Pure Fashion: It’s Complicated

If you have read Wendy Shalit’s new book, Girls Gone Mild, you will know something about the national program, Pure Fashion. Some mothers got together several years ago to train their daughters in how to choose modest clothing and then put on a fashion show. It grew from there. The young ladies (high-school age) go through a 7 month program to learn all about being a (role) model.

Their modesty guidelines are quite extensive. Here is a sampling:


  • should not be too tight, especially in the seat or the thigh area
  • should fit well, but not be “skin-tight”, you should be able to pull them away from the leg
  • shorts should be modest – no very short and/or tight shorts; if you put your arms down straight at the side, and the bottom of the shorts is higher than your longest finger, then the shorts are too short. (Remember, we will be on an elevated runway and everything will look a bit shorter to the audience.)
  • make sure there are no “panty lines” on stage. If necessary, wear pantyhose or a “thigh shaper” to hold everything in and create a smooth appearance in your clothing.

Wow. How is one supposed to find a pair of pants that isn’t tight in the thigh or seat area? Of course, they cover how to choose skirts (must be no shorter than 4 finger widths above the knee) or sleeveless tops (3 finger widths across the shoulder) or necklines (again, no deeper than 4 finger widths below the collar bones). I think I need to lie down, my head is spinning!

There are much easier ways to set modesty standards. I think these rules are too complicated and too easy to fudge. What I would do is take these girls to a super Goodwill to get some really unique stuff! Knees covered from all angles, no booty showing, sleeves, no worries about counting finger widths.

What do you all think about the Pure Fashion concept? Is it really teaching Christian girls to be shame-faced, sober, gentle, and humble? Or is it showing girls they can be admired for their looks and feel goody-two-shoes about wearing a couple more inches of cloth?

[P.S.- Wendy has a new, new book coming out this summer: The Good Girl Revolution!]


15 Responses to “Pure Fashion: It’s Complicated”

  1. 1 Alana May 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I think it’s too complicated and ridiculous. I don’t think anyone looks very dignified or modest in shorts of any sort, and no matter how long they are, they ride up when you sit down.

    Having said that…my girls do wear shorts around the house and in the yard, and I’m not near as anal about their clothes as I am about mine. Unless we are going to Church, then ‘ morph into the nagging old Babushka with the headscarf and the cane. ;-). And I expect them to be dressed right and well-covered.

    What I do work hard on, is cultivating a spirit of modesty and chastity in them (including my son, who can hardly stand to be shirtless, which is good). We’ve had a few rather embarrassing events of loud in-public comments on other people’s lack of clothing which has made me warn the kids repeatedly not to say anything about other people when we are out and about.

  2. 2 Alana May 13, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I wonder: I’m thinking back on my teenage years (1980’s) and “modesty” as such was never an issue that entered into my brain, although I never dressed “immodestly”. Is it that today’s standards of dress have deteriorated to the extent that we need to care more about it, or was it just off my radar screen because I was too obsessed with my physical imperfections and supposed weight problem that I didn’t dare be “sexy” and the problem took care of itself?

    But I also wonder if an obsession with one’s weight or appearance isn’t also a form of immodesty if the object of getting to desirable weight is to be more attractive to boys/men? (I”m not at all saying that paying attention to good health is a bad thing…)

    On the flip side, I wonder if the current obesity epidemic is not in part fueled by this cultural “bare it all” mentality and women want/need to hide behind something, anything, even body fat, subconsciously? I’ve probably said this before. What is your take on that?

  3. 3 Amber Lee May 13, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Eh, I work in the middle of the woods on the weekends. So I wear shorts all the time. They tend to be young men shorts though, so they fit at my waist and go down to my knees. Cargo-y, like. I ride a bike to work on sunny, warm days, so I need shorts for then, too.

    As a runnerf or my college, my brain shifted if you put running shoes on me. I have worn “bunhuggers” (bathing suit type bottoms.” If I’m racing, thought about my body go completely out the window. If I can feel clothing, I become agitated. This was probably our most “covering” ——-> http://www.milliganbuffs.com/cc/sycshoals.jpg

    It’s not like we’re wandering around checking each other out, though. We’re busy.

    I think of these things when I think of different cultures. I was brought up on nude beaches. I would never go to a nude beach here though, because Americans view the body so differently.

    That’s my ramble

  4. 4 Amber Lee May 13, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    oh ps
    I looked at their rules.
    I like dressing grungy, thank you very much, Pure Fashion. Nirvana and I are good friends.
    I don’t have to wear a bra if I don’t want to. My cami’s do just fine!

  5. 5 cbrunette May 13, 2008 at 3:02 pm


    Babushka indeed! 🙂

    On the fat-as-modesty…huh, never thought of it that way. There are plenty of girls around here with muffin tops who seem to be blissfully aware of it.


