June 17, 2015

How to Dress Modestly?

The topic of modesty has been hashed and rehashed a million and one times.  Not only that, but there are a lot of different philosophies on what is modest and what isn't.  I searched "modesty quotes" on Pinterest and found quite a menagerie of ideas...!

It's all very confusing for a girl who just wants to please God, but I am going to simplify it for you. God doesn't care what we wear. He really, really doesn't. We aren't our bodies.  There's a lot more to use than that.  We've simply been allowed to live in these living corpses for a little while, in preparation for where we - our souls - will spend eternity.

1 Samuel 16:7
"But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Does He look at my clothing?  No.  The Lord looks at my heart.  That's kind of scary, because there in my heart, He can see the root cause of all the things I do.  As I go about in the clothes I've chosen, the Lord doesn't look at my clothes, but at the reason in my heart for why I wear what I wear.  He knows why I do anything that I do.

It's easy to hold onto the belief that God has made rules to follow regarding dress.  It's a lot harder to open yourself up to a relationship where someone knows you literally inside and out.  It's SUPER hard to trust that in a relationship with God, we can have security knowing that we are doing the right thing, as long as we are walking with Him.

I think sometimes that I would rather follow a set of rules.  I'm kind of black-and-white like that sometimes.  Before Jesus came to us, there absolutely had to be a law and rules to follow.  There was a black-and-white.  Wool and linen together, eating pork, and adultery were off limits.  Circumcision and animal sacrifices were commanded.

But now a new law is written on our hearts when we open it up to Him.  Instead of constantly referencing a written law to find out right and wrong, all we do as Christians is walk with God.  Hand-in-hand, He guides us.  Sometimes decisions aren't black-and-white, like what we should wear or whether or not we should pursue college.  But in the company and fellowship of Christ, all we have to do is what we want to, because when we walk with God, what we want is exactly what He wants.

Psalm 37:4
"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

It's not a huge mystery.  There aren't hidden rules.  God doesn't want to confuse us!  He has made it so simple; we are the ones who make it complicated.  This doesn't just apply to clothes.  It applies to every decision we ever have to make.

Here's why emphasizing clothing at all is impossibly backwards:

Matthew 23:25-28
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

For instance, getting a girl to switch from bikinis to a feminine neck-to-knee swimming dress is cleaning the outside of the cup.  It's not a victory to convince a girl to toss out her "immodest" clothing and fill her closet with "modest" clothes.  Don't push your ideas of modesty on girls who don't walk with God.  God doesn't smile down on the lost souls in long skirts and say, "Well, they may be dead in spirit, but at least their knees are covered!"  Start with the inside of the cup, and watch as the outside of the cup reflects the heart.

I'm definitely not saying that it is wrong in any way to dress with a certain level of coverage, if that's what you want to do.  But do not push it on others, believers or non-believers, or claim to be following a Biblical standard.  When you walk with God, it's really your choice to wear what you want.  So wear pencil skirts,  wear soccer shorts,  wear plain jumpers,  wear pink floral skinny jeans, and own that choice.  If it's a personal conviction, great.  If you want your daughters to dress a certain way, fantastic.  I just think modesty shouldn't be a movement, and it is not a Biblical standard...  In the Bible, it is just a Greek word that means "orderly, virtuous, decent, modest, well-ordered."

Here are the two places where the Bible mentions a woman's appearance:

1 Timothy 2:9-10
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  

1 Peter 3:2-5
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. 

He could easily have contrasted the "braided hair/gold/pearls/expensive clothes" with "this specific kind of acceptable clothing and modesty standard," but instead He contrasted it with "good deeds and a gentle and quiet spirit."  That is what is more important than anything we put on.

To sum it all up, what I've learned is to quit worrying that I'm breaking some hidden rule in the Bible, and just focus on walking with God and revel in the freedom He has given me.  He has brought me to life and set me free.


  1. This was SUCH a good post! Thank you for it! It's so true that the inside of the cup matters so much more than the outside. It's definitely the right thing to focus on your heart before your looks. Just because someone is dressing modest doesn't mean she is BEING modest. (Although it is so refreshing and nice when girls dress decently haha) I loved all the verses you used and examples. :)

    1. Exactly!! Thanks for the encouraging comment!

  2. I like this line in your post: God doesn't smile down on the lost souls in long skirts and say, "Well, they may be dead in spirit, but at least their knees are covered!". Very well put!

    Personally, I feel that dressing modestly is showing respect for myself, God and my husband.

    1. Yes! I love that perspective of showing respect outwardly through dress, and that it's a personal conviction: it's a desire that manifests itself in us through a relationship with God and real desire for presenting ourselves as respectable and godly women - it's not something we as a Christians have to remember to check off a list every day.

      Like, that's literally how I was for some time - "I have to remember to do this/this/this because I am a Christian and I must be/look/act a certain way to have fellowship with God." It's so opposite of what I discovered later on - that the fellowship with God comes first, and everything else comes as a natural outpouring of being in his presence. :)

  3. Thanks Lauren. It's refreshing to hear this perspective on modesty; I've read a lot of others that are all about skirt-wearing, high necklines, etc. I agree with you that God does care more about our hearts, and our dressing, along with the rest of our lives, is merely a reflection of the relationship with God. And I really like your 'Comprehensive Guide to Dressing Modestly.' :)

    However, I think we also have to be mindful of how we dress, because we don't want to draw undue attention to ourselves; we want the focus to be on our Saviour not on us. Also, we don't want to dress provocatively in any way.

    It's a very tricky subject, modesty, though, and I think you've done really well here, getting back to the root of the matter: it's all about a relationship with God, and He will guide us in all things, including what to wear.

    Thanks heaps for sharing!

    1. Rightttt! I 100% agree with emphasizing putting the focus on God rather than ourselves, and I don't in any way mean to sound like I'm minimizing the importance of appearance, so I should clarify that this is a little bit of a personal revelation for me in that I did everything very backwards for years. I had this idea that Christianity is great (because Heaven) but kind of hard (because Rules) and when it finally hit me after 17 years in church that Jesus literally died to set us free from the rules I was like "WAIT what?!" So yeah I may be overemphasizing the idea of "freedom" to the point of sounding a little liberal, but where I'm coming from is centered on the idea that I am not bound to ~rules~ when I'm walking with God, certain things just flow naturally from being rooted in Christ. Like... I've never spent time with the Lord in the morning, handed over my day and desires to him, and then put on a provocative outfit. ;p Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!