Modesty Revisited

A few weeks ago, an anonymous person commented on one of my old posts from my newlywed days.  I had to laugh and cringe a little bit when I reread it, both at my writing style and a few of my thoughts.  Over the three years since I wrote that post, I’ve developed and grown so much, both as a woman and in my beliefs.
The truth is, I don’t only wear clothes that my husband “likes” and, honestly, he wouldn’t want me to.  I’m so thankful to be married to my husband.  We have our fair share of problems, struggles, and fights, but never once has he tried to control the way I dress.  If anything, he’s given me the freedom to develop my own personal sense of style and convictions on modesty.  His questions about why I felt the need to wear certain uber-Conservative pieces of clothing were merely meant to question my motives and help me decipher my personal convictions and tastes from the voices of the outside world.
You see, I’ve come to realize that standards without conviction are legalism.  Instead of coming out of honest prayer and seeking the Lord, they come from other men and women who are very vocal about their belief that their standards are the only correct ones.  My days of wearing long skirts and no makeup stemmed from legalism and a desire to please people (specifically single male ones 😉 ).  Here are some of my latest thoughts on modesty and what it really means:

The way you dress should bring respect, both to yourself and to your husband.

I know without a doubt that my husband will still love me and think I’m good-looking no matter what, but I want to walk into church or the grocery store dressed in a way that will make my husband proud that I’m his.  

“Her husband is known in the gates, 

When he sits among the elders of the land.”

(Proverbs 31:23)  

The infamous “Proverbs 31 Woman” brought her husband respect.  Similarly, while I have my own personal style and convictions, (hey, I’m a daughter of the King, and I want to and should be respected), I also want to bring respect to my husband.  I don’t want to bring upon him jealousy, mockery, or pity because I’m either dressed too provocatively or too frumpily (is that even a word?).

Modesty is not about wearing the “right” things and avoiding the “wrong” ones…it’s about not drawing undue attention to yourself.  

Sure, I want to be dressed nicely and attractively, bringing respect both to myself and my husband, but if I’m drawing attention to myself because I’m standing out too much, then I’m basically defeating my whole purpose.  Sometimes, covering up too much can actually draw more attention to yourself than just dressing tastefully and appropriately for the situation.  Anyone who’s ever seen a woman wearing a burka on a hot beach knows exactly what I’m talking about.  Dressing in a certain, Conservative way will make people think “Pentecostal” or “Fundamentalist”…not “Christian”.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those descriptions (especially if you are Pentecostal or a Fundamentalist), but if you’re not, is that really the image you want to portray to people?

“An attitude of humility, avoiding improper self-exaltation or excessive flamboyance. Scripture urges modesty in personal behaviour, forms of dress and forms of behaviour” (Dictionary of Bible Themes).

Over hyped-up modesty only makes us ashamed of our womanhood.

Please don’t try to argue with me on this point.  I’ve talked to many, many women who’ve come out of very Conservative circles, and the majority of them have experienced this at one point or another.  They were told that their bodies could make men stumble, as if they were wholly responsible for a man’s thoughts.  They were told that the mere outline of their womanly bodies could cause a man to lust, and thus they became ashamed and paranoid.  They wore bulky, ill-fitting clothing in an attempt to be “modest”.
Ladies, God created the female body as an exquisite, beautiful thing.  We should never, ever be ashamed of our bodies.  I don’t want to get into a debate here, because I really don’t have all the answers.  I just want to assure you that the fact that you have a chest, or a waist, or legs, or a rear end–the fact that you are a woman–isn’t going to make any guy stumble.

To this day, I’m still guilty of dressing differently depending on who I am going to be around.  

Not that it’s wrong to want to avoid offending someone or to dress situation-appropriately, but, at least for myself, I can definitely go overboard.  In truth, that just means that I’m being fake.  People are seeing the me I want them to see, instead of the me I really am.  

Summer in the South is brutal, especially for someone not accustomed to heat or humidity.

Honestly, a lot of over-Conservative clothing styles are impractical and downright oppressive.  When it’s over 100 degrees and feels like a sauna, even jean shorts will stick to you like nobodies business.  I garden and do things outside in the heat.  I couldn’t do that if I had to wear a floor length skirt or a short-sleeved sweater over everything.  This summer when it starts to feel hotter than Hades, I’ll be thanking the sweet Lord that I have a husband who has no problem with me wearing shorts or a tank top.

I’m all for dressing modestly and covering up parts of ourselves that should be only for our husband’s, but modesty standards are a deeply personal thing.  

I don’t think that God convicts us all about the same things.  I have friends that have different standards from my own, but I honestly believe that we are all following what God has convicted us individually to do.  Because of that, I respect their standards and they respect mine.  In the end, the way we dress should reflect who we are in Christ, as well as the unique, beautiful women God created us to be.  
Have your views and modesty standards changed over the years?  I’d love for you to share about them!

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