Saturday, April 4, 2009

Modesty in Dress

We recently received an e-mail from a lady who reads our blogs asking a question regarding our style of dress . . .

Sarah...awhile back, I read with interest your post on head coverings, and the ensuing discussion . . . I've been wondering about why the ladies in your family never appear to wear slacks. Could you elaborate a bit on how you came to this decision, scripturally speaking? I would appreciate reading your thoughts.

In response, I sent her an e-mail explaining the reasons why we dress the way we do. It was suggested that perhaps we could also share this e-mail on our blog . . . it is shared here in the hopes that it will be a blessing and encouragement to you, and that perhaps it may also provoke thought and discussion on this important topic:


Thank you for your question regarding our dress and what scriptural basis we have for it! (And thank you also for your patience in awaiting a response! :) I will do my best to answer your question . . .

First of all, I would like to share that we have not always worn dresses and skirts all of the time. It was a decision that we made about eight years ago after much study of Scripture and discussion together as a family. While Scripture does not say that women must wear dresses/skirts, there are many verses and principles that led us to this.

In Scripture, we see that women are commanded to dress in proper clothing, which as defined by Scripture, is modest and discreet: “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

These verses show that our dress should be modest and discreet. Noah Webster, in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, defined modesty as: 

In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy [public disgrace; shame; etc.] fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.”

We see that modesty is first in the heart and is then expressed outwardly, and Scripture shows that this modesty is to be expressed in our dress. It is also closely tied with chastity and purity—both of which are to be expressed in the clothing that we wear.

For ones making a claim to godliness and seeking to follow the Lord, our dress should be reflective of that. Our dress should be in alignment with such godly attributes as sobriety (1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus2:5), gentleness and quietness (1 Peter 3:4), reverence in behavior (Titus 2:3), and chastity (1 Peter 3:2). One must examine their dress to find if it fits within these attributes . . . or does it instead reflect negative attributes such as boisterousness, looseness, worldliness, flirtatiousness, etc.?

Perhaps one of the greatest reasons to dress modestly (besides the fact that the Lord has commanded it) is to help men guard their eyes. Job hinted at the ‘battle’ that men must fight for purity when he declared “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). And in Scripture, Christ taught many times that looking at a woman with lust is adultery . . . so the act of simply ‘seeing’ can lead one to grave sin.

There is a passage in Scripture when speaking of sexual morality that exhorts all believers to not defraud a brother. It reads: “. . . and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:6-7). 

To defraud a brother is to defeat or frustrate them wrongfully (definition taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.) Men do have a battle with their eyes, and they have a responsibility to guard their eyes. And as women, the way we dress has a profound impact on the men that are around us. 

As women of God, we should earnestly seek to dress in a manner that helps our brothers in Christ (as well as other men) guard their eyes and hearts. We should seek to not defraud them, but to help aid them in their walk with Christ. Dressing in a manner that draws attention to our form (tight and/or form-fitting clothing, low-cut tops, sheer outfits, etc.) is contrary to this. Our clothing should reflect our desire to clothe ourselves modestly and discreetly. It should draw attention to our countenances and not to our bodies.

Another aspect of this is that we are to not be stumbling blocks to others. Christ declared “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:7) By the way we dress, we can either be this stumbling block to our brothers in Christ (and other men), or we can strive, as much as we are able, to remove these stumbling blocks from before them by dressing modestly.

In the Old Testament, there is also instruction given that women are not to dress in the same manner as men: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5.) While directed to Israel, there is a principle in that we can see that the dress of women should be distinctly different than that of men for women should not be dressing in the same manner as men do. Women should be dressing femininely and men should dress masculinely.

In light of what has been shared so far, when we examine whether pants are appropriate for women to wear, several things must first be looked at. First of all, we need to ask: “Are pants modest?” and “Could they defraud a brother?” 

After reading (and hearing from my Dad, brother, and other men) how women wearing pants can affect men negatively, we came to the conclusion that pants without a longer top over them, do not fit within the standard of modesty. Pants closely fit the female form, and even loose ones still show the form of a woman well. Pants/slacks regardless of how tight or loose they are become tight across the back when bending over (or in other similar positions also) which reveals the form even more.

While a much smaller, yet still valid, aspect to whether or not to wear pants is asking the question: “are pants a distinctly masculine form of dress?” It was only in the past seventy years or so that women in America (and many other countries) began dressing in pants and prior to that, they wore dresses. Pants were known to be the male form of clothing and skirts/dresses were known to be for women. (And in our culture today, dresses and skirts are known to be distinctly feminine dress.)

Even though Scripture does not give direct instruction in things such as how low is too low for a neckline, or how long skirts should be, or the answer to the above question of whether or not it is all right to wear pants, we can determine fairly well the answer to these things simply by examining them in the light of Scripture (such as the verses shared so far.) 

When examining the clothing that we wear, we should be asking things such as: Could this garment/style of dress cause a man to stumble or sin? Does it defraud a brother? Does it reflect the attributes of modesty, purity, chastity, sobriety, etc.? Is it feminine or masculine? In all of our dress—skirts, dresses, pants/slacks, tops, etc.—we need to examine it in light of all of these questions . . . and then dress accordingly.

