Why Modest ISN’T Hottest – Part 1
A Frank Commentary on Why I Hate The Term
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “modest is hottest.” I was still taking the missionary lessons and the elders had been trying, in their sincere but fumbling way, to explain the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s modesty standards.
Having a discussion with any`one (besides perhaps your parents) about what parts of you need to be covered up is awkward, but at the time I was 23 and the elders 19 and 20 and, as we delicately tried to discuss the Church’s standards, there were so many euphemisms flying left and right it would take me YEARS to understand exactly what modesty meant as a Latter-day Saint.
I had just begin to get the gist of things when I was sitting in Sacrament, waiting to give a talk, next to our Stake President. When standing, my dress hit about knee-length. When sitting… well, let’s just say it was quite a bit higher. I was so thankful that at least I had dark nylons on.
During my meandering course in figuring out modesty, the words “modest is hottest” stuck in my head. I’ll give whoever coined the phrase this: at least it’s catchy.
My first LDS boyfriend tried to help get me on board with the concept of Church-approved modesty by just telling me, “modest is hottest.” Modest is hottest. Over and over again. Well, if he thought it was hot… I was still scratching my head over the concept, but at least he seemed happy.
Fast forward a few months… we went from talking about being sealed in the temple to his confession that he had battled a pornography addiction for about a decade. I was crushed on so many fronts, but I felt betrayed in the fact that he had tried to convince me something was hot when it was clearly, at least, to him, NOT. I never looked, but I’m pretty sure none of the center-folds or websites he visited featured women in maxi skirts and cap-sleeved tees.
As women, we want to be beautiful. We want to be desired for our inner and outer beauty. And that’s just fine. In fact, it’s more than fine; it’s part of the way God designed men and women to work. After the Fall in the Garden of Eden, as part of Eve’s punishment, the Lord declared to her: thy desire shall be to thy husband (Genesis 3:16).
How clearly apparent is that truth? As women, one of our greatest driving forces is to be loved and admired. We desire the adoration of a husband. In the (slightly altered) words of Cheap Trick:
We want you to want us
We need you need us
Yeah, we’d love for you to love us.
Part of how that happens (in no small part to how visually wired men are) is that we as women cultivate our outer beauty. Don’t get me wrong – inner beauty should always be the priority, for, as Proverbs 31 reminds us, beauty is fleeting and a woman of great value is one who has cultivated the beauty of her inner self through industry, kindness, creativity, innovation, etc.
Trying to ignore our outer beauty and simply writing it off as shallow and vain, though, is (in my opinion) an affront to a God who is so clearly aesthetically minded. Anyone who has seen a beautiful sunset or stopped to observe the wealth of beauty in spring flowers will recognize this without a doubt. God created a beautiful universe. He created beauty all around us. He created beauty in his daughters. Should we not care for ourselves and tend our beauty just as we would tend and care for any other gift of beauty from our Heavenly Father?
(photograph courtesy of bpease photo)
So where’s the balance between inner and outer beauty, and where are safe parameters for embracing our beauty and modesty whilst disregarding the faulty notion that modest is hottest? Hold tight for Part 2 of Why Modest ISNT Hottest!