Practical Christian Theology
“Modesty is always beautiful.” ~GK Chesterton
One Sunday morning a Baptist pastor said he’d looked and done a double take, thinking, That woman’s forgotten to put on a dress. She’s wearing nothing but her slip. He counseled: “If you’re going to come in here, put on some clothes.” An odd thing for a pastor of a megachurch to say. Because preachers are usually too diplomatic to express an honest opinion about parishioners. The shame is that the pastor had to say something about it, and from the pulpit. It is the duty of mothers and older women to instruct young women. If we are not providing guidance in this area, we have failed the next generation.
Though I was reared to wear hose and dresswear to church, and still do, I can live with the bare calves and the naked-foot sandals many girls and ladies are wearing these days. What is harder to take is the miniskirts, exposing sometimes a foot or half-foot stretch of bare thigh. Besides the viewer’s shock in seeing so much flesh, if the girl bends over, she shows everything she’s wearing under the skimpy skirt. Or, the sleeveless or backless top or sundress, with spaghetti straps, as if she were headed to the beach. Or, the clinging nylon or polyester dress that follows her frame and reveals too much. Or the plunging neckline. Or, the short, tight skirt or too-tight pants. Why would a young woman buy such clothes, much less wear them in public? still yet, to church? For that matter, should a woman even wear pants? I’ve never worn pants to church; but if it doesn’t look as if she’s poured into them, some pants are more modest than skimpy skirts.
No one likes clothes police, which is one reason students balk at dress codes and parishioners rebel against legalism, but when young ladies show by their attire that they don’t know how to dress appropriately, then something needs to be said. Young women need to be taught: don’t pattern yourself after the world. The world has no sense of decency, but if you’re a Christian, you should have.
The Bible doesn’t have a great deal to say about running around half-naked, but it does mention “modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9). It also mentions putting less emphasis on outward adorning and more on inward adorning. “Let [your adorning] not be that outward adorning of hairstyles, jewelry, or clothes; but let it be the hidden person of the heart … even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3, 4).
Not only clothes, but makeup, hair, jewelry, and perfume can get out of hand. A little makeup is nice; a lot, isn’t. A little perfume is nice; a lot, isn’t. A little jewelry, maybe; a lot, no. Hair? Try to keep it feminine. Make sure the viewer can still recognize the gender. You don’t want it so cropped, that with your pants on, the viewer is guessing whether you’re a he or a she.
Tattoos? Well, the Bible does talk about not putting marks on the body (Leviticus 19:28). It’s heathen.
At the beach I never wear beachwear or swimwear—I don’t own any because it shows too much flesh—but, a nature lover, I do like boardwalks and lonely beaches where I can walk the seashore. I was at the beach one day, out of season, in casualwear, when I saw two teen girls go into a tattoo parlor. They came out carrying their blouse, wearing nothing above the waist but their bra, with their arms hugging their chest. It was cold, and they were shivering. Each had gotten a small tattoo on the upper back (and were letting it dry). Why? Probably because they were listless, had nothing else to do, and so, out of boredom, got a tattoo. No one had taught them any better. Why do people get tattoos? Because they don’t have any better sense.
The same verse that talks about not putting marks on the body also mentions cutting or piercing the flesh. I don’t wear jewelry at all—I own no gold or silver—so I’ve never had my ears pierced. (If I had money for fine jewelry, I’d give it to missions.) Gospel music artists Dottie Rambo and Vestal Goodman, by comparison, did have pierced ears, but the tiny earrings Goodman wore were modest compared with Rambo’s. When persons have rings in their nose, their tongue, their upper lip, six on each ear, one in the eyebrow, another in the navel, I have to turn my head. What a gross sight!
That’s the world. We shouldn’t be like the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16).
“Come out from among them, be separate, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Now, I’m guessing if you are young, you don’t want to dress like old-fashioned Anabaptists or middle-aged moms or schoolteachers, but that does not mean you have to dress like entertainers either—or even your friends, for that matter. There is an innocent beauty in simplicity and in modesty. Make sure everything from your shoulders to your knees is covered, your skirt is long enough that someone can’t see up your dress, your neckline is high enough that someone can’t see down your dress, and the garment is loose enough that you can sit down comfortably. If you have to wear a sleeveless blouse or dress—I never do—make sure your armpits are shaved. Distinguish between beachwear, casualwear, dancewear, dresswear, formalwear, grungewear, leisurewear, loungewear, partywear, sleepwear, sportswear, swimwear, and underwear and don’t mix and match. Wear the most modest attire to church. Then, be on your best behavior and act reverently. The boys who really matter will notice your good graces.
To the church: I’m guessing your ladies room is one of those pretty things with flower arrangements and potpourri. I suggest you mount there (or somewhere appropriate) some nice gallery of “beauty tips” or “beautiful young ladies,” and let the daughters of your deacons and elders model the kind of clothes and behavior you want all the young ladies in your parish to emulate. Good graces are often more caught than taught.
“No education can be of true advantage to young women but that which trains them up in humble industry, in great plainness of living, in exact modesty of dress.” ~William Law
Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee