Maddy Bernero

It’s Not All About Skin: Modesty and Our Desire to be Seen

You want to be noticed…

“That backless dress is gonna look really good at a summer pool party.”

“This string, fringe top bikini is sexy. Beach week here I come!”

“These high waisted, jean cutoffs look perfect. I knew all those squats were worth it.”

“I need a black lace bandeau to go under my sheer cream tank top. Everything’s covered right?”

“As long as most of my stomach is covered, we are good.”

These are the thoughts of young women everywhere as we battle a culture that tells us skin is sexy and you can never show too much of it. Mottos like “flaunt it if you’ve got it,” allow our perceptions of our bodies to define our dignity and worth. Sex appeal reigns supreme and dictates our fashion choices. “Dress to impress,” has taken on an entirely different meaning.

I think every one of us has experienced walking into the mall, searching through the racks of shorts and finding that they have been cut two inches shorter than last year. We look through the summer dresses and see the cut-outs in the back have grown larger. The crop tops are shorter, the shirts are more sheer, and the bikinis are stringier.

Is this your normal? Are these the thoughts and experiences you deal with on a daily basis, at school? With your friends? Do you wonder why the clothes described above are not modest? And why modesty is such a big deal? What is modesty really? And what is the point?

You are in the middle of the struggle…

Now, some of you may be saying:

“Who is this woman and who gave her the authority to make these calls?”
“Why does she get to judge me, based on what I am wearing? She doesn’t know my life! Finding modest clothes can be IMPOSSIBLE!”

First, I am not here to judge you. I know the struggle is real! I feel your pain.

I am highly qualified to grumble with you ladies, because I can whine with the best of them. As a 5’ 10” woman with curvy hips and legs that seem to go on for a mile, finding a skirt or dress that hits close to my knees can be more challenging than running a marathon – and I have run two marathons.

In the middle of the search, we can be tempted to give up and give into thoughts of, “these booty shorts are fine, everyone else wears them. I will blend in,” or “this bandeau, under a sheer tank top is not scandalous, because it is summer and it’s what everyone is wearing,” or “I’m only wearing this bikini to beach week because I need to work on my tan lines.”

When we start to sacrifice modesty for trends or tan lines, we have lost sight of the bigger picture. I want to offer you a new way of looking at modesty.

You live in a broken world…

We live in a pornified culture. An over-sexualized culture reliant on images and immediate gratification. Our society gives us a distorted view of our bodies and their purpose. We tend to look at our body with an extreme lens, either hating it for it’s flaws and imperfections or worshiping and idolizing it, neither of which are healthy or holy. This distorted view of the body is the result of original sin.

The creation story in Genesis helps us understand the true beauty and inherent dignity of our bodies. Adam and Eve were created with, what John Paul II refers to as, Original Innocence. In his Theology of the Body he said, “they see and know each other with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates the fullness of the intimacy of persons” (TOB 13:1).

This means that they could look at each other and see the other as God the Father saw them. How would you like to look at a person and see them in all the glory and splendor that God the Father does? Pretty cool right?

You want to be seen…

Before the fall Adam and Eve, “were both naked, and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 RSV).

Because of our brokenness due to sin, it is necessary that we veil our bodies, in order that we may reveal our person with dignity. Because of the nature of sin, when we walk around dressed scandalously, people pay attention to the skin that is showing and not the person who is standing in front of them.

This speaks to one of our greatest desires – to be seen. Not to be superficially seen, but to be deeply seen, known and valued.

You are a mystery to be revealed…

The body should not be covered up because it is ugly, or because our nakedness is something to be ashamed of, no. We cover our bodies, we veil ourselves with clothing, to preserve the mystery of our human person that is only meant to be revealed in the context of a relationship that reflects the original relationship between God the Father and humanity.

We, especially as women, are a great treasure and mystery. Great mysteries are meant to be revealed, given the appropriate context. There is nothing mysterious about wearing immodest clothes, we have left nothing to the imagination. In fact when a man looks at a woman wearing very few or skin tight clothes, they see more of our body and less of us.

Dressing modestly protects our dignity and allows us to be truly “seen,” which honors and respects us as a daughter of the Most High King. I am not saying wear a full length burlap sack. Not at all! That would also not reflect the precious mystery that is to be revealed. There is a happy medium. Start with this website or this blog.

So go conquer that sale rack! Buy a new dress! But make it a reflection of the way God the Father carefully designed you.

There is so much power in the gift we have been given – our beauty – to glorify God the Almighty who created us.

Categories: FashionMy Culture

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Maddy Bernero

About the Author

I am a senior in college and I love talking about, thinking about and sharing my faith. I work full time as a Director of Religious Education for the Confirmation program and a Coordinator of Junior High Youth Ministry. I am slightly addicted to coffee and incense. My favorite thing in the world is a good liturgy. I absolutely love running marathons and half marathons. I am really good at tripping up stairs and I am afraid of standardized tests.