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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Clothing's Instant Messages



It’s a moment’s reaction. We might be wrong in that initial assessment, but it’s already made.

We judge people by how they’re dressed.

And they judge us.

Let’s begin with a history lesson.
  • When the bikini bathing suit was introduced by Louis Réard in 1946, no Paris model would wear it. They simply didn’t want to show their navels. When the bikini was showcased in a 1951 beauty pageant, the Vatican declared the swimsuit “sinful.”
  • Dress for Success by John T. Molloy came out in 1975. It was a manual for how a woman should dress in the workplace. It was the guidebook at the time, discussing how to dress to be taken seriously. It became the dress standard for IBM and other top companies. If you wanted to get ahead, this is how you dressed. It included the “power suit” for women—dark color, skirt and jacket. All skirts covered the knee. All necklines were high.
  • In Forbes Magazine (2009), columnist Leah Bourne wrote an article called, “What Women Should—And Shouldn’t—Wear In the Workplace.” She said, “Everyone knows that you should avoid clothes that are too tight or too skimpy. If your clothing is overly revealing, you may have difficulty getting attention for your ideas. But baggy clothing that’s two sizes too big can be just as detrimental. If your clothing is shapeless, you’ll end up looking sloppy.”
  • Today, these norms are ignored. Even “conservative” newscasters and other TV presenters wear low-cut necklines and short skirts. They might wear a jacket, but they’re wearing a camisole-style top underneath. 

What is happening?

Why have things changed so much in so little time?

I believe it is more important than ever for Christian women to understand the message they convey through their clothes.

I Googled “dressing to be taken seriously” and came up with different takes from everyone from fashion editors and bloggers to business people. I kept reading words like: appropriate, dressy, basic, elegant, modest, and even feminine. Each site made the same point: dressing too flashy (colors, cut, sequins, low, tight, etc.) is distracting. If you want to being taken seriously, be covered up, not too trendy, and not too brightly colored.

In one interesting post, a woman boss experimented and decided to wear the usually taboo pink, floral prints, and other feminine touches to work. The men in her office immediately started opening doors for her and treating her like a lady. Another younger woman in the same department started to dress feminine as well. The same thing happened to her. After a while, other women in the office followed and changed their dress to softer colors. The lady boss did say that the clothing both of them wore was modest, not short, low-cut, or revealing. (
What about in the every-day sector?
Most women want to be taken seriously there, too.

So, why do Christian women throw out the old norms? Why do they dress in provocative clothing? Why do they go out in public showing a lot of skin?

I’m sure it’s not their intention to be provocative. I think that a lot of women don’t give dress a second thought. After all, “all” their friends are wearing strappy little tops and shorts this summer. And dresses are short this year.

Trends in clothing are changing fast! In only the last sixty-seven years, the world has gone from being scandalized to show a belly button to the most immodest ideas possible.

The Christian world, unfortunately, has followed.

To give just one example, I remember when no godly Christian young lady would have worn an immodest wedding gown. The beautiful white wedding dress signified purity and virginity. They all had some kind of sleeves or were demurely sleeveless. They had modest necklines and covered backs.

Thirty-five years later, almost all the Christian wedding photos I’m seeing are of completely strapless bridal dresses. The bridesmaids are usually dressed like they’re ready for a night on the town, not for a sacred wedding service. (Yes, I’m aware that some sweet Christian brides wear “more modest” strapless gowns than others. Still, a lot of skin is showing.)

It seems the Christian world is copying the world’s world—and not very far behind it. What are worldly brides wearing this year? Strapless dresses. What are their bridesmaids wearing? Skimpy. What’s the difference between a Christian wedding and a totally secular wedding?
Hmmmmmm . . . .

There are many places where you can buy modest wedding gowns. (Yes, if you go to the typical bridal shop, they will carry mostly strapless gowns. I went wedding shopping with my own daughter some years ago. One bridal store boasted 1,500 gowns on site. When we asked, not one had a sleeve. One dress had lace straps.) If you want to find a dress that pleases God, go online and search for “modest bridal gowns.” You will find many lovely gowns to choose from and store listings in most major cities. The dresses are not dowdy, baggy, or lacking in style. You will find all sleeve lengths and many different skirt shapes. A lot of companies also carry a selection of modest bridesmaids dresses.

The point I’m trying to make is that a Christian woman can dress modestly, if she wants to.

Let me make a few suggestions:
  • Before you leave the house, look at your clothing in a full-length mirror.
  • Move a little bit—as you will be moving in whatever activity you are going to do, be it sitting in church, working out, or picnicking on a quilt.
  • Ask yourself: 
          “Do I look modest?” 
          “Is my outfit appropriate for this activity?”
          “Am I drawing attention to any part of my body that I don’t want to
          “Could I categorize this outfit as ‘sexy,’ and if so, is that the message I want
              to send to all who see me?” (If you’re married, you can ask yourself if
              you are dressed as you would like another woman to dress in front of
              your husband.)*" 
          “Do I communicate through this clothing choice that I love God?” 
          “When someone looks at me, would he/she think I am modestly dressed?
              Would someone think ‘godly’ when seeing me in these clothes?” 
          “Would I be perfectly comfortable if Jesus could see me in this outfit?”
              (He can.)

If more Christian women (of all ages) would look at themselves in the mirror before leaving the house, and if they really want to please God, we would see more Christian women wearing modest clothing.

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)

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry;
her clothing is silk and purple.
Strength and honour are her clothing;
and she shall rejoice in time to come.
(Proverbs 31:22, 25)

Clothing speaks louder than words. Let’s honor God.

*Not original with me. I saw it on a poster.


  1. Si que es verdad que últimamente la ropa que hay en el mercado no es muy decorosa y es difícil encontrar ropa adecuada. Pero si se busca bien se encuentra. Hace solo unos días encontré ropa modesta y barata así que si se busca se encuentra.
    Hemos de preguntarnos como tu dices si es apropiado, antes de salir de casa mirar hasta donde nos llega la falda si se ve algo que no queremos mostrar a los demás.


  2. I totally agree. I don't understand why young Christian women don't see this for themselves (?) To me, it is so obvious that a Christian of any age - or even gender - is inappropriate wearing any garment showing too much skin (like shorts, short skirts, sleeveless or thin strap tops, and certainly no midriff). Your piece is a good guideline for modest apparall. Thanks!

    1. I believe there's a lack of teaching the Word on this. The word modest is used several times in Scripture; once it's a meaning and not the word "modest" but the meaning is "very modest" which really makes one think. I believe God's standard is modesty and moderation.

      Thank you for your comment, Sandra.

  3. It's interesting to read this after my post today about clothing. In fact, I went back and amended it a bit to emphasize that if one has to choose between modesty and stylishness, modesty is the higher principle.

    I've been distressed, too, at the strapless dressing at weddings. Our pastor in SC would not marry anyone whose wedding and bridesmaid dresses didn't meet certain standards (I assume he had a list of guidelines that he gave them or went over with them at some point before the wedding was scheduled), but instead of choosing more modest attire, they chose to be married at another venue.

    I'm distressed, too, by the shifting emphasis that modesty is more of a problem with a guy's thought life than a girl's dress. I am hearing that more and more these days. Yes, guys need to be careful and guard their eyes and thoughts, but girls don't have to make it harder on them.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I believe strongly that a modest woman actually helps all the men (and women) around her in thinking pure thoughts. I remember that men at one retreat where the women all wore long, loose clothing told a pastor that it was "relaxing" for them, and they thanked him. If modesty were not important, the Bible wouldn't emphasize it each time it talks about women's clothing. I believe it is part of our testimony.


Please share your thoughts.