No visible panty lines

A faith-based organization named Pure Fashion pushes clothing that will help teenage girls "maintain their dignity as children of God."

Topics: Broadsheet, Fashion, Love and Sex,

Faithful Broadsheet readers might remember this post by Rebecca Traister about Bratz dolls-themed padded bras for 6-year-olds. Gross. But here’s something from the other extreme: A Web site called Pure Fashion that describes itself as “a faith-based program that encourages teen girls to live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God.” The organization trains “pure fashion models,” puts on fashion shows and helps parents find places where they can buy “appropriate” clothing for their daughters.

On the site, smiling teen girls walk runways wearing clothing that’s not too short, not too tight and not too sexually provocative. (Many of the V-neck dresses, for example, have a shirt underneath; one leaves just enough exposed skin to display a necklace with a large black cross.) These are, after all, examples of the “pure fashion model,” which the site defines as a young woman who is a “model of virtue, wholesome and happy, modest in her thoughts, words and actions, convinced of her dignity and acting accordingly, sincere and unselfish, generous and grateful, prudent in her decisions, kind and gentle with others, energetic and enthusiastic, stylish yet dignified, courageous in defending what is true and right, pure of heart, obedient to God’s commandments, committed to chastity, a follower of Christ, helpful at home, a leader of many and a servant to all, obedient and optimistic, proud to be PURE!”

As might be obvious, when I get worked up, I start quoting — and this site really gets me worked up. It’s not because I think the Britney Spears look is a style worth emulating — call me a prude, but I think there are certain times to show your underwear (or lack thereof) and those times are usually not in public. But when fashion and religion start to mix, I get creeped out, especially when the guidelines seem to be sartorial echoes of the virgin vs. whore ideal. “Stylish, yet dignified.” “A leader of many and a servant to all.” Girls are supposed be chaste and obedient while at the same time confident and put together — and should do all this without exposing their shoulders.



Actually, the site has a whole list of rules for how a pure fashion model should dress. Working off the premise that “our private parts should remain private” and “our bodies are holy and sacred and our clothing should not reveal what should be concealed” (and my personal favorite: “Virtue is the most important must have for every season”), Pure Fashion provides specific recommendations. For example, shirts’ necklines should not be more than 4 inches below the collarbone. Bra straps must not be visible beneath your clothes (if you can see them, the shirt is too tight). Tank tops shouldn’t be modeled without a jacket, sweater or shirt over them. No skintight tops, pants or skirts, no panty lines, no spaghetti straps. And if you think these make it sound like girls should just wear potato sacks, keep in mind that loose clothing can pose problems, too: “If the neckline droops from your body when you bend over, guess what everyone can see?” the site asks. “If the armpit is too loose, think about the view of the guy standing next to you — right to the inside!”

The tough thing to grapple with is that if you just looked at the photos of the girls on the site (minus the crosses and commentary), they wouldn’t be surprising. Many of the outfits are stylish without being revealing, and are good examples of outfits you could comfortably wear to the office without worrying about seeming too risqué. In other words, the clothing itself, minus the message, is an improvement over padded bras for prepubescent girls. But once these clothes become a matter of morality rather than choice — with the implication being that “purity,” as expressed by the opacity of your shirt, is the most important characteristic for young women to embody — I get worried. It’s a step back to a world where women were not only expected to be pure, obedient and chaste but had to look pure, obedient and chaste as well. As for the guys? Unsurprisingly, they’re not on Pure Fashion. Presumably, they can wear whatever the hell they want without worrying that their board shorts will make a comment about their morality.

I was originally alerted to Pure Fashion by this editorial in the Los Angeles Times by Anne K. Ream. It’s worth a read on its own, but I particularly agree with this point:

“Scratch the surface [of the modesty movement] and what’s supposed to be good for girls reveals itself to be all about the boys: dressing in a way that doesn’t over-excite them, demurring so that their manhood remains intact and holding tight to our sexuality until we find a husband who is worthy of that ultimate ‘prize.’

“What’s lost in this view of the world is the power of female desire: not just sexual and sartorial but professional and intellectual. There is something liberating about a girlhood (and womanhood) that is not lived solely in anticipation of, or in response to, a man.”

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and author of "101 Places Not to See Before You Die". She also runs a legally themed clothing shop called Illegal Briefs.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>