who doesn’t dress that way must be immodest? YIKES.

So, I commented on the Instagram post and politely asked them to remove it (Which they did), and I’ll continue objecting any time I find people attributing beliefs to me that aren’t mine. Because I may dress “modestly” – most of the time – but it’s a fashion choice rather than a moral one, and while I’ll defend anyone’s right to dress however they want, for me, that has to include allowing people to choose their own labels – if they want to – rather than doing it for them.

So, please don’t call me “modest” – even though I (sometimes) dress that way…

14 Comments
  1. I also prefer to have a degree of coverage for reasons of fat-obscurance and flesh-warmth. However, like you, I resent the use of the term ‘modest’ as it implies that anyone who dresses otherwise is ‘immodest’, which is just a short step away from ‘immoral’. Language matters, and these awful terms imply that women should exercise restraint over all aspects of their appearance to appease (some sections of) society and to avoid tempting (some) men , siren-style, with the merest hint of flesh/sexuality.

    So I agree with you 100%. Great post.

  2. I like dressing modestly. I think it looks so much nicer. That being said I own a lot of ‘tight’ dresses (that come to midi length), and I own a lot of short dresses that I pair with tights/leggings/crops whenever appropriate. If I’m on holiday or if the weather is good, I’m getting my legs out. But not so much so that I’m flashing my bits to everyone that has eyes. And if I’m at the beach, that bikini is going on! Sorry people!
    I am religious, and I do dress modestly for that, but I don’t agree that people should be told to dress in particular ways on social media and use religion as a reason to do so (like they have done with your photo). That’s the fastest way to alienate people and make people mad (like it has done here).
    Also, it’s pretty rude to take someone’s photo and attach any beliefs to it (religious, political, vegan etc etc the list goes on) if they’re not shared by that person, especially if the photo directly represents that person’s brand (like your photos do).
    I’m sorry you experienced this. I’ve seen a few of the Instagrammers I follow get stung by people stealing their photos for their sites/pages and not crediting or labelling them as their own. But this experience is a new one to me. What a shame.
    Debs @ https://tiger-mint.com

  3. I agree with you completely. But I have to say that I think it’s kind of sad that you have to put so many disclaimers in your posts so people don’t take things the wrong way. That’s got to be really frustrating.

  4. Once I was out and about in a maxi skirt and t-shirt, which I hadn’t really thought about much beyond the fact that they were comfortable in excessively hot weather, and some guy I didn’t know came up to me and said “it’s nice to see a woman dressed modestly for a change.” He said this in exactly the same skincrawling tone that another guy might have talked about my shortest shorts, or my lowest cut top*. And this is what I always think about when people talk about dressing modestly so as not to “cause men to lust”, which is the primary justification given for modesty rules in my neck of the woods. It makes no difference. The content might be different, but the entitlement and the objectification are there in the guy or they’re not, no matter how you’re dressed.

    All of which is to say that I can understand why you’d be uncomfortable having your image tied to an ideology you don’t support, even if that groups justification is different! Obviously people are free to believe what they want about the world, but it’s not so fun to be taken as supporting beliefs you don’t share when all you’re doing is wearing clothes you happen to like.

    *incidently, this is the outfit I went home and changed into after The Incident.

  5. No matter the background, it is inacceptable to use someone else to stress your own believes, be they dressing a certain way, a certain religion or a political attitude. to be honest, I never thought about whether my (or any other) style could be described as modest until I read this blog post. it is so far off from the way I think.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

  6. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I wouldn’t even describe your dress as modest! No you are not in a crop top and mini skirt but you are wearing fitted, colourful clothes, which wouldn’t be acceptable to many who have specific reasons for covering up.

    Quite apart from that – if you did choose to cover up completely for your own non religious reasons, of course that shouldn’t be appropriated by a religious group.

  7. I think you’re totally right! Dressing modestly is something that people want to do (I do for religious reasons) but if you don’t want to label yourself that why should someone else decide for you! I love your dress style btw, its so vintage and adorable and totally goals. Love your blog ❤️

  8. Oh my goodness! Using your photo for those types of reasons must’ve been frustrating to see! I’m a very cold person with very pale skin, so even in the summer I’m VERY covered up. But that’s just because many sunscreen products make me break out, so I prefer to wear light-weight long sleeves and longer skirts to protect my skin and stay cool. I live in a summer vacation-destination where many people walk around town in bikinis, see-through coverups and flip flops. So I think the juxtaposition of me being so covered up (and having long hair) has caused some people in my community to assume I dress modestly for religious purposes (we do have several religious groups where I live who have dress codes and don’t cut their hair for modesty).

    Although I didn’t get the religious assumption nearly as much when I had short hair and dressed the same way. Has anyone ever addressed it from the perspective of your hair as well? It always makes me smile a little…because I have half-sleeve tattoos covering my upper arms…if they only knew! 😉

  9. Couldn’t agree more! Love what you wrote and thank you for standing up for that and disagreeing! The world needs more people who speak out against the discrimination of especially women. And I love the way you dress 🙂

  10. I would be SO MAD if someone used my photo for their own purposes. I think you handled it very well! Good for you for standing up for yourself.

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