This article on the topic of modesty was published in The Lookout in recent years. It is still an important topic today for Christians to address. I guess modesty always has been an important topic – or does no one else remember mini skirts and hot pants?
Let me know what you think of these thoughts and please feel free to share yours as well.
When I began working at a small college as the Circulation Desk supervisor of the campus library in August 2000, my responsibilities included monitoring 14 students who worked in the library. This meant not only supervising their work activity, but their appearance, as the library staff considered the Circulation Desk to be the basis of a visitor’s first impression of the library itself.
My training to the students involved informing them of the library’s dress code and training them how to use the computers and answer general questions. For the first few years the first part included little more than my relaying to those of both sexes that they were not to wear wrinkled, faded, torn clothing and their hair should be dry and combed when they came to work. Most of my attention was directed towards procedural training.
Gradually, that emphasis changed. By 2005, the amount of time I had to spend on what clothing was allowed in the library had increased exponentially. No matter how many times they heard the guidelines, the students, mostly female, reverted to wearing what were popular styles of the day– see-through blouses and skin-tight T-shirts; tight jeans with a low waistband; undergarments that, for some reason, were thought to be of interest and therefore on display.
Nearly every day I had to approach one of the female students and inform her that the blouse/pants/shirt/skirt was too tight/see-through/short/low (sometimes it was a combination). It didn’t occur to them that the low riding jeans or low-cut blouse that looked fine while the wearer stood straight up showed too much when the wearer bent over to retrieve an item under the desk. Each time a student came to work, I had to ensure his or her outfit was suitable. If not, she had to return to her room to change before clocking in.
Never mind the wrinkles or faded looks from earlier years’ clothing styles. I would have been happy to have the students wear old T-shirts from the local thrift store. In fact, I recommended they all shop there to find clothing to wear in the library and save us all a lot of grief.
While raising two teenaged daughters at the time, I understood some of my students’ dilemmas. It was not then, and is not today, easy for young people learn what is modest clothing and what is not. At that time when my daughters and I shopped, we could barely find clothing that covered the normal length of the torso, was not too sheer, or startling in its degree of attention-grabbing, body-hugging fabric.
Some of today’s immodest fashion styles almost seem ridiculous. Why would a female wear an empire-waisted shirt, a style popularly used by pregnant women to minimize their size?
Of course, in recent years pregnancy has become its own problem in modesty. When a pregnant woman wears a T-shirt so tight over her swollen abdomen that her belly button sticks out, as well as part of her skin where the shirt neglects to cover, I have to assume she has no other item in her closet to wear. I mean, she wouldn’t wear such an uncomplimentary-looking garment if given a choice, right?
Unfortunately, the media is doing all it can to undermine any effort towards modesty. A few months ago, my husband was thumbing through a magazine I had brought home from the public library and found a jeans clothing ad that shocked him. A female model who was nude on her upper half was lying on top of a male model, also shirtless, on a sofa. Other shirtless models stood around looking at them. Of course, they all wore the same style of jean, which was “supposed” to be the focus of the ad.
Who were they trying to fool? The focus of the ad was to give the idea that the wearer of those jeans would be attractive to members of the opposite sex. My husband and I threw the magazine in the trash. I’m sorry to say, while disturbed by the ad, I didn’t follow up with a complaint letter to the magazine’s editor that I would never again read that magazine.
Another mother did better in trying to stop immodest behavior. In an article published in a Christian women’s magazine a few years ago she told of an incident at a shopping mall in which she had noticed a young girl, accompanied by three teen boys, enter a women’s lingerie shop. Curious about the group’s intent, the woman followed the group inside. She watched in dismay as the young girl, who seemed cowed by the boys, modeled a couple of skimpy outfits picked out for her by the guys. After realizing the intent of the group’s foray into the store – simply to appease the lustful gazes of the males – this mother approached a sales clerk and demanded she make the group of teens leave the store. “I can’t do that,” the clerk said. “They might buy something.”
Furious, the mother marched over to the group and told the boys to leave the store or she would call the police for harassing the younger girl. They did so with obvious reluctance. The mother then spent several minutes trying to encourage the girl to find other people to hang out with.
Romans 12: 1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Mom and Dad should set the tone for modesty in the home. By wearing clothing that is clean, well-kept, comfortable, and attractive without being an item that leads someone’s eye to a private part, the child will understand our bodies were not put here to be flaunted or to “catch” someone’s attention.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3: 1-4)
Here are some modesty in fashion guidelines for females:
- Skirts should be no shorter than four fingers above the top of the kneecap.
- Dresses should have sleeves and not be strapless or spaghetti (or other thin strapped) dresses, even if worn with a wrap.
- Undergarments should never become outer garments. Bra straps should not be exposed.
- Blouses and shirts that are too loose can be as immodest as tight ones, especially if they fall away from the skin when wearer is bent over.
While it is discouraging to think of the negative influence the media and peer pressure can have on our young people, there is some hope. Last week, while working in a middle school library, I was approached by a sixth grade boy. He handed me a recent copy of Sports Illustrated magazine.
“There’s a picture in here that isn’t right,” he said, opening the magazine to a certain page. In the center was a photo of a young female model from the waist up showing much cleavage. Despite the library’s stance on censorship (the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is not forbidden), I told the little boy that it was indeed an inappropriate picture and I’d take care of it.
“Thank you,” I told him, planning to remove that page from the magazine and throw it away. His little head nodded and he left for class. Hopefully he will always keep those standards of decency where modesty is concerned.
For more information about modesty in fashion guidelines for girls go to http://www.purefashion.com.
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