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Speaker advocates for modesty, empowerment in fashion

| Monday, February 9, 2015

Janet Easter, co-founder and style editor of Verily magazine, delivered a speech on beauty in the media at the first day of the 10th annual Edith Stein Conference on Friday.

Easter said as a senior at Fordham University interning at Elle magazine in New York City, she was miserable. Despite having the dream internship for someone interested in fashion, she found the culture vicious and described her experience by comparing it to “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Easter discussed what she calls the “backwards equation of beauty,” which equates being attractive and pretty with being worthwhile.

“Really, though, we should totally reverse the equation,” she said, “True beauty can’t help but attract others to itself.”

In college, Easter found herself continuing to distort her understanding of beauty and worth. She said she eventually googled Theology on Tap in her area and went to an event that night, down the street from her office at Elle.

“From that moment, my life was totally changed,” she said.

Easter said for the first time she met young women who were at peace with themselves and who lived with integrity. She started going to daily Mass and rethinking her fashion choices — she said clothes should be like an artistic masterpiece.

“When you’re in a museum, your eye is drawn across the whole picture,” Easter said. “This is what clothes should do.”

Objectification, on the other hand, “takes a part away from the whole. A lot of clothes try to highlight one body part,” Easter said.

Although some women might argue that men should better control their thoughts and that women should feel able to wear whatever they want, Easter quoted St. John Paul II, who said, “First and foremost, modesty is good for the woman herself.” Easter said dressing modestly invites others to recognize that a woman knows her own dignity and worth, and fashion can be an empowering tool to communicate this self-worth.

Easter said she could not find one women’s magazine that was sending this message, so she and a friend co-founded Verily. She said although most women’s magazines start with the premise that its readers are not good enough, Verily did the opposite.

Easter showed slides contrasting images from magazines like Cosmopolitan, InStyle and Elle in comparison to Verily. She said statistics have found 75 percent of women feel worse about themselves after reading a magazine for three minutes, and 69 percent of women say magazines have influenced their ideal body shape.

Easter said the four main categories of messages that most women’s magazines sell are: women should dress for attention, should desire to fit narrow standards of beauty, the most important aspect of a relationship is sex and a woman must be a career woman to fulfill her full potential.

What women really want is to read about embracing their natural beauty, using fashion for personal expression, seeking fulfilling relationships and balancing their personal and professional lives, Easter said. She said Verily aims to do this by having a “no Photoshop” policy, featuring “runway to real-way” fashion spreads and promoting their tagline of “less of who you should be, more of who you are.”

Easter encouraged the women in the audience to remember that “you are an image yourself” and the choices one makes, such as what clothes to wear, send a message. She urged women to “strive to know who God created you to be and to explore and celebrate that.”

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About Mary Grace Mangano

Mary Grace is a graduate student in the MSM program at Notre Dame. She received her BAH ('14) in English with a Concentration in Writing and Rhetoric and a Minor in Italian from Villanova University. She is passionate about literature, literacy, education, and social justice. Mary Grace originally hails from Clinton, New Jersey.

Contact Mary Grace