Fashion and Modesty

On modesty.

Welcome to Question of the Week! Entertaining questions from our readers will be a great way to glean wisdom from so many of you. Please be sure to add your thoughts; others will be blessed as we all share!

This week’s question is regarding the perennial issue of modesty:

    What are some good guidelines for determining modesty? How can one encourage a younger Christian sister in this area without unnecessary offense?

Modesty is one of those perennial issues facing Christian women. How do we live in the world and not be of the world?

In 1 Peter 3:3-5 women were exhorted to be more concerned with the inward adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit than in jewels and fine apparel. In other words, first things first. That is always a needed reminder. But inherent in Peter’s statement is the acknowledgment of an “outer man”. We know that the much admired Proverbs 31 woman dressed in purple linens and provided garments of scarlet for her family. In other words, they were looking pretty good.

But good, in this case, included a sense of modesty. We, too, need to be achieving “good” with modesty.

I once heard this recommendation as a general guideline. Imagine yourself as a beautiful masterpiece – His masterpiece. His work needs an appropriate frame. It shouldn’t distract from the work of God within; too shabby detracts, too ornate overwhelms. Your presentation should compliment and enhance His presence and the testimony of His goodness in your life. Let’s remember, we represent Him on this earth.

What does that mean in everyday language, in practical application? This was recommended by a friend and they had some good basic guidelines. Check it out for some great insights.

In a nutshell, we don’t want to distract the men around us from Holy service, nor do we want to bring a blight on His name. But we do want to look relevant, clean, and even attractive (my husband likes me to look my best!)

What about those young Christians who seem to be unaware of this issue? From time to time we may be called upon to sharpen one another, and scripture allows for exhortation in our midst. Still, one wants to use caution.

Before ministering correction it is best to establish a sense of nurture and care toward the person. Show genuine interest, take time to know them, offer prayer and words of encouragement. Find every opportunity to share principles of all sorts that the Lord has shown you. Testify of His faithfulness in teaching us, His children. If possible, include some thoughts on modesty. Perhaps this could develop into an ongoing discipleship relationship. Seek the Lord for such opportunities.

Unless there is an urgent need for correction, allow the Lord to reveal their need to grow in a sense of modesty in His time. Eventually you may be able to recommend books, studies, etc. that will help this younger sister to grow in the ways of the Lord.

I know you have ideas about these things. Would you be willing to share them? Thanks!


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  1. Thank you for tackling this subject. It is so important. I always appreciate what you share.

    Posted by Renee Dale | March 5, 2008, 5:01 am
  2. I’m glad you’re tackling this issue. This has beens something extremely important to me. I have been stressing to Jacob that the young women who are in various ministries in our church need to consider modesty of utmost importance as teen girls look to their example. If the church does not teach a higher standard of modesty we are fooling ourselves if we expect our children to glean it from the world! I think some of these things are just common sense until I talk with other parents who have not been taught Biblical modesty themselves, so of course their children are dressed the way they are.

    When I was younger, my mother always enforced what she called “The Rule of 2” The neckline of your shirt should not be more than two finger width’s below your collar bone. And the hem of your shirt should overlap the waist of your pants/shorts/skirt by 2 inches minimum (so that it would stay in place when you bend, kneel, lift your arms, etc). I like that rule, it’s an easy guideline that’s just not arguable (ie, if it’s not 2 inches, then it’s just not 2 inches).

    This link is a great place to view the results of a survey that help women, especially young women, understand what type of clothing is truly a distraction : The Modesty Survey

    Posted by Katie | March 5, 2008, 8:26 am
  3. Katie,
    That is a great survey – I definitely want my girls to read that over. Maybe my son, too! Thanks for the info.

    I am always challenged in this area. As a mom of girls of such varying ages, I want to allow them to be current and not get stuck in the 80’s, 90’s, or whatever! – but helping them to take regular stock of what they are wearing and what others are wearing is tedious.

    This is a great opportunity to take a fresh look at things and see where we’re at. Thanks again!

    Posted by Darlene Sinclair | March 5, 2008, 10:29 am
  4. I’ve been continually stuck on this topic for a long time, now. After a long talk with my hubby to hash out some of the issues I was having I think that I’ve finally settled on what modesty is to me.

    First, I love the article in Brio magazine. I came across it a few years ago and love the simple clear way they lay out the guidelines for clothing. I think they say it all perfectly.

    Second, I’ve been thinking and struggling a lot with being presentable and acceptable in clothing, hair and accessories. Fashion has never been high on my list of interests. But I’ve realized that God (and my husband!) would like a bit more than a messy pony tail and dirty jeans. God really opened the Word to me in this area, probably because he knew this reformed-hippie-feminist needed a good wake-up call. Proverbs 31:21-22 talks about the infamous “perfect” woman. She is clothed in fine purple linen, as is her household. As I understand those were very expensive, very nice clothes for that day. They were not the equivalent of a messy pony tail and dirty jeans. These verses have shown me that I need to put forth effort each day in looking neat and together, even if we’re just staying home.

