a warm golden yellow, its existence makes me sad. I feel
that I need to do something to help, to at least free the
face. People should be allowed to have a mouth. But I
do nothing. “It is their own decision,” I am told. “
Respect their choice.” But I cannot respect it as a choice
because I am unable to view it as one. It is the way it
is because someone said it must be so, and the woman—that woman under there—is not in a position to
change things. Whenever I see a body moving beneath
a burqa, a heaviness descends and covers my soul. But
my sorrow is not just for her. I always worry about what
message the presence of the burqa sends to the little
girls around me. How do little girls interpret a woman
without a face?
Anyone reading me over the years knows that I come
down on the pro side of Spandex. I am a sucker for a
fitted bodice and vintage fifties. But I also adore over-
sized sweaters and long plaid skirts and any tunic in pale
yellow and silk. The right wool blend can melt my soul.
I put on a stuffy old suit, and energy courses through
my veins. If I’m in a zipper jacket and jeans, don’t let me
catch you bad mouthing a barista. But then again Laurel
Canyon Hippy and Brooklyn Chill are turning into my
new antidotes for life, and not because I want to hide
my curves under wide pants and long sleeves, not be-
cause I wish to protect myself from unwanted advances.
It is because I can feel the flow. There is a magic to the
tactile experience of gentle fabrics. Cotton can be my
posse. The same is true of cozy. Long live Eileen Fisher.
It isn’t about whether on any particular day I feel mod-
est or immodest, slutty or prim. My life is not bifurcated
that way. And although I use labels all the time, I hope I
can learn to avoid affixing them in a manner that leads
to the “good girl/bad girl” trap. Better to be specific.
Call a favorite style “Soft” or “Comfort” or “Confused
by Coffee.” Call it “Out for a Walk Under Orange and
Red Leaves,” “Home by the Fire with a Brand New
Book,” or “Ooohhh, I’m Asking for a Raise Today.” A
description like this may not carry as big of a marketing
bang, but at least the words may carry less baggage, are
less inclined to suggest, “If you aren’t with me, you’re
against me!” or “It’s all our fault, girls!”
Is the appropriate reaction to being sexually harassed,
not respected, not considered smart enough or brave
enough or serious enough or male enough, that fashion
offers a design trend that sends us all into hiding again?
No. I do not think that was the intent. I think the intent
was to reach an untapped market. The intent was sales.
Now the “Modesty” moniker is out there, blowing up,
but it is never too late to reflect on how intentions can
be misinterpreted or repurposed, diluted or hijacked.
The outfits we choose for comfort, for business, for
environmental protection, for theatrics, for solitude,
for deep dives and long excursions, for therapy, and
for happiness, we do not need to be so quick to label
them. Better we take the time to enjoy our clothing and
ourselves, and in the meantime, never stop looking for
ways to respect and protect each other, even when told
it is impossible. Share your insight. (I sure could use the
help.) Words have power, and so do we.
This page, top to bottom: Marc Jacobs in extra
wide, extra tough, extra red; Clueless will never
go out of style, plain and sheen from Versace,
image from Vogue