Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
1 Peter 3:3,4
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;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
1 Timothy 2:9,10
Modesty for Christian Women
By Susan Theall
Most Christian women dress the same as other women in society today. Most do not even realize that the Bible has a lot to say about what we as Christian women should wear. Up until four years ago, it had never occurred to me that the Bible even mentioned how we should dress. I just dressed like everyone else, whether skirts were long or short, whether jeans were in or out. Then I read an article by a wonderful Christian woman sharing a few thoughts on this issue. Since then, I searched the Bible, and spent hours in prayer to determine how the Lord wanted me to dress. I would like to share a few things that I have studied. The Bible has instructions for men as well, but as the Bible says that women are in instruct only other women, this article is written for women only.
The first time we see clothing mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis. We are told that Adam and Eve are naked before they sin. (Gen. 2:25) After they sinned, they knew they were naked, and they sewed clothing for themselves.(Gen. 3:7) After seeing what they were wearing, God made them coats or long tunics out of skins.(Gen.3:21) We can see that the Lord was not pleased with the clothing people made for themselves.
The clothing he made for them was also a heavier, more concealing garment. It is interesting to note that he made them clothing even though they were the only', two people on the earth.
In Deut. 2:5 Moses does not stop at saying that women should not wear that which pertaineth to a man. He adds that those that do so are abomination to the Lord. The Bible describes worshipping idols, homosexual behavior, witchcraft as well as seven things listed in Prov. 6:6-19 as an abomination.
The Webster's Dictionary defines an abomination as anything hateful and disgusting.
In Isaiah 3:16-24, we see women who are displeasing to the Lord, as well as his punishment for their dress and behavior. They are described as haughty, with wanton eyes, and an affected walk. Proverb 7:10-23 describes a woman who leads a man into sin. She wears the '"attire of an harlot". She is loud, stubborn (willful, rebellious
and defiant), she is in the streets, and not at home, she has an impudent (brazen) face, fair speech (persuasive words), and flattering lips. Her actions are bold and independent; she grabs the man and kisses him. Verse 27 tells us that her house is the way to hell.
If we look at Proverbs 3 1, we see a description of the Virtuous Woman. Which of us does not want to be seen as a virtuous woman by God? We get a few descriptions of her physical appearance. She works with her hands
and she has strong arms. We are not told what her face, hair, and figure are like. Verse 30 says, Favour (charm and grace) is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." This woman is described as being more valuable than rubies, and her children and husband praise her for caring for her family, helping the poor, fearing the Lord. In the New Testament, we find many women who love and serve the Lord. A few are Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 2:28), Elizabeth (Luke 1 :40), Anna (Luke 2:36), Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-39), and Tabitha/Dorcus (Acts 9:36). Not one description of these women gives a physical description.
In I Timothy 2:9-10, Paul gives specific instructions as to how women should dress. These include "modest clothes, with shamefacedness and sobriety. not with braided hair or gold, or pearls or costly array". Webster's Dictionary gives the following definitions: Modest - not vain or boastful, unassuming, not forward, not shy or reserved, behaving, dressing, speaking in a way that is considered proper or decorous, decent, moderate or reasonable, not extreme, quiet and humble in appearance, style, not pretentious. chaste Shamedfaced - very modest or shy Sobriety - seriousness, sedateness We all understand that costly array means expensive clothing. In Titus 2:4 -5, we are told that the older women should teach the young women to be discreet and chaste.
Discreet - careful about what one says or does, prudent Chaste - pure, decent, or modest in nature or behavior, restrained and simple in style; not ornate (Pure implies chastity,' through innocence and an absence of
Modest and decent are both applied to propriety in behavior, dress, bearing, or speech as exhibiting morality or purity.)
Peter gives instructions on dressing in I Peter 3:3-5. He specifically, tells us to adorn ourselves with a meek and a quiet spirit, not clothing, jewelry' and fancy. hairstyles. In order to study this topics, I searched out related verses. and wrote them out. Then. I used the dictionary to find precise definitions of the words used. I also consulted mv Bible dictionary,. I tried to ready any Christian tracts I could find on this subject. I prayed that the Lord would open mv eyes to see what was appropriate for me as a Christian woman. and what was not.
I made two lists. one of words that described what my clothing should be (modest) and should not be (costly), and one of words that described what my attitudes should be (meek) and not be (haughty).
