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Mediating Modesty: Jane Cameron

15 June 11

Jane Cameron: Modest Motivations: Religious and secular contestation in the fashion field

London College of Fashion, 15th June 2011

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Profile: Jane Cameron is a researcher at the London College of Fashion. She has research interests in the role of material culture in the study of “religion” and the use of visual methodologies.

Abstract: 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.

"I have hijab envy!" Discussion comment by ‘Another Catholic’ on thehijablog.wordpress.com

In various Christian fora participants share their understanding of modesty as it is manifested in dress and discuss their reasons for dressing modestly. A number of individuals explicitly state that because they are Christian they and the wider Christian community have a duty to dress modestly and should adhere to guidelines governing how much of the body should be covered. At the same time others, while identifying themselves as Christian, contest that modest dress for them is not a Christian or religious matter. Issues of practicality, body image and management are given as reasons for choosing to dress modestly and ‘how modestly’ one dresses. The ensuing debates draw attention to issues relating to individual and community regulation and representation, and what actually constitutes modest dress.

"I find 'modesty' to be a very difficult concept .... because when I see other people talking about modesty it always does seem to relate to standards imposed on women from outside." Discussion comment on www.oranges-and-apples.com

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?

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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