Keeping them covered: whose job is it, and why?

Reading the HappyFeminist’s look at fundamentalist fashion and how modesty is dictated (or would that be dick-tated) by males and how their own bodies respond to “immodest fashion,” reminded me of a column I wrote nearly two years ago, after a family visit to the County Fair.  There’s one reference in there that “cracks” me up (pun totally intended) about sitting in the Job’s daughter’s tent, trying to eat corn on the cob, but seeing only the sidewise smile of a slender young lass, who couldn’t quite get her shirt to cover what her low-rise jeans would not.  Yep.  Job’s daughters and ass-crack.  Go figure.

So, I’ll share that column, below, written before any of my daughters were true teens, about fashion and modesty.  And I’ll share this: last night we went out as a family (mumps* and all) and one daughter wanted to leave in her cami with her bra hanging out. Which I just think looks tacky as all hell–not about modesty, just about underwear being underwear, not outerwear.  God, I’m old.  So, her dad and I did get on her about it.  Are we fundamentalist fashionistas?  Was her dad responding from that maleness place that so scares the fundamentalist religionistas?  We prevailed; the straps were covered.  But I don’t think we can say it was anything about modesty.  Here’s what I pulled out of my mom bag on that:  we just watched The Devil Wears Prada together and she has suddenly got this thing about having her own “style” (she mocked her baby sister who came out with her tank top with her brand new baby bra straps hanging out for taking her “style”).  So, I asked her:  anywhere in that movie, did you see a strap hanging out? 

Of course, what’s going on in the fundamentalist camps isn’t just about bra straps; it’s about strangling girls with dogma that says they are responsible for keeping men pure of thought and deed.  Let us help you help yourself and tell us how to avoid tempting you.  Which is, of course the exactly wrong message we should be sending men and boys–regardless of their faith-inclination.  What we should be telling them is what I told my daughter the other day when she said she wanted something outrageous and asked me “wouldn’t you like that, too?” 

“That’s the great thing about being an adult,” I told her, “you can want things without having to act on that wanting.”

*(this just in, mumps may not be mumps afterall; more later)

Well, here’s the column I wrote in August of 2005 I said I’d share. 

We went to the Porter County Fair last night and I must say that if I never see another bra strap (other than my own) again, I’ll send the people at Bali or Olga a huge box of chocolates with my everlasting thanks.  And what about those low-rise jeans that are a flashing-neon-sign-away from saying “look right here”?

I may not remember I have a meeting next Tuesday, but I remember being in high school and knowing I had to have the absolutely right jeans. So I do get it, the need to fit in and look like everyone else, even though everyone else looks ridiculous. Remember, I was a teenager in the late 1970s. I wore high-wasted bell-bottoms and macramé platform shoes. But when I wore tube-tops that showed my belly, you could bet there wasn’t anything hanging out my navel (except, perhaps, lint), and that my belly was flat enough to serve tea on.

But nowadays, despite the media call to eating disorders known as fashion magazines, it seems that girls are feeling free-er to er, let it all hang out. And while I will be the first one to encourage girls of all ages to make peace with their body-image, I also wonder if they are really, truly comfortable in those clothes that not only show but accentuate every bump, roll, or bulge.

There was one girl at the fair who sat down at the next table as we sat at Job’s Daughter’s tent with our butter-dipped ears of corn. The girl, although quite slender, didn’t seem all that comfortable in those jeans that rose low enough for my husband to dub her (and I apologize in advance to all the repairmen who may take offense) “plumber’s butt girl.” Despite her attempts at covering said butt by pulling her shirt down repeatedly, it was apparent those jeans were not meant for sitting.

And then there were the girls who walked around the fair with their arms clamped around their midsections, as if they were covering up the way their bellies rolled over their low-rise jeans and under their sausage-casing-tight shirts.

Why can’t they manufacture clothes that free our hands and minds enough to really enjoy ourselves and whatever we are doing at the moment?

Just look at what they’ve done to the most practical and comfortable combo going: the t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt has been snugged up and the jeans have been tugged down that girls walking around the fair looked like they shopped at Infants-R-Us and Streetwalkers Surplus to complete their ensemble.

Is there jealousy in this rant?

Maybe a little, but there’s also fear. Because I remember all too well my own forays into fashion disasters—and I am steeling myself for what my own daughters will think looks good. And, like the parents of all those daughters at the fair, I’ll either allow them to make their own lemming-like fashion choices, or I’ll never really know what they’re wearing once they are out of my sight.

But if I do see said ensembles, I’ll be sure to take lots of photos so one day, when they are wearing sensible shoes and fashion-less mom-jeans and are tearing their hair out over what their daughters are wearing, I can pull out the photos just to remind them they were once fashion victims, too.


About TinaLBPorter

I write poetry and blog at And I'm thrilled to be writing with you.
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