What does it mean to dress modestly? As a teenager, I was made aware of a desire in some Christian circles to return to the modest dress. Modesty means different things to different people. There are those who feel certain colors are okay to wear but others are considered too flashy. Some only wears skirts and jumpers at all times, while other ladies feel they can wear shorts, jeans, and swimming suits. In the midst of all this can come a judgment in the hearts of women looking at each other. “Can you believe so and so showed up in jeans today?” “How legalistic to think you shouldn’t wear shorts on a hot day like today!”
I have seen this backbiting and hardness of hearts, and it’s not pretty. My own heart needs to be submitted to the love of Christ in this matter, as it says in Galations 5: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another…” Our prayer for each other should be that God would give each of us a modest heart. If we have a heart that desires modesty this will be reflected in the outward appearance of our clothing and in the spirit that we carry with us. Someone won’t have to stand over us with a list of do’s and don’ts.From personal experience, I can share the workings of God upon my heart. As a little girl and teenager I was considered a tomboy. I wasn’t some rough and tumble little girl, but I enjoyed playing with boys more than girls. I didn’t like playing dolls all morning long. I wanted to be out riding my bike, playing soccer, or touch football with the boys on my street. After moving to the country, I learned to enjoy our huge trampoline, horseback riding, climbing trees, hiking, and caring for our animals. Through this all I wore shorts or jeans exclusively. I couldn’t stand to wear a dress. My parents made me wear a dress to church, but as soon as church was over, I changed back into my jeans.
As I moved into my teen years, I kept this up. I noticed other girls started to dress in certain ways and heard them talking about trying to attract some guy’s attention. I wasn’t interested in such behavior. I just wanted my clothes to be clean and comfortable. Otherwise, I didn’t think much about it. As for modesty itself, I didn’t consider myself immodest at all. My parents were pretty strict about how long my shorts had to be, no tight tank tops, and so on. In the youth group I was in for a short time, the other girls were feeling sorry for me because I had to dress so conservatively. My parents wouldn’t let me wear my Sunday dress above my knees. Poor Jennifer!
When I was 16, my Mom came across writing about modesty and came to believe it was best for my younger sister and me to wear dresses and skirts for everyday life. The issue of modesty really struck a cord with my Mom. Before she became a Christian, she spent her youth wearing clothes to gain the attention of the men around her. She knew first-hand how important it was in God’s plan to dress in such a way that you do not cause your brother to stumble, let alone trying to make him stumble on purpose!
As I was asked to wear the dresses and skirts, I was horrified. Give up my jeans? No way would this work! We lived next to a horse farm at the time, and I would go into the stalls, climb up to the top of the stalls, and walk on top of the stall edges to the end of the barn. Do that in a dress? I listened to my Mom and changed my clothing selections, but inwardly my heart was stewing. I was mad and feeling rebellious. This nonsense would end someday!
In the next few months, I decided to pray about this whole modesty and clothing thing. Surely God would be fair to me! What did he expect of me? I started looking for scriptures about clothing and modesty. I began in Genesis with Adam and Eve sinning and realizing they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together to make aprons for themselves. I thought, “just like all the pictures I have seen in our Bible story books.” Several verses later I read that God himself came along and saw those aprons. He decided to clothe Adam and Eve himself and replaced the aprons with coats of skins. That sure impressed me! God really cared how they were dressed? I had never thought about God himself wanting me to dress in a certain way.
I read in Isaiah 47 about God’s judgment upon Babylon and Chaldea. As part of the curse upon them He would “make bare the leg, and uncover the thigh.” I went on to the New Testament to read that God asked women to adorn themselves in modest apparel and wear the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. As I continued searching and found more verses that spoke of the need for a modest outward appearance and spirit, I began to be convicted in my heart. God used a situation from a few years previous to this to help me understand my need to protect my brother from stumbling. Sometimes I would wear pretty tight jeans (looking back on it, I realized that) and didn’t think anything of it. One day I turned around to see a man looking at me, and I knew in my heart I didn’t want to wear this pair of jeans around him again! As I prayed, God brought that moment back to my mind. The study and prayer became a time to ask God to help me have a modest heart.
From that day, I have continued to pray and strive to have a spirit of modesty in my heart. God never gave me a “thou shalt not” list that showed me down to the dotted “i” and crossed “t” what I should and should not wear. He didn’t give me a list of colors I could or couldn’t wear. He didn’t tell me to look like a picture right out of the 1800s, or the 1700s, or 1950. I never found I could only wear a denim jean jumper to be a modest woman, or only calico fabric for that matter. What God did do was change my heart.
I went from a teenager bent on living out what I thought was best to having a desire for righteousness and holiness. My spirit changed as I strove to have a meek and quiet spirit. That spirit within me changed the clothes I desired to wear. I decided I wouldn’t be involved in a sport if it required me to dress immodestly. I wouldn’t try to dress in a way that stoked lust in the men about me, but in a way that showed them I was a lady and, above all, a Christian. I would try on certain clothes and feel uncomfortable with how a shirt gaped or a how tight a skirt was when I bent over.
I questioned my swimsuit habits. Did I really want to walk down the beach or go to the pool in a suit that covered less than my underclothes? Why was I willing to wear a “modest” swimsuit with a little skirt attached that was shorter than a tiny mini skirt and feel it was okay because men would see me at a pool instead of the pew at church? What was God’s definition of nakedness? Did I desire to wear expensive clothes that would cause pride in my heart and others to stumble as they coveted what I was wearing? As I was striving to walk with God, my clothing wasn’t really an issue of “me” anymore, because my desire had changed. The desire of my heart was now, “God I want to be a woman after your own heart. I am willing to wear your coat of skins instead of the aprons I wanted for myself.” That’s what God wants–our hearts.
When your heart is in the right place, it won’t be about you; it will be about God, a modest heart, and the brethren around you. With that spirit of God within. you will become a Christian women whom others see as chaste, meek, and loving. We are called to be a peculiar people. That means you are to be a peculiar woman, full of love.“For they will know you are Christians by your love.” Do you love your God and your brother? Your outward appearance will reflect the love that is in your heart. God delights in the woman with a modest heart.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Deuteronomy 22:5 “The woman shall not wear that which pertained unto a man, neither shall a man put on a women’s garment; for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God,”
1 Timothy 2:9,10 “ In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
1 Peter 3:3 “Let your adorning be not that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, or wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Definitions of words I strive for in spirit and dress:
Modest-2887 Greek says: orderly, of good behavior.
Neat- very clean, pure, well adjusted
Comely-decent, suitable, proper, becoming, suited to time, place, circumstances, or persons.
Sober-pure, chaste, temperate
Plain-void of ornament, simple.