Why did Lauren Shields conduct her modesty experiment in The Beauty Suit?

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In The Beauty Suit (Salon, July 2013), Lauren Shields describes her experiences with eschewing Western beauty standards for 9 months. During this period, she avoided wearing makeup, covered her hair and only wore high collared, long-sleeved shirts.

When considering how to detail why Shields decided to conduct this social experiment in her life, review her narrative leading up to that point. She notes that she had previously been a filmmaker, a position that required her to dress up in the latest fashion, to wear makeup and to have her hair perfectly styled. Shields expresses frustration and fatigue at having to spend so much time on her appearance.

She later is enrolled in a seminary program and attends a lecture by a Muslim woman living in the United States. The woman's story surprises Shields--she expected to be offended by the woman's talk. However, this lecture is one of the primary motivations for Shields's 9 month experiment.

Consider the following quote in your analysis of The Beauty Suit:

The speaker explained very clearly how much she had enjoyed (and admittedly, sometimes hated) dressing in accordance with modesty rules. She talked about her daughter who, being half-Muslim, had decided to wear a headscarf at age 8 soon after returning to the States from overseas. The speaker didn’t advocate for hijab, but she certainly wasn’t opposed to it.

This was not the podium-pounding, acrimonious discussion I had prepared for. Instead of feeling self-righteous and angry, I felt inspired—and profoundly unsettled. I didn’t know it then, but what I had learned about modest dress was teaching me about my own hypocrisy.

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In The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist, what epiphanies (or sudden insights) does Shields's experiment inspire? What lessons does she learn from her experiment?

In The Beauty Suit, Lauren Shields describes a talk about hijab, the Muslim requirement to dress modestly, which she heard as a student at her Candler Theological Seminary. Having seen Hasidic women in Brooklyn dressed in long, loose clothes and headscarves and envying the freedom and comfort of their attire, Shields suddenly felt inspired and began to think that she might feel freer if she were to dress with similar modesty.

Shields then realized how much time, effort, and money she spent living up to Western standards of beauty. It suddenly occurred to her that she had been living a double-standard—dismissing her “grown-up suit” of fashionable clothes and make-up as merely a costume, not an essential part of her, while at the same time focusing so much of her life on it.

The Modesty Experiment taught her that some people had been heavily influenced by her appearance and that these people now ignored her. However, those she really valued, including her fiancé, did not treat her any differently when she changed her appearance. She now had more interesting conversations with these people about the role of appearances in their lives.

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