{Summer Lessons} Modesty Standards

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 I’m continuing to revisit a topic that I blogged on long ago

Today I want to talk about modesty standards. Is it legalistic to have a set of rules for our wardrobe or our daughters’ wardrobes? Or are we using wisdom and saving ourselves from confusion? 

First what does the Word say about modesty –

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

How are we to know on a daily basis, while being bombarded with society’s standards (or lack thereof) what is decent and proper? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that having a general outline of what we think is decent and proper would help to weed out some items while shopping?  Here’s some of my original post from 2008 …

So what’s in the middle? Are the guidelines that have been taught to young women over and over again still relevant? If they are relevant for young women why not older women? I must admit that I float more toward the dowdy, old-lady look that any thing fashionable. I’ve even considered wearing only skirts several times. But is it just religion? Who defines too tight, short, big, frumpy, old, low cut, dowdy? The standard will change for each family. What are your guidelines? Any one mind sharing? I’m really re-visiting this issue with a vengeance. Because I don’t want to be religious about it, dressing dowdy because I think it’s right. When in reality, I just look like an old lady and ridiculous any way.

It’s much too easy to fall into the habit of just wearing frumpy clothes while trying to dress modestly. In my mind, that makes perfect sense. Cover it all up ladies. Preferably in fabric that doesn’t cling like a second skin. That is how it goes in my head. But if we are going to try to stay relevant to society, we need to have a standard that keeps us pure before God and man while also keeping us from making a spectacle of ourselves. We need to be in this world, right? So how do we look as though we are in this world, while keeping our hearts and minds as well as the hearts and minds of our brothers in Christ on things above?

So what are those standards of modest dress that will keep us relevant, stylish but also modest?

Summer Lessons: Modesty

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Summertime brings lots of great things.  Barbecues, swimming, sleeping in, family get togethers… I could go on. But summertime also brings something less desirable to me – a sudden, drastic reduction in the amount of clothing ladies (young and old) wear.

modesty.

It’s a topic of much dissension in youth groups and churches.  How short is too short? How skinny can my straps be? Can I wear a bikini? How come she can wear that and I can’t? Are these pants too tight? There are a lot of questions and not many answers.

After reading through some of my archives yesterday, I found this post.  As you can see, it’s from quite awhile ago but the issues are still the same.

From that post:

Women are told to dress modestly. Now obviously modest is a very widely defined term. Some will wear everything from sweatshirts and jeans to fitted shirts and pants, looking much like relevant society dresses. Some will only wear loose fitting clothing, looking dowdy and ill-fitted. Some will only wear flowing skirts and long sleeved tops, with or without head coverings, claiming they are setting themselves apart by being simple. But what was God’s intention with these verses? I’ve come across an idea that says that women must dress modestly, as to not cause men to stumble, but should dress relevantly. For dressing in a manner that draws attention – whether by young men checking you out or by people pointing at the woman dressed plainly – is undesirable. How a woman dresses should not draw attention to her person but to her God. So if a woman dresses in very simple, almost Amish clothing she is drawing attention to herself because she stand out so much in modern society. But on the other hand, women should not be dressing in revealing or tightly fitting clothes, as they can lead men to stumble. So what’s in the middle? I’m not sure. I know that watching shirts get smaller and skirts get shorter, in public and in the church, is an alarming trend. Are we being lead by the principles of this world rather than Christ? But on the other hand, does dressing so plainly as to make people look at us (Do you think she’s Amish?) rather than at our character and countenance also defeats the purpose. Are we being led by religious traditions? Both are equally wrong according to Colossians 2:8.

 I thought I’d break up some of the thoughts I had in this post from 2008 and expand on them a bit. Maybe some of you can join in with your thoughts and questions about modesty.
  
First let’s talk about dressing relevantly, not just dressing modestly.

I live in Amish Country.  It’s not uncommon to see buggies and horses tied to a hitching post at the local Walmart.  You know Amish the minute you see them.  It’s unmistakeable. They stand out.on purpose. I don’t know any other woman that would choose to wear long sleeved black dresses when it’s 85 and muggy outside. It’s easy to identify Amish due to how they dress. I would say that we could all agree that Amish are not relevant in their dress. The one thing they have going for them, though, is that they are definitely set apart from this world and everyone knows it. Isn’t that what the Word of God says? We should be set apart from this world? In it but not of it? So maybe we should all dress like Amish. Hmm. I don’t think that’s what God meant. We have to be both in this world but not of it, having a heavenly focus while our feet planted on the ground.

As Christians, we are called to be a chosen generation and a holy people. How does is that calling reflected in our dress, ladies? Do we look like a holy people, set apart for God? Dressing like a bag lady does not reflect the calling of a chosen, holy woman that is trying to serve God. It may be modest – every inch and curve is hidden. But are we then calling attention to ourselves, rather than to God, for the opposite reason as the woman who dresses in skimpy clothes.

There is a middle ground somewhere, ladies. Let’s discuss what the Word of God says about women, their beauty and how we can encourage one another to dress our own beauty in palace style. So what do you think about modesty?

Next week, I’ll talk about standards. Are we being legalistic by setting standards for ourselves and our daughters?

Follow-Up Thoughts

If you read my previous post, thank you.

If you simply read the quote on social media and reacted – please read the entire post. That kind of reaction is the exact thing that I called out as harmful to a church culture. We, as Christian women, need to learn that making assumptions only causes divisions and hurt.

If it’s instantly assumed that a woman who works in a job that isn’t a part of her husband’s career isn’t submitted to God and her husband – there’s a problem.

If it’s instantly assumed that a woman who homeschools thinks working women are liberal feminists who hate conservatives – there’s a problem.

 

We are not all supposed to be the same. God designed us each uniquely with our own gifts and talents. Why would we then assume that anyone that isn’t just like us is against us?

