Nearly all women have heard the phrase a modest woman, but what exactly does the word modest mean in relation to women in society today? What is a modest woman? How can one become modest? What does the Bible say about modesty? I hope to shed some insight on these questions.
Modesty is traditionally defined as humbleness, being reserved, not being boastful, self-efficacy, plain, and not showing off the body. However, as time passes, society is constantly adapting to new ways of doing things and changes are made, some good and some bad. Today, modesty does not appear to be viewed in the high regard it used to be years ago. Things have changed.
So first, let’s take a look back. In Biblical days, women would wear only long dresses. Anything else would have been considered wearing clothing pertaining to men’s garments. Fast forward, we see when it comes to clothing that over time women have become accustomed to a “less is more” notion. If you sit in front of a television screen for one full hour, I’m sure you will notice that women tend to wear more revealing clothing, especially as the temperature begins to rise.
Now, does that mean that a woman who wears garments that seem to pertain to that of a man or wears less clothing should be considered immodest?
I ask this question because society has always played a huge factor in the fashions and styles we decide to wear. For example, I remember the elder women in the churches wearing long sleeves. No arms were to