I’ve been pondering this topic quite a bit recently, as the topic of modesty has been resurfacing within Christian women communities, especially on Facebook. There’s always been some debate between women in regards to what is considered modest or immodest. My goal with this series is to tackle what is considered modest from a biblical prospective as well as address the practices that have been debated upon by the Christian community for decades.
When we think back close to 100 years ago, the vast majority of women regardless of spiritual beliefs held virtually the same standard of style and modesty. There wasn’t much of a divide between Christian and non-Christian people (as far as the west is concerned) when it came to what was considered modest and what was considered immodest. Now of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part when we look at clothing before the 1920’s, we see long dresses, no pants on women, long hair, sleeves, and a very high neckline. Anything deviating from that norm to an extensive degree was considered crude and distasteful for a woman.
Today, that divide is a lot longer, and so is the divide among Christian women in terms of how they define what is modest, and what is not. Should there be a noticeable difference in the way Christian women dress? How drastic should that difference be? Where is the line between what is acceptable and unacceptable?
There’s a lot of important questions we have to answer here, but first, why bother with modesty in the first place?
“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
The Bible is clear that women are to dress with modesty, but the specifics in exactly how to go about it is left unsaid. The Bible does however give us insight when it comes to what is considered your “nakedness” (Exodus 28:42-43) and thoughts concerning cross dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5).
Within the Christian community there is something that I’m going to go ahead and call Indisputable Modesty. These are the things that no matter who you ask in terms of level of conservative or liberal standards, all would basically agree that these things are considered immodest across the board (remember, we’re referring to women here):
- Plunging Necklines: Excessive cleavage or any noticeable cleavage.
- High placed shorts or skirts and reveal the buttocks area or upper thigh.
- Midriffs or tops exposing the stomach.
And here is where the lines begin to blur, the category of Infinite Modesty:
- Sweatpants, Yoga Pants, Leggings for the use of pants. Is it too revealing? Is it inappropriate?
- Jeans or Pants in general. Is it cross-dressing?
- Sleeves shorter than the elbow, or the bottom part of your shoulder. What length is considered appropriate?
- Skirts higher than the ankles or the knees. When is it too high?
- Necklines cutting lower than the collar bones. How low is too low?
- Hairstyle: Should hair be always kept up? Should it be covered?
I call this Infinite Modesty because the range of responses and practices on these topics have infinite answers and questions. I can almost guarantee if you put 100 women in Christ in a room together and asked them the questions above, chances are you’re going to get very different responses. You are going to have people who are open to interpretation and you’re going to have women who unless your standard is X,Y, and Z it is considered an immodest practice.
I’m going to be diving into some of these topics this week, but the main focus we have to remember is that people are led by their convictions. What is right in the sight of one may be wrong in the sight of another. This is one of these subjects.
Have an open mind and a open heart.