Years ago, while standing in a business adviser’s office, I was told to change the way I dressed. My adviser said that in order for anyone to take me seriously as an entrepreneur, I was going to have to change everything from the colors I wore to the shapes of the clothing I wore. She handed me the card of a woman who could give me a makeover and sent me on my way.
My style is eclectic. I’m usually in long flowing skirts or maxi dresses. I feel more comfortable in a Bohemian-style than anything else. And apparently, even in the professional world, that wasn’t feminine enough. Of course, women should dress professionally in professional settings, but the way we judge women’s clothing choices isn’t just about how professional we look. If we show the slightest bit of cleavage, we’re assumed to be promiscuous. If we wear more modest clothing, we’re thought to lack self-confidence.
The particular stylist I saw suggested that I wear form-fitting dresses and skirts. She suggested I wear heals to bring attention to my legs. She suggested I wear tops with a V-neck to even out my body proportions. But none of this was natural to me. I knew there was a way to dress professionally without having to call attention to my legs or my cleavage or my form. And I was right.
In fact, there’s a whole website dedicated to it. Zahra Aljabri started Mode-Sty to sell more conservative clothes that still keep up with fashion trends. Because let’s face it, we shouldn’t have to show skin in order to be trendy and especially not when we want to get ahead professionally. Just a few clicks around Mode-Sty and you’ll see just how possible it is to dress fashionable (even sexy if you want to) without succumbing to low necklines and skin-tight dresses if you don’t want to.
Actress Mayim Bialik is also well known for being vocal about her modest fashion taste. She’s often criticized for showing too little on red carpets and critics have called her dresses shapeless. However, to Bialik, dressing modestly is about staying aligned with her values. It’s not about being afraid of her sexuality or feeling repressed, something people often like to say about us modest dressers.
I was recently inspired by a quote from Zahra Aljabri in which she talks about how she believes it takes fortitude to go against culture and consciously dressing means we believe in everything we wear, which is very similar to how Bialik views her fashion choices. Aljabri was also this year’s BlogHer16 The Pitch winner, which means she scored $50,000 from GoDaddy to grow her business. Obviously, it pays to be yourself even if that means going against the grain.
So rather than celebrating a woman when she’s flaunting her figure with plunging necklines or dresses with slits up to the hip, we should be celebrating a woman for loving who she is regardless of what she is wearing.
As a curvy woman to begin with, it’s difficult to find clothing that I feel confident, sexy and comfortable in. But when I’m in love with a piece of clothing, I feel radiant. And that, to me, is what being sexy is all about. Believing in what we wear means we believe in who we are.