October 22, 2013 by Stacy McDonald
Edited and updated from an article originally posted June 26, 2007. If you choose to comment on this article, please make sure you’ve read the whole thing first.
I received the following comment from a reader on my blog and decided it was important enough to address here as it’s own post. Here is her question:
Can’t “modest” be pants (not tight ones), too? I can’t understand why being modest means wearing only skirts. I must be missing something.
When I see any woman wearing a dress, I think “legalistic church”… which is incorrect, I know. But, I wonder if this is what society thinks. Our society just doesn’t wear skirts anymore… If we want to meet them where they are at, shouldn’t we dress like society but in a modest fashion?
Can pants be considered modest? Sure they can. The woman that first comes to my mind as an example is one of the most modest and feminine women I’ve ever known. The loose, flowy pants that she sometimes wore didn’t cling to her in a way that might distract others and she was always careful to make sure the form of her backside was tastefully covered, regardless of what she wore.
That being said, in our household, in an effort to live out the fact that God has made men and women wonderfully different, for the most part, we have chosen to wear skirts and dresses.* It’s something my husband and I feel strongly about for a number of reasons, though we realize that our reasons for this choice will sometimes be misunderstood, and even misrepresented.
We have been so desensitized by our feministic culture that it’s difficult to recognize the signs of our indoctrination. Check out Three Signs that Christians have been Desensitized by Feminism to see what I mean. Dressing modestly, but in a distinctly feminine fashion, is my daughter’s and my way of living out the biblical principles we believe to be true and embracing who God has made us as women.
It’s a daily reminder to my daughters that they are “ladies” and not rough and tumble boys. It helps me to amplify my husband’s masculinity, rather than compete with it. It’s a way to be modest without distorting the fact that I’m a woman by wearing frumpy, manly, or oversized clothing, which is not the goal of feminine modesty. I want to tastefully adorn the fact that I’m a woman; not hide it.
My friend, who chose to carefully wear pants at times, had an air of modesty and femininity mostly because she herself was modest and feminine. It was who she was. After all, what’s on the inside eventually shows up on the outside. She had a lovely, modest, feminine spirit…and it showed. She communicated purity and chastity. That’s the goal – that’s what glorifies God.
In like manner, you may know women who seem to be dressed modestly from head to toe, but their demeanor is not modest. Perhaps they have a “come hither” attitude when talking to the opposite sex; or walk and carry themselves in a provocative way.
It may be they have a “look at me” attitude, trying to get attention all the time by being loud and obnoxious, speaking in a crude or course way, or speaking of things which should be kept private in mixed company. This type of behavior exposes the heart, as immodesty surfaces through the “modest” clothes. The same thing can even happen with behavior on the Internet.
So in many ways, clothing isn’t the issue – the heart is. That being said, as Christians, what’s on the outside should be consistent with what’s on the inside. If we claim Christ, then we have a responsibility to represent Christ honestly, not “follow the crowd.” I don’t need heathen designers telling me how I should dress. Let them dress (or not) themselves. If they happen to come up with a good design, then I’m happy to wear it. But, if it’s not modest or if it’s just plain ugly, why should I wear it just to follow the trends?
When my older daughters were all at home, they loved to sew. Especially, my daughter, Tiffany. She loved to design and sew her own dresses. My daughters enjoyed borrowing the beauty from different eras in history as they learned to create patterns. One of my favorites was one that Tiffany helped her sister, Jessica, make once. It was a pattern from the 50’s. They learned to take patterns like this and creatively modify them.
They also made Regency dresses, Edwardian dresses, even Roman-inspired dresses. Does that mean we were “stuck” in some past era in history? Only if you think it’s beneficial to reject anything from the past simply because it’s “out of style.”
We can create our own styles. We don’t have to obey the fashion gurus in New York or France or wherever they are. We don’t have to make a fashion statement; we can be the trend setters by making a “whatever is true and lovely” statement. The hip hugger/mini skirt crowd has had their turn long enough. Christians should stand up and start taking the lead; that’s part of taking dominion.
God’s ways really are best and we should prove it by the way we live. We’re not supposed to be cheap imitations of the world; we’re to live among the heathen communicating Christ by glorifying Him—proclaiming the beauty and wonder of the Gospel both in word and in deed.
Imitating the world communicates that what we have isn’t enough—it tells the world that we want and need what they have—instead of the other way around. What kind of testimony is that?
Don’t be a copycat. We should love the unlovely, but, that doesn’t mean we have to become unlovely for them to listen. Talk about vain striving.
And, too often, ladies try to package modesty into a nice list of rules. We just love rules, don’t we? Sorry, there is no such list. This is a lifestyle we’re talking about – and it’s born out of a real and potent faith.
Jesus said that if a man looks upon a woman to lust after her he’s already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus wants our hearts to be modest. It’s more than just the outward action – but, that doesn’t mean the outward action is unnecessary. That’s where we see Christian liberty abused and perverted.
We should love our brothers (and their wives) enough to care about whether or not we contribute to their temptation. See Modesty Promotes Friendship.
If our hearts are truly modest, then our demeanor, our dress, our speech, and attitude will all eventually line up. Sometimes it means we need to be taught and challenged, but it eventually happens. If it doesn’t, then we need to check our hearts. That being said, if you really, really want a “check list”, here you go:
1. Does what you wear reflect a heart focused on the Lord Jesus Christ?
2. Does what you wear communicate a love for others or self-centeredness?
3. Is what you’re wearing likely to tempt a man to lust? No, we’re not responsible for a man’s sin, but most of us can recognize whether or not what we’re wearing could be considered a little “sexy” by a guy.
4. Does what you’re wearing draw the eye (by being too tight or revealing) to areas of the body that should be covered for everyone but your husband? Stockings “cover” the legs, but still completely reveal what is underneath. Other articles of clothing can do something similar.
5. Is what you’re wearing going to expose intimate areas of your body if you cross your legs or lean over (tops or bottoms)?
6. If you honestly examine your motives, are you wearing what you’re wearing to attract the opposite sex?
7. Does your choice of clothing speak dishonestly of who you are as a Christian?
8. And here’s the most important one. Does what you wear point to Jesus or to yourself? Do your clothes say, “Look at me,” and in so doing, distract others from God? And let me remind you, this can be done in clothing that is not the least bit sexually enticing.
Olivia is the oldest of 6 and a stay-at-home-homeschool-graduate-daughter. She loves sewing, thrifting, healthy food, mud, blogging, photography, design work, and laundry.
She is a Christian and through grace lives to serve others. He has given her a passion for modest style and sharing the joy of “Dressing outside your box, but inside His Book”. She posts on both her sewing blog and this her fashion blog, with the goal of encouraging others in the quest to be “Cute, but covered. Stylish, but sensible! Contemporary, but classic! Feminine, but fresh!”
For more ways to discuss these matters with your daughters, or young women in your church, CLICK HERE to order Raising Maidens of Virtue, a Bible study for mothers and daughters (recommended for ages 11-18).
*After a few skinned knees from riding bikes on our gravel road, we’ve made a few discretionary exceptions for the girls. There are no hard and fast rules and each family and situation is different; but, there are very few times when we’ve personally found it necessary to stray from our decisions on this topic.