Magazine brings ‘modesty to the masses’

Modesty matters.

This is the message Summer Bellessa is hoping to send to the fashion industry with the launch of her modest fashion magazine, ELIZA, issued quarterly to coincide with the seasons.

“I think women feel more comfortable when they don’t have to worry about more showing than they would like,” says Bellessa, 27, a 20-year veteran of the fashion industry.

Bellessa started modeling at age four, eventually signing with the prestigious Ford agency. Balancing her faith and values with her work was often a challenge, says Bellessa, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Being raised in the fashion world and in the [LDS] Church was a complete oxymoron,” she says.

ELIZA magazine is a step toward reconciling the two ideologies, which are often poles apart, says Bellessa. She has long subscribed to magazines such as Vogue, W and Elle for the art and drama inherent in the clothing, she says, but can rarely wear any of the items featured.

Hence, ELIZA, named for a role played by one of Bellessa’s ultimate fashion icons – Audrey Hepburn. The high-fashion magazine, launched June 23, features clothing that is classic, trendy, occasionally funky and appealing to women of all backgrounds.

“We tried to bring a range, a larger idea of modesty to the masses,” Bellessa says of the magazine’s board, which comprises women of Jewish, Muslim, LDS, Protestant, Catholic and other ideologies.

Bellessa expects the magazine to garner a significant following in Utah, where the predominant religion necessitates modest dressing.

The quest to make modest clothing fashionable has been a grass-roots campaign in the past, particularly in Utah. But recent years have seen the rise of fashion- and modest-conscious companies such as Shade Clothing and Belle Clothing, both out of American Fork, and Modbe Clothing in Orem. And in 2004, Jennifer Loch of Provo, after struggling to reconcile her part-time modeling with her LDS faith, quit the fashion world and launched *Jen* – an online magazine dedicated to modest fashions and lifestyles.

The general direction of fashion could bolster ELIZA’s success in areas outside of Utah as well.

“It [modesty] is much more a trend within the fashion industry,” says Nikol Hafen, noting the resurgence of capris and knee-length shorts. Hafen is manager of the Salt Lake City-based Lolabella Boutique at The Gateway. Lolabella locations are the only places ELIZA is sold in the Salt Lake area, but subscriptions are available on the magazine’s Web site, In Provo, the magazine can be found at Mode Boutique.

Bellessa recognizes the modest trend, too.

“We’re lucky, because layers are in, long shirts are in, and there are so many great sleeves right now,” she says.

Although such looks may be “in,” some women resent the necessity of layers and wish for more choices.

“I love Express, but everything I like there I have to wear something underneath it,” says Jennifer Merrill, of Salt Lake City. “It gets hot.”

The magazine, which has a section called “Fashion Eye” featuring celebrities who favor modest dressing, is particularly appealing to the 26-year-old LDS woman.

“It’s hard to find [celebrities] who dress modestly,” she said.

Shari Campbell, 46, a visitor to Salt Lake City from Lebanon, Ind., says she prefers modest dress, but feels it isn’t practiced much anymore. At her son’s recent high school graduation, she says, many of the girls’ outfits made her think: “I can’t believe your mother let you out in that!”

For Cristl Larson, 19, of Salt Lake City, dressing modestly is also a priority, but not because of religious reasons. She said she’d probably read ELIZA as much as other fashion magazines, which she reads primarily for the articles.

She’ll have a range of subjects to choose from in ELIZA. The magazine includes articles on beauty, health, travel, books, art, movies, music, food and world issues, Bellessa says. Aside from being a resource for stylish modest dressing, she adds, the magazine provides only “uplifting” information.

“We think it’s important to be a well-rounded person and make a difference in the world,” she says.

Because fashion matters – it matters a lot, Bellessa says.

“But in the end, it’s not the end-all, be-all.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 10, 2007.
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