This is an excerpt from Answering the Guy Questions by Leslie Ludy (Harvest House Publishers, copyright 2009). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Just a few months ago, I went to the mall hoping to find a couple of summer tops. After visiting ten stores and trying on countless possibilities, I walked away empty-handed. Much to my frustration, the only shirts available were tight, low-cut, and see-through – and unless I wanted to shop in the grandma section, there seemed to be no modest options.
As fashion trends become more and more sensual, most Christian girls feel they have no choice but to comply with culture. Dressing modestly (and fashionably) these days is an art form. Most of us aren’t willing to go to the effort it takes to overcome the challenges and dress with grace, mystique, and dignity. Add to that our desire to be found appealing to the opposite sex, and we end up with dismally low standards for the way we dress. We know that we’ll get more attention from guys in form-fitting tops, tight pants, and short skirts. And it’s all too tempting to rationalize immodesty because “at least this outfit isn’t as bad as a lot of things I could wear.” We think that as long as we aren’t going topless on the beach, we have an element of modesty. But what is God’s standard?
I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly. (1 Tim 2:9 NASB)
The word modestly here literally means “with shame and bashfulness.” In other words, not shamelessly flaunting our bodies, but exuding a sense of careful dignity and guardedness even in the way we dress. The word discreetly means “to keep hidden.” Our body is for the enjoyment of one man alone – our husband. God asks us not to give other men the privilege of viewing what belongs only to the man we will spend the rest of our life with.
It’s easy to assume that true modesty means drab, shapeless, unfeminine clothes that make us extremely unattractive. But God’s pattern doesn’t bring oppression and ugliness – it brings liberty and beauty. Contrary to popular belief, feminine beauty doesn’t have to mean sensuality. It is more than possible to exude the kind of dignity, grace and true feminine beauty that will captivate a man’s heart – without using sex-appeal to do it.
Living to honor Jesus Christ and our future husband must be our core motivation when it comes to dressing modestly. If we are asking the question “how much can I get away with?” we are considering our own selfish desires above the desire of Christ.
So what does this look like practically?
Here is the rule of thumb that works for me on where to draw the line when it comes to showing skin: Any area of my body that can be associated with sensuality is not to be touched or seen by anyone other than my husband. For example, if someone touches me on the elbow, there isn’t anything sensual about it. In fact, often at weddings or fancy restaurants, an usher or waiter will take me by the arm and lead me to my seat. Eric has no reason to be concerned about this kind of interaction, because there’s nothing sexual about it. But if a guy came up and touched me on the thigh, it’s a completely different story. Eric would have every reason to be jealous, angry and hurt, because touching someone on the thigh is definitely associated with sensuality. The areas of my body that would be awkward or uncomfortable for another guy to touch are areas that I keep hidden for my husband’s eyes alone. When you keep your husband’s feelings at the forefront of your mind when deciding what to wear, the issue of how much skin to show becomes far less complicated.
What about form-fitting clothes? Lots of young women I know frequently wear clothes that conceal almost every bit of skin on their body, and yet their outfits are anything but modest. Tight clothes can be just as sensual (if not more so) as clothes that reveal a lot of skin. It’s really the same rule of thumb that applies in this situation. Any area of your body that can be associated with sensuality shouldn’t be viewed by other men – whether in showing skin or in showing form. A turtleneck might not show any skin whatsoever, but if it is super-tight, then you are leaving very little to the imagination for any guy who happens to look your way. The same goes with pants and skirts. They might cover every square inch of skin, but if they cling tightly to your figure, you are giving guys the pleasure of viewing what was meant for only your husband’s enjoyment.
This is not to say that wearing tent-like dresses or baggy clown pants are your only option. There are many stylish and looser fitting pants that are feminine and flattering without “giving away the farm.” They may be hard to find in the teeny-bopper stores at the mall where every pair of jeans is labeled “ultra-low-cut-stretch,” but I’ve found that some of the “young professional style” stores have some pretty good options. You may have to pay a bit more for them, but it’s better to have one or two pairs of classy, feminine jeans or pants, than a whole closet full of super-tight ones that only get tighter every time you wash them!
Remember, even though you may get male attention by wearing form-fitting or skin-revealing clothes, a truly godly man is longing for a woman who showcases the true beauty of Christ rather than the cheap counterfeit of the culture. If you dress to honor Jesus Christ and your future husband, a godly man won’t have to avert his eyes when you walk into the room. Rather, you’ll be like a breath of fresh air to his soul. He’ll notice the light of Christ in your eyes and the radiance of your smile rather than being distracted by the outline of your body.
Don’t think of modest dressing as a dour duty that leads to restriction and misery. Rather, it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the stunning beauty of Christ, rather than the cheap counterfeit of feminine beauty espoused by the culture. It’s the ability to capture the heart of a Christ-built man by a feminine grace unseen in today’s world. It restores the value and honor to femininity that every woman desires. And it challenges young men to treat women with true respect and decorum instead of seeing them as cheap sex objects.