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Make it Modest – 7 Conservative Essentials : Closet Charm

“Show it all” isn’t the best policy when attending a church wedding or meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time. On some occasions, the classiest look is one that’s a bit more covered up.

Unfortunately, clothing designers don’t always seem to understand the need for beautiful yet conservative clothing. Plunging necklines and off-the shoulder dresses are the most common in formal wear. “Little black dresses” are often “very, very little black dresses.” Sometimes the only pieces that are modest look like flour sacks.

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between modesty and gorgeous clothes. There are a several wardrobe pieces that will let you wear just about anything in any situation. (Well, maybe that leather miniskirt won’t make the cut…)

Here are my top picks…

Camisoles (Tank Tops)

down-east-basics-tank.jpgA simple tank top can be worn under a blouse or dress to neutralize plunging necklines and cover exposed stomachs. With casual wear, I prefer longer tanks that make it impossible for my back or underwear to show when I bend over. Down East Basics makes some sturdy longer tanks that are flattering as undershirts (although a little tight to be worn on their own). Underneath dresses, I prefer Hanes nylon tanks. They’re lightweight and the fabric looks more formal. Keep in mind that tank tops don’t work with every dress. If the dress is tight, the tank top lines will awkwardly show. When worn correctly, people shouldn’t notice that you’re even wearing a tank…it should just blend in with your ensemble. (Photo: DownEastBasics.com)

Tube Tops

Like the tank, a tube top can be worn underneath shirts and dresses with low necklines. The tube top is often the bettertube-top-forever-21.jpg choice when the shirt/dress is tighter and would show the outline of the tank top. You can pick up a cheap tube top at Forever21 or most young adult oriented stores. But beware of the two tube top dangers: the falling fabric and the uni-boob. Having to adjust your tube top every few minutes is annoying – both to yourself and those around you. Avoid this by choosing a tube top that feels just a bit too tight (sorry – it’s the only way!). Try it on with different pieces ahead of time to make sure it doesn’t give you the uni-boob look. A little singularity is unavoidable but your chest shouldn’t look alien. (Photo: Forever21.com)


jcrew-cardigan.jpgA classic cardigan can be thrown over a t-shirt, worn with a tank, or added to a dress. Choose one in a neutral color and you’ll find it indispensable. JCrew sells some extremely well-made cardigans throughout the year. However, this is a piece you can pick up just about anywhere. If a youthful look is important to you, go for slight v-neck cardigans and avoid extremely high necklines paired with ribbed material. If you do chose a cardigan with a high round neckline, wear it with the first 1-2 buttons undone. (Photo: JCrew.com)

Short Sleeve Jackets

A short sleeve jacket is a lifesaver during wedding season. A fitted jacket in the right material will look great with just aboutforever21-short-sleeve-jacket.jpg any dress or blouse. These are perfect for churches where sleeveless dresses are inappropriate. You can throw a short sleeve jacket over a tank top for a quick way to add a “touch of class” to your look. They also let you restyle your weekend dresses into perfectly acceptable office wear. Short sleeve jackets are made in a variety of styles and fabrics. I’d suggest buying one with 1-3 buttons that falls just past your hips and one that has a front tie. Unfortunately, they can be rather difficult to find. I’ve found some of my favorites in the clothing store Vanity (which has locations in about half of the states). You can also try Forever21, Ann Taylor, or Express. (Photo: Forever21.com)

nordstrom-bolero.jpgBolero Jackets

Boleros (sometimes called shrugs) are cropped jackets that either tie in the front, lay open, or have a single button. These tend to be more formal and work well with evening gowns. Sometimes, these come with a dress or skirt set. But, you can also purchase them separately. For a less formal look, you can sometimes buy boleros in casual fabrics such as cotton or knit. Bolero jackets tend to be a seasonal item, with greater availability in the winter. Good stores to start include Nordstrom and Ann Taylor. (Photo: Nordstrom.com)

skirt-extender-vintage-hem.jpgSkirt Extenders

For those skirts that are just a bit too short, you can now purchase skirt extenders that add another 2-inches or so of length. Wear them under your skirt and they will add another layer of ruffles, silk, or tulle. Obviously, these extenders don’t work with every dress / skirt. But, with some they can appear quite charming. These are hard to find in stores. I’d suggest starting with VintageHem.com or ShadeClothing.com. (Photo: VintageHem.com)

target-coverup.jpgPool Cover Ups

Everyone needs a little something to throw on while lounging poolside. I’d suggest a simple, lightweight dress or a long flowing skirt. It’s acceptable to have a cover up that’s a bit see through, but you should always avoid pieces that are made of knots and holes (these are just tacky). Pool cover ups can be purchased just about anywhere during the late spring / early summer season. I’ve found some great ones at Target. But, you might also want to try JCrew, Nordstrom, or even Victoria’s Secret. (Photo: Target.com)

More Modesty?

These 7 basics let me wear just about anything, anywhere I’m planning to go. I can make a spaghetti strap dress appropriate for work, wear my little black dress to a church wedding, or feel appropriate (but still look good) when lounging by the pool. These pieces let me feel classy and prepared to take on any situation. They also add a lot of versatility to my closet.

If you want to check out more modest (but not frumpy) resources, take a look at The Modesty List or the new modest fashion magazine Eliza.

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5 Responses to “Make it Modest – 7 Conservative Essentials”

  1. SarahMonk on March 15th, 2008 2:18 am

    Thanks for the list – Now maybe I can wear some of my clothes to family functions without getting picked on, haha.

  2. Lisa on March 15th, 2008 2:21 am

    I think that covering up a little becomes particularly important when you’re my age (30+). Especially in office situations, I find pieces like fitted jackets really help.

  3. Mary on March 15th, 2008 7:44 am

    Great ideas! Have you found a good place to buy one piece swimwear that’s not ‘old lady’ style?

  4. admin on March 15th, 2008 11:36 am

    Mary – yes, actually. I’ve found a few really cute one pieces this year…I’ll probably put together a post about that sometime this week!

  5. Ryan on May 16th, 2008 9:28 am

    If you want to buy cheap wedding dresses, also request the highest quality, there is best website to go http://www.kanaccasbridal.com/
    There are many discount wedding dresses, if you don’t have time to wait t the dress, the discount dresses is your best choice, they can ship the dress to you in 7 days,they also offer custom-made dresses!
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    If you can’t find your party dream dresses now, just go their website and pick your dream prom dresses!

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    Forget the fashion shows, give me style advice I can actually use. I don’t care about the latest alien-looking fashion coming out of Milan. What I do care about is dressing chic and filling my closet with gorgeous clothes without breaking the bank. You won’t find debate about what’s “in” on this blog, but you will find helpful girlfriend-to-girlfriend advice about how to shop and what to wear in any situation. You’ll find take-to-the mall printables and clothing line reviews. You’ll also get helpful style tips, sales alerts, and coupon codes for a variety of stores.
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