Cultural Modesty

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Modesty

                The concept of modesty dates back to the early Victorian times when women would wear dresses that started with covering the neck, extending all the way down to the ground. The arms would also be covered with long sleeves. But as the fashion world has grown and changed modesty is not as important as it used to be to everyone. Believing that the body is a temple and respecting it by dressing modestly is still relevant and important to some. People of the Islamic, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish and Amish religions show modesty in their everyday life by the choice in clothing.

When looking up the word modesty on Dictonary.com, the definition came up with simple and easy to understand meaning stating, “The state or quality of being modest, reserve or propriety in speech, dress or behavior and lack of pretentiousness; simplicity.” While the definition may be easy to understand and comprehend, the concept of being modest is often over looked.

                Different religions have different ways of covering the body and showing modesty. The most basic concept is not to show a lot of skin.  And while it varies where to show the skin, some key areas are common, one being the midriff. This area should be covered on both men and women. Another area that skin should not be shown is the shoulders, this area has different occasions and variations of how to be modest. To the religious people who have strong beliefs about modesty, it is important to wear the right clothes, show respect to the body and others around and follow the guidance of religious leaders.

                Islamic women are often very noticeable. With long loose fitting outfits, covering the whole body, along with a head scarf to hide the hair. The certain standards of dress has been set for the Islamic people by Shar’iah, defining that men must cover the middle part of the body, from the navel to the knee. For the women, as seen in Figure 1, they are to cover every part of the body except the hands and face. It is also said that the clothing should not be see threw, or tight fitting. In an article called “The Islamic Dress Code” by Khalid Baig, it entails that the “hijab rules aim at protecting them (women) from the gaze of other men.” Reasons for the Islamic beliefs in modesty are deep and have a few different parts to it. The Qur’an is the religious verbal text of Islam, in which the guidance of modesty comes from. Below is text from the Qur’an about dress and modesty:

Our bodies did not develop our skin--- so thin and fur free that it requires external covering for protection---because of some unexplained evolutionary accident. Our Creator designed it this way so we will always need clothing. He also put in us the sense of shame that forces us to cover ourselves. On the other hand, the first act of Satan was to cause Adam and Eve to expose themselves: "So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shameful parts became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies." [Al-A'raf 7:22]

It is also very important to the Islamic people that they establish their own identity with the clothing they wear, and that they are not seen as followers. Another key factor in the Islamic modesty dress is to avoid three deadly sins; showing off, arrogance and self indulgence. While some people may see the Islamic people’s choice of clothing odd or extreme, the fact of covering up and being modest is respectful to them.

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?...The temple of God is holy, and which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). This very quote is the first text under the section “Dress and Appearance” in the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - day Saints. This pamphlet is full of information and guidelines to help Mormons live a pure, modest and eternal life....
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