Do you want to know what modesty looks like? Look at this image…
I’d like to offer another comparison of Modern Orthodox Jews to Modern Orthodox Christians. Modern Orthodox Jewish women follow Jewish modesty laws, but they do so in “normal” clothes readily available, just making sure that the items are modest. This blog is a good example. “Modern”, observant Orthodox Christian women dress modestly for church, as well, but in “normal” clothes. It’s very possible to be both stylish AND modest. In contrast, just as you can find more-“traditional” Orthodox Jewish women dressing very frumpily, so, too, you can find this amongst Orthodox Christians, especially the konvertsy. I have to stifle laughter when I see konvertsy women and their daughters dressed like prairie muffins with clothes right out of Little House on the Prairie. It’s an almost sure sign the family came from evangelical Protestant circles. Amongst the “normal” Orthodox circles I run in, I mostly see Orthodox women wearing their business clothes to church (skirt suit, dress, or blouse/sweater and skirt) with a scarf or little hat added for church head covering. Dresses/skirts are at the knee or a bit longer most of the time, although there’s nothing wrong with a longer skirt if one likes them.
The problem comes when an Orthodox Christian woman thinks that “modesty” means only skirts down to the floor, sleeves to the wrist only, and a head covering that resembles a repurposed large embroidered tablecloth or a Muslim woman’s head scarf. In fact, I’ve known Orthodox Christian women go to great lengths to buy clothes from stores that cater only to Muslim women. There’s something very off-kilter and wrong if Orthodox women think they need to look like Muslim women to be considered “modest”. What’s so wrong with these individuals (the women, and the men, including priests, who encourage this thinking) that they can’t go to church unless they wear so many clothes, even in the hottest summer weather, that only their face and hands are showing?
Hear, hear… modesty doesn’t mean ugliness or weirdness. Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, one of the closest confidants of HH, has voiced the same concerns many times over. He’s for modesty under all circumstances, but he’s also opposed to priests who collect claques of oddly-dressed women around themselves… that’s not Orthodox in the least. Fr Vsevolod is no modernist… but he’s no obscurantist, either. In another related instance, to show you how his windsock points, he’s reiterated the Church’s REAL teaching on artificial birth control, which is that it’s allowed via oikonomia. In like manner, he teaches the Church’s true position on modesty… that one shouldn’t dress in a sexually-provocative manner (that goes for ordinary life, as well as church-going). However, you don’t have to wear a shapeless burlap sack, nor do you have to cover your head with a feedbag with holes cut out for your eyes.
God gave us good-sense, didn’t He? It’s clear that plunging necklines, micro-minis, and camis worn alone aren’t kosher for church wear (or for ordinary dressy affairs, either). We need to be told that? That kind of thing is obvious even to children. As bad as it is when young people do such, what’s worse is when someone over forty wears such… in virtually all cases, it’s an absolute eyesore (we’ve all seen it, haven’t we?). We don’t need rules… let’s face it, we all KNOW what’s provocative and what’s not (if you don’t know that, boy, are you in trouble, hon). What we do need is good example, wouldn’t you agree?
What’s modest? Look at the image posted at the head of the article. Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral is with modestly-dressed women… they’re not in black, and they’re not frumps (do note that feminine trousers are kosher). Any questions?