Do you know who invented the first clothes? God! We read in Genesis that after Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit they were not supposed to, they created coverings for themselves. Then we read that those coverings were not covering enough and God created clothing for them that did. (See Genesis 3:7 & 3:21)
So does that make God the first modesty police? I don’t think so. But it does show us that modesty is important. You see, God created the clothing in the first place so that Adam and Eve would not be ashamed because of their sin. Our clothes are a direct result of the fall. We need clothing so that we do not feel ashamed or guilty.
But that’s not the only text that speaks of modesty. There are many New Testament passages regarding modesty and how a woman should act and dress. That means we need to take it seriously and understand what the Bible says about it!
So in this post we’ll cover some scriptural points about Modesty and how that should affect us as Christian women striving to honor the Lord. Then I’ll end with some practical tips and suggestions to be modest in how you dress in your own life.
What is Modesty?
At the root of it, modesty is a heart issue.
In many Christian circles we have turned modesty into nothing but a set of rules and regulations. But modesty is not just about how short your skirt is, how much skin is showing, or whether you wear a bikini to the beach or not. All of those things are part of being modest, but that’s not solely what modesty is.
There are several passages in Scripture that show modesty as a heart issue, but let’s look at one in particular.
First Peter 3:3-6 says, “Your adornment must not be merely the external — braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way the holy women of former times, who hopes in God, also used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; and you have proved to be her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Did you notice how much it talks about our attitudes and not just what we wear? Peter was not merely telling women to not braid their hair or wear jewelry. He was encouraging them to focus on their heart attitude.
What makes you beautiful is your heart before the Lord.
Peter goes on to use Sarah as an example of this beauty. You remember Sarah, right? She’s the one whose husband packed up and moved because the Lord told him to and he didn’t even know where he was going. Sarah is also the one who was barren for MANY years and the Lord gave her a promised son when she was 90 years old!
Was Sarah beautiful because she wore braids in her hair or had fine jewelry in her ears? While those things are beautiful in and of themselves, they did not define her beauty. Peter says that her modest, submissive, obedient, fearless heart before the Lord is what adorned her, not what she was wearing.
Examine Your Heart
Even before you look in the mirror to see if what you are wearing is appropriate, you need to look into your own heart. Pray like David did, “Search me and know me, and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.
To be frank, there’s really no point in looking at a list of rules or even suggestions for modesty before examining your own heart on the subject. The rules and lists will not help you unless your heart is in the right place before the Lord, that’s truly what matters.
Ask the Lord to search your heart, but also ask Him to show your motives for what you wear. Here are some questions to get you started.
- Are you wearing certain clothes because you want to make other people notice you (men and women)?
- Do you only wear your clothes so that you will be trendy and look like that Instagram influencer you follow?
- Are you looking to your clothing and makeup to find your beauty?
- Do you want to impress those around you by the way you dress?
As you search your heart with the Lord’s help, remember that humility is a precursor to modest dressing. Paul said in Colossians 3:12 that as God’s children we are to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Emphasis added). That means that humility, having a low view of one’s self, should be put on much like we put on our clothes everyday.
Modesty in dress can only come from a modest heart. So, that is where we must start.
How to Dress Modestly
**Hopefully you did not scroll past those first two sections to get here, looking for a list of rules. If you did, please go back! It’s SO important to look at modesty as a heart issue instead of only looking to a list of rules to guide us in how we dress.
I will share my own modesty guidelines below, but the truth is that they are probably different for every person. There are some big categories that we can probably all agree on (like not showing your private parts or underwear), but the nit-picky things like if a skirt should be two inches above your knee instead of four will not all be the same for everyone.
That’s why having a modest heart will lead you to having modesty in the way you dress. There are so many differences in dressing modestly throughout the world that I do not think there is a check -list to cover all the differences. That is why we must have humble hearts!
If you are a woman who fears the Lord, you will know that charm is deceitful and beauty is passing (Proverbs 31:30) and that will inform you whether what you are wearing is modest or not.
Remember that the Holy Spirit is living inside of you to help and guide you throughout all of life, even what you wear!
So, if you are getting dressed and you feel like your shirt is too tight, your skirt is too short, and your bikini is inappropriate, or whatever it may be, don’t wear it! When you’ve searched your heart and your conscience is informed with Scripture, you need to listen to it in regards to modesty. Don’t wear a piece of clothing that makes you feel uncomfortable or is on the edge of what you think to be modest. Even if you just second-guess an item of clothing, it’s better to not wear it. Just the fact that you were second-guessing is a sign that it’s most likely not modest and shouldn’t be worn.
In preparing for this blog post I read Modesty by Martha Peace and Kent Keller. It is a great resource for an even deeper dive to modesty and I highly recommend it. In that book, Pastor Kent shares a very helpful acronym to use when you are getting dressed everyday: JOY. I’m going to explain it in my own words below so that you can use it as a tool when you get ready everyday.
