The following is from Colleen Hammond’s book Dressing With Dignity.
Let’s Start with the Top
Is the blouse, shirt or top well designed? When shopping for a top, here are a few tips to keep in mind: First, try it on in front of a mirror and bend over. How far does the neckline drop away from your chest? Can you see down your top to your chest? Or, worse yet, your belly button?
If you can see down your shirt, then so can everyone else.
Fashion Tip: Do you have a shirt (or two) like this in your closet? This is easy to remedy! Wearing a camisole or T-shirt underneath this shirt will solve this problem. Also, an oblong scarf will fix the shirt so that you can wear it with comfort once again. Here is a fashionable idea that I learned in Paris a couple of years ago.
Take a scarf ( approximately 5 to 6 feet long and 4 to 12 inches wide ) and fold it in half lengthwise over your left wrist. With your right hand, grab the bottom of the two ends of the scarf. Hold the scarf horizontally in front of you. Now you have the scarf looped over your left wrist and stretched over to your right hand.
Keeping the scarf grasped in your right hand and looped over your left wrist, place the folded scarf across the back of your neck. Still keeping the scarf looped over your left wrist, take your left hand and reach around the front of your throat.
Grab the tail ends of the scarf that you are holding in your right hand. Now, pull the tail ends of the scarf through the loop that you have over your left wrist. Voila! This is an instant fix for your baggy-blouse dilemma. You can now wear your blouse and not worry about what may be seen when you bend over.
Second, when wearing a knit shirt, take your fingertips and press them into your shirt over your breastbone. When you take your hand away, does the shirt immediately spring back? If so, the shirt doesn’t work because it is too tight. (Well-endowed ladies need to be extra careful!)
Fashion Tip: Sorry, no fashion tips for this one. Get rid of this too-tight shirt.
Third, does the shirt button down the front? Stand sideways to the mirror and put your hands on your hips (like “chicken wings”). Now try to touch your elbows together behind your back. If the shirt is tight enough to cause a gap, you’re in danger of exposing too much— not to mention being in danger of losing a button and exposing even more!
Fashion Tip: Blouses and shirts that are too tight are unbecoming, especially for a lady who dresses with dignity. Ignore the “size” number, and go for a size or two larger to allow the shirt to be looser, and for you to be able to move freely. You can also wear a camisole (or if you can’t afford one right now, try a T-shirt) under the shirt. It’s important to make sure the camisole or T-shirt also passes the modesty test!
Fourth, does your neckline plunge down too low in the front? A shirt is not attractive or demure if it dips lower than two fingers’ width below your collarbone.
The shirt should also have sleeves that cover your shoulders and upper arms. Oh, and also make sure you’re not exposing your upper back.
Fashion Tip: Just like with the baggy shirt above, use an oblong fashion scarf. It will fill in the area below your collarbone left exposed by your shirt.
Fifth, reach up as if you’re getting something off the top shelf. Does that expose any back or belly skin? If so, then this shirt doesn’t work because it is too short.
Fashion Tip: Pull out that camisole again! Finally, does the top have any type of writing or message on it? A confident lady has the good taste not to use her bosom as a billboard. A top with a message doesn’t work. Ditch it.
Dresses and Skirts
How long? How short? Let’s just use the Vatican guidelines, which in practice would translate to about “two inches below the knee.” (Or go with Padre Pio’s requirement of eight inches below the knee!) Remember to check for coverage when sitting with your legs crossed too.
Does the skirt or dress have slits? Forget it! It’s better to forego altogether a skirt or dress with slits . If an outfit has a slit in it for “ease of movement,” then it’s probably too tight for comfort … or elegance ! And even if a slit goes only a short way up the skirt, it still attracts men’s eyes to your legs, which frustrates your efforts to be modest. Unless you can sew them up, slits are definitely out!
Fashion Tip: You can find long, flowing skirts almost anywhere today. A dignified lady keeps her kneecaps covered …even when she’s sitting. And don’t forget to wear a slip!
Tight, Clingy, Sheer
Can you see your undergarments, or undergarment lines? As mentioned earlier, dressing with dignity is about more than how much of our skin is showing … it’s also about how much of our feminine form is revealed.
Before you purchase something (or leave the house), take a good look at your outfit in a full-length mirror and look for these things:
How tight is it? Can you see any undergarment lines because of the outer clothing being too snug? How clingy is it? When you move around, does the garment flow freely away from your body, or does it cling and show your bra and panty lines, or too much of your feminine form? How transparent is it? Can you see your bra or panties through the material? Does any portion of your undergarments poke out from underneath your clothing and become visible for all to see?
If you can see an outline of your undergarments, then that item of clothing is too tight, too clingy, or too sheer.
Fashion Tip: Trash any clothing that is tight, clingy, or transparent. It’s immodest, undignified and just plain in bad taste.
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
My grandmother taught me a little ditty when I was a child, and I’ve passed it along to my daughter: “Head, shoulders , knees and toes!” My daughter added a second line and made it a poem. Before we buy anything, she says: “Head, shoulders, knees and toes. Doesn’t work? Then out it goes!”
How can you apply this? Put your hands on your head. Does the skin around your waist show (stomach or back)?
Put your hands on your shoulders. Are your shoulders still covered? Check your neckline, too, and make sure it isn’t too low. Bend over and put your hands on your knees. Does your dress or shirt hang open and away from your body? (This needs to be fixed, or change the garment!)
Does your clothing cover your knees? If so, then you probably don’t have to worry about showing something you don’t want to. Bend down and touch your toes. Does your back show? If you can pass the head-shoulders-knees-and-toes test, congratulations! You are now developing a style all your own— and dressing with dignity!
Visit Colleen’s website: http://www.colleenhammond.com/