Modesty: Who, What, When, Why?

There are two schools of thought in regards to modesty as it applies to clothing.  The first school of thought is absolutist – one covers certain parts of the body regardless of circumstance, possibly eschewing certain colors or other adornments as well.  One thinks of the burqa, the Amish, and Orthodox Jews.  The absolutists disagree about exactly where the lines should be – but to be part of that community of faith is to follow the rules.   It is, in essence, a uniform, and like all uniforms, first it speaks of the group rather than the individual.

If you have hard-and-fast rules, you have a lot easier job getting dressed in the morning.   May the Lord be glorified in your efforts.

The second school of thought notices that the parts of the human body that are considered arousing change from era to era, and place to place.   If you don’t believe me, please feel free to do some research into the history of costume.   One century, the point of the shoulder isn’t something that any decent woman shows off, but her decollete is low enough that a mere twitch suffices to be ready for nursing a baby.  The next century, the ankle is scandalous.  I notice that many strict people consider the elbow exciting, which mystifies yours truly.  Elbows?  Well enough.  The point, I suppose, is that God created woman to delight man, and that He did a good job.

So how does someone from the second school of thought dress modestly?

First – recognize that sins against modesty tend to be sins of uncharity, not unchastity.  The person wearing the provocative clothing is showing off, plain and simple.  “You want what I have – don’t you?”  Seduction is an entirely different matter, as is slovenliness.

Second – having recognized that modesty involves not tempting anyone else to covetousness, open your eyes and observe what’s being worn by others.

The modest person dresses in a manner appropriate for the activity in which they are engaging.   Swimsuits for swimming, jeans for clearing brush, evening gowns to the grand event.  How do you make sure that you’re being modest?  Add a bit.  If all the girls are wearing knee-length skirts, and some of them 3″ above the knee – well, make sure that yours is knee length, or perhaps a tad longer.  If all the girls are wearing jeans too tight to breathe in, make sure you can put your jeans on without effort.

You don’t want to stand out too much, because modesty is all about being seen for the person you are, not the body part du jour.  And yet – when you are modest and beautiful, because of the ugliness of this world, you *will* stand out.  It’s a bit of a paradox.   You want to bring glory to God in your every word and action, and that is Light in a pitch-black world.

The goal of style is to make a good and harmonious setting for your *face*. Modesty is a matter of conscience, and there are a 100 different things to balance.  What does your husband or your father have to say?  What’s the prevailing dress code at your church?  What does your boss require?  How about safety?  There are times when an excess of fabric is a very bad idea.

Regardless of how you approach modesty, it is a wise person who thinks it out in advance of making any clothing purchases or style decisions.

ETA:  Check this out.


7 thoughts on “Modesty: Who, What, When, Why?

  1. superslaviswife

    I have been thinking about this since you mentioned it in a comment and have started to wonder about selective unflattery. Basically, where immodest women seem to dress to enhance their best assets, show off as much as is logistically possible and hide their flaws, perhaps a modest woman should edge just a liiiitle bit the other way: slightly hide our best assets, show off as little as is practical and let our flaws sit naturally, or at least not be smothered. I think a woman with a large chest could feel very pretty and confident in a blouse that masked it a little rather than highlighted it, for example. Or a woman with a few wrinkles could embrace them and use subtle makeup, rather than using fillers, injections and makeup to try and flatten them. In short, maybe our desire to be flattered and only flattered by what we wear is actually a bit too vain. A touch of subtle unflattery could add some modesty, some humility to the end appearance without taking it into frumpiness or something that would stand out a lot.

    Just an idea I found interesting enough to mull over for a few days, so I thought it would be worth mentioning. 🙂


    1. hearthie Post author

      Interesting. Personally I don’t think you need to be unflattering – but there is a time and place to turn up the fabulous to 11… which isn’t every day. I think, other than word choice, I probably agree with you though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. superslaviswife

        For clarity: I just feel that a little flaw of some kind to detract, even if it’s your natural imperfections, could make all the difference. Humans aren’t meant to be perfect and I’m not sure I want to be part of the constant race for perfection. I mean, hide your hips, pad your bust, hide your belly, paint your legs, contour your face, wear fake eyelashes, wear fake hair… I want to be pretty, but the level of deceit behind the “modern look” is pure vanity and nothing else. Or maybe it’s not modern, we’ve always had it in us, it can just be exploited with modern technological progress? Either way, embracing some flaws and slightly hiding assets just seems like a far more honest, modest approach to looking pretty.


      1. superslaviswife

        Love it! They’re all so pretty and feminine. And traditional clothing from around the world has always entranced me. Wish I could wear saris, dirndls and kimonos in daily life without looking like a bit of an idiot. :p


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