This area of modesty is a important one, and it basically comes down to a desire to clothe ourselves in a manner that reflects the attributes of a godly woman which is pleasing to God and also in a manner that will shield and protect the hearts and eyes of our brothers in Christ, and also other men. 

As believers in Christ, our “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and . . . you are not your own . . . For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our bodies are the temple of the Lord, and we should seek to clothe ourselves accordingly. To dress to honor Him in a manner that is modest and discreet. Dressing in a way that is not to satisfy or please ourselves (or others), but in a way that brings glory to God and in a way that is a witness to the world of the light of Christ shining through us.

I hope that helps to answer your question of what scriptural reasons we have for why we dress the way we do! If something is not clear enough or if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask—I would be happy to clarify something further or answer any other questions that you may have! :)

-Posted by Sarah


  1. I am so glad you posted this. In fact, I have been feeling that the LORD has been dealing with me on this very issue.

    I love to wear my jeans and capri pants (but not tightly fitted.) For the past year or so I have really struggled with the idea of comfort versus feminine attire (skirts, dresses,etc.) as I never have been a fan of them. Even when I was growing up I never really wore them unless I had to. Of course this was a very different feeling on our wedding day...I loved feeling womanly in my formal dress. But again, I reverted back to comfort in my pants.

    I have also struggled with the issue of weight and dresses. I am not a huge person, but I feel very self conscious in dresses. I feel like I am wearing a tent or look like one. Hubby disagrees when I say this, but I feel how I feel. He is fine with either attire (dresses/skirts or pants) as I don't dress skimpy by any means. So I am very glad that you shared this.

    This message proves that GOD can use anyone of any age to teach others the things that please HIM. (I'm a 30-something student in your younger Titus 2 classroom. *grin*)

  2. hi, i love this post/response. You explained it so well, using scripture, fully. Modest dress is so important and not always the easiest thing to explain why we dress like we do. I am a 35 year old and a pastors wife, raising 3 young children. I praise the Lord to see young ladies raised so well to love God and cherish his commands. I have a blog "Conservative Christianity" you can find it on my profile page. If you'd like to follow people could find your blog and it could be an extra tool to reach the world with Christ, and why we do the things we do. I'd also like to scroll your link, if you don't mind

  3. What a wonderful, well worded response. I must agree with your first commenter (love that sister!), on this blog age certainly appears to be just a number!

    This is also something I struggle with. I have only 1 pair of jeans now that I feel comfortable enough to wear anymore, that isn't "skin tight", and still I am not entirely okay with it deep down. I have taken to wearing skirts more often, especially on warmer days, and I do get some comments (it seems ladies would only want to wear long skirts or dresses for nice occasions or if they were of a certain denomination) and I am still trying to get used to looking different (but now in a good way). The Spirit continues to work in my heart about this, and I thank Him again for wise young women He brings to my walk with Him. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for sharing your heart in regards to dress, Evening Shade! Some of the things that you shared are similar to thoughts that we had when we made the switch (such as pants being more comfortable). As time went on, though, we found out how very comfortable dresses and skirts are!

    I am sure that you look lovely in dresses and skirts :) . . . just listen to your hubby! :)

    Thank you also for your encouraging words (they were a blessing to us!) . . . though, we, too, know so very little. Much of what was shared in this writing was instruction and teaching given to us through our parents as they learned from Scripture. Isn’t it wonderful how we can learn and grow from each other?!

  5. Welcome to our blog, Carri, and thank you so much for your encouraging comment! Thank you also for introducing yourself . . . we look forward to looking at your blog. :)

    Yes, if you would like to link to our blog, that would be wonderful! Thank you for asking. :)

  6. Thank you so much for your comment, Mrs. Hester, and for sharing your heart on modesty and dress. It was a blessing to us!

    Much of what you shared sounds familiar to what we also had felt/thought. :) It took us awhile to get used to wearing dresses and skirts, too, and sometimes in certain environments, there can still be a bit of a self conscious feeling. But we just need to remember Who we are dressing for . . . as long as we are pleasing the Lord, that is truly all that matters. Thank you again for your comment! :)

  7. Sarah and Leah, I appreciated you explanation of why you wear dresses instead of pants. It focused on the scriptures and your personal conviction and not a certain denomination or tradition. I too grew up wearing pants/shorts and in the last 10-12 years the ladies in our family have been wearing dresses.

    As far as Betsy's question about how to stay warm, I've found layering to be the key. One thing that has been especially helpful is wearing a long, lined, woolen skirt over my skirts when I will be spending time outside on the coldest days.

  8. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, Amy! And thank you also for sharing another way to help stay warm in the winter . . . layering is such a good idea (especially with a warm woolen skirt! :)

  9. Sarah & Leah,

    Thank you for sharing your convictions with others. There are so many people in the world and in the church that do not know anything about modesty.
    We do not wear pants or slacks either. We are always glad to see someone that thinks like-mindedly.
    I was very excited when I found your blog-spot. It has been very encouraging.


  10. Welcome to our blog, Annah, and thank you so much for your encouraging comment! It is also such an encouragement to us to find others who hold to similar standards of modesty . . . so we appreciated you commenting and sharing. :) Thank you!