Abby recently requested that I add her Silk and Purple blog to the Fashion Belle blogroll, and after seeing the quality fashion, etiquette and recipe material she posts with the help of several other contributors, I was happy to do so. Abby also publishes an individual blog called La Vie est Belle (French for "Life is Beautiful") with even more photos of cute, modest outfits. While reviewing the Silk and Purple blog, I was impressed with two recent posts by Abby that struck at the heart of modest fashion, and I wanted to share them here. Thanks so much to Abby for giving us permission to re-publish her quotes for this article.
On September 15, 2012, Abby commented on New York Fashion Week and the Spring 2013 collections in the news. She reflected on the anger that some of us may feel about the influence high-profile designers have on what types of styles infiltrate the stores and that are then worn by women around us. I identify with Abby's disappointment, because shopping for stylish, modest clothing in our culture is tough. Designers could do more to swing trends back to more coverage, but they rarely take the opportunity to do so. Abby recommended that rather than stagnating in resentment, a better way to deal with the frustration is to reach out in positive ways to designers. She suggested the following:
Take some time in your prayer life for these souls. Think of a creative way to spread Christ's love to them! Write prayers and periodically send them to a famous designer or celebrity, or encourage them through their Instagram or Twitter feeds. Or if the Lord calls you to become a fashion designer, design for HIS glory and lead hearts to HIM!
As a patternmaker who has worked in New York's fashion industry, including for one designer runway show, this suggestion meant so much to me. Designers and the people who work for them are usually exhausted after runway shows from work weeks that easily run between 60 to 70 hours or even exceed 70 hours in the months preceeding shows. Had some anonymous person taken the time to send a card of encouragement to my designer boss and his staff, it would definitely have been noticed and appreciated. While it may seem that most high-end designers have little respect for religion, my experience is actually the opposite. While working for three different companies in New York, I encountered many Jews whose lifestyle standards covered a wide range but most of whom observed the Sabbath and held a high respect for God (or G-d as they usually print it, to show respect by never destroying an item on which the full Name is spelled out). I also encountered female co-workers who did not dress modestly by average standards but who initiated conversations with me that showed they were seeking God related to various issues in their lives.
If a fashion designer is male, there is a regrettably large chance that he is also gay, though this is not always the case. I worked alongside a number of people who were openly homosexual who grew to respect my own expression of faith through modest dress and conservative lifestyle. Many gays in New York are involved in religious pursuits, though they may doubt the power of that religion. While my life probably spoke louder than any words, I had a memorable chance to speak about my faith to one gay man when he asked me a specific question about the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. I later learned that he had been raised a Methodist. Many people may not realize this, but a fairly strong number of Christians work in New York's fashion industry. The Models for Christ organization enjoys a strong attendance at activities hosted throughout the year in major fashion capitols of the world. A card with an expression of faith sent to any fashion organization may garner more respect than you think.
The second of Abby's posts that caught my attention was related to the choices that female shoppers face when trying to find modest clothing. Her words say it best, from August 27, 2012.
I know it can be discouraging at times. I've walked miles in malls and shopping centers in search of clothing that not only was modest, but reflected my own style. It's been my experience that many young women think that in order to be modest we have to "give up" our personal preferences because the store only has limited options of modest, affordable clothing. I could say that it's not fair, but Jesus never said that following Him would be easy. It is worth it, though. I have observed that young women who start out with the best intentions to look modest sometimes become disheartened and fall into either one of two syndromes. . . [give in or give up].
Give In - Our culture wants us to give in. It wants us to raise our white flag of surrender, proving that there's nothing really special about our King. It wants us to look just like everybody else, not set apart as Jesus calls us to be. I have known many young ladies with the best intentions to be modest examples of the faith, only to be doused as soon as they had to purchase clothing, shoes, or makeup. We go to the malls expecting to find feminine, modest apparel whenever we need it. Oh, how I wish that was true! So many gals get frustrated and give in to follow what fashion dictates. Giving in can be the “easy” way, but we would miss out on the precious purity of presenting ourselves as ambassadors for Christ! Giving in doesn't always start abruptly. It starts in small choices and slow fades. A young woman doesn't wake up one morning deciding to be the hottest chick on the block. It's choices like, "I can buy this; it's just a little shorter." Ladies, we can justify and talk ourselves into anything! This is why it's so important to have God-fearing people in our lives to help us make wise decisions -- be it regarding clothing or any life choices. Accountability is key.
Give Up . . . Giving up is one of the most common attitudes in Christian young ladies. They are faced with the world's perspective of appearance, and instead of fitting in or giving in, they fall into not caring for themselves and have a lazy spirit about upholding feminine beauty. They say to themselves, “Why try? I don’t care," or "I don’t want anyone to look at me.” They are determined not to join the world, and this is very admirable, but they end up retreating in the fight against immorality, not standing firm.
So why does this matter? Well, either way, the culture wins. If it can’t get you to give in, its next step is to beat you down so you will not stand for feminine excellence. If we raise our surrender flag in this way, our culture will use us as an example of, "She let herself go; you don't want to join her fight.” Pop culture rationalizes that its way is the only way because it appeals to women's vanity. Looking homely will turn people away from who we are, because as I have said many times before, the world is summing us up in the few seconds it takes to glance our way.
Solutions to finding balance in beauty can be as simple as finding colors that become you or adding a cardigan to a dress. These quick fixes, and many like them, will help ward off the syndromes. Use the creativity our Creator has given you and find like-minded young ladies who have great ideas. I agree that when you go to the mall you can easily become overwhelmed by immodest clothing and photography. Not to mention the prices $$$! Yet, as we've seen on Silk and Purple, it is possible to find clothing that is not only modest, but is lovely and age appropriate. Have fun in the searching and keep a joyful spirit.
Abby's two blogs and the others listed here on our site provide a constant stream of modest fashion inspiration that should encourage shoppers of any age to know that style and modesty can co-exist. Thanks for your insight, Abby.