We really should mention the subject of temptation. Matt. 5:28 says that for a man to look after a woman with lust is to commit adultery with her in his heart. It is each person's responsibility to resist temptation, but are we as Christian sisters, supposed to put temptation in our brother's path? (Matt. 18:6--7)
The Bible shows nakedness outside of marriage to be sinful. (Gen. 9:22-23, Lev. 18:6-19, Rev. 3:18) Do today's styles constitute nakedness? Many outfits are strapless, show the midriff, then end at the top of the thigh.
It is interesting to study the history' of clothing in America. >From the time the first Pilgrims arrived, to the beginning of this century, clothing for women did not change that much. Women basically wore long skirts with blouses, or long dresses. Can you guess who started the move, toward the shorter skirts and pants? It was the first feminists in , the late 1800's. They insisted that women had miserable lives, and should be liberated. The feminist thought the answer was for women to dress and act like men. One of these women was named Mrs. Bloomer (we still use the word bloomer to describe the baggy pants she advocated). In 1851 the early feminists were denied admission to most churches and buildings even though they had a skirt past the knee and bloomers to their ankles. When she realized it was hurting the women's movement, she gave up trying to wear men's clothing, and no more was heard of women wearing pants for 40 wears. As the feminist movement grew, the push to dress like men grew too. Shorter hair, pants, and suit jackets are all socially acceptable today, less than one hundred years later. Wouldn't these early feminist be pleased to see the way most women dress today?
Are we truly surprised that currently feminists support abortion and lesbian rights?
How does the Lord want you to dress? Only you and your husband can determine that. But for a Christian woman, this decision should come after prayer and Bible study, not after consulting the latest fashion magazine. As a result of our Bible study and much prayer, our family has developed our own standards for how' we should dress. The result is that we dress fairly differently from the people around us. I would like to share some of the common questions I hear from other women about this I would like to share some of the common questions I hear from other women about this important area.
1. Why don't you wear pants? We decided that pants were not appropriate for the women in the family.
Deuteronomy 22:5 states the Lord's opinion on women who wear men's clothing. I do not want to do anything that is an abomination to the Lord. Notice that throughout the Bible the Lord prescribes different but complimentary roles for men and women, provider/helpmeet, husband/wife. father/mother. God clearly wants there to be a difference between men and women. Pants only became acceptable 30 to 40 years ago as the feminists urged women to act like men. Pants, no matter how loose, still show the female figure much more than a loose skirt or dress. The Lord really opened my eyes when I noticed the women I was standing or walking behind when I was out in public.
2. Does everyone have to dress alike? What is modest on a particular women is largely determined by the shape of the figure. As I am only 5 feet tall, most low V-neck tops are not modest on me. On a tall woman,
these would probably be modest. I have an easy time finding skirts and dresses of a modest length. A tall sister would have a tougher time as so many dresses and skirts are short on an average size person. As I am
full-figured, I try to avoid blouses that button up the front unless they are very loose, or to be worn under a jumper. Otherwise, every time I move my arms, they pull at the buttons. I also find that outfits with a gathered waist can really accentuate full hips. Someone above average height might also want to watch out for
the length on blouses, to make sure her stomach does not show ever, time she lifts her arms.
3. Don't you want to look attractive? Society teaches us that we should dress to be attractive and sexy. We should strive to be noticed. We must always have something different on and never wear the same outfit. How
many magazines are filled with articles on how to look thinner. how to change an outfit with new accessories. how to have a new wardrobe on a budget? The Bible gives us a different picture of clothing. Clothing was
created to hide our nakedness. Peter tells us to adorn ourselves not with jewelry or a fancy hairstyle. but with a meek and quiet spirit. (I Peter 3:3-4) Please notice that I am not trying to say that we should go out of our way to wear unattractive things. I always buy clothing and fabric in colors and prints that I like.
4. How are we supposed to dress? God gave us very clear and specific guidelines as to how we should dress. The key words are modes, discreet and chaste. Each of us is given the same principles, and has to apply
these to our wardrobe. For myself I have determined that I will not wear flashy, shiny, metallic, fluorescent or showy fabrics. I will not wear styles that reveal bare shoulders, the midriff, or my legs above the knee. I also do not wear clingy styles or fabrics that show my figure. There is an ad for pantyhose that claims that no one will see a line where your underwear is. For me any article of clothing that reveals the undergarments is too clingy to be modest.
