[Disclaimer: Everyone’s idea of modesty is a little different. Take for example the “grace and class” explanation at GBG vs HeavenlyHearth’s need for headcovering and skirts every day vs Hearthie’s modest and practical Rita shorts. All modest and sometimes compatible, all different. Furthermore, not everyone wants to dress modestly. Some may think I dress prudishly and some may think I am not modest enough. Finally, modesty isn’t necessarily fashionable. It can be. Modesty can look great. But I’m no fashionista and this advice won’t help you look trendy or find clothes that suit you. If you want fashion and style, visit Hearthie or Little Pretty Mess, my favourite style blogs. These are just my recommendations based on my experiences of wanting to dress a little more modestly than the typical girl/woman my age.]
But it can be hard to get into the mindset. A lot of people don’t like not attracting attention, so covering the best assets can feel like too much. Other people have a hard time finding the balance between pretty and covered, so they either feel frumpy or like they haven’t covered enough yet. Other people feel the pressure to be trendy and dress like their peers. Other people get warm easily and would rather feel cooler and more comfortable. Other people have a hard time finding covering clothes that also work for their job and activities.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 tricks to dressing more modestly.
1: Get a stylist.
It doesn’t have to be a pro, though that can help. It could be your best-dressed friend, or even someone aspiring to work in style, like Hearthie, who has been practicing her dress advice on innocent victims lately.
But getting an outside eye that has a vested interest in making you look good may be enlightening. You could discover that your legs are so long that certain shorts look more revealing on you than on others, or that red with your natural palette makes you look immodest even in covering clothes.
When it’s a professional, an aspiring professional or someone with a little talent you could even learn about the colours that suit you best, how to highlight your assets more naturally and what sorts of jewelery suit you.
2: Read up on style.
Whether you find a stylist or not, make a point of studying style. Learn what your body shape is, what your natural palette is called and run a few searches to find the sort of clothes people with that body type and those colours wear.
The next step is to find a modestly dressed celebrity with your figure and your colours, or one with your figure and another with your colours, and to follow their fashion choices. Take notes of what looks more modest, what looks like too much and what looks too immodest. Eventually you’ll find what sort of clothes look right on people with your figure and will be able to shop for them.
Try keeping a fashion diary as you transition into more modest clothing. Take a photo of your daily outfits and, at the end of the week, grade them on Style, Effort, Modesty and Match. So you could be A* for Style and Effort, but F for Modesty and Match, meaning your clothes are trendy and well put together, but immodest and poorly suiting you. Take every week’s best outfit and use them as inspiration for future outfits.
3: Learn about makeup minimalism.
Makeup can have a huge impact on how your clothes come across. A girl-next-door outfit of jeans and a loose t-shirt can be made more alluring with heavy eye makeup and bright red lips. A very short Summer dress or pair of shorts can look perfectly modest with light or no makeup.
The 3 bare basics for makeup are concealer to hide blemishes, eyeliner in your natural haircolour to emphasize eyes and lip gloss to add shine or a little colour to lips. You don’t even need to wear them, really, but if you’re going to wear makeup, the 60s Boho look of flawless skin, lightly tinted or glossy lips and a line above the eye is all you desperately need.
The next level is to intensify all of these three: add foundation over the concealer, naturally coloured mascara to the eyeliner and actual lipstick, maybe a shade darker than your own, under the gloss.
Anything you add on top of that can be too much, so be sure to downplay everything else suitably. Brighter lips? Make them a bit less glossy and the eye line a little smaller. Heavy mascara? No undereye line and no lipstick, just gloss. Eye shadow? Just use gloss and no mascara. Once you can start seeing the makeup or the Barbie-effect, you’ve gone too far. You want to rein it in and look natural and sweet, not heavy and seductive.
4: Legs, belly, bust, bum.
It’s probably been said a thousand times, but: pick one. You can’t have everything on display. Even in the warmest weather, try and pick just one, two at the most. Yes, this can be hard at first, but I assure you that the people who want to see your every piece of flesh revealed in public don’t deserve to see it.
Another trick to working with this is the half exposure. Short-shorts means one exposed area: legs. Knee-length shorts means half an exposed area: lower legs. So fully exposed areas are all your leg or your leg up to mid-thigh, your midriff from your bust to your mid-hipbone, half your breasts or more, the underline and crack of your buttocks (crack even through fabric, is crack, don’t deal crack). And half exposed areas are your leg from the knee down, your midriff from the belly button up or down, less than half each breast, the underline of your buttocks.
This means you can only expose full cleavage and should really cover your stomach, buttocks and legs entirely, but you can display upper cleavage and lower leg, for example.
5: Bodycon dos and don’ts.
Bodycon is everyone’s favourite way out of modesty. Now, it all depends on your personal standards and requirements, but let’s just pause to remember that a bodycon dress exposes 95% of what a morph suit or most catsuits would, even if it conceals all your skin.
However, if bodycon fits your modesty requirements, how do we make sure not to put it outside of them?
Firstly, makeup is, again, an essential tool to keeping it modest. Simpler, sweeter makeup could even make a catsuit look less sensual.
Secondly, where full bodycon can look nice for evenings, try and only do partial bodycon for daily wear. If the rule for skin is “legs, stomach, bust or bum, pick one”, the rule for bodycon is “legs, stomach, bust or bum, pick two”. So yoga pants would be fine if worn with something that entirely covers the form of your upper body and modest makeup. And a fitted top with a low-cut bust is fine as long as you wear it with a skirt of trousers that don’t show any flesh or contour. Although, as you can probably guess by picturing my examples, it’s hard to make half-body bodycon look suitable for daily wear. It often looks lazy or too explicit. It is often better to contour legs and expose bust, but cover bum contours and cover the skin of your stomach. But I’ve just described a cute dress and tights, haven’t I?
