by Kowthar A. Yabarow
Tuesday November 6, 2018
"I'm ready for Chloe and Halle to spice it up. Up there looking Pentecostal.”
“The choir robes gotta go Chloe and Halle!”
“Chloe and Halle.... Mississippi mass choir! Throw the whole outfit away!”
“Ok I Love Them But Like Why are Chloe & Halle Wearing Sheets?”
“Chloe & Halle are hiding the rest of the awards under those curtains they have on.”
It’s no secret that for decades now women have been bombarded with mixed signals about what modesty means. We’re either wearing too much to the point that we must be oppressed or wearing too little. We’ve been taught by traditional media and now more than ever social media that the less we wear, the more we’re praised, sought after, and desired.
For those that don’t know, Chloe and Halle are two teenage sisters who perform contemporary R&B music, and who are now signed to Beyonce Knowles’ recording label - Parkwood Entertainment. They recently hit the American Music Awards red carpet in Valentino gowns that reminded me a lot of a piece of clothing called a kaftan. A kaftan is a gown worn today mainly in the Middle East and parts of Africa and originates from ancient Mesopotamia. Kaftans are large and loose and if the word modest could be draped as a piece of clothing, this would be it. I was in love. Not because turquoise is my favorite color, but how well these gowns suited them. I was in love with the way it flowed, the colors and how it complemented their melanin, but most of all, I was in love with how their faces and their natural beauty, paired with their elegant locs were brought to the forefront because their bodies were not made the focus. It wasn’t long before the critics and the comments came pouring in. As I scrolled on social media, I continued to notice the backlash that Chloe and Halle were receiving for their choice of attire. It didn’t matter that it was Valentino, it only mattered that it didn’t uphold today’s standards of beauty.
Lucky for me, being born and raised as a Muslim taught me that first covering is for God, and God alone. But secondly, covering meant more than just a piece of cloth over my hair. Being modest never just meant wearing a headscarf better known as a “Hijab”, it meant a way of life. I was given the choice to wear the scarf, but my parents didn’t make modesty a choice, they enforced that whether I was or wasn’t wearing the hijab, I would still always have to uphold the standards of being a modest woman in character and in actions. And much like the textbook definition of modesty, the way that I dress just so happened to influence my behavior, my mannerisms and more importantly, my appearance.
I noticed the recurring theme in the comments left by the public on Chloe and Halle’s choice of gowns; that covering and modesty are automatically associated to religion and although the concept of modesty may have stemmed from religion, what people fail to see is that it has blossomed to symbolize a lot more. It symbolizes intellect as we wear loosely fitted gowns walking across the stage on graduation day. It symbolizes higher class as royals in different parts of the world all follow the similar conservative dress codes. Modesty for some folks means being old-fashioned, outdated or simply just too religious, but for the competent minds who have understood the value of this term, they are the ones who have truly undressed the meaning of modesty.
Whether Chloe and Halle wore those gowns to be modest, they made a statement. So, the next time you, me, or any other woman is asked to “spice it up”, let it be known that there is so much more fire to us than what meets the naked eye.
Kowthar A. Yabarow