The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 March 2006

Come up and see (not all of) me sometime

Alexandra Foley at Modesty Zone finds a perhaps-unexpected role model:

Consider the following quote by Mae West:

"I like my clothes to be tight enough to show I'm a woman, but loose enough to show I'm a lady."

Mae West, as you know, was the silver-screen actress famous for two things: her large bosom (her ample frontage inspired the name of a WWII life jacket) and her sharp wit. West's quips — such as "When I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better" — live with us still.

West thrived on being a verbal provocateur, so I am not certain how to take her statement about how tight clothes should be. On the one hand, given her bad-girl persona (she practically invented the genre), it would seem to be an endorsement of immodest clothing, clothing that is designed to arouse prurient interest without causing an outright scandal. On the other hand, her rule of thumb seems to suggest a happy medium between prudery and lewdness, and this is how I have always understood the virtue of modesty.

I think a closer match for that "happy medium" might be Dolly Parton, who has always been willing to mock her sexpot image — her trademark line might be "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap" — and who leads one of the least-scandalous lives in all of showbiz. Still, both Mae and Dolly were on the right track: they controlled their scenes, and should you presume too much, you could expect to go away empty-handed, or worse.

Posted at 11:45 AM to Table for One