Remember girls: Style is Seasonal, Taste is Timeless.
6: One accessory off, one strip of fabric on.
In the words of Coco:
Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.
Wise, wise words. Too many accessories can look gaudy, and make a modest outfit look frumpy, encouraging us to reveal more skin to justify all the pretty shimmers and sparkles. They can even make a perfectly cute outfit very eye-catching and draw attention to you or your most revealed assets. Plunging neckline plus a belly-length necklace equals more eyes on your revealed cleavage.
So before you go out, take off one accessory, preferably the one nearest your most revealed skin. You can also use your accessories to detract from revealed skin. Many bracelets or a sparkly belt when wearing very short shorts draw eyes to your thighs, but a chunky necklace will draw eyes up to your upper body, where the asset most on display should be your face.
Secondly, I would add that after you have composed your outfit, swap one item for a slightly more modest one. For example, if you have chosen a pair of jeans and a tight blouse, go and swap the blouse for one with a higher neckline, a lower hemline or a loose fit. Literally just imagine you have to add 2″ of fabric to the neckline, hems or sides of the blouse. Or if you’ve chosen an above-knee skirt and a top, go and swap the skirt for jeans or an exactly knee-length skirt.
This way you always err on the side of caution with modesty and avoid mistakes such as a skirt being just too short, or a blouse looking a bit too transparent. And you are being cautious without going crazy and being frumpy.
7: Modesty in movement and gestures.
A lot about sensuality is conveyed in the way you move. Make the effort to walk in front of a mirror or webcam to watch how you move.
Good posture is essential to modesty, otherwise you just look browbeaten or lazy. Keep your stomach and bum in, your chest slightly up and your head facing straight forwards. Let your arms hang neutrally, but not as complete dead weight and they will swing to balance you on their own.
Next, try and walk like a catwalk model.
Like a seductress.
Like an angry teenager.
By now you should be getting a feel for the nuances of your body. For effect, try these without shoes and in heels. Some people may find they walk “too sexy” in heels, so this may be a concern for you.
Likewise with all your motions and your posture. Be aware of your body and what you are wearing. We don’t bend over in short skirts, but we should also be sensible enough not to lean in low-cut tops, not to squat deep in long skirts or jeans and not to stretch in tight clothing. If we can’t avoid bending, we probably shouldn’t be in a short skirt and likewise we shouldn’t wear unsuitable clothes if we can’t avoid squatting, leaning, stretching, turning, jumping, etc.
8: Deal with peer pressure.
Your friends and family will not suddenly adopt long skirts or a “no belly” policy just because you have. If anything, they will be trying to convince you to go back to the way you used to dress or to dress like them.
Be prepared to be pressured to dress immodestly. Learn an easy, unoffensive way of explaining your reasons to dress modestly. This way, when confronted you don’t need to act defensive or worry about calling someone a temptress or a tart. Even if you phrase it nicely and well, in fact, especially if you phrase it nicely and well, some people will pressure you even more to dress immodestly. Politely decline and change the conversation. Don’t get drawn into it.
When you are at home, don’t stress about not showing off enough. By all means, ask yourself if you are getting a little frumpy or lazy, if you are dressing less fashionably or not dressing to suit your figure. Those are valid questions and if someone simply thinks high-waist long skirts don’t suit you, ask yourself what sort of skirt or trouser would suit you. But don’t ask yourself if you’re showing enough flesh. That is the wrong question because the vast majority of people around you, as well as most celebrities, will be showing more. Your standard is different to their standards. You are never showing “too little” skin.
9: Fit your style to different settings.
The hardest part about dressing modestly is that by the time we’ve worked out what to wear when we visit our friends, go shopping or get our hair done, we have to work out what to wear to work, to a party or on a date. It can be very tempting to revert to your old style of dress when you aren’t sure.
To prevent this, take your outfit planner and look through it. Find five or six different outfits you really love that are high scorers: trendy, modest, with effort and personal style. Next, think of how to recombine them to make them suit different settings.
You could pair a top and jeans with a blazer and flats for work, or with heavy jewelery and brightly coloured heels for a party, or with an elaborate hairdo and great nails for a date. You could pair a long skirt and blouse with a tight bun, a scarf and boots for work, or with cute flats and loose hair for a party, or with bracelets, pumps and a matching bag for a date.
Work through every week’s favourite look to rehash it into something more versatile. That way you are never caught short.
10: Dress codes.
Finally, work on a category for each style of dress. As you document your weekly outfits, you will find some that score moderately, but still look good. My advice? If it’s B-A* for Style and Match, save it for something else.
There are many official dress codes to read up on.
But I’d actually recommend writing your own based on your actual weekly life.
For example, mine are:
Work. High modesty, high match, high effort, average to high style.
First time client. High modesty, high style, average to high match and effort.
Jon. High match, high effort, low to average modesty, average to high style.
Shopping. High modesty, high match, average to high style and effort.
Housework. High modesty, average to high match, style and effort.
Visiting and dinner parties. High match, high style, average to high modesty and effort.
Clubs and groups. High match, high modesty, average to high style and effort all over the place.
Going out. High effort, high style, average to high match, average modesty.
Based on my lifestyle, those are right for me. However, if, for example, I went out without Jon more often, my going out dress code would more closely resemble my dinner party or first time client dress codes.
So based on your needs and life, create your own categories with your own requirements and take any outfits that look great but don’t have a perfect score and save them for such events!
And that is all for today’s list. I hope it’s helpful.
TTFN and Happy Hunting.
So how about you? What are your reasons and requirements for modesty? Do you keep a record of your styles? Have you ever visited a stylist? Do you think I have been too harsh or too lenient on bodycon, for example? What would be your advice and tips for keeping modest? How do you deal with peer pressure? Do tell!