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Every Christian family should have a modesty policy. In 2 Timothy 2:9, we read that, "women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control". Although every family's standards of modesty will differ, here I offer some general guidelines to help those who are just starting to think about Christian modesty in their homes.
Before we dig into my personal modesty guidelines, I think it's really important to realize that modesty begins in the heart. You can cover your body from head to toe, but if your body language and your attitude are bold and egotistical, you can't modest. So an unpretentious demeanor goes a long way in ensuring modesty.
Conversely, it is impossible to have a genuine modest spirit and be dressing immodestly. I say this because if you truly had a heart for modesty, you would want your outward appearance to reflect that. Titus 1:16 says this: "They claim to know God, but by their actions, they deny Him". While we know that God looks at our heart, and not our outward appearance, we must recognize that "every good tree bears good fruit, and every bad tree bears bad fruit...and so you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:17, 20). It should go without saying that salvation is based on faith alone (Titus 3:5-7), however, as we grow in our Christian walk, we must strive to be more like Christ in every aspect of our lives, including how we dress.
All this being said, here are 4 guidelines I have found to be helpful in setting up a modesty policy for myself and for my daughters.
1. When you put on an outfit, pay attention to where your eyes are drawn. Your clothing should draw attention to your face. The Lord has naturally made faces to be the focal point of the human body. Our faces are very symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. We communicate using our eyes, mouth and facial expressions. When your clothing draws attention away from your face and to other parts of your body, you are causing others to focus attention more on your outward appearance, which may cause them to miss what's in your heart.
2. When you put on an outfit, think about how the opposite sex would interpret what you are wearing. Does your outfit cling to you? Does it draw the eye to areas meant only for your spouse? Are your undergarments showing? Will they show if you sit comfortably? Can you be active in this outfit and allow private things to remain private? If these questions don't make your choice clear enough, think about this: the only person who should be allowed to pay attention to your private areas is your spouse. If the outfit you are wearing causes other people's spouses to be tempted, you are sinning. Matthew 5:28 says, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart". You do not want to aide someone else's spouse in committing adultery!
3. When you put on an outfit, consider how the outfit makes you feel. Not everyone will feel this way, but for me, when I put on a skirt, I feel feminine and beautiful. I feel much more like a woman, which is good, because God has made me a woman. Feelings affect actions. When you wear pajamas all day, don't you tend to act lazier? When I dress modestly and with femininity, I feel much more motivated to act like like a lady in all areas of my life (in relation to God, my husband, my children and to others). Conversely, when I put on clothing that is more suggestive in nature, I am inclined to focus on my physical imperfections and on how others will perceive my beauty (or flaws). The world feeds women so many lies about true beauty already. Let us not continue feeding ourselves the lie that beauty lies in our physical appeal.
4. When you put on an outfit, consider how your actions affect the choices of others, specifically your children. My oldest daughter is nearly 7. When I started being more intentional about dressing modestly it was because of her. I wanted to instill in her a heart for modesty. She looks to me to show her how a godly woman should act and dress. When I get dressed, I always think of her, and I ask myself, would I want my daughter wearing this? If the answer is no, I know I should not wear it either. Since I started dressing more modestly, my daughter has started dressing more modestly too. I haven't forced her to make all the changes I have made, (though I have put away some of her more questionable apparel) but 9 times out of 10 she chooses to wear modest outfits on her own.
So there you have it. I hope these guidelines will help you as you venture down the road of dressing modestly. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies (emphasis mine)". May we learn to dress and act as if our worth was far above rubies!