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Style Statements: When External Judgements Conflict with Personal Choices

by Ashley on December 7, 2010

A girl friend of mine recently wrote about the judgment she felt based on how she was dressed.  She’s not the first friend of mine who, dressed in a similar manner, felt judged based on what she’s wearing from the conservative sector.

What’s surprising though, is that these aren’t girls with vibrant, candy colored hair.  They aren’t covered in tattoos or piercings.  They aren’t wearing torn fishnets and lingerie on a daily basis ala Taylor Momsen.

They’re young women with long hair who wear it pulled up in a bun, braid, or chignon.  They wear light, natural make-up, or none at all.  They wear long, ankle-length skirts (or maxi-skirts if you want to get all fashionista).  They’re modest women, each with varying political and social views, contrasting upbringings and attitudes.  Yet both of them feel the same when they’re in public– judgment from others because of the way they’re dressed.

The quickest judgment is a projection of religious beliefs on the women– that they’re Mormon, Baptist, Pentecostal.

And to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to say about that.

Growing up in the South, it’s easy to project particular religious (and thus social/cultural) beliefs on to a person: clothes can become like a uniform that signifies beliefs without saying a word.  For men an earring in a particular lobe used to indicate homosexuality decades ago; a scarf in a particular pattern and tied a certain way can indicate political affiliations. Society changes with earrings; scarves and national icons get culturally appropriated.

But what about when the modesty and conservatism for a religious faction get confused with the wardrobe of just a modest young woman?

What do you say to this woman?

What about when this woman is your friend? What do you say to her discomfort for being judged, for people assuming things about her religion or lifestyle?

I’m sorry, but that’s what you get for dressing that way?

I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t be modest?

I’m sorry people are quick-to-judge assholes?

Just act like you’re more stylish than them and know what’s up!

supermodel frida, zara maxi skirt
What makes the modest girl in the ankle length skirt and bun any different than the fashionista in the maxi skirt and ponytail?

Why is it that styling it (or not styling it) a particular way moves it from religious cult to cutting edge of fashion?

Or did Chloe Sevigny make Mormon fashion fashionable?

To be honest, I don’t know.

I don’t know how I feel about it, I don’t know how to change it, and I certainly don’t know how to respond… but maybe you do?  Have you experienced this yourself?  Have you been with girlfriends when this happens? What’s your thoughts and reactions towards it?

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