I once read the following definition of modesty "...that we should not with our apparel draw undue attention to ourselves that would distract from what our real purpose in life is."
What does that mean for me? Personal dress is not simply a personal choice. Christian liberty is NOT an excuse to dress as you please. I do not wish to get into the pants versus no pants issue. I will state, however, that judgemental attitudes are wrong on both sides of the issue. Read Galatians 5:13-16 for God's view on the subject of backbiting. I have personally met some women who wore slacks that were far more spiritually mature than I, and I have met some who wore only floor length skirts who were as shallow as a mud-puddle spiritually speaking. Clothes do not make the woman. When we get to Heaven we will know once and for all what God's standard of modest dress is. In the meantime, God has given us some clear Biblical direction. I would like to look at four things:
What constitutes nakedness as seen in the Bible? Of course, a complete lack of clothing is nakedness, but we all know that. But did you know that uncovering one's thigh is also considered being naked? (Num. 28:42) (Isa. 47:2,3) We used to live next to a Mennonite community in Southern Ontario. The women of one of these Mennonite groups wore full, pleated, knee-length skirts. Every time one of them would lean over, my husband would have to turn his eyes, because half of their thighs would be showing. How often have you seen a pianist sit at the piano in church only to expose her thigh because her skirt rode up or her slit was too high. Or maybe you could see right past her armholes because her sleeves were too short or too wide. Another way ladies (including myself) have fallen short is, as mothers of young children. There have been a few times when I have embarrassed myself, because I had a kid on one hip and my purse, Bible bag, and diaper bag in my free hand, when I leaned over I exposed a shoulder or worse. This is unintentional, but also, unnecessary. An easy way to test your clothes is to invest in a full-length mirror. Bend over, lift your arms, sit down, lift your leg as if climbing stairs or getting in the van. If these activities show nakedness, layer, lengthen your skirt, or wear a longer one, and be ever mindful of the unintended "oops" keeping a free hand on your shirt when bending or smoothing out your skirts when sitting. Ask yourself, "Does my clothing cause me to show nakedness?" Side note: are your clothes so snug, clinging, or sheer so as to show the form of nakedness. Its the same thing!
The next standard is -- Gender:
Again, I will not get into a dispute. It is my personal choice (supported by my husband) not to wear pants. Our girls do not wear them either. I do not however pass judgement on you if you do. The standard of gender specific clothing (as well as all the Biblical standards of modest dress) is for men as well as ladies. But as a lady, I am speaking to women. We as Christian women should dress to please the Lord first, and our husbands/fathers second. God commands that we dress like ladies. (Deut. 22:5) Feminity does not equal sexy nor does it mean we have to be frumpy. Be a lady. This applies to all clothing and accessories. "Is what I am wearing decidedly female?"
Third is shamefacedness:
(1 Tim. 2:9) Shamefacedness is equal to bashfulness or embarrassment. That is not to say that our clothing should make us feel this way, but neither should our clothing make us feel bold and brash. One of the reasons I stopped wearing pants was because they made me feel bold, like I fit in. It led me to cutting my hair "boy-short" and spiky. I wore more make-up and felt more confident around the world. I liked hearing the compliments it brought. Do you rely on your clothing to give you confidence? Does a certain dress give you boldness? Or does your clothing remind you that God blessed you with the command of submissiveness and safety in the Biblical role of womanhood? "How does my clothing make me feel?"
Last, is sobriety or moderation:
Is your dress excessive? Is it bold? Is a lack of propriety causing a distraction? On the other hand, are you excessive in your modesty? What! Yes, I said it. Do you dress in such a way as to attract attention, good or bad? It may be unintended in either case, but we should dress in such a way as to NOT attract attention. My dress simply should not be an issue. If it is then I need to make some changes.
Our purpose is to glorify God and honor our fathers (single gals) or our husbands. Is the attention on us or on them? Is your dress standards hindering your husband's service? Keep what belongs to your husband for your husband. Mothers, please, be careful how you dress in front of your children. Your sons ought not to see your nakedness and your daughters need a godly example. If you have any doubts choose in favor of what is best, not what's better for you. I will repeat the four simple questions:
1. "Is what I'm wearing causing me to show nakedness or the form of nakedness?"
2. "Is what I'm wearing decidedly feminine?"
3. "How does what I'm wearing make me feel?"
4. "Do I stand out? Am I taking attention from God and my husband/father?"
Ask God what He thinks, He'll let you know. (Ps 25:4,5)
To help in the quest for modesty, I have added a list of web sites offering modest clothing to the sidebar. I do not approve of all that is sold. Please, use discretion. But there are some lovely and stylish skirts and great long tees and shells for layering. There are even some solutions for swimwear. "New Creation Apparel" even offers some really cute maternity skirts. Some of these sites are pricey, but many of them are very reasonable. For those of us that are plus sized, clothing is harder to find, but some of these sites offer some great items in larger sizes too. I also do not endorse the beliefs of many of these sites. But when we shop in stores, we most likely are not supporting fellow believers. We, Baptists, are not the only ones concerned with modesty and we can profit from others such as Mormons, Jewish, and Islamic peoples.
God bless you in your desire to serve God. Remember, none of us have "arrived", but we should all be striving to be Prov. 31 and Titus 2 women. God bless. Keep on a prayin'!