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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What is Modesty? Survey Results

I asked my friends to complete a survey on modesty. My purpose was to find out if there’s a consensus of opinion about the definition of modesty. I also wanted to know which verses would be mentioned. Wow, was I surprised! Please read through the survey results. At the end, I’ve written a wrap-up and application. Most of my friends would profess to be born again Christians, but not all. I have no idea who the 42 women who took this survey are. (For the record, I do not answer my own surveys.)

Thank you to those of you who took the time to complete my survey. I’ve enjoyed reading the results and know this will be profitable to others.

Q. What is your definition of modesty?
A. The numbers of very similar responses are shown in parentheses at the beginning of each comment.
  • (5) “Dressing in a way that you believe would please the Lord.”
  • “Modesty is a heart attitude reflected in my physical appearance.”
  • (1) “Wearing clothing that is appropriate for the occasion (e.g. church, work, hiking) and not provocative (e.g. too tight, too short, too low-cut).”
  • (2) “An outfit that brings the focus to a lady’s face and not her body.”
  • (7) “Dressing tastefully in a manner that covers anything that should not be exposed and also in a manner that doesn't draw unnecessary attention to woman's figure.”
  • (1) “Clothing, demeanor, and a meek, quiet spirit that draw attention to the face rather than any other part of the body.”
  • (4) “Moderate, bringing glory to God, not to the flesh.”
  • “A mindset which drives the individual to serve others and promotes the well-being of those around her. It includes the fruit of the spirit: gentleness, meekness, and self-control.”
  • (1) “Modesty is dressing in a way that is not provocative. In other words, what should be covered such as no cleavage showing and shorts not too short. I do think modesty is defined differently in different cultures, as well, so that does need to be considered.”
  • “An attitude of heart that manifests itself by dressing in a pleasing and attractive way as the daughter of the King and avoiding anything that would cause shame or invite lust.”
  • “Clothing, actions, or attitude that does not bring attention to one’s person, but rather brings attention to our Creator and Saviour.”
  • “Modesty is between the ears.”
  • “The attitude of humility in everything we do and say, how we live. An attitude of thanksgiving to God, submitting ourselves to Him and acknowledging others more than ourselves. About outward modesty: having an own style doesn't matter if it is classic, vintage or modern but without following the fashions of this world, at least those which are indecent and highlight those parts of the body that shouldn't be. This goes for either men or women.”
  • “Decency and discretion, not merely of dress, but also—and perhaps especially—of conduct.”
  • “Modesty is dressing so that I am not advertising my body.”
  • “Immodesty is anything that draws attention to the person for the wrong reasons.”
  • “Keeping my body private for the Lord.”
  • “Loose garments to clothe nakedness.”
  • “If I would feel comfortable entering the church building in an outfit, then it is modest.”
  • “Modesty is the outward appearance of what your heart is saying.”
Q. Which answer best expresses your personal clothing choices?
A. Style  7%
     Moderation  36%
     Covering the parts of the body I think should be covered.  57%

Q. Do you believe there’s a biblical mandate for modesty?
A. Yes.  98%
     No.  0%
     I’m not sure.  2%

Q. Do you wear skirts all the time?
A. Yes, every day.  33%
     No, I wear slacks for some activities.  40%
     No, I usually wear slacks.  24%
     Are you serious?  2%

Q. Do you ever show any cleavage?
A. Yes, just a tiny bit.  14%
     No.  83%
     I think I can wear whatever I like and look pretty.  2%

Q. Do you ever wear shorts above mid-thigh?
A. Sure. 12%
     No.  88%

Q. Do you wear leggings, jeggings, or something similar under a tunic or mini-dress, skirt?
A. Yes.  11%
     No, never.  69%

Q. If you have biblical reason(s) for your personal clothing choices, could you please share the Bible reference(s)?
A. I’m listing the verses in the order they appear in the Bible. If the verse is mentioned more than once by those who answered this survey, the number of times is shown in parentheses. I added all the comments that accompanied Bible references.
  • Genesis 3:21 The Lord … clothed them.
  • Exodus 28:2 About the priest’s robes: holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.
  • Exodus 28:42 The context for this verse is priests who were to go up steps to the altar. Under their tunics, they were to wear “breeches.” And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach. “I use the verse where it talks about keeping the thigh covered. However, leggings cover the leg but they are so tight. So, covered and loose enough to not show every curve.”
  • Deuteronomy 22:5 (3) The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. “The Bible is clear about women and men being dressed differently than each other. Therefore, I dress in a feminine fashion. This does not mean that I do not wear slacks, because I do much of the time. If a man puts on a pair of woman’s slacks, you would know it! They just do not fit the same. The biblical definition on modesty that is found in the New Testament also deals with attitude. Not intentionally dressing above others and putting ourselves out on display in a prideful manner. Dressing for the occasion as appropriate.”
  • Psalm 115:1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
  • Proverbs 5:19 The context is marriage. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.
  • Proverbs 11:22 As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
  • Proverbs 31:30 (2) Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. “Various verses in Song of Solomon teach that the private areas of the body … are clearly for a husband's satisfaction and no one else's.”
  • Isaiah 3:16-24 This passage is an allegory about Israel’s (the woman’s) attitude towards God and how He humbles her in judgment. Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret part. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
  • Isaiah 47:1-5  This passage also is about God’s judgment. In this case, it’s about the Chaldeans in Babylon. It equates uncovering the thigh with nakedness and says it’s a shame. Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.
  • Matthew 5:28 Jesus: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
  • John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
  • Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
  • Romans 14:13 (2) Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. “If your clothing choices are causing your brother to sin then you are not being right, either. Sometimes, to be respectful, you should adapt what you wear to another’s standard when with them.” 
  • Romans 14:19-21 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another … nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (4) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 (3) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. “This verse makes me look at my clothing to see if the way I dress brings glory to God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 12:22-24 (2) The context here is that members of Christ’s body—the church—must work together. No Christian is more important than another. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.
  • Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
  • I Timothy 2:9-10 (17) 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.There should be modesty and not expensive adornment. This does not mean you cannot dress up and be respectable, but I think your heart behind it can be wrong if dressing for attention or out of insecurity.”
  • Titus 2:4-5 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. “We are to teach the younger woman to be discreet, chaste. Since we are no longer under Levitical law... these are just Biblical principles to follow.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 (3) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
  • I Peter 3:3-4 (7) 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. “Your apparel should draw attention to the hidden man of the heart, not revealing or flashy, but indicating that there is something there ‘of great price.’ I don’t think the Bible spells that out in legalistic terms.” 

