Is there such thing as a modest t-shirt?

July 16, 2007

7/16/2007

Modesty

One of my sons called from Salt Lake a week or so ago to tell me about a disturbing trend he was witnessing. Along I-15 there are many, many billboards. One of these billboards is for a company purporting to sell modest t-shirts to women. (Actually to teenaged girls and women who wish they were still teenagers) What? Modest t-shirts? What is that all about?Once upon a time, the t-shirt was a men’s undergarment. Nothing more. It served a very practical purpose to help keep men warm and to wick moisture away from the skin when they perspired. A man wearing only a t-shirt was “undressed” and a decent fellow wouldn’t be seen in public in only his undergarment. Now I’m not an expert on the history men’s clothing, but I was just old enough to witness the transformation of the t-shirt from a plain white undergarment to a casual outer garment, a marketing tool for all kinds of products and a method for disseminating every species of propaganda. It is also now, along with denim jeans, one of the most visible signs of the blurring of gender in American Society.Along came Madonna who knew that money and fame don’t necessarily go to the one with the most talent, (and she certainly wasn’t the one with the most talent in music) but to the one with the slickest marketing. She made wearing women’s undergarments in public very fashionable for girls. It also helped to confuse the males in the country. Ordinary girls dressed to look like Madonna also happened to look just like cheap hookers. And they got treated that way too.

But Hollywood loves it as does the pornography industry,  as the two are virtually indistinguishable today, so the fad did not pass and now the wearing of camisoles and braziers as the only outer garment top is standard in most movies where young women under the age of 25 or 30 appear. The entertainment industry picks up on the ugliest and stupidest trends in California or New York, amplifies it, and broadcasts it to the whole nation. It influences the popular culture far more than it is willing to admit.

Next came the baby t-shirt. Now this is really absurd. Companies making t-shirts with often obscene or demeaning slogans on them, junior sizes small, medium or large when they are really child sizes 6, 8, and 10. It’s not hard to figure the logic on these overpriced rags. They are sprayed on to leave absolutely nothing to the imagination and they are too short to cover the abdomen or back so as to reveal any pagan naval piercing and tattoos.

Which brings me back to the “modest t-shirts”. The complaint has been that girls and their mothers can’t find modest clothing off the rack. And they are right. It is frustrating to go shopping to find, for example, a dress. First of all, hardly anyone carries dresses. And when they do, the dresses have no sleeves, or the front is cut too low, or it has no back, or it’s too short or it has slits up to you -know-where. But let’s face it, most women don’t wear dresses anymore. Everyone wears trousers. Right?

We are told young women who have reason to be concerned about modesty are looking for t-shirts that are modest. But that’s not really what they are looking for. Because first you have to define modesty.

And I will say this. The t-shirts being promoted in Salt Lake City as “modest” are not modest at all. They are merely the same sprayed-on commodity that is being sold everywhere else except that these are a little longer so as to cover the abdomen and the back. And the women seeking these “modest t-shirts” are really seeking to look just like everyone else without the label of being immodest. And here is my point:

Modesty is not just covering skin. Would that it were that simple. A woman can cover her skin completely and still be very immodest. Among other things modesty is an attitude which leads to certain choices in how one acts and dresses. More next week.