As we have gotten further into our discussions of Biblical womanhood, it occurred to me that so much of this is just theory and conjecture bandied back and forth on the Internet. Real life is messy, and few of us are able to walk out every aspect of our lives the way we sincerely want to because our lives are not just about us and what we think. We have husbands, children, brothers and sisters in our local church and the church universal to consider. We are to somehow, with all of our quirks, foibles, and convictions, find a way to coexist with unity and expressions of love for one another that immediately identify to those outside that we are children of the Most High. This is no small feat, as I’m sure we all agree.
This is why I want to attack the issue of modesty from an angle that interests me because frankly, I will never be convinced that there is a uniform required to accomplish the goal of modest dress. Neither will I be convinced that modesty tackled from the outside without a preponderance of the work taking place in the inside is worth anything at all. To that end, I’m interested in discussing the issue of modesty purely from the perspective of what modesty means.
This is the definition we’ll work from: Modesty
1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
3. simplicity; moderation.
When I got dressed for church on Sunday, my husband said I looked like an orange creamsicle. It was totally a compliment, by the way. He likes creamsicles. I was wearing a flowing white skirt, sufficient length to pass any modesty test, a mango colored top that covered what needed to be covered, and very large white earrings. My toes were painted to match said top, and my wedge sandals added 3 inches to my 5’9″ frame.
It’s spring, after all, and it felt like the perfect complement to the glorious day outside my window. I also knew the husband would like it, and that there was nothing objectionable about the ensemble. I still feel that way, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I knew it was an outfit that would be noticed when I walked by. The question is: Was it immodest to wear something so eye-catching?
By the definition above, you could say that I was immodest. I was not free from vanity, because I just knew I looked cute, though my aim was to look pretty for my husband. It’s fine, in my opinion, for a woman to embrace her femininity by looking her best . It is a feminine, God-given characteristic, I believe for a woman to want to look and feel beautiful for herself, and especially for her husband.
My behavior, speech, and dress were decent, but I don’t know that a 5’9″ woman in 3-inch heels could be considered simple or moderate. But again, it depends on whose setting the standard for what is simple or moderate. Herein lies the rub. In my opinion, I was wearing a very simple outfit that was no fuss at all. Another person might have found it over the top. It is all very subjective, isn’t it?
This is why I get touchy when the subject of modesty is reduced to a simplistic argument such as wearing dresses only or not. Why I often refer to the ”modesty police” when I broach the subject. This is much more nuanced than dresses only. Or not. Long hair. Or not. Wearing make-up. Or not. We all agree that a woman’s clothing should not be too tight, too short, or too few, out of deference to our brothers. We are believers. To dress in a way that obviously incites lustful thoughts in a world where we are being constantly bombarded with sexual images is irresponsible at best and sinful at worst. After that, however, I think the issue should be left to a woman and her husband, or that woman and the Lord if she is unmarried. This is certainly an important matter and I don’t want to diminish its importance.
As is the case on most matters, our view broadens or contracts in conjunction with our spiritual maturity and growth. I have gone from dressing in jeans 6 days a week to being in a skirt at least half the time. This has been a part of the growth process for me as I feel compelled to dress in a way that speaks to my rejection of an increasingly androgynous culture, and to encourage my daughters to do the same. Being an example for my kids was the ultimate reason I felt the need to change, and it’s also the reason I think I haven’t felt compelled to be dresses only, if that makes sense.
Modesty ultimately, is a state of our hearts that flows outwardly, reflecting our respect for The Savior, ourselves, our families, and our fellow believers enough to avoid being a stumbling block. In fact, by that definition, it is quite possible to be covered in an immense amount of cloth and be immodest in attitude, speech, and in pride as we dress in such a way to prove to everyone we meet how modest we are. We want them to note how righteous we are. Truly, He says, we will have received our reward. I have great respect for women who follow the Lord’s leading in this area, and I know that not everyone who feels convicted to wear dresses only or to cover their hair is self-righteous. If however, you believe that those of us who don’t are somehow less righteous, today would be an excellent day for self-examination.