Mary-Margaret Helma is an idealist, a seamstress extraordinaire, and a 21-year-old college senior at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She also has a heart condition, neurocardiogenic syncope. Because this causes frequent fainting, she had to stop going to school in 9th grade and was home-schooled for most of her high school career.

There Mary got a different perspective on the world outside of high school politics. As she explains:

The pressure to look like a sex object was cut short as I concentrated more on sustaining my own life. It really gave me time to think and reflect on what I valued. Despite how difficult the illness was to get under control, I thank God for this chance to reflect on my life and on my values. I could see clearly that my life in high school was severely lacking and the path I was on did nothing to build others up. The pressures of being sexy and dressing sexy did not give women freedom, but . It took away their value as a whole person, to be viewed as nothing but a piece of flesh.

Once she started to dress more conservatively, Mary found “a huge difference” in the way people treated her:

I once had a male student in class last semester curse and then turn to me specifically and apologize for cursing. The class was him, me and 5 or 6 other women. Several times I have had guys in class remark positively about the way I dress when I’m wearing a skirt and button down--I never had anyone remark on my clothing when it was shorts and a spaghetti strap shirt. It’s been an interesting sort of case study.

As a student leader for Duquesne’s Students For Life, Mary sees modesty as being connected to the inherent value of all people, since “showing a respect and reverence to the human body gives us all a more equal playing ground, and promotes an appreciation for human life within that body.”
And when she worked as a Local Director for National Student Partnerships in Pittsburgh, Mary also saw the way that modesty builds people up and helps them achieve success. Not only did she help underprivileged clients find jobs, housing, and the tools for writing a good resume, but the more she worked there, the more she realized that “what people need the most is a sense of their own human worth. They needed to feel like they mattered. This became the most important part of my job.”

At Breachmenders International, another college and job-prep organization where Mary worked with underprivileged youth, the director of the program had one particularly interesting rule: all the kids had to wear modest and appropriate business clothing to their jobs:

“I held a dinner at Duquesne to help raise $500.00 for gift cards for these kids so they could buy these clothes for their jobs. The kids do go on to colleges and successful careers. They see from an early age that what they wear matters and that in turn, they matter. They see for themselves that they are worth too much to be dressing in any degrading way.”

For teaching us about the connection between modesty and human dignity, Mary has certainly earned our admiration.

But we’ve actually saved the best for last.

As a hobby, Mary started making clothing to imitate the pretty, simple fashions from Jane Austen’s era, and wound up making historical clothing her passion. She loves to research and make accurate historical clothing, but lately she’s been finding ways to make historical and retro fashions merge into a modern wardrobe without compromising modesty. As she puts it, “making clothing was the only way to find clothing I really wanted: flattering, without being too revealing or dowdy.” Her dream is to someday open a real store where women can choose from a larger selection of skirts, suits and dresses that are both historically inspired and modest. For now, she is starting out small.

So far all you ladies out there wondering where to find stylish and modest clothing, here, at last, is your answer: Mary can make it for you.

Ladies, if you'd like to get in touch with Mary, send us a message and we will pass it on to her.

If you would like to nominate a Rebel—including yourself—please send a short personal profile and what you are rebelling against to: There is no age limit, but high school and college students will be given priority over grandmas, since grandmas, after all, are supposed to be good.

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