A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing my beliefs on modesty and I have to admit I was rather aghast when I realized I didn’t really have as good of documentation as I thought I had. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in dressing modestly and I think most of you who read this blog (if not all of you!) would also agree with that. I also realize, however, that many of us might disagree on what would be considered modest.
Before I go into this, let me say that I believe and know that I fail at this some times. I don’t claim to be the most modest person out there, and I know there have been times that I have acted, behaved, or dressed in a manner that was far from modest. I am not perfect – I am far, far, far from it. But I try very hard to act, behave, and dress modestly and I hope that I succeed most of the time. I do believe that the Lord can, and will, forgive us of our faults and I am so thankful for that forgiveness and mercy. However, I still believe that it is important to be an outward and inward proponent of modesty. And that is one reason why I write about it and try to encourage others in the ways of modesty.
Take for instance my previous blog on swimsuits. I personally believe that showing any sort of cleavage or stomach is “immodest.” Halter-tops, in my opinion, are also very immodest – in any way, shape or form. If I can see too much of my back with a swimsuit, I quickly toss it aside as “not appropriate”…almost as fast as I cast aside a swimsuit that shows too much of my front. I even believe a lot of one-piece swimsuits are immodest. A lot of you would probably find my opinions radical. And that is fine. I know we are all entitled to our own opinions. I still believe that being modest is important, and I believe that showing too much skin is immodest.
Now, I promise this is not another swimsuit post. I was just using it as an example of my opinions. But let me share with you why I believe these sort of clothing items are immodest. A big part of it is “think like a guy.” Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? And trust me, as a girl – it is hard to think like a guy in this area. While clothing that is too revealing (on both boys and girls) makes me extremely uncomfortable, it does not lead me to think impure thoughts. Usually I find myself thinking, “Please, please, please cover up. You don’t know what you are showing about yourself and even if you have a beautiful heart, it is so hard to see that with that much skin showing!” Or I find myself blushing and thinking, “This is so sad. Someone who could be so beautiful is flaunting something that should be saved for their husband/wife.”
But guys don’t think that way. Seeing certain things on a girl leads them to think thoughts which are impure. In other words, how we dress can encourage a guy to sin. Now I am not saying that it is our fault for a guy sinning. But I am saying that I think it is important not to be a stumbling block. While I knew some about how guys think about clothing and modesty from reading and researching and previously formulating my opinions, when I got married and could have any sort of talk I wanted with my husband, it astonished me how much affect looks and the way girls dress have on a guy. And it is a little frightening to me how innocent, modest, immodest, and impure girls alike can tempt guys, be we knowledge of the fact or not, just based on how we dress.
We are commanded by God to look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ (and I think I should be just as concerned as the unbeliever, as well) by making sure that we present ourselves in such a way that makes them think of us as a sister. I want others to view me with pure thoughts. And in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 it is instructed that the young men should “not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and young women as sisters, with all purity.” (Emphasis mine.) Similarly, it is our jobs to make sure we act and behave in such a way so as to encourage the young men about us to think of us in a pure fashion. And that means we do have to dress modestly.
Whether you think it is okay or not, we all have to agree that that most two piece swimsuits are little more than what we wear as undergarments. I know this might come across as offensive to you if you like those, but let’s set aside emotions and just look at the fact. Maybe there is a little bit more thickness in the fabric. Maybe there is a tiny bit more yardage of fabric. However, be it right or not, it is about the same amount of cloth and it is just as revealing. But because it is worn swimming at the pool or on the beach while tanning, it is somehow viewed in our culture as being “okay.”
But…for now, let me take a quick tangent and let me introduce (or reintroduce, if you have already been introduced) to the Rebelution’s Modesty Survey. This Modesty Survey gained the opinions of 1,600 Christian guys on how certain clothing, attitudes, etc. of girls affected them. Let’s glance at a few of the swimsuit topics at first.
One of the survey questions stated “Bikini swimsuits are immodest.” Of those who replied, 59.3% of the men strongly agreed (626 altogether) and 25% agreed (264 altogether). One of the men who responded to this question (and strongly agreed) even wrote this:
“If you don't understand this, you need to start at square one. The more skin that is revealed, the more of a stumbling block. You can't reveal more skin than with a bikini. If you understood the purpose of publications like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or the objectification of swimsuit and lingerie models, you wouldn't want to wear a bikini -- unless you actually want men to sin as they look at you.”
Another survey question stated, “Halter-top swimsuits are immodest.” Of those who replied, 21.7% (228 men) strongly agreed and 34.4% (362 men) agreed. One guy wrote:
“Like all halter-tops, these are very difficult for guys to ignore.”
While another said,
“It’s hard to be modest and wear that. I don’t think a girl attempting to live out her modesty would be attracted to wearing it in the first place.”
“This sounds stupid, but I’ll be honest; the strings kick the imagination into “what if” overdrive.”
