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Mediating Modesty: Discussions

15 June 11

To listen to other presentations and discussions at the symposium, use the links on this and linked pages. Click here for the introduction to the symposium as a whole.



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The audience was invited to join in making comments and putting questions to the speakers following each session of the symposium.

>    For technical reasons the quality of the recorded sound is variable, and poorer than in the main conference addresses

Session One

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Chaired by Frances Corner.

Panellists: Reina Lewis, Annelies Moors

Discussion and comments covered issues including the representation of modesty in pictures, questions of sexualisation in imagery and modelling, authenticity in the context of modesty blogging, the relationship of modest dress retailing to the fashion mainstream, the geographical locations and cultural contexts of online modest webstores, the special case of prohibition in France, observations from a  women’s inter-faith standpoint, and underlying questions of the history of fashion in faith contexts.

Session Two

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Chaired by Sarah Cheang.

Panellists: Emma Tarlo, Barbara Goldman Carrel

The first question is put by Reina Lewis, asking how mainstream fashion demands and offerings relate to the specialist needs of specific groups such as Hasidic Jews.  Discussion then ranges over whether men as well as women look to be stylish within the codes prescribed by religion; other gender implications implicit in the language surrounding modest dress; the use of the term “sub-cultural” in the context of modest fashion; gradations of strictness of observance within conservative strands of a faith; orthodoxy’s relationship with modernity.

Session Three

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Chaired by Iain Scobie.

Panellists: Jane Cameron, Daniel Miller

Discussion began with a question and comment regarding the names of some of the websites on which modest fashion is discussed, and the sexualisation implicit in names and depictions. Further discussion revolved around the geographical specifics of the wearing of denim; alternative interpretations of the significance of denim, especially as seen from religious perspectives; other concerns regarding religious requirements, such as Jewish religious law about cloth.  The discussion broadened from denim alone, to include the different kinds of dress used in the privacy of the home; questions of colour in fashion, especially black, and whether religious choice has affected the mainstream;  the combination of different items of clothing to achieve modesty while still signalling being fashionable.  Feminist perspectives were discussed again, including the availability in the mainstream of clothing meeting dress codes for men, and the inclusion on websites of models wearing items of clothing which would be covered if worn in public. 

Session Four

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Chaired by Linda Woodhead.

Panellists: Shellie Slade, Hana Tajima-Simpson, Reina Lewis

Linda Woodhead began by asking whether the speakers’ personal beliefs had made a difference to their enterprises.  Discussion then covered the crossover of faith backgrounds in customers using these sites; the styles of modelling used to portray fashion items; the use of social networking and blogs as complementary forms of commercial web presence; more on the partnership with mainstream retailing outlets; distinctions between sexiness and beauty; sexuality as expressed in the public and private domains; and the wearing of religiously modest clothing as a form of moral declaration.

At the end of each session the speakers responded to comments and questions from the audience. Follow this link to listen to the discussion following this presentation.

Report and podcasts compiled by Norman Winter. Recordings of the symposium sessions are substantially complete, but may have been edited in small ways for technical and other reasons.

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