Modest “Mice”: In defense of a personal dress-code

So many women say that we have the right to wear whatever we want, but often it feels like they’re pushing a more revealing agenda, somehow saying we’re wrong if we believe in not putting all our goods on display. So I just had to get this out.

I’m not a nun, or a dowdy, “mousy” girl such as the stereotype of modesty declares I would be. Instead, I roar with my style. I wear shorts and miniskirts (not the micro-mini ones that are popular, though) and sleeveless tops and v-necked blouses and bodycon and lace and chiffon and sheers and bustiers. I’m a big believer in the reverse-decolletage, the power of high heels and legs in a pair of great jeans. I love fashion, and believe that what you wear can influence how you feel–strong, confident, powerful. Putting together a nice outfit, even if it takes a couple if costume changes, is fun for me, because it’s like deciding which facet of me to project that day.

But, while I try (mostly) to be fashionable, I do have my limits. While I do try to be sexy, drawing attention to my better features, I choose not to wear overly provocative clothing. This is a problem for some people, who accuse me (not directly, of course, but in cleverly-worded articles and blog posts that slam dress codes and those who would choose to adhere to them) of being prude and judgmental and antifeminist, simply because I won’t follow the “empowerment” movement of putting as much skin as possible on show and demanding people don’t get provoked.

…that’s never really made sense to me.

First off, my clothes are my choice, and my choice alone. If my choosing to adhere to a certain policy of skinshow (or, in my case, no-show) bothers you, then that is your problem. If I have taken to heart the principles of dressing with class that my mother–who I believe is one of the most fashionable people I know–taught me, then that is my prerogative. If not advocating the prevailing social “standard” that demands that women parade around in fewer and fewer pieces of clothing is somehow a threat to your independence…then I strongly suggest that you reevaluate the basis of your status as an “independent woman,” because by nature that title means that you are unaffected by the actions of others.

My choosing not to dress overly provocatively is not because I believe–as some of these “feminists” would have it–that I am solely responsible for men’s lust (if they’re so inclined, even the most prudish clothing won’t stop their minds), but because I do not want to give them the opportunity to blame me for their lust. I do not want them to be able to say I invited their glances. I refuse to let them have even the slightest excuse to objectify me, even if chances are they will whatever I’m wearing. Let that sort be unmasked for the pigs they are; I will give them no leeway to claim my co-culpability.

I choose not to wear overly provocative clothing because I know that my style is a ten-second story, and I’m not sure I like the tale that goes “she looks like she’d been poured into her (barely there) clothes and forgot to say when.” I am not naive. I acknowledge the reality, however unpleasant, that I will be judged on how I look and what I wear. I don’t want to provide small-minded people the opportunity to judge me as a “slut” or “skank” or “whore” or “asking for it” (as some girls already have on the basis of the mere banter I have in my friendships with boys), and be able to reference my style to justify their cause.

I choose not to wear overly provocative clothes because I believe in class.

I choose not to wear overly provocative clothing because of a call girl’s advice. If even the infamous Belle du Jour, a prostitute–a woman whose career is in seducing men–knows not to dress like a prostitute in order to be “sexy,” then obviously our existing perspective of sexy is skewed. Not to be crass, but only the cheap whores put everything on show. The “high-class” ones leave things to the imagination, knowing that imagination can be the most alluring accessory.

Finally, I choose not to wear overly provocative clothes because I want people to see me, not what I’m wearing. Like great makeup, clothes should emphasize the girl underneath, not define them. I’ve noticed that when wearing too-sexy clothes I become just my body, when I know I’m more than that. I veil part of the outer to let the inner shine through.

I don’t espouse burlap sacks and ankle-length skirts and a return to Victorian prudery. My clothing choices are not based on an “agenda” of pushing “patriarchal,” “misogynist” values. I’m merely asking that my decision to follow a dress code, to follow certain standards of “class” and “decency” (standards I believe should apply to men and women alike), not be seen as an act of oppression, a reflection of “backwards” thinking.

And that maybe, the people pushing their “empowering” agenda need to start thinking why they feel the need to keep defending themselves against the personal choices of “modest mice,” like me.



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