I’m practically giddy about having just discovered the podcasts from
a symposium held this past June at the London College of Fashion called, “Mediating Modesty: Fashioning Faithful Bodies.”
The list of speakers include powerhouse transnational feminist scholars like Emma Tarlo, Reina Lewis, Annelies Moors – just for a start.
I don’t have comments about the talks yet as I’m just beginning to listen to them – but seven minutes into Lewis’ talk: LOVING. IT. (I tried to upload the podcasts here but WordPress isn’t having it. You can easily download and save the podcasts from the Religion & Society website. I’d recommend doing so since websites tend to change!)
The list of speakers and (sometimes abbreviated) descriptions of their talks below:
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Reina Lewis (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London)
Fashion Forward and Faith-tastic! online modest fashion and the development of women as religious interpreters and intermediaries
Lewis describes and analyses, with examples drawn from representative modest fashion online retailers and modest fashion bloggers, the growing market in internet retail of modest fashion, and the online commentary accompanying it.
Annelies Moors (University of Amsterdam)
Mediating Muslim Modesty Online
Researching Islamic fashion online, modesty is likely to be the most common term one encounters. The slogans webstores employ to brand themselves often include references to modesty. Yet the meaning of this term is far from unidimensional. On the contrary, this particular concept is polysemic, ambiguous and sometimes highly contested. It is not only through verbal debate, but also by means of visual imagery that claims to modesty are presented and particular publics are shaped. The visual imagery displayed may well stand in a tense relation to common-sense notions of modesty. In this contribution, I intend to untangle the investment of particular actors in modesty as a concept and sartorial practice and to investigate what kinds of work this term does.
Emma Tarlo (Goldsmiths, London)
Meeting in Modesty? Jewish-Muslim encounters online
This paper sets out to investigate to what extent the notion of modest fashion as promoted online is operating as a new meeting point for religiously oriented Jewish and Muslim women keen to assert their modesty, identity and faith through dress. It examines the different channels and forms of interfaith engagement enabled through the online marketing, discussion and transmission of fashions as modest. It asks what these moments of interfaith engagement tell us about the points of convergence between Muslim and Jewish ideas of modesty? To what extent are similarities in understandings of modesty recognised and encouraged? To what extent are feelings of sympathy and identification stimulated through the process of online interaction itself or through shared appreciation of particular products and tastes?
Barbara Goldman Carrel (Associate Adjunct Professor, The City University of New York)
Hasidic Women’s Fashion Aesthetic and Practice: The Long and Short of Tzniuth
For the Hasidic woman, the tension between wanting to be fashionably dressed yet appropriately modest and markedly Hasidic is precisely what engenders their distinctive mode of fashion and clothing practice. This tension guides Hasidic women’s aesthetic choices and serves as a constantly fluctuating symbolic solution in the face of the American fashion system’s indecent merchandise. I will explore not only which mass-produced elements of dominant American-style fashion are preferred by Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jewish women, but also the ways in which these fashion elements are appropriated, both physically and ideologically, towards the construction of their own female Hasidic aesthetic distinction in opposition to the fashion displays of dominant American culture. A discourse of royalty is shown to promote the Hasidic woman’s style distinction both on the streets and online.
Jane Cameron (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London)
Modest Motivations: Religious/secular contestation in the fashion field
The internet has provided a medium through which women with the desire to dress fashionably yet compatibly with their religious beliefs can freely express, discuss and debate fashion and ideas of modesty. This paper discusses the method of entering the ‘virtual field’ as a non-participant observer and highlights the discourses taking place within fora and modest fashion blogs that expose divergences in perceived communal ideas linking modesty, dress and religion. This paper asks to what extent is modest fashion as a topic of debate and a trend marketed online considered the preserve of the religious by those both within and without religious spheres? What questions are raised when an ideology or concept such as ‘modest fashion’ is discussed or studied in terms of being religious or secular?
Daniel Miller (University College London)
How Blue Jeans Became Modest
Blue Jeans represent a paradox with respect to the project on modest fashion. On the one hand there are many examples of religious organisations such as ultra orthodox Jews banning blue denim as immodest, and yet I will argue they have today a greater capacity for modesty in the sense of self-effacement than any other garment in the world. As such they draw attention to two very different meanings of the word modesty. One concerns the exposure of the female body and the other concerns invisibility. In this case the two meanings may actually contradict each other. The capacity for modesty that I am concerned with is not intrinsic to blue jeans, it can only be understood by looking at the way blue jeans have changed in their meaning and significance over the last twenty years. I will argue on the basis of a recent ethnography that in London today they have developed this unique capacity for modesty and try and explain both how and why this is the case.