There is a catch phrase which for awhile I loved, but now sits unwell with me: “modest is hottest.” Well, if it is hottest, doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of being modest? Doesn’t acknowledging it on that level take away some of the inherent subtlety of modesty, in the grand scheme of things?
Tzniut, the Hebrew word for modesty tends to be most commonly translated about modesty in reference to clothing. I think defining it down on this level does an injustice to tzniut and people who uphold the ideal of modesty. Oh, and by the way, tzniut is just as much an issue for men as for women, though that often gets ignored!
Modesty is more than just dressing in a certain way. We all know people who purport to dress modestly, but wear clothing so tight, bold, or flashy that it is evident that the last thing on that persons mind when they got dressed was tzniut. Meanwhile, there are many people who do not meet various communties standards for tzniut but are clearly more modest than their flashy counterparts. So where do we draw the line? Who gets to decide what is or is not tzniut?
Personally, I believe that the most important component of tzniut is how we carry ourselves, not how we dress ourselves. Holding your head high with confidence, without boasting. Being a good person and friend, without advertising that you feel you are such. Lending a hand when needed, without making a big show about how helpful you are. That is the inner-modesty which is so much more valuable in today’s society. While how we dress should reflect the person we are on the inside, should a woman’s skirt length be more important that living a modest life?
I seem to endlessly find myself talking (ok, writing) in circles on this topic as it is so frustrating and mind-flustering to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the important components of tzniut and modest being hottest.