Modest Apparel, Modesty

What is meant by modest apparel in the Scriptures? Why should a woman (or a man) dress modestly?

I Timothy 2:9-10 (KJV)–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; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works …

Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC

Scenerio: You and your spouse ride a church bus. One of the women on the bus wears slacks so tight that when she bends getting on and off the bus her buttocks show. Furthermore, she wears a lot of low cut tops where her cleavage shows. Additionally, your husband mentions he is not comfortable with being in the choir because the woman sits in front of him and when she sits her buttocks and cleavage show. Both your husband and you are offended by the woman’s dress. What would you do?

No doubt the above scenario is common in many churches and other environments. My husband and I have had similar experiences in a number of churches. What is modest apparel? Why is dressing immodestly sinful? Is modesty reserved for attending church services? What can be done to decrease immodest apparel being worn in churches, schools, etc.? What is the ultimate answer to people dressing modestly?

What is modest apparel? Larry Rouse defined modest apparel in an article on his blog . He wrote,

Modest apparel is a product of shamefacedness and sobriety, qualities that ought to be in the heart of every Christian. The English word “shamefacedness” is a good translation of the Greek word “aidos.” Greek lexicons define this word as meaning “the idea of downcast eyes; a sense of shame or honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect.” The word “sobriety” indicates “soundness of mind, self-control.” In essence, the Christian will not seek to draw the attention of others to themselves through their clothing. They will not be trend setters, seeking the latest fashions regardless of the message conveyed to others by those fashions. (Essential Elements in the Heart of the Christian section, ¶ 1)

Why is dressing immodestly sinful? I will not pull any punches here. Christian women who dress immodestly are sinning against God and their Christian brothers. How so? Dressing immodestly is contrary to God’s mandate in I Timothy 2:9-10.  This is sin. Additionally, the Scriptures point out that Christians are not to be a stumbling block to each other (Romans 14:13) What does it mean to dress modestly? Dressing modesty requires that through how one dresses, one does not tempt or encourage another person to behaviors that are contrary to God’s Word.

Proverbs 31:30 (NKJV): “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

In confronting women about immodest dress, I have heard women try to justify their behavior with comments such as “It’s the man’s problem. He shouldn’t be looking.” I agree that immediately upon being exposed to immodest scenes, a man should turn his head immediately and walk away from the situation as soon as possible. However, I do not believe the entire responsibility belongs to men. Why? It’s common knowledge in medical and psychological circles that a man typically has a higher sex drive than a woman. Typically, men are sexually aroused by visual means while most women need touch before becoming aroused. I also know that women who have past sexual abuse may have higher sex drives and can be aroused visually. I think sometimes that women who dress immodestly or provocatively are either ignorant of these facts, or plain old just don’t care, lacking respect for themselves and others.

Is modesty reserved for attending church services? No, absolutely not! Dressing modestly applies to every environment, even in the home.  Let me share an excerpt from the book entitled We Survived Sexual Abuse! You Can Too!: Personal Stories of Sexual Abuse Survivors with Information about Sexual Abuse Prevention, Effects, and Recovery (ABC’s Ministries, 2016):

Modesty in front of children. Orgeron remembers one of her professors talking about how that once a child turns about two years of age, the parent of the opposite sex should start developing an environment of always being modest around the child. Parents should not change clothes or walk around the house dressed skimpy in front of children. These types of experiences can be traumatic to a child. Orgeron knows of one girl who was visiting a relative when the relative walked through the house naked in front of her and the relative’s young son. This was most embarrassing to the girl, though she said nothing to the relative at the time.  (pp. 48-49)

What can be done to decrease immodest apparel being worn in churches, schools, etc.? Below are suggestions that may help:

  1. Establish appropriate dress codes. Parents and school officials obviously need to establish modest dress codes for children. If the situation merits, pastors, choir directors and youth group leaders also may want to establish guidelines for how students in youth groups and other members of the congregation should dress. I have heard of some youth ministers who keep modest clothing in a variety of sizes available to offer to new attendees in the group who are not dressed appropriately.
  2. Teach children about appropriate dress (Proverbs 22:6) . For example, wearing  a swim suit (for girls: a one piece or two piece with a skirt) may be appropriate to wear swimming but not to church.
  3. Promote businesses that sell modest attire. I have heard from other professing Christians, “Everybody else wears them,” or “You can’t find decent clothing anymore.” Neither of those statements are true. One, not everybody dresses that way. I choose to dress modestly out of respect for myself and my husband, and to honor God. Contrary to popular belief, there are stores that specialize in marketing modest apparel, such as  Modest Apparel USA. One might say, “I can’t afford their prices.” Then, by all means, these individuals need to do whatever they can to learn to make their clothing.
  4. Set a positive example. First and foremost, adults need to set appropriate examples of how to dress in front of children, as children imitate what we do more so than what we say.

Remember, other than one’s children, modest apparel cannot be forced on any one person. Dressing modestly is a choice that reflects the condition of one’s heart.

What is the ultimate answer to people dressing modestly? Since dressing immodestly is an outflow of the condition of one’s heart. Then the obvious ultimate solution would be a revival in the church, and a spiritual awakening in the world, which brings me to the topic of next week’s blog: Why the World Needs Revival and Spiritual Awakening.

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