My mother always told me that modesty was in the attitude, not in the apparel.
Our church group told us that modesty was a formula. No skirts that don’t meet the finger tests. No shirts that show cleavage. (If taken literally I could go topless and my cousins had to wear turtlenecks.)
Every church camp we got the modesty talk. The message was clear- “females are responsible for the thought sins of the males. Unless you cover up your evil body you cause someone to stumble.”
The rules were posted on the door of the girls dorm complete with verses so that when we left we were aware that modesty was good, vanity was bad, and the best way to show respect to our ‘brothers’ was to cover up.
This was reinforced by watching the older girls worry about the length of their skirts. By the disapproving looks and caustic remarks of the older ladies. And by the preachers telling us during church about their struggles with lust and calling for a return to modesty. Other girls simply called them perverts but I took it as my fault.
I dressed modestly out of fear. I was afraid of causing others to sin. I was afraid of disapproval from the older people. And I was afraid of showing my imperfect sinful body.
After the nudist camp I am less afraid to show my imperfect body. All bodies are looking more beautiful.
I’m getting less afraid of others approval or disapproval.
I am no longer afraid of causing others to sin. It is their own choice. A pastor’s wife I know was talking about how angry her husband gets when women dress to ‘tempt him’. As if it were a personal attack on his purity. ha. That seems a little conceited, actually.
In my experience, what makes the difference what is going on in the head of the guy looking at me that . I’ve felt dirty from looks given to me when I’ve been more covered up than others around me. I’ve felt completely respected when stark naked.
There are many ways to signal sexual availability, but just owning breasts is not one of them.
My mother was right.