5. Will I have to throw out my entire wardrobe? After you have determined exactly how you would like to apply these principles, it is time to sort through your wardrobe. Many garments can be modified, or used in a different way to be modest. A blouse that is too snug can be worn under a jumper, a pullover or cardigan sweater. A blouse that has a low neckline can sometimes be altered. I once made a bow to stitch right above a deep V-neck to make a sweater modest. There may be some items that can not be altered or used in any way. I divided these into two piles. One pile was those that were immodest on me, for example, a skirt or shirt that was too snug. These I donated elsewhere. The other pile was items that would be immodest on anyone. These I recycled, by taking off the buttons and zippers for later use. Some I cut up for doll clothes fabric. The rest I threw in the trash. I would not want to give away any item I could not wear on principle.
6. How will I be comfortable? Up until four years ago, when I first began to study the issue, I only wore dresses occasionally to church. Therefore, I considered dresses to be uncomfortable and impractical because they meant pantyhose, slips, and high heels. Once I started wearing full skirts, dresses and jumpers, I realize how comfortable they are. I have not worn a pair of pants in four years, and have not missed them once. Of course, I do not wear pantyhose, slips and high heels everyday either.
7. What about when it is cold? I live in southern Louisiana where it rarely gets below 30 F. I still have had to deal with the cold on rare times we do get cold weather and when we have traveled. It is possible to layer clothes with a skirt or jumper. The biggest difference will be your legs. I use heavy tights, long johns that end at the knee or ankles, and heavy knee socks. If you want to use leggings, check the fabric content. I do not believe Lycra is as warm as cotton or wool.
8.Is only our clothing involved? Our attitude and behavior plays a large role in whether we discreet, chaste, and modest. Remember that we are to have a meek and quiet spirit. We can attract attention to ourselves with
a loud voice or a flirtatious manner. while in the most modest dress. Read how the sinful woman is described in Proverb 10:23, loud, willful, impudent, with flattering lips. Certain behavior could make a modest outfit immodest. For example, standing with our hands on our hips, propping one foot on the opposite knee, having our legs crossed instead of our ankles. If we a desire to be the women God has called us to be, we need to examine our clothing, and our behavior.
9. What about lingerie and underclothes? I know of several women who have changed the type of underclothes they wear to fit with their new standards of modesty. I respect their decision as one that the Lord has chosen as right for them. My personal belief is that all of our guidelines given to us in the Bible apply to what others see. Therefore, I do not choose my person items with the same standards. (If I may inject something here, personally I have found that wearing a cotton full slip helps me to have a more modest appearance on the outside because the slip is not clinging nor is it made to '0 form fit my bossom. It is made with a scoop neck and one dart only under each breast. In this instance, simple. modest underclothes lend a modest outward appearance. Deborah For instance, I wear nightgowns that are much shorter and much less concealing than my dresses. Of course, no one sees them other than my husband.
10. What are the practical benefits? One of the best is time saved. I do not spend time reading articles on fashion, planning constant updates to my wardrobe. and going shopping. I also save so much time getting
dressed in the morning. I brush my hair and put it up in a bun or with a barrette. I then slip into a blouse, jumper, socks and shoes. It takes about 5 minutes. I used to spend 30 minutes on my hair and makeup alo
time saved. I do not spend time reading articles on fashion, planning constant updates to my wardrobe. and going shopping. I also save so much time getting dressed in the morning. I brush my hair and put it up in a
bun or with a barrette. I then slip into a blouse, jumper, socks and shoes. It takes about 5 minutes. I used to spend 30 minutes on my hair and makeup alone.
11. What about the spiritual benefits? I find that whenever we seek to follow the Lord more closely, he blesses us generously. The first benefit is that I feel a great peace at knowing I am following his plans for me. The second benefit is that when I do not worry' so much about my appearance, I do not have as much problem with the sins of pride, and jealousy. The third benefit is that I am not a temptation for other men. I never realized that by trying to look attractive and attempting to draw attention to myself, I was a source of temptation to the men around me.
12. What style/type of clothes do you find most practical? Since I am pregnant for the fourth time in my 9 year marriage, I find that clothes that adapt to my changing figure the best. I find drop waist dresses and jumpers the best . I make or buy them very' loose, so that I can wear something heavy under them during the winter, and can wear them well into each pregnancy. I wore all my regular clothes until I was 6 months pregnant, and am just growing out of the last at 7 1/2 months along. I find denim to be the most useful fabric. It can take hard wear (working in the garden) and many washes. Cotton dresses and jumpers are cooler in the summer, but they wear out with repeat washings. I always make sure the fabric is thick enough, or the style full enough that I do not require a slip for everyday wear.
I hope that my answers are helpful to sisters who are interested in this area, that they will be blessed as I have been trying to follow the Lord's direction.