Are these shoes modest?

Follow up questions:

(1) Is it possible for any shoes to be immodest?

(2) Can (lack of) functionality render something immodest?

(3) Can extreme departure from the norm render something immodest?

(4) Would shoes designed to draw a lot of attention be immodest?

(5) Can cost make shoes (or clothing) immodest? (These shoes are $675 at Zappos.) If so, what is the price cut-off for modest shoes?

Just in case it isn’t clear, this post really isn’t about these shoes. It is about the parameters of modesty.

Also to be clear, this isn’t about judging the woman sitting next to you in Relief Society [1] who is wearing these shoes. It is about modesty in the abstract and not whether other people are sinning.

[1] I almost changed “Relief Society” to Sacrament Meeting so as not to exclude the men reading this, but then I thought, hey, might be fun for them to know what that feels like for once. You’re welcome.

58 comments for “Are these shoes modest?

  1. This is why I’m not a big fan of the whole “modesty” concept and I am much more fixated on what is “appropriate” for the occasion. Because “cheap” shoes can sometimes mean “cheaply made” shoes and some pricier shoes last longer. And what is pricey for me is obviously not pricey for someone else.

  2. Modesty and immodesty is difficult to describe. You can’t draw a definite line about anything because so much of it is relative, situational, or cultural.
    I want to teach my children to be aware of
    1. How they are expressing themselves through appearance and their motives for doing so.
    2. How they will be perceived and the consequences.
    I will discourage them from “extremes” in being unkempt, in dressing to gain sexual attention, in dressing to showcase wealth or name brands, in dressing to rebel, in dressing for attention, in dressing to conform, etc. A little of these is fine based on preference, but extremes are problematic and I would rather they have the maturity to see why they might be acting out in that way.

  3. Alison Moore Smith, I really thought I was going to go with Lulubelle that appropriate was better associated with shoes than modesty, but you just convinced me otherwise.

  4. Matt W., where’s the “like” button when you need it?

    OK, I’ll give a serious-ish answer. :) Here is the CHURCH definition of modesty:

    Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit.

    My answers will be as applied to that definition.

    Original question: Not IMO, but could be depending on the setting or culture.

    (1) Sure, there could be lots of times when a shoe might draw undue attention to a person.

    (2) I wouldn’t define it that way, unless you consider toppling over the means to draw undue attention to oneself. ;) The church has formally allowed “one modest pair of earrings.” Lacking in function, the earrings are not considered inherently immodest.

    (3) That’s almost true just by definition. “Propriety” is CONFORMING to accepted standards. An “extreme departure” is not conforming. And that is precisely the term the church uses in FSOY, for example, counseling to avoid extremes.

    (4) But the definition above, yes.

    (5) Cost could be gerrymandered into an immodesty model. For example, decency might require us to use our money to help the poor instead of spending hundreds of dollars on shoes.

    But you’re going to get into a haystack argument trying to claim a “cut-off” point. Even though none of us will be able to defend a particular dollar amount over which a purchase becomes indecent, most of us would still feel that diamond-encrusted high tops lacks a bit in the wise steward department.

    In fact, just yesterday a woman in Relief Society was wearing diamond-encrusted high tops…

  5. This is like asking if something is pornography, its subjective.

    But I think that it your point ;)

  6. Yes, they’re immodest, if they’re in use to pridefully showcase wealth. Since Western European and American culture is sick with that kind of pride, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that is the standard use case for shoes like that.

    But I’ll turn it on its ear just a bit and ask a question that could poke me in the side. I never buy computers, unless they’re Macs. For myself, it’s MacBook Pro or spend more time saving. Judge the MacBook Pro. Is it a conduit of immodesty?

  7. Not the case anymore, but high heels without a rear-strap used to have, ah, connotations.

  8. #9 No, the iPad 2 is a conduit of immodesty. The MacBook Pro is like the alcohol present in soy sauce–nobody worries about it.

  9. The shoes are cool. I guess. I just don’t pay a lot of attention to shoes. But don’t get me started on toe cleavage…

  10. If modesty is used the way we use it in YW lessons, I personally don’t think there’s such a thing as immodest shoes. They’re just feet. And foot fetishists shouldn’t get to define what’s modest or not. (If we define it as some have above, then yes shoes can be immodest.)