    Third, I’ve also been dwelling on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. I think over-dressing in respect to the culture can be a stumbling block to people. ‘Be where you are’ is a phrase often used in Christian circles and I think it can apply to modesty and fashion. Just as much as showing up do a formal dance in overalls and boots is distracting to others, so is showing up to a playgroup in flashy heels and a tailored skirt. The other moms would instantly feel under-dressed and self-conscious even if they were wearing nice,appropriate clothes.

    For me, dressing in modest, relevant and appropriate clothing is the end goal. It isn’t always just having to cover up more skin. Putting forth an effort can sometimes be just as hard.

    Posted by Jackie Card | March 5, 2008, 10:42 am
  5. Thanks for this post Darlene. As far as how I feel about it, I recently wrote a blog post about what Modesty is to me at least and anyone who wants to can check it out. God really opened up the word to me about it and I think I have finally found peace about the whole topic. I love Jackie’s post and agree with what she has to say. I think there is just a happy medium people have to find.

    Posted by Randi Young | March 5, 2008, 12:03 pm
  6. I do think this is a subject worth revisiting often, and it’s definitely worth doing Bible studies on with young girls in the church — especially young girls who may have no clue that their style of dress matters. I was just thinking about this issue a couple of weeks ago, when I walked into Old Navy, and strapless tube tops and short shorts abounded. I thought, “Man, this is just Old Navy! How on earth did this stuff become so normal that every girl in the world thinks it’s okay to buy?” I expect it at Guess or BCBG, but Old Navy?? And it’s just proof that the culture in general eventually gets used to levels of immodesty that used to be alarming.

    And that certainly can happen to us (frog boiling analogy), but I’m also aware of how clueless woman can be that there’s anything wrong with those types of clothes. They see it often enough, and they think that’s what looks good — they’re not necessarily dressing to be seductive, they’re dressing “fashionably”, with no idea that men are stumbling right and left.

    It’s simply another area where we desperately need to have our minds renewed, because it’s so hard to see through the haze of culture.

    Posted by Danica Dunphey | March 6, 2008, 7:55 am
  7. It is frustrating to have girls who are committed to dressing modestly but not being able to find anything to wear. Last night K went to the mall, and Old Navy, searching for Florida apparel. Hours went by and she came home with one camisole (for layering of course). Apparently Old Navy has decided to carry only “tiny fit” t-shirts this season so she couldn’t even find a nice t-shirt. How discouraging!

    Posted by sam | March 7, 2008, 7:11 am
  8. Danica – forget Old Navy, what The Children’s Place?? That’s right. In December searching, for my 4 y.o.’s birthday, for some solid color, long sleeve t’s to mix and match with other outfits I went to The Children’s Place. She’s now wearing XS in the “big girls” department which means the clothes they style for 10-12 year old’s are the same for her size in XS. I could not find 1 appropriate shirt that I would want my 4 y.o. to wear!! Not to mention I wouldn’t let a 10-12 y.o. of mine wear it anyway :-)

    While it’s much more expensive, Land’s End has beautiful, age appropriate, modest girls clothing – and although a few of their swim suits I wouldn’t choose, they do have a fantastic selection of cute, modest swimwear as well.

    Posted by Katie | March 7, 2008, 8:47 am
  9. We Sinclair girls sure do love our Lands’ End Overstock swimwear! Great modest suits at unbeatable prices!

    Posted by Brietta Paladin | March 7, 2008, 8:54 am
  10. Gymboree has excellent age-appropriate clothing for young girls. Its pricey but if you watch for sales you can get some great deals.

    Posted by Jackie Card | March 7, 2008, 9:31 am
  11. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart.
    We live in a culture that promotes immodesty at every level so it must be very difficult for young girls to find modest, stylish clothing. I personally, at the ripe old age that I am, have had difficulty finding clothing that has enough buttons down the front!!!However, I believe that if enough shun the style of the moment (remember mini-skirts???!!!), eventually the industry will change. It might be a longshot but its worth a try.
    As a mother of a young man, I have become alarmed at what has become acceptable garb IN church. It is absolutely true that we never want to cause a young man to falter or stumble. Before dressing for church perhaps the young ladies could think about the young men who might be tempted or at the very least, distracted by their clothing.
    Attention should be paid to lengths and collars but also to tightness and cut. I have been shocked at how tight some young ladies wear their pants, shirts and dresses/skirts.
    There are still some young men out there who are trying to live a life of purity, church should not be a place where the temptation is larger than that of the world!
    Just an observation…

    Posted by Michele LaPointe | March 10, 2008, 7:05 am
  12. Thank you, Thank you.
    Oh so needed. I am going to pass it on to my daughter and grand daughter.
    My husband coined a saying a few years back that we pass between the two of us, when it is appropriate. It is: “NAM”
    (Needs a Mirror). My husband is convinced that if he could pass out little hand held mirrors to everyone he sees, that
    styles would change. “Do they really realize how bad they look?”,he asked.

    Posted by Susan Brown | March 11, 2008, 7:36 pm