J — As you get dressed, look into the mirror and think of Jesus. Does what you are wearing reflect Him? Does your outfit point to the modest character of Christ in you? These questions may quickly remove an outfit from your line up.
O — Think of others when you get dressed. As you go throughout your day, of course you’re going to see other people, so you must think of them as you get dressed. Ask yourself if your outfit is going to love others by not drawing attention to yourself. Will it draw men’s eyes because it’s provocative? Will your low-cut top cause other women to be jealous?
As women, we must remember that men lust. (Women do too, but in a different way). While we are not solely responsible for a man’s lusting after us, we can help them by dressing modestly. This is one way to show love to our brother’s in Christ: not causing them to stumble.
Y — Once you have thought of Jesus and Others with your outfit and you’ve done all you can to be modest, then the choices are up to you! God has given us many freedoms in Christ and one of them IS in how we dress. As long as you are dressing within the guidelines of modesty that the Lord has shown you in your own heart, then you are free to make any other choices regarding clothing. There are not colors, patterns, or styles that in and of themselves are immodest. You don’t need to walk around in a potato sack. So have fun with how you dress! Enjoy this freedom in Christ of choosing what you wear and enjoying wearing it.
How to Dress Modestly | My Own Guidelines
Now that we’ve established that modesty is from the heart and it’s truly the Holy Spirit that will guide you when it comes to modesty, I want to share my own guidelines that I’ve found to be modest. Currently, I am a stay-at-home mom to my daughter and that is reflected in my guidelines. These are in no particular order. And, if you’d like to see my current wardrobe for inspiration, just click here.
Skirt and dress length: I like to have my dresses and skirts at midi length (just below the knee). Not only is this length flattering, but I feel that it is the easiest length to remain modest throughout the day. My skirt doesn’t ride up when I kneel down to be with my daughter and I can easily sit on the floor without having to pull my skirt to cover my crotch.
Tops: I check several things when I am getting a new top. No cleavage should show (that is a private part!). And no midriff either. I always make sure to see if my shirt comes up too high when I raise my hands above my head. If it shows my tummy when I do that, it’s out. I do keep several camisoles in my wardrobe that provide more coverage in the bust line when the top cuts down lower.
Pants: I do wear pants and jeans. I think that pants and jeans are appropriate when they are not painted on like a second skin. Garments with lots of stretch in them, while comfortable, are not really appropriate and show off too much of your body. When leggings are practically showing your skin but just in the color black, they should not be worn. If I wear leggings, I either stay inside my home or wear some other garment over them (shorts when I’m running, a dress, or a skirt.)
Shorts: I check that my shorts are at least to my finger-tips when standing up. I’ve found that if they are shorter than that, it’s showing too much skin and could easily show other things (like undergarments!). So I stick to finger length. It’s nicer to have longer shorts so that I don’t have to worry when I’m sitting on the floor with my daughter, bending over to pick things up, etc.
Beach wear: I do not think bikinis are appropriate for the beach. They show a lot of skin and parts of the body that should really only be for your husband. And, no, “the beach” or “swimming” or “very hot weather in Southern California” are not reasons to throw modesty out the window. We are still representing Christ no matter the weather. With a little effort, I have always found two piece swimsuits that are modest. There are many tankini styles that have tank-top straps and cover your tummy. There are even some that have shorts on the bottom instead of bikini style. That’s what I would recommend.
Dressing Modestly In Your Life | Practical Tips
As I said above, dressing modestly will look slightly different for everyone. But here are a few practical tips to help you as well.
Make the mirror your friend. Mirrors are a blessing and can be very helpful as you get dressed in the morning. No, I don’t mean that you need to stare in the mirror for an hour, wondering how pretty you are. Use the mirror as a tool to check your modesty. Bend over in the mirror and look up, you’ll see exactly what everyone else will see when you bend over that day. Turn around and look at your backside, your shorts might be showing more than you thought. Sit down with your skirt on to see how short it is. Whatever it may be, take a few minutes to look in the mirror and that will help you start your day modestly.
When in doubt, throw it out. I said this above, but it bears repeating. If you are second-guessing something you are wearing, then don’t wear it. The Holy Spirit is most likely showing you exactly what you shouldn’t wear and you need to listen to that guiding in your life.
Ask your friends. If you are really not sure about what you are wearing as a Christian friend or mentor. Or, if you are married, ask your husband. Maybe you’ve not tried dressing modestly before and it’s all new to you, it’s totally okay and helpful to ask other people for their help! Find someone at church that dresses modestly and ask them where they buy their clothing or maybe they’d like to go shopping with you. This is an opportunity to lean into the body of Christ, the church, and get help from others.
There’s probably a lot more that could be said about dressing modestly. If you’d like to read more about it, I do recommend that book by Martha Peace as a deep dive. But I hope you have seen from this post that modesty is an important aspect of being a Christian woman. We can honor the Lord in how we dress and that you don’t need to dress frumpily to do so.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to know what you think of modesty in the comments below.
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