  6. 6 Rachel May 13, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    My cousin Drew participated in Pure Fashion before she made her confirmation. She loved it and it helped (along with other things) to change her life. The show is not just about the rules of modesty, it’s about learning to be modest on the inside as well. They teach the girls lessons on how modesty affects them through their whole lives. The clothing dress requirements are more for the fashion show part of the event because the girls get the clothing on their own and they want to make sure that they cover every style, fabric material, garmet type, etc that exsists. I think that if the Catholic Church (since the group is a Catholic organization)would put specific dress requirements in place, then the organization would have a much easier time creating rules. I also believe that the ever changing styles and designs of fashion in society makes it hard for them to keep up.

  7. 7 cbrunette May 13, 2008 at 6:07 pm


    I honestly hadn’t noticed that Pure Fashion was a Catholic -generated group until you pointed it out! Thanks for the input. 🙂 I agree that having mentoring and guidance can be life-changing.


  8. 8 Dawn May 14, 2008 at 3:47 am

    I love what you said…

    “What I would do is take these girls to a super Goodwill to get some really unique stuff! Knees covered from all angles, no booty showing, sleeves, no worries about counting finger widths.”


    Also many people seem to forget or don’t know…modest clothing websites are really booming now.
    It bothers me when I read blogs about how they can’t find anything modest for themselves or their children.
    Yes. Goodwill is the place to start. That’s where I went once the Lord called me to modesty and filled up my closet with ankle length skirts and dresses.
    But really, if one can’t find anything in town, duh…the Internet has all kinds of modest clothing to look at.
    Just Google that word ‘modest clothing’ and all kinds of sites pop up.
    We don’t live under a rock….lol. The resources are availiable to us, we just have to search them out.

    Bless you,

  9. 9 alana May 14, 2008 at 7:41 am

    What kills me is that “Christian modest clothing” and calico prairie dresses still seem to be synonymous.

  10. 10 cbrunette May 14, 2008 at 8:22 am


    Yeah, there is that deeply ingrained *cultural* understanding that modest feminine clothing = prairie dress here in Western lands. The bruhaha over the Texas FLDS ladies proves the point. [Though I think their dresses were well-suited for women of all sizes.] We have to work just a little harder to show there is variety of choices for women who may not necessarily want or able to wear the cape dress option.

    Covered, God-honoring clothing can be as beautiful as all the tribes who will call on His name in the last day.


  11. 11 karen May 14, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    kinda off the subject-Miley Cyrus (my neice loves her) did an interview when she talked about how she liked being modest etc and she had a T-shirt that says “Modesty rocks”
    She may be more modest then other young stars (excl. the backless photos) but Sorry these (and lots others) aren’t modest. (Esp. for 15/16 yr old)

    We can use some REAL Modesty not this fake celebrity modesty or the rules, rules rules version. (which BTW, doesn’t seem modest to me, comparatively it’s OK tho)

  12. 12 amberpeace May 15, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I’ll admit it. When I think of women who are pushing for “christian modesty” I think of calico dresses. I also think of the Church of God couples meandering the mall

    Ooo, sudden memory!
    I went shopping one Black Friday. I remember seeing a large calico-dress dressed family standing right beside a gaggle of very obviously gay men, both groups looking over some bedding. I had to giggle at the juxtoposition and I wanted a camera.

  13. 13 Melinda May 15, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I’m not a fan of the “wear a padded bra” rule being presented as “modesty.”

  14. 14 emily September 3, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Ok, so here’s the deal. Modesty is not really about how much or how little skin is showing. Ultimately, it is about teaching girls to respect themselves, and what they can do to encourage others to respect them as well. There will always be creepy men out there and ogling guys in their classes who will have all sorts of fantasies…but, the girls themselves can dress in a manner that will gain respect from the majority. And it feels GOOD to be respected! I don’t really have a problem with Pure’s guidelines in shopping for clothes for the fashion show–and honestly, I think they are pretty great. They are making an effort to give concrete advice on how to tell if something is too short, tight, ect–while not eliminating all clothing or asking girls to wear “calico dresses” that their already over-worked mothers would have to slave over for them! They can go into a store, try on a pair of shorts, and decide if it’s too short on them–because not all legs are the same length–I think the finger rule is good. On a shorter girl, the same short might be just find, but a girl with longer legs will have to find longer shorts…it makes sense to me!

  15. 15 Sam September 21, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve modeled for pure fashion for many years now.
    Pure fashion makes a huge emphasis that modest doesn’t equal frumpy. The point is that women are created beautifully and with dignity and they should dress in a way that shows it. That means wearing things that look beautiful (aka fun, cute, fit well, etc) on them without compromising their dignity.

    Also, pure fashion makes the point that different clothes are appropraite times. There is no problem wearing shorts if you’re working outside, or camis if your watching a movie at home. They just don’t belong at work meetings, church, and the like. These guidlines are created for the setting of a modesty fashion show and so they are a little more strict than what’s usually appropriate in most settings, but since the clothes are being presented as modest, for the show they for sure have to be.

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"I can't say I don't believe in your God, but I don't believe He meant the world to be as it is." ~Nicholas Higgins. North and South.

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