Conclusions and applications
Isn’t this fascinating? Again, I thank everyone who participated in my survey. I enjoyed reading your responses, gathering the verses, and finding out what motivates you in your clothing choices.

For a recap of the survey, I’d like to share what I noticed:

Many women desire to please God. Many participants stated that the heart attitude is extremely important.

Women don’t want to cause others to stumble. This was said in different ways, but many of the women surveyed did not want to hurt other Christians by the way they dress. Several even mentioned that they might change their dress if they know a Christian group feels differently about clothing.

I noticed several recurring themes:
  • covering one’s body
  • not outlining the body
  • emphasizing a woman’s character/spirituality instead of her body
  • dressing to draw attention elsewhere: to God, face, character
  • appropriateness
  • not having legalistic rules for dress
  • avoiding arousing lust
  • guarding one’s body for God/husband/in purity
  • One’s attitude is more important than her dress.
In the verses:
Some of the passages are not actually about women’s dress at all. Some are about men’s dress (priests in the Old Testament), and some are allegorical, about God’s relationship with Israel. Many are about the heart attitude, not offending, pleasing God, etc. They have principles to teach.
The references that were used most often were the classic verses about women’s clothing: 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4. These speak about modesty, moderation, and appropriateness.

My own thoughts about the Bible on modesty: 
I personally believe that the Deuteronomy 22:5 verse about men’s and women’s garments is talking about transvestite behavior because it refers to wearing the other sex’s clothing as an abomination. This is consistent with other Scriptures about homosexual activity, where it is called an abomination and vile (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:24-27). But, even if Deuteronomy 22:5 is talking about trading outer clothing, the principle is the same: there’s supposed to be a difference between men’s and women’s clothes. In Bible times, everyone wore robes or tunics. But, you could always tell from a distance whether you were looking at a man or a woman. Today, in some cultures, men wear skirts, but they are a different style and cut from women’s wear. In other places, women wear loose pants or leggings under long tunics. They look feminine and modest. So, what is the biblical principle, here? Men and women should look different from one another. This is consistent through the Scriptures.

The Isaiah 47 passage makes it clear that God equates uncovered thighs with nakedness. Other passages indicate that a woman’s breasts are for her husband’s eyes only. These are probably the most specific guidelines for a Christian woman’s dress besides the New Testament’s passages.

According to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, a Christian woman’s clothing needs to be modest (decorous, modest), shamefaced (not bold, with reverence for God), and with sobriety (soundness of mind and self control).

In 1 Peter 3:3-4 what’s important is not as much outward as inward: a meek and quiet spirit, which God values highly.

It looks to me like God didn’t furnish women with a long list of do’s and don’ts but rather with principles to follow. We’re not to be ostentatious in clothing or manner. We’re to please God above all else. Our clothing models are holy women (1 Peter 3:5).

How do you know if your clothing choices are right or not? Here’s a two-part, surefire way to figure it out:

1. Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Check the clothes you’re wearing from as many angles as you can.
  • Are you covered?
  • How’s your silhouette?
  • Are your clothes drawing attention to any private part of your body?
2. Now, pray. Ask God if your outfit pleases Him. Listen in your heart for His answer. Look again. If you have God’s all clear, go out and enjoy being modest and appropriate. But, if God flagged any part of your outfit, change into something else, and repeat the process.

I fully believe if more Christian women would ask the Lord what He thinks instead of going with the flow, following their girlfriends, and trying to be cute, they would be convinced in their hearts as to God's definition of modesty.

Let's please Him with our clothing choices.


  1. I enjoyed this post because the topic is current for me. I've noticed more and more Christian women dressing in ways that I consider immodest both in the pulpit and in the church. It seems that many feel they can dress any way you choose. I do not like to be the judge of anyone else but it causes me very much to wonder about their relationship with God when they dress so immodestly. I like your suggestion that we should view ourselves in the mirror from all angles and ask God what he thinks of how we look.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful words. God bless.

    2. I've just discovered you have a lot of other posts on this topic. It's wonderful to see someone who has thoughtfully presented on this topic while based on scripture. Thank you again.


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