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into[a] one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?

 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,  but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Let’s learn to assume good, as I stated in my previous post. Let’s assume that every Jesus loving woman is doing her best to serve God in her unique situation. Others may be experiencing pain and hardship that you cannot even comprehend. By judging based on one small aspect of their lives, the pain only gets worse and the division gets bigger.

{review} Project Inspired

I write a lot about my daughters here. It’s pretty easy to figure out that modesty and teaching my girls how to be godly young women is important to me. When I heard about Project Inspired, I knew I had to check it out.

Project Inspired is based on the Project Inspired website created by model and actress Nicole Weider. Integrating her behind-the-scenes experiences with guides on modest fashion, beauty, and advice, teens will discover positive ways they can uphold their values in today’s world while staying fierce … and faithful.

projectinspired

We’ve read a couple of other books for teen girls by inspirational women. What really set this apart for me and for my 14 year old was the amount of practical information in this book! Not only does Nicole share her personal story as she went from a high profile modeling contract to depression to finally giving her life to Jesus, but she shares so many great ideas about how young women can learn from the mistakes she made.

There are 12 chapters in Project Inspired. The topics range from everything to Overcoming Depression to Dating to Friendship to Etiquette. There’s also great information about True Beauty and Wardrobe, Defining Your Look, Guarding Your Mind and Body plus Sharing the Gospel. Each chapter contains practical tips while also keeping a focus on Biblical wisdom. The chapter on Beauty, for example, contains the story of Queen Esther and how she carefully considered what she wore before the King. In the same way, Nicole encourages young women to consider what they’re wearing and how dressing well can help a young woman (or any woman, let’s be honest!) to feel that little boost in her self-confidence.

Honestly, I was a little scared to read the chapter on dating. Thankfully, Nicole shares excellent wisdom on why it’s wise to wait to date. She recommends waiting until you’re 18 before starting to delve into that realm of life. Thank you, Nicole! It’s so easy for young girls to get swept away into the hormones and emotions of being a teen. That is one area that a bit of control and wisdom is really needed. I was so, so thankful to read that Nicole was sharing this same thing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for young women ages 13 and up. It’s one that they can grab for reference or encouragement as these tricky topics come up. I’ve already heard “In that book you got me? They recommend jeans from ___” or ideas about a new face wash that Nicole recommends. It’s handy and practical while being spiritually encouraging all at once.
{I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and no guarantees were made.}

Daughters, Clothes and My Grey Hair

I have four daughters. Some days, that fact alone is enough to make my head spin and my eyes cross. Add in the fact that my two oldest girls look much older than they actually are because they’re both tall and gorgeous. {I know I’m partial and all but seriously. They’re gorgeous.} The younger two are pretty much their clones so I know that I’ve got years to go with this whole gorgeous daughter thing. It’s stressful. Getting them ready to leave the house in proper clothes? It just might be the sole reason my hair is turning grey.

jeans

Over the years we’ve come up with a few short steps that help to smooth out the process of choosing outfits a bit. It might not work for everyone but I hope it helps you:

1 – Be prepared. We almost always choose the girls’ outfits the evening before we are going somewhere. If it’s a planned outing, we prepare in advance. Doctors visits, field trips, play dates, church – anything. Our general rule is the girls have three chances to choose an outfit. If they can’t find something we can agree on after that, I choose and they have to wear what ever I choose. I’m sure some of you are sensing how well that goes. So the older they get, the more thought they put into their three choices. Something that’s also helping a bit with their preparations is that I’ve limited their clothing a bit, into a capsule-type wardrobe. I’ll share more about that and how it’s working for us soon!

2- Ground Rules. In order for the girls to choose outfits, they have to know the ground rules. Can we just pause for a moment here? Moms you can set rules. You are not stifling the Holy Spirit or eliminating the grace of God in your home. You are creating guardrails. Kids need guardrails. I’m not going to go into what our rules are because they will be different for each family. According to my daughters, I am the most strict mother ever with archaic rules for how to dress. It’s how I roll. But no matter what kind of discussion or reasoning certain girls may try to share – the rules are the rules. The whole skinny jeans issue? We have a rule for it. This can make shopping very, very difficult because of the selection in the stores but we have our guardrails and we keep them. Crop tops. Bikinis. The length of their shorts and skirts. We have guardrails.

3 – Style + Rules = Peace. Once the rules are set and the daughters have gotten the swing of choosing their own outfits, we let them experiment a little. Sometimes I shake my head at the things they choose. It definitely isn’t my style. But if they’re within our house rules, we try to let them express their own fashion style when choosing outfits. This is challenging for me, as I like things the way I like them. But I also remember being a young teen and wearing some pretty crazy things. The one thing that will put a stop to their ‘creative’ outfits:

4 – Dad gets unquestioned veto power. If Dad thinks a daughter’s outfit is immodest or just strikes him as inappropriate – it goes. No questions. Dad’s word is the final word and Moms? We have to stand with them. We might help to find a compromise but don’t try to undermine Dad’s final word. He has the unique perspective of actually being a male and was once a teenage male. We don’t understand teenage males. He does. So if he sees something in what your girl is wearing that strikes him as wrong – stick by him.

With all these nice little steps in place, you’ll never argue about clothes with your daughter again!

Okay, stop laughing.

There will still be disagreements. Teens will still push their limits. It’s kind of their thing. For me, it’s a lot easier to keep my cool in the midst of a challenging moment if I know there are guardrails in place that I can refer to. It also helps me when I think about the life lessons my daughters are learning. Modesty is something all Christian women need to learn about and teaching them about it from a young age will serve them well as they grow up.

What systems do you have in place at your house to help getting your daughters dressed and ready a little easier?

“…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.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10