  11. I went to Merriam-Webster Online and looked up “modest.”

    Synonyms: average, intermediate, mean, median, medium, middling, midsize (also midsized), moderate, middle

    Antonyms: coarse, dirty, filthy, immodest, impure, indecent, obscene, smutty, unchaste, unclean, vulgar

    Is modest the opposite of immodest?

  12. For once, I’m in almost complete agreement with Alison. In (5) I’d suggest a limit of like 1.5 or 2 standard deviations above the median, to be generous. But I agree that setting a limit is difficult and probably not wise.

    We’ve always had plenty of people in the Church here in NYC who belong to a type of person I like to call “Dry clean only,” after the first sacrament meeting talk I heard after we arrived here in the city. The young stock broker who was talking went on at length about the importance of his dry cleaning. To much focus on how we appear is, I think, the definition of immodest.

  13. Paul would think so,

    “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Tim 2:9-10 NIV

  14. No one has mentioned what I call “stupid shoes”….shoes that lack functionality. I call any shoe you can fall off of and injure yourself stupid. The purpose of shoes is to protect your feet….why then would you wear shoes that can break you???

    Does that make them immodest? I hope not, because then I can’t wear my sandals out in the snowstorms anymore for “lack of functionality.”

  15. Do immodest men’s shoes exist? Are they the $800 Fratelli Rossetti loafers worn by LDS lawyers to go with their $5,000 bespoke suits? Or is there no such thing as male modesty?

  16. I don’t really have an opinion about these particular shoes, or about whether shoes can/can’t be modest/immodest. However, I do find it amusing, living as I do here in super-conservative Utah County, when a trend takes hold in popular culture that, though in and of itself not necessarily immodest/offensive, is drawn from or makes cultural allusions to things that most Utah County folks would find deeply offensive–if they weren’t utterly oblivious to those allusions.

    For example, many of the currently popular women’s peekaboo-toe shoes with lots of buckles and straps are clearly inspired by S&M/bondage culture.

    Another frequent example is the never-ebbing popularity of Village People songs, especially “YMCA,” at LDS youth dances.

    (I was similarly amused a few months ago when men from the BYU Ballroom dance team, for a number in the “Dancevotional” no less, danced with inflatable women–what appeared to be sex dolls:

    So, to bring it back around to the original question a bit: is the “modesty” rating for a shoe dependent on whether or not the woman wearing it is aware that it’s supposed to make her look kind of like a dominatrix? Is that same shoe fair game for someone who doesn’t know what a dominatrix is?

    I will also make a prediction: I bet that soon shoes with clear heels will attain a level of mainstream popularity or acceptability, and that within, say, three years I will see a wholesome Utah County woman wear shoes with clear heels to church, apparently oblivious to the fact that such shoes are an obvious allusion to pole-dancing strippers.

  17. mmiles – I said “extremes” of trying to conform. I think people should be aware of their motives. If they are buying $800 shoes in order to conform. At one point in my life, as a high schooler, I almost bought a ugly $200 purse (in 1987) because everyone had one. I actually thought the purses were ugly and I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to part with the money for that reason. And of course the next place I lived those purses were not in style.
    Another extreme in conforming is when children won’t wear coats in cold weather. During our week of snow & freezing temperatures my daughter’s parting words to me one morning were “You are making me an object of ridicule.” (Bless her little 13 year old heart, she said it respectfully, and she wore the coat I had foisted on her).

  18. $675 for a pair of shoes is only immodest if they are made from corrected grain leather and glued together.

  19. I disagree, Peter (25), $675 for a pair of shoes is likely immodest regardless of what they are made of.

    The word “modesty” has at least two meanings. One is the meaning we emphasize most in the Church that has most to do with showing too much skin. The second is the “average, intermediate, mean, median, medium, middling, midsize” mentioned in comment 14.

    I believe ostentatiousness is immodesty.

  20. I don’t know about modest, but they’re ugly, wasteful, and impractical. I’m of the radical mind that shoes should be comfortable and easy to walk in.

  21. $675 for a pair of shoes is likely immodest regardless of what they are made of.

    I’m inclined to agree with you in principle in light of more pressing yet unresolved issues like global poverty.