Let’s step away from swimsuits and look at other issues. Such as the survey questions “strapless dresses are immodest.” In the survey, 29.5% (292 guys) said that they strongly agreed they were immodest and 36.4% (361 guys) stated they agreed. Some of the comments about them included,
“They make you look half-naked and then they look like they could fall off, which makes it worse.”
Or what would you think if you were wearing a strapless, but knew that a guy could think:
“It’s as though there’s nothing preventing more exposure, and that invites impure thoughts.”
Or what about the survey question “Spaghetti-strap shirts and dresses are immodest.” The majority of guys seemed to think so with 21.3% (212) strongly agreeing and 39.6% (394) agreeing. Some of the guys wrote these comments:
“These are very immodest as they are skin tight, low-cut, and have big holes where the sleeves should be, thus showing even more skin,” And:
“I would say neutral, but here’s the deal: With these things it’s kinda hard to not show a bra strap, and without a bra… Well, you get the picture.”
What about skirts that hit above the knee? Of the guys involved with the modesty survey, 17.3% (172 of them) strongly believed “Skirts that fall above the knee are immodest” and 41% (407 of them) agreed they were immodest. Some of the comments from the guys participating included:
“It depends on the specific height above the knee. I’d be fine with skirts just above the knee, but when they start getting shorter, then we have real problems,”
“A little above the knee is fine as long as a girl is careful how she sits.” And:
“If it’s considerably up your thigh when you are standing up, it’s quite a stumbling block. If it creeps over your knees when you sit down, it’s no big deal.”
Or how about short shorts (above mid-thigh). Are “Any shorts that are shorter than mid-thigh immodest”? A large majority of the guys thought they were immodest with 402 (41.9%) strongly agreeing they were immodest and 402 (41.9%) agreeing. Some of the comments show how powerful a statement how we are dressed is such as:
“Yes, there comes a point when it starts to look a lot more like underwear and a lot less like shorts,”
“By the time you get to mid-thigh it can be difficult to stop attempting to look,”
“Respect yourself through your wardrobe. Short shorts are not respectful, and, at best, they are a distraction to guys,” And:
“If it goes above mid-thigh, why bother wearing shorts?”
Do you see that how we dress affects other guys? Now, I totally agree that guys must learn to control their thoughts… But we, as girls, must also help them by dressing modestly and purely as well. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” These verses state that we must be sure to have a pure and Christ-seeking heart, but also that we wear clothes that are modest. If we follow these guidelines, we will also be doing our brothers in Christ a huge favor by encouraging them to follow what Christ has commanded them. In Matthew 5:28, we are told that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Don’t we want to dress modestly so as to encourage guys to look at us as sisters to protect and care for instead of them looking at us with lust?
There are many other verses that speak of how women should dress, but also conduct themselves. 1 Peter 3:3-4 gives us further instruction: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” While how we dress is a huge part of being modest and feminine and acting in a pure manner, there is more to it. What we do with how we dress and act is a symbol of what is truly within us – Christ. One of the questions on the Modesty Survey also dealt with this.
The statement was “A modestly dressed girl can still be a stumbling block because of her attitude and behavior.” Of the participants, 649 (53.5%) strongly agreed and 489 (40.3%) agreed. Some of the guys even went expounded on their reasoning by saying:
“Modesty and true godliness must go together. 1 Timothy 2:8-10 is calling women away from hypocrisy. He’s saying that the outward needs to match the inner (and vice versa),”
“A modest girl that enjoys flirting is just as bad as a girl that is immodest that does not flirt. Modesty is not only the way a woman dresses, but how she acts,” And:
“Modesty is primarily a matter of the heart that will manifest itself in a number of areas including dress and attitude and behavior. The dress may give the appearance of modesty but the heart will find a way to telegraph immodesty in other ways such as attitudes and behavior.”
I don’t believe that how we dress is everything. I do believe it is extremely important…just as important as our attitudes and behavior. Ultimately, yes, the heart is what really matters. But I believe our outward appearance should be a reflection of our inward faith. Maybe we don’t see it as immodest, but we are girls and we do think differently than guys. Yes, guys do need to learn how to control their thoughts and a guy can think impure thoughts about a girl who is dressed and acting modestly. But it is far less likely to happen if we dress and act in a pure and modest manner.
If you are interested in the topic, I do highly recommend perusing the Rebelution’s Modesty Survey. I don’t agree with everything pertaining to the survey but it is food for thought and many of the results are highly enlightening.
I believe that dressing modestly is important. I also understand that everyone has their own individual standards. But I think that there can be some overall guidelines that can be gained which would be acceptable for anyone. Wearing things that reveal too much skin (skirts/shorts too far above the knee, halter tops, bikinis, too-revealing-tanktops, spaghetti-strap shirts/dresses, or camisoles only, etc.) are obviously not enough. We must remain modest to not only keep ourselves pure, but help keep our brothers in Christ pure, as well. Yes, the heart is the most important – but our outward appearances should always reflect our inward faith and beliefs. And that is why I believe it is so important to dress modestly and am an active and hard-core promoter of it.