EDIT: While in general, I love comments, for some reason this post has inspired a bunch of nasty comments that I have no interest in seeing - or sharing, so I've closed the comments for this post. For those of you reading it for the first time, the ikkur is at the end. It is not a post about tznius in general, and my opinion on this may seem a little extreme to you. It is the way I feel, and is not necessarily halacha for everyone. You can do whatever you want. My point is about trusting in your own sense of right and not always relying on others to tell you what's right and what's not.
We had an optional class in tznius (feminine modesty) when I was in seminary. A whole group of us got very into wearing our clothing just so. We would throw open our closet doors and model our entire wardrobes for our teacher to look at and pass judgment on. She would tell us why this sweater was perfect, but that sweater was a tad too tight, why this skirt was too short, and this one too long. And we would sit there soaking up every word.
One of the things I miss the most about seminary is the peer pressure to be better than you were before. Everyone was aiming high, striving to become more ___ people. To become more tznius people. Clothing that before I would never have been caught dead wearing began to look good to me. The people I admired were no longer the ones who dressed in the height of fashion, but rather the height of tznius. It was a wonderful year.
Unfortunately, like most good things do, seminary came to an end. I came back to America, affectionately called shmutz l'aretz, where tznius is not "in style." The situation here was worse than I could've believed possible. Good Bais Yaakov girls were wearing skirts that were too short even according to my pre-sem eyes. And they were wearing the newest style: short sleeved shirts with long sleeved shells underneath.
I don't mean to offend anyone by this. I am not trying to preach to anyone; if you wear this style, that is your decision and you are entitled to it. This style strikes me as one more way for us to imitate the goyim. It gives off the impression that the person wearing such an outfit wants to be like her non-Jewish neighbors and wear short sleeves, but compromises and wears long sleeves underneath it to make herself feel covered.
It's scary to see people a while down the line and see how they've changed (I've already discussed this here). I recently saw one particular girl who was one of those very into tznius while in sem (not my sem). She was wearing a very loose shell under a short sleeved shirt. If the short sleeved shirt would've been long sleeved, it would have been a perfectly tzniusdig (modest). But it wasn't, and it wasn't.
I'm sure there were extenuating circumstances which led to her wearing this outfit, which she would never have even considered wearing in seminary. Even so, it scared me. You see, this girl was always my tznius barometer. I would look at her and know I was looking at a girl who epitomized the ideals of tznius in dress and demeanor. Whenever I had a question about my behavior or clothes, I would always seek her opinion.
And now … who can I rely on?
I know the answer, the only answer.
Once we finish school, we are basically left on our own to grow or not as we choose. Through all those years, we have looked to others – our teachers and classmates – to model what we should be doing. There comes a time when we realize that we are on our own. We have to be our own barometers, our own consciences. Only WE know what we need to be working on and how we're doing with it. There is no report card because this is the real world.
And what a beautiful world it is…