    However, I disagree that shoes are necessarily immodest just because they are expensive. As long as the increased cost has something to do with the quality of materials, manufacturing process, skill and technique, expected useful life, ease of repair, custom fit or any other variable you might hold dear to you (e.g., support of local industry, payment of living wages, maintenance of traditional craftsmanship, etc.) I’m willing to entertain higher than average prices.

    Paying a few dollars for an ill-fitting, short-lived piece of junk cobbled together by child labor might be the norm, but it is one I do not mind departing from. To the extent that paying a lot for ill-fitting, short-lived pieces of junk represents the norm, I condemn this too.

  22. I don’t think they are immodest, but I can guarantee if I saw someone wearing them I would be making jokes, because I personally think they are ugly. They are definitely silly, but I find it hard to define a modest standard for foot wear on its own. I think it would depend on what clothes were paired with it. I suppose back when the sight of an ankle was shocking, these shoes would definitely qualify as immodest.

  23. “Not the case anymore, but high heels without a rear-strap used to have, ah, connotations.”

    Connotations that the woman wearing them had a thing against a sensible pair of Mary Janes?

  24. Rather than this long and intricate list of things women can wear that could be immodest, we should just teach our people a couple of general principles and let them govern themselves.

    To the women: “No matter what you wear, men are going to see it as a sexual come-on. Take that for what you will.”

    To the men: “No matter what she’s wearing, unless it has a price list attached, a woman doesn’t mean it as a sexual come-on. We caution you against reading too much into a woman’s footwear, or you’re going to be in for a world of disappointment.”

    That said, I don’t think there’s anything in the law of chastity against being a dominatrix, so long as you only have one client (at a time) to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.

  25. The young women in my ward wear shoes like that all the time. If I wore a pair of shoes like that I’m sure I’d trip and kill myself.

  26. I personally think Rebecca’s list is alright, but that we should instead teach our women (and men) to read, understand, and live by the scriptures.

    Doctrine and Covenants 42:40
    40 And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands;

    I don’t know if immodest is the correct term, though I expect it is not, but expensive, flashy, or otherwise non-plain shoes (or shirts, suits, ties, dresses, jewelry…) definitely don’t conform to the Lord’s will for his people.

  27. “No matter what she’s wearing, unless it has a price list attached, a woman doesn’t mean it as a sexual come-on”

    Sexy women wear clothes with price tags! And here I thought it was because they just wanted to take it back to the store later…

  28. These shoes do not represent an extreme departure from the norm. THEY ARE THE NORM! They are normally worn by women who take their clothes off in front of men for money. That is what makes them immodest. They are worn by women who want to send a deliberate message.

  29. When I first started going to the Lds church, I had been going to a Unity church whose symbol included a bunch of religious symbols all thied together. I couldn’t put my finger for a while on what people’s clothes were saying in the different churches. In the Unity church, the clothes were about “being” someone- a type of person- it said alot about each individual person and who they were or wanted to be. No one would say that the people in the Unity church dressed immodestly in the sence of showing too much skin. In the Lds church, the clothes were hiding behind the people- the focus was actual “unity” , the clothes mirrored what was being said and felt and what they were striving for. People that actually were trying to believe noone was better or more righteous than them. What beauty is mediocrity! Hail modesty! The ego causes separateness.

  30. [1] Thank for the exclusionary experience. Highly enlightening.

    Answer to all five questions: Yes!

    That said, my daughter (recent college grad) LOVES shoes. Clearly a rebellion from the shackles of her youth when she was only provided sensible shoes. And heavily influenced by her well-to-do college room mates who had dozens of pairs of shoes.

  31. These shoes do for women what bad comb-overs do for my ward’s high priest quorum… They have the right to wear them, but should they?

  32. “Modest” isn’t the first word springing to mind as I glanced at the picture of them–but, maybe, “sexy”? “expensive”? … “stylish”?

  33. Yes, they are immodest because they stir evil thoughts in the hearts of foot fetishists everywhere. They leave so precious little to their imaginations. And what happens once you cover the nakedness with the sock? Wouldn’t it be embarrasing for the socks to peak out? You must always buy shoes that will cover the socks!

  34. Kent Larsen #15:

    For once, I’m in almost complete agreement with Alison.

    Let it officially be known that hell has, indeed, frozen over. ;)

    BTW, how do so many of you guys know what shoes pole dancers wear?

  35. I own a beautiful pair of designer sunglasses. I fell in love with them in the store and was able to find a happy intersection of discounts, splurge, quality, and necessity.

