Most of us have occasionally felt the embarrassment incidental to appearing at some social gathering dressed inappropriately for the occasion. This embarrassment may have hunted us in our dreams as well. Who hasn’t had a dream of being naked in front of a dressed crowd? This embarrassment is linked with one of the fundamental motives for wearing clothes, namely modesty.
Modesty may be regarded as an impulse, whose function is inhibitory, an impulse directed against the various forms of opposite and more primitive tendency to display.
Any given instance of modesty can be described in terms of five variables.
This inhibitory impulse:
- May be directed against social or primarily against sexual forms of display;
- May be directed against the tendency to display the naked body or beautiful clothes;
- May have reference to tendencies in the self or in others.
- May aim at the prevention of desire or satisfaction (social or sexual) or at the prevention of disgust, shame or disapproval.
- May relate to various parts of the body.
Social vs. Sexual
An example that clarifies this example can be seen with young girls. The girls childish body changed into a feminine figure with curves. She wants to share this newly obtained beauty by wearing revealing clothes when going out. When she looks in the mirror she experiences gratification by the sight of her newly obtained shapes. At the same time she feels embarrassed about showing off her body to her friends and to people she will outside. She fears that she may unduly stimulate sexual desire in others. She also fears for disapproval about her outfit by her parents the minute she steps into the living room to say goodbye. The feelings of fear and embarrassment become stronger than the primate feelings of desire and gratification. This changes her emotional state and she decides to put on more concealing clothes instead.
It has to be said that the perception of natural beauty or ugliness (according to the standards of beauty of her time and place) of the individual can empower the feelings of modesty.
If the woman finds herself to be extremely beautiful it would be difficult for her to feel embarrassed when seeing the reflection of her nude body in the mirror. It would however be relatively easy for modesty to achieve this result if she thought that her body is far from the ideal figure shown on TV, magazines and social media. She might then feel happy to wear more concealing, loose fitting clothes that will cover her body and protect her from the possible judgment by others.
As long as the body is covered with concealing clothes, the aesthetic differences between one individual and another tend to be hidden. The wearing of clothing puts people with a ‘beautiful’ body and people with a less admired body on an equal footing, whereas reduction of clothes can be accompanied by feelings of shame and disapproval.
My questions to you as a reader are:
- What kind of clothes help you cover your body from the judgment of others?
- Which body parts do you camouflage with clothes to prevent the feeling of discomfort or shame?
Please leave your comments below.