We’ve seen that modesty is an expression of purity, consideration and wisdom in a fallen world, and we’ve started to look at some specifics regarding styles. Today we’ll look at some more principles that affect our choice of styles.
Where are you?
Modesty recognizes that where you are in what you wear makes a huge difference. A good principle is not to turn heads. That is, avoid dressing in ways that make you stand out against others so as to draw all eyes to yourself. We’ve already seen how that applies to certain styles, but it also applies to styles that may be fine in one setting but not in another setting. You may be able to wear a (modest) bathing suit and shorts while gardening in your backyard (depending on who sees you there), but if you turn up at church or go to the mall dressed like that, you are dressed to entice. If all the other guys are playing volleyball in their shirts, with the girls on the sidelines, modesty means you don’t want to be the first guy to take off your shirt. And don’t compare yourself just to other people your age. Consider what effect you make compared to others at church or school, even those who are older. Avoid doing things that take the standards down a notch and that make everyone look at you.
The attire of a harlot
Modesty also considers the signals given by certain specific types of clothing. Fishnet stockings are traditional among prostitutes. You may not think of them that way, but some who see you in them will. So avoid them, even though they “cover” your legs. Nylons are more modest, even though you can see more through them, because they don’t send the same signal.
Be honest-and ask Dad
When you’re shopping, be honest with yourself. What are you trying to accomplish with a particular style? Are your motives pleasing to God? And-girls-make sure you check out your purchases with Dad or with your big brother before you go out in them. You can have good motives, and just not realize what effect a style will have on a guy. So ask Dad or another trusted male family member.
I would also like to mention the unmentionable: the clothes that everyone else can’t see. Make sure people don’t see underwear lines, bra straps, etc. And don’t wear anything racy, even if no one else can see it. It won’t help you with your own thought life and purity.
Okay, some general rules
Have you been waiting all this time for more specifics about length and so on? As a general rule, girls, if you are wearing short sleeves or longer, if your cleavage isn’t showing, if your midriff is covered, if you show only a few inches of knee in shorts and none in skirts, if the fabrics aren’t tight or clingy or sheer, if the styles don’t call attention to breasts, tummy, bottom, or privates, and if the effect is not “look at me,” “look more closely at me,” because of cut or drape or whatever, then you are in the right ballpark. These are pretty safe guidelines, though some girls and young ladies built some ways in some settings can have more arm showing, say, and not hurt anyone by it.
I am not saying that no garment that departs in any way from these guidelines can ever be modest. Some people can wear some sleeveless styles in some settings, for example. But I am saying that these guidelines produce modesty on most people in most settings. Think of what pleases God and of what is good for others.
Guys, styles right now are not as difficult for you to navigate as for girls. Avoid the tight and the short; avoid ultra-baggy pants with your underwear showing; don’t open lots of shirt buttons; and keep your shirt on as much as possible.
Bathing suits and the beach
As for bathing suits, most bathing suits pose a lot of difficulty for a lot of guys when they have to see you in them, so exploring the world of modest swimsuits that you won’t find at a regular store is a good idea. There are websites online, and some homeschooling magazines carry advertisements by companies that make suits with more coverage, yet which are still nice-looking and not boring.
A few more thoughts about the beach: both guys and girls, ask yourself honestly whether you should even be at the beach. Beaches force some guys to walk around with their eyes pointed at the sand in front of their toes if they want to stay pure in their thoughts. If you are one of those guys, avoid the beach if you can, and stare at the sand if you can’t. Purity is really that important. Girls, if you can’t find a modest swimsuit, then don’t swim. Avoid the beach or wear shorts and short sleeves. Purity is really that important.
Guarding the purity of ourselves and others will influence our choices in many ways. Consider what’s in your closet. Does it serve God’s purposes for you? Consider what’s at the stores where you shop. Do you need to find other places to shop? Or can you find the needles in the haystacks, those suitable items hidden in the midst of many items you will have to pass up?
By Katharine Birkett
Author, The Great Latin Adventure
Vintage “Waiting and Hoping” image courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy