During my high school days decades ago, our strict uniform code demanded only a hint of thigh and leg; be it bestockinged or nakedly bare. Revealing too much female body engendered much fraught frowning, with orders to lower our hemlines. The Cover Up ethic was perceived as a moral dictum; nubile female ‘ingénues’ exciting unsuspecting males into a myriad of mistaken, albeit immoral, misdemeanours.
What females wear today still hits the headlines; be it in France to ban the burkini, in Israel where a performance singer was recently ushered off stage because of her state of ‘undress’ and at some schools now, the custodians of control claim girls shouldn’t wear skirts or dresses that show too much skin. The attention to our appearance seems so intrinsic to our destiny that it behoves us to examine and explore exactly what our appearance actually represents about us. Certainly, our apparel denotes an image; an obvious symbol of taste and style, the perspective dependent on your particular persuasion and personal assumptions. Judging others because of the clothes they wear or choose not to wear is so superficial it can be no more than another attempt to Cover Up who we really are, with people beguiled, bewitched or beware of our appearance and what may be extant behind our image.
Understanding image as genuinely and honestly embodying our true selves can be but a psychological betrayal, a masquerade masking our inner self-respect, self-esteem and self belief and/or lack thereof. Whether we Cover Up in a burkini or choose to flash our flesh we seem to generate a fear and loathing that obfuscates the real issue; namely, that to decree a uniform dress code, be it on a beach, on stage or in the street, invites a prosaic poverty of creativity and individuality. The late British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, wrote “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.”
Sometimes, reflecting on what’s not obvious in our carefully conceived image can be more constructive and rewarding than hiding behind our appearance. Fashion sense, enshrined for public decorum, albeit as contradictory as it is to cover up or choose not to, denies the facility of deception played out by how we dress far too often. By uncovering more profoundly sincere moral integrity and principles we may realise that image isn’t the message but mere marketing that can delude and distort. If people are gullibly lured into misbegotten feelings and behaviours they need to appreciate it’s not about the state of dress or undress per se, but what the ‘images’ suggests to them. A sensible rationale must reign sacrosanct in our code of dress practice instead of irrational fears that prejudice us all.