Daring to Be Modest

Melissa Kossler Dutton

Delaney Poor considers herself a clothes horse. The freshman at Grove City Christian School loves creating new outfits, fixing her hair and shopping for shoes.

The 14-year-old also has a passion for dressing modestly. Delaney wears tank tops under much of her clothing, pays attention to the length of her shorts and skirts, and avoids spaghetti straps. Delaney said she dresses this way because she doesn't want to reveal too much of her body. It's an idea her parents endorse.

"I'm comfortable with myself, and I'm comfortable with the way that I dress," Delaney said. "I don't need to dress to please anybody else."

A growing number of girls around Central Ohio and the nation are choosing to dress more modestly. There are numerous websites, clubs and organized events affiliated with the movement. A few online retailers, like modestclothing.com, themodbod.com and dressingforhisglory.com, have begun to market themselves as places for the modest women to shop.

In many cases, the young women come from families with strong religious ties. Many parents also consider modest attire as a way to combat what they see as the moral decline of our culture, said Brenda Sharman, national director of Pure Fashion, a faith-based program for young women that focuses on character and the search for inner beauty.

"Many parents are becoming interested in teaching modesty because they realize that even more important than protecting and covering one's body, modesty is about protecting one's heart," said Brenda Sharman in an e-mail. "Parents will go to great lengths to do this because it comes from a love for their children."

In some cities, though not currently in Columbus, Pure Fashion offers an eight-month program that includes discussions on leadership skills, the art of applying make-up and styling hair, and social skills. At the end of the course, participant stage a fashion show of modest clothing.

The Pure Fashion website inspired Louise Hummel of Upper Arlington to address the issue with her daughters' Catholic youth group. Hummel, who monitors what her daughters wear, wanted the members of the youth group to realize that how they dress says something about them. She also wanted to help them to recognize the value of inner beauty.

"Beauty on the inside is eternal," said Hummel, who has four daughters ranging in age from 13 to 19. "That's what God wants for them."

After working with the girls, Hummel organized a fashion show to help them see that it's possible to be stylish and modest.

"Fashion is important," she said. "But we're working fashion into the more important package that beauty's on the inside."

Hummel's husband, John, leaves enforcement of the dress code to his wife but makes sure to compliment the girls when they have chosen an attractive and modest outfit, Hummel said.

Delaney's mother, Kim Poor, has encouraged her husband Daniel to take a more active role. Since Delaney was a small child, Poor has asked her husband for his opinion of their daughter's clothes.

"He wouldn't have (offered) his opinion (on his own)," Poor said.

As a man, Poor said, her husband has good insights about how teen-aged boys or other men might react to an outfit.

Part of dressing modestly is thinking about how men will view you, said Shelley Hitz, a Christian speaker who runs the website findyourtruebeauty.com.

"We're advertising our bodies when we get up and choose what we wear," she said.

Women and girls who dress in revealing clothing may find they get lots of attention but they need to ask themselves whether it's the type of attention they want, Hitz said.

"It's a negative attention," she added.

Dressing modestly shows that you respect yourself and allows your inner light to shine, Hitz said. "Who you are - your personality - will shine out and radiant from the inside."

Dressing modestly doesn't "mean we have to wear a burlap sack around us wherever we go," said Hitz, who still enjoys choosing attractive outfits.

Modesty does not have to hamper one's ability to look stylish, agreed Kimmy Senerius, a senior at Grove City Christian.

"I like to dress up," the 17-year-old said. "I try to keep it in style while staying modest."

Delaney also finds it easy to be trendy and modest. "It comes natural to me," she said. "I only see things I know I'll be able to wear."

She also has found dressing modestly to be about more than clothes.

"If I dress the way I like, I attract the people with the same values," she said. "The people who like me for me."

More Online Resources for the Modesty Movement

Visit these sites for more information: