Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Modesty and Moms---My Plan

Because Modesty can be a topic that sets off firestorms of debates and comments and can rile emotions, I want to include a disclaimer on this post. I am not writing to target anyone with my observations, I am not trying to impose my standards on all women, I am not saying that I have modesty perfectly figured out and am the queen of fashion and propriety! Far from it! I write on this topic because there is a clear need for teaching on modesty in my arena, and among many Christian women all over the world.

Do our clothes reflect that we are daughters of the King and are different from those in the world or do they show that we are trying to get attention for ourselves? Do they say, "I think I'm hot stuff" or do they say, "I want to serve my brothers in Christ by going above and beyond to make sure I am not a stumbling block and serve my sisters in Christ by being an example, and displaying the wonderful beauty of being a woman?"

This series is not exhaustive. I will not cover every single angle or condense it into a perfect system. I will not go into the reasons for modesty and the heart of modesty. If you are interested in figuring out why it is important to be modest as a Christian woman than enjoy the links I provided yesterday where others who are far wiser and smarter than I have already written excellent posts.

These are my own personal tips for continuing to pursue modesty. I share them here so that they might encourage those of you who share the same dilemmas, which I mentioned yesterday.

Combatting the Mom's Modesty Dilemmas

1. Lack of funds

Though at times I have gotten into a rut of looking thrift-store-frumpy wearing older styles or faded clothing, there are lots of great finds and quality clothing to be had at the thrift shops or at yard sales. It just takes some looking! A month ago, I found an adorable Old Navy jean jacket that was barely worn at a yard sale as well as a Tommy Hilfiger jean coat. Two weeks ago I found an Eddie Bauer long, black skirt in perfect condition at a yard sale for $1. God always provides! Pray about your clothing and watch God open the storehouses of heaven for you! Some missionary friends of ours lived off a miniscule budget. Their pre-teen son wanted some name-brand shoes badly for sports and his parents told him honestly they couldn't afford them but to pray about it with them. One morning they found a pair of name-brand shoes on their doorstep in his exact size which some anonymous donor had purchased. This is not to say you'll automatically be handed a $300 gift card to your favorite store after you pray, but God truly does provide for those things we need and often blesses us beyond what we truly need and gives us the desires of our hearts. If you need to, talk to your husband about setting $5-$10 aside out of each week's pay check to go towards family clothing needs if you don't already budget for clothes.

2. Changing Body

There's no doubt about it, women's bodies change! My best suggestion is that you have a range of clothing with some being looser and more baggy for those in-between times (weight gain, bloating, early pregnancy, post pregnancy, etc.) Don't hang on to clothes if there's little to no chance that you will actually wear them again, but do hang on to clothing that is versatile. My loose-knit skirt, courderoy skirt, and some of my dresses accomodate body fluctuations. Jeans are probably the worst thing, but you can keep a size above your normal size on hand if you need to. Sometimes women put too much stock into their clothing size and freak out at the thought of owning anything in a size that seems LARGE to them. However, see it as a way to serve your brothers instead of as a mark against you. Yesterday Ali was wearing a t-shirt that was loosely comfy and reached down to her upper thighs. My mom commented that it was a cute shirt! I had found it at the thrift store, in like-new condition for a quarter and had grabbed it because it looked like her size. We looked at the tag and realized that it was a size 12!!!!! A girl who normally wears size 6 shirts and dresses in double her size because the shirts they make for girls nowadays are so tight and so short! One time, I had to buy an XXL t-shirt I liked just because they make them so form-fitting and tight!

3. Modesty Monsters

I mentioned kick-boxing in the dressing room to see if your outfit will be toddler-proof modest. As I've thought about this whole issue, I realized that I personally feel most comfortable in Dress-and-Forget clothes. This is not to say I never wear an outfit that is fancy for a special occasion that might cause me to be more careful but in general, I like clothes that I can forget about. My outfit last Sunday was definitely modest, but it was not Dress-and-Forget. Justy kept stretching the neckline out and Jer kept tugging on the skirt. I was uncomfortable all morning trying to maintain my outfit, whereas, when I throw on some pants that fit me well and a long t-shirt, I can be totally oblivious to my clothing for the rest of the day (until someone smears snot, peanut butter, or mud on me, that is.) If you sit down and think, you will likely be able to come up with a few outfits that are:

A. Comfortable and accomodating for holding babies and toddlers

B. Covering everything that needs to stay covered

C. Cute because as daughters of the King we don't want to be dressing in rags if we have other options and we want to bless our husbands and children by looking feminine

If you can't think of anything you own that meets the above criteria, than here are some ideas from my own closet:

Long, denim skirt (not tight--one you can run in) with a button-up camp shirt

Lee Riders Boot Cut Jeans with a long t-shirt

Faded Glory casual brown slacks with a looser fit (but still make you look slimmer) with a cute peasant top

Capris and a sleeveless button-up summer shirt

Flowing, cotton skirt (sew your own; they are simple!) with a matching solid T and jean jacket

I'm not writing this list to say this should be every modest woman's uniform! Just a few ideas of things that I wear that I feel comfortable and feminine in that also keep me covered even when little ones are around! I'd love to hear about your own favorite outfits that fit the 3 C's criteria.

4. Ignorance

One thing I really need to do is buy a full-length mirror and find a place to put it where I can use it often, particularly before I go places! If your heart is striving after modesty, you will likely be able to guage whether an outfit is modest or not modest on your own. In general, women know what to wear to get attention. And yet, there still is an element of ignorance because of lack of teaching or awareness of how men think. I have known truly devout and God-seeking gals who have worn things with nary a clue that a guy might struggle even though they weren't showing a bit of cleavage. Different dads and husbands have different areas of concern as well. So, as I mentioned in my last post, an outfit which my husband okayed was later deemed scandalous by myself!!! And once in college I had a guy scold me through his tears because I was wearing knee-length denim shorts. I could not believe it, especially since some gals were wearing what looked like denim underwear for shorts! My husband would have never thought those shorts immodest! So, if you have questions about a certain outfit, go to your husband, and if needed, to your mom, mentor, or modest girl friends for advice. I highly, highly recommend you read through the modesty survey which was done by where 1,600 guys weigh in on what kinds of clothing they consider modest, immodest, or in-between. It really sheds some light on how guys see a woman's clothing.

*An important note....we should consider doing whatever we can do to bless those around us without letting their convictions become our obligation. There always needs to be balance between legalism and liberality. So, if you are visiting a very conservative church, you would likely want to dress in a similar manner to the parishioners, but if an outspoken person in your church wants every woman to wear head coverings or long dresses and you and your husband don't feel that God has called you to that, then I don't believe you need to cater to that. Don't flaunt your freedom and don't bind others to legalism*

5. Pregnancy

I found that when I went to Motherhood Maternity in the Billings Mall when I was pregnant with Justus, they had some adorable maternity skirts and capris! Though much of their stuff was cleavage-revealing, they had a fair amount of really modest maternity clothing and so I recommend that you buy a few quality pieces if you are having trouble finding anything modest. Sewing a piece of t-shirt material into the belly part of a regular skirt and covering with a long maternity top is another option. Borrow clothes from others who are a similar body size. I found some cute tops online for a very good price. Lots of folks are getting rid of maternity stuff on e-bay!

6. Time Factor

Shop online, especially if you have found a product you have liked in the past and you know it fits you well. Or, go shopping during a time when your husband or mom is available to watch the kids. Stick with simple outfits and if you love a certain style, buy several shirts, pants, skirts, etc. in different colors. I searched for what seemed like forever to find jeans that fit my body shape but when I did, I bought two pair and I saved the tags and put them in my home management binder so when those pairs wear out I can easily order the size I need online (provided my body doesn't change =) Ask other folks who love to shop to keep their eyes peeled for things you may be needing and go to clearance events at the end of the summer and end of winter to get several good deals at once on a variety of things. Also, snag tips off modest ladies you know. Ask them where they buy their clothing if you like what they are wearing! Works for me!

Last week my little girl asked me what modesty was when I told her she couldn't wear her dress without an undershirt because it showed too much skin. She may be little and may not be causing boys/men to stumble at her age but she is at an age where she is forming impressions of who she is as a female and as a daughter of God. I decided to go through her closet yesterday and see if there was anything that needed tossing and sure enough we had some stuff that showed her chest (ill-fitting, low-cut) and some way-too-short shorts. While I'm not against sundresses, tank tops, or shorts, I want them to still cover what needs to be covered and not be tight or show a lot of skin. She is watching my every move (yikes!) and so I want to be an example of glorifying God in my dress for her and for her brothers, who will one day need to know what to look for in a wife. It is tough to find modest clothing and tough to be different sometimes, but it is worth the extra effort as we strive to worship God in how we dress.

Some links of interest where there are often modest clothes:

Bellissima Modesty Boutique

Motherhood Maternity


The Three 22nds said...

I gotta tell you, I am just not sure what I think about this whole topic. There is kind of a "modesty/femininity" kick on a bunch of blogs right now, and I just don't know...

In some regards it seems like a lot of wasted energy.

Last night my husband and I were reading through the modesty survey results and discussing them.

Both of us were pretty incredulous at some questions and at one point my husband was like, "these guys need to take a little responsibility for themselves. What do they expect a woman to wear? We are definitely bordering on the legalistic" (it sounds like the survey guys do know they need to take some responsibility for themselves).

For example, the question about wearing a purse/bag 1 shoulder to the opposite hip. That is a stumbling block?!? Seriously?!? Noah and I couldn't believe it.

I know you have listened to Driscoll's sermons. He kind of addresses this stuff in one of them. And my husband echoed his some of his thoughts. God made women different. Men are going to notice women. And that is fine. They are just not supposed to do anything about it, lust after them etc.

For example, if a girl is wearing a messenger bag and a guy is like "she has breasts"- who cares? The problem is when he starts staring, lusting maybe constantly suggesting she always slings that bag on :) (and that is just creepy).

So, yeah, as women I think we can do a lot to "help a brotha out" out, but I am not going to spend too much time worrying and obsessing over every outfit I wear.

And the practical side of me says, if I am walking through the mall and everyone else is wearing midriff bearing clothes and mini skirts - no one is really going to notice or care if my bra strap is showing under my tank top.

maybe I need to rethink the whole thing, but right now that is where I am at.

Anonymous said...

Dear Three 22nds,
I appreciate your perspective on this. It adds some common sense and reasonable thought to the discussion. Let's put our energies towards things that really matter.

Mrs. Jo said...

3 22nds,

No one ever said femininity meant shorts and sporty clothes were out. Femininity isn't a uniform and can fit one's personality.

I wonder why you think serving your brothers in Christ is a waste of time?

While some guys have different levels of struggle with lust, there are some general guidelines for being modest, though you may or may not be as modest as other women who have stricter convictions. The survey wasn't meant to dictate your life, but to let you know in general what guys notice and what may be a stumbling block to the majority of guys. A lot of the questions seemed to be split 50/50 leaving it up to you. Your husband may be like mine and not struggle as much as some guys in this area, but all the men I have ever known and have talked to have admitted having a struggle with lust and looking at immodestly dressed women. Just because Noah may scoff at some of the answers in the modesty survey doesn't mean your neighbor or your pastor or your friend's husband aren't noticing those areas.

Driscoll himself said all men are "breast men." Meaning anything that draws attention to your breasts, whether there is cleavage, tight shirts, bra straps hanging out on purpose or a strap between them, etc. I've heard Driscoll speak on modesty and he is all for it while not excusing man's responsibility for their own thoughts. Yes, men will notice women, but will they notice that you are a lady, a beautiful woman of virtue or a beautiful woman of taunting and teasing who wants attention or men's lust?

I definitely don't obsess over this subject every day. But recently, I was reminded that I need to go through and do a check-up on my wardrobe because modesty doesn't just happen and it should be on our minds at least as often as we shop for clothes. It is disturbing how much immodesty I see everywhere, in church, among Christian women, etc. Obviously Christian women haven't realized how important their clothing choices are in glorifying or trashing the Gospel.

Yeah, it's not like it's a major big deal if your bra strap is accidentally hanging out compared to the lack of clothing everywhere you turn in the summertime, but if you don't ever think about it or if it is always a part of your image, it is likely going to be noticed by guys in your life.


If you're a believer, there is no question as to whether or not modesty matters. If you're not I don't expect you to be modest or to understand why modesty matters. Do your clothes point others to the Gospel or show your craving for attention and admiration, glorifing yourself? What we wear is a statement about what is in our hearts. If our hearts are in love with us and we want to be the center of our world, that will reflected in how we dress to please ourselves and not in thinking of how we may serve those around us. If our hearts are in love with God, we will do whatever it takes to adorn the Gospel by blessing others through the way we dress. You say it doesn't matter, but it is of infinite value when you realize that your clothing can bring shame upon the Gospel (the hope we have in Christ) or make much of the Lord and what He has done for us.

Tammy said...

You are absolutely right to dress your little girl modestly, even if she doesn't have the curves yet, LOL. They develop their own personal taste for clothes while they are young, and it comes from how their mommies dress them as well as what they see their mommies wear.

There is no doubt that modesty matters, at least to Christians. We are not our own, first of all. Secondly, the distinction is made in the Bible that there is attire which pertains to harlots (Prov 7:10) and there is apparel that is modest (I Tim 2:9). As daughters of the King, we ought to make it our business to find out what God considers modest, and wear that.

Is that any sacrifice at all, to those who have been bought by the blood of Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is a believer with deep faith - a beloved child of God who seeks to serve and follow him. As Christ followers, you and I certainly can have different thoughts on how important modesty is or isn't.

Please don't lump all believers together that we must all believe the same on these types of issues in order to truly be Christians.

I believe you and I are on the same page as far as the big stuff goes (For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son....) We can both be Christian and interpret the non-critical stuff differently.

Anonymous said...

And in the Old Testament men had more than one wife - does that mean our husband's should too?

Tammy said...

Anonymous, (if you would identify yourself, I could address you by name :o)

If two people are Christ-followers, it stands to reason that they would follow a path generally in the same direction, with some variances for different life-callings as different members of the body of Christ. The *principles* by which Christ-followers live are the same, if they are indeed following the Christ of the Bible.

"Christian" means "little Christ", or a Christ-imitator. If we are all imitating Christ, then of course we are likely going to start resembling one another in our faith and practice!

There are several Bible passages which give us clear principles by which we should make our wardrobe choices, and yes, Christians are most certainly obligated to obey, or they live in disobedience.

We are all on different levels of understanding. No one's got it all down pat, but we should keep growing and seeking to know His will so that we can live it. That's what following Christ is all about!

(And by the way, certainly there are men in the OT who had more than one wife, and no, that does not mean it was sanctioned by God. It only means that they did it, and it was recorded in the Bible.)

Anonymous said...

The power of the Gospel (BIG and HUGE) can in no way be touched by my clothing choices (SMALL and INSIGNIFICANT). Same is true of the Lord and what He has done for us.

Tammy said...

You are so right about the wonderful Gospel of God's provision for our salvation! It is by His grace we are saved. Praise God!

But our heavenly Father has no desire for us to sit on our salvation and grow no further. We are to "study to shew [ourselves] approved unto God," and to forget those things which are behind and press toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus!

YES, salvation is BIG and HUGE! But I would not say that obeying the rest of His Word is SMALL and INSIGNIFICANT.

Anonymous said...

What you call the *principles* by which Christ-followers live are really human interpretations of the complex, often contrary and contradictory bible.

You can take passages in the Bible, and have two equally earnest, thoughtful, scholarly, spirit-led Christians interpret them, and come up with very different meanings.

I know I can't put God in a box and say that "this is exactly what God wants us to do, or what God was saying in this passage". God is WAY TOO BIG for us to try to frame him in our human limitations.

Christ follower

Anonymous said...

But I would say that how long my skirt is would count as small and insignificant.

Christ follower

Anonymous said...

1 Timothy 2:9
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

I guess that means no wedding rings.

Tammy said...

If you feel that the Bible is "often contrary and contradictory", I would like to know on what you base your faith.

Are there specific passages to which you are referring, or is that just a hypothetical situation? Two "earnest" Christians can indeed interpret a passage differently, but two "spirit-led" Christians will not. God is not the author of confusion. There IS absolute truth. If they disagree, it does not mean they are not both sincere, but that one of them is sincerely wrong.

...But returning to the original post, yes, there are clear guidelines for modest dress in the Bible which cannot be misinterpreted.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety..." I Timothy 2:9

That's pretty clear to me. But I don't want to steal the blogger's thunder by going on. If you truly want to follow Christ, then read His Book, and obey it. It is a "more sure word" than if you were to hear a voice from Heaven. (II Peter 1:17-21)

Anonymous said...

You didn't finish the passage - ...not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.

No gold wedding band for you - unless you are disobeying.

Tammy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tammy said...

Actually, I don't wear one. I hope that doesn't mean I'm not married, LOL!

Anonymous said...

I Corinthians 14:34-35

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35: And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Tammy said...


Listen, I do not think the problem is with the Bible. I think the problem is with Christians who just don't want to obey. Certain passages might be hard to swallow. Should it make any difference how we feel about it? I mean, if we ARE followers of Christ, then we will obey His Word.

If we don't obey, then are we really following?

Anonymous said...

And I think the problem is with those who want to interpret the Bible absolutely literally, and don't look at the context, and what was happening in the culture and church at the time it was written, or examine the agenda of the person who wrote down the words.

God has much to teach us, and the bible is one way for him to do that. But the words written so many years ago, in a language very different than ours, and recorded by imperfect human beings, can be confusing. I think it's important to learn of the essence of God in this book, and his will for our lives in areas that really matter to him.

How arrogant that you know that two spirit-led Christians cannot come to different understandings of what God is revealing - I know many who do. You are insulting God - that he cannot effectively reveal himself.

To me, the big things are easy to understand - God makes those SO VERY CLEAR. But the silly little things, well, not worth fussing about.

Anonymous said...

Do you speak in church?

Christ Follower (who does speak in church - did the Welcome last week, as a matter of fact)

Tammy said...

Call me arrogant, call me narrow-minded, I just believe the Bible. That is the difference between you and me.

I read it all, so that I get the context, and I learn about the culture and history involved so as to have the sense of the passage.

I certainly do not think any part of it is silly!

"We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your heart:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any *private interpretation*.

*For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost*." II Pet 1:19-21

Again, I do not wish to sabotage the blogger's original post. You'll have to examine your own faith, and see where you stand.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps 119:105

Anonymous said...

Yes, and God speaks in many more ways than what's written in the bible. Listen....

Anonymous said...

...God might have something to teach you.

Tammy said...

I hope so! I hope I never come to the place where I think I've "arrived", but that I keep growing until I awake in HIS likeness. The more I read and pray, the more I realize how much more there is to know about my Lord and His ways.

Psalm 119:130 "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."

I Jn 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."

Anonymous said...

The way one dresses is a personal and cultural issue. I have spent the last few years of my life traveling to many different countries in the Americas and I can tell you from experience that each culture has different standards for what is and isn't appropriate. (these standards may or may not have anything to do with modesty) This includes different perspectives within the global christian community as well. I believe there is much personal freedom in the way you express yourself through fashion within God's word, however there are also some clear guidelines that must be followed.

The debate shouldn't be centered on the "blame game" or an intellectual shifting of responsibility between whether it is the man's or woman's responsibility to define modesty in the context of gender sex drives. Rather the issue is one of glorifying God. Paul writes clearly in the New Testament about not arraying yourself as a prostitute (in the cultural context). If people are seeing you as a "loose" woman because of the way you dress, you are not glorifying God. If they way you dress so matches the fashions of a sub culture that is anti-God and others are confusing you (a daughter of God) with the world, you are not glorifying God.

Dress to make yourself look beautiful and do so in a way that is personally gratifying, culturally appropriate and God honoring.

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