I have recently joined a group on Facebook where I have connected with some amazing women, all headcovering Pagans of various paths. I am so proud to be associated with a group of strong, intelligent, passionate women who live their beliefs and do not succumb to stereotypes, be they from other Pagans or outsiders. No matter what religion someone belongs to, it seems that the decision to cover one's head is a powerful statement, and people do react to it. Some see it as a bold declaration of belief, others see it as a symbol of female oppression (which is very silly to me, because my choice to headcover has nothing to do with being a woman, and I would fully support any man who chose to wear a headcovering as a part of his spiritual beliefs, and indeed, there are many who do), and some see it as both, but one thing is for sure, people notice. At the end of the day, though, I am accountable only to myself and my gods, and a few sideways glances or insensitive comments do not hurt as much as stifling myself. Finding other like-minded women has been a blessing, an incredible source of support and inspiration. Recently, the topic of modesty came up in our discussions, and it got me thinking about my own personal clothing choices. I love clothes, accessories, and jewelry, and I have gone through many different fashion "phases" from the time I was a teenager. I have had my moments of impetuous youth, but in general, I was never one for dressing particularly "slutty," at least not in public (in the bedroom with a partner is an entirely different story!). I do not see the human form as dirty, or wrong to display. I have even posed nude for art classes, and it was an empowering experience! The gaze of the students was not objectifying in the least. It actually felt empowering because I was being appreciated for my own unique looks in a way entirely outside the commercialized, airbrushed standards of "beauty" our culture tends to venerate. The students were eager to create a work of art based on my form, using their own unique talents to bring out different aspects of me that even I didn't know were there!
That said, my day to day public life is not an art class, and I much prefer to have the focus on my personality and mind rather than my body. While my choice to headcover is a religious one, my choice to dress modestly is more personal. But, what exactly do I mean by "modest?" This can be tricky to answer. Is it "modest" to wear an ankle length skirt if it is brightly coloured with an intricate pattern? Sure, it covers you up, but it also attracts attention, drawing the viewers eye into the pattern. Then again, the attention is on the skirt, not the body, so in that sense, it can be seen as modest, since it is not eroticizing the body of the wearer. To me, modesty is about choosing clothing that enhances one's inner beauty, the spark of life that radiates from within with intelligence, grace, and humility. It is about carrying oneself in a way that is dignified and commands respect. Being a sexual being does not subtract from these qualities, but displaying one's sexuality can make them harder to notice, and as I said before, my sexual life is exclusive to my monogamous relationship, so why display what I am not giving out to anyone else? I don't see a need to take it to any extremes, covering up every inch of flesh is not the point. Plus, living in a sub-tropical climate would make it uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst! Heatstroke is no laughing matter.
My usual wardrobe consists of skirts that reach the knee or lower (I prefer ankle length, mostly because I am tall and it creates a nice line), and tops with cap sleeves at the very least (tank tops are ok when I am just hanging around the house, but if I leave, I will put on an overshirt of some kind). I don't worry too much about having a high neckline, but the general rule is that it has to be at least an inch or so above the beginning of my cleavage. I have been known to wear pants occasionally, but I find them restricting and too revealing of the shape of my, um, intimate area. My ideal amount of coverage is usually something like this-