    However, after they arrived and I wore them out of the store I felt horribly immodest. It took me awhile to put my finger on why I was feeling that way. After all, sunglasses don’t fall into the typical skin measurement of modesty.

    Really it came down to that pair of sunglasses are a tinkling ornament (Isaiah 3:16). They’re designed to advertise themselves as costly and their beauty is intended to cause people to look at me differently.

    Now do I get rid of them because they’re immodest? Well, no. Thus far they’ve met all my expectations as a functional, pretty pair of sunglasses. At this point it would be foolish of me to replace them with a different pair for the sake of being less pretty or less costly in appearance.

  36. Last paragraph lost in c/p.

    That’s for me where the boundary of modesty lies – is what you’re wearing advertising something that you don’t want to be advertising? Immodest clothing as we tend to define in advertise sexual beauty. Immodest shoes may advertise, as other commenter have mentioned, a sexual proclivity. Shoes can also advertise affluence.

    Now this particular pair? While their price-tag is eye raising I don’t consider the shoes particularly immodest. (But I think I’d rather have 6 pairs of $100 shoes, thank you, than just this one pair. Or even 3 pairs of shoes for $50 and a whole lotta change in my pocket.)

  37. Thank you very much Janell…you have restored my hope. This is the first time I have EVER heard a woman, or man, admit that their expensive piece of clothing/jewelry was a “tinkling ornament.” I appreciate refreshing honesty. I have nothing wrong with people dressing well and looking nice, but that doesn’t require huge expenses.

  38. I think the shoes are okay, if a bit pricey, but I’m having a very difficult time imagining a modest dress or skirt that would go with them very well.

  39. From the Gentlemen’s Quarterly website: “Always wear expensive shoes. People notice.”—motivational/success guru Brian Koslow

    Hey, Julie M. Smith, this is a fun thought problem!

    … I’ve heard inhereted-wealth folks advertise it subtly, giving an impression they don’t really care–“one of us” markers end up turning somewhat on such things as choice of footwear. (Hmm, maybe as far as the “don’t trumpet” part, Mr. Trump–who’s actually creating huge, additional wealth, lives by a different dictum–or else makes for an exception that proves the original rule?)

    [Clears throat.] Got off track for a second. I do that. Anyway, a corporate New York City lawyer isn’t going to represent his white shoe law firm well (obviously a term from the 1920s) if he dresses in wing tips from Payless. So, that said, maybe the thickness of the leather soles of the pair Julie M. Smith has posted (…i.e., their nothaving manmade, soles), their grade of leather, its suppleness, blah blah) would render this pair Smith posted a good choice for a young aspiring professional model or actress to wear.

    And these somewhat trendy shoes would be enough of a statement, enough of a confidence builder, produce enough of a “I fit here” vibe that she would be able to match them with a much more modest–and inexpensive–outfit than she otherwise could pull off and still um get her foot in the door. Maybe this outfit for $50 from Overstock dot com (first one that came up when I Googled “black,” “mid-calf,” “slinky”)?

  40. the only thing obscene about those shoes is the price tag. otherwise, they’re fabulous. FABULOUS, i tell you! those of you who think they’re difficult to walk in are sorely mistaken. platform wedge sandals are uber comfy and quite easy to navigate compared to stilettos. yep, i have shoes similar and if those pictured were under $60 i’d buy them. yep, i’d wear them to church in a heartbeat even though i’m aware that they might raise some eyebrows. and yes, i am painfully aware that i belong to a church who’s sometimes misguided members try to suck the fun out of everything. and since my g’s don’t dictate i wear footed onesies i figure fun footwear is fashion fair game, baby.

    color me a middle aged mormon mom who can rock a great pair of sexy peep toe pumps and not feel one ounce of mormon guilt. of course, i suppose my shoe choices could be the very thing that cause st peter to give the dreaded thumbs down at the pearly gates…

    uh oh. how much are birkenstocks?…

  41. They are awesome shoes. I buy all my wife’s footwear. I would buy her a knockoff pair for under $75 or less. $695 is way way to much for shoes.

  42. ….Oops! when I dated “white shoe” to the twenties, I was thinking of white spats. Cos a look on an etymology bulletin board revealed that the phrase is supposed to have been coined by J.D. Salinger in the New Yorker in 1957–used to drollly or mockingly note the apparent uniform of white bucks then worn by staid ivy league upper-cruster professional types during the summertime. Here’s part of the set-up to a mystery pot boiler somebody posted to help explain its meaning:

    “They were absolutely a deep carpet, white shoe law firm. And, you know, you kind of get paid based on how many papers you shuffle from one side of your desk to the other side of your desk. It’s a very comfortable existence, if you’re into that country club kind of life, and a certain amount of prestige, and going to the Banker’s Club and having stone crabs and chateaubriand for lunch and all this other nonsense–mango ice cream served by white gloved waiters. I sort of got into that for a little bit, and then I discovered that I was becoming pretty shallow and living a really sterile life and getting no satisfaction out of it; and I began to dislike my cases, my clients, judges, partners, opposing lawyers. I was not a happy camper.”

  43. That’s for me where the boundary of modesty lies – is what you’re wearing advertising something that you don’t want to be advertising?

    Although I really loved your comment, Janell, I don’t think that’s a reasonable guide. I always laughed back in the day when I was a young woman. The leaders went on and on and ON about how we needed to be modest because dressing immodestly put dirty ideas into boys’ minds. They spent a great deal of time every year, very delicately, trying to explain what happened to boys who were turned on by skanky girls.

    It was jaw-dropping to me. They actually thought girls didn’t know? I wanted to say, “Honey, why do you think they dress that way???”

    Now I’m sure someone will want to share the story of their TOTALLY innocent friend, who wore mini skirts to the crotch with a tiny tube top and had NO IDEA that guys looked at their bodies and got turned on and that they REALLY just dressed that way because they thought it was TOTALLY CUTE and FUN and besides, it was SO HOT in the summer. But I don’t buy it. Ever.

  44. “How Shoe Can You Get?: America’s premier student of snobs and brows peers through the ivied windows at hallowed precincts and their new social hierarchy of White Shoe, Brown Shoe, Black Shoe,” by Russell Lynes, Equire, September 1953

    At Yale there is a system for pigeonholing the members of the college community which is based on the word “shoe.” Shoe bears some relation to the word chic, and when you say that a fellow is “terribly shoe” you mean that he is a crumb in the upper social crust of the college, though a more kindly metaphor might occur to you. You talk of a “shoe” fraternity or a “shoe” crowd, for example, but you can also describe a man’s manner of dress as “shoe.” The term derives, as you probably know, from the dirty white bucks which are the standard collegiate footwear (you can buy new ones already dirty in downtown New York to save you the embarrassment of looking as though you hadn’t had them all your life), but the system of pigeonholing by footwear does not stop there. It encompasses the entire community under the terms White Shoe, Brown Shoe, and Black Shoe.

  45. @Alison
    Thanks for the feedback. A key in my guideline was “for me,” it’s not a one-size fits all approach.

    Continuing the conversation. Oh, yes, no question that the majority of women who dress provocatively do it to be and feel attractive. I think the trick there is preaching modesty will teach that there are expectations for a certain standard of dress, but the preaching of dress code doesn’t get to the root of why a women may wishes their best-foot-forward to be their cleavage, thighs, or midriffs. (Why that is, I probably varies person to person. It’s easier to preach “thou shalt not show they shoulder nor thy upper leg nor thy stomach.”)

    Disclaimer: I have yet to need to teach modesty to women. I’m just speaking from experience of having been a teen.

  46. Ah. In the “Are these rooms modest” discussion I found the words I needed.

    Teaching standards of dress is a set of rules we define as “modesty,” and I attempted to try to put some sort of principle that demonstrates in words as “modesty.” In truth, modesty is a way of being and a virtue — not a set of rules — that naturally manifests itself through one’s appearance.

    Where I am in my experience and views currently defines that as, “What’s the intent?” Perhaps a closer line to accurately trying to define “modestly” that I ought to strive for is, “Is that who the Lord wants me to be?”

    That said, it seems that whether the shoes are modest are not depend entirely on the person wearing them =D

  47. I like the post very much and agree whole heartedly.

    About the sexist comment though… It was a distraction to your primary point and I’ll just leave it at that.

  48. Oh,…

    What about bare feet? Pictures of Christ without any feet coverings at all (huh)? or… the ceremony of washing of the feet which has been done in the Temple (gasp)!

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