Modesty Culture and Your Gown: Let's talk Serena Williams, judgemental Grannies, and navigating it all

We need to have a talk about the people we love and the general public policing our style choices.  Unfortunately, many brides will have to navigate their way through some unsolicited opinions from loved ones.  Grandma may want you to be more "covered up".  Conversely, maybe your well-intentioned besties insist your look is "too frumpy" and "needs more skin".  You yourself even think the thought "I don't want to give the wrong idea..."


Here are my inalienable 3 laws regarding YOUR personal style, for the big day and everyday.


1. Dress to make yourself feel good.

It's the law that trumps all others, really. 
Self-expression, both within any given day and across your lifestyle, is such an opportunity.  For better or worse, much of our identity is often wrapped up in...well, the wrapping.  Might as well make your statement count.  Don't water yourself down for the sake of anyone else's comfort.  My favorite logic to share with brides-to-be is that your spouse has committed to you for the whole of who you are.  Your gown should be a celebration of your very essence.  You want to cue down-the-aisle tears?  Wear a look that reminds them exactly the woman you are.  

(Empowering women to own their authentic self-expression is sort of my life mission.  Read more .)



2. You deserve to feel safe (physically and emotionally) regardless of your attire.

You can literally go to either extreme on the spectrum of modesty and find people offended.  Creeps will always be despicable regardless of modesty, too.  (I hope there are no creeps on your guest list, at least!)  Your loved ones may reference their own moral code, but I trust that you fell in love with your gown based upon your own standards.  Those are sufficient.   I give you permission to accept or reject their input as you see fit.  

This means:
How white your dress is shouldn't mean more to Grandma than it does to you.
The amount of cleavage you show is up to you.
Whether you have your ceremony in a church is up to (the two of) you.
Going with a modest gown (lined sleeves, full back, etc) is up to you.

Opinions happen.  



3. The expectations for you shall be no less and no greater than that of your male counterparts.

So much of the problem with modesty in everyday life is in the double standard.  Men can be topless, but women can't even breastfeed without fear of judgement.  That's tired.  Refer again to rule #1.


In related news - 

Ever the professional, Williams quickly played down any notion of a spat with the French Tennis Federation after it's President deemed her recent (medically advantageous) catsuit inappropriate to their standards.  Then, without a word, she sent a strong message today, essentially a middle finger spoken with fashion.  At the US Open, she wore a Louis Vuitton/Nike tutu (seriously!) and showed she defines the game, regardless of what people have to say about her body.  

I mean, honestly, I think the woman just weaponized tulle.  

So, ladies - go forth and embrace your magnificence.  

Thank you to the incredible @virgilabloh

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Thank you to the incredible @virgilabloh

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

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1 comment

  • I want to weaponize tulle in MY life. How do I become SW???

    Christine Wright

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