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Modest dressing

Getting off the grid is part of a trend of women trying to be closer to God through withdrawing from secular technological society. A recent report in USA Today looks at the phenomenon of religious women wearing clothes that emphasise their modesty by covering their head or face. It quotes Wendy McDonnell of Lebec, Calif., who owns wendysmodestdress.com: “It all kind of goes hand-in-hand. The modesty. The home schooling. The home churching. Covering. Looking for the off-the-grid lifestyle. It’s part of a huge movement,” Wendy tells USA Today.

There’s no data on the number of women doing this, but more are finding their way into Internet discussion groups. And women who operate websites that offer modest clothing and head coverings report an increasing corps of kindred spirits.

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Many quote the Bible, specifically the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:5: But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head. USA Today’s review of web sites finds the women can be Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Catholic. Many are even post-denominational, considering themselves only Christians.

Via Yahoo groups and websites such as “Plain and Simple Head coverings” and “Modest Dress,” they support each other for a decision that can be at odds with more modern churches. Some have been “covering,” as they call it, since the 80s, but many have felt the call in the past five to 10 years, a time that has seen a rise in religious conservatism.

“It’s possible that we could see a renewal of this distinctive dress in Christian families because it becomes its own kind of witness in a highly plural and increasingly secularized culture,” says Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School.

Modesty on the Web

Modest dress is a larger movement than hair covering in the Christian community, with websites devoted to long skirts, long-sleeved blouses, cover-up swimsuits and even bloomers for little girls — clothing that is traditionally feminine as well as modest.

But hair covering is generating most web traffic. McDonnell started one of several groups for Christian women who cover their hair. Another group on Yahoo has 177 members. Other groups are by invitation only.

Sarah Jones, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., grew up in a family in which women cover their hair. Now she and her sisters run a home-based business called She Maketh Herself Coverings, (headcoverings.com).

“We get all kinds of people. Some just wear it whenever they go to church or when they’re having a quiet time with the Lord. Some take it all the way and cover up everything, to no hair showing at all and wearing black stockings.”

Like almost all women who cover, Catherine Levison of Tacoma, Wash., came to her decision through Bible study. She wears a scarf or hat anytime she prays.

And all the women interviewed were clear that they believe God hears the prayers of women, covered or not. “If I was falling off a cliff, as I was fluttering toward my death without my head covered, praying, God would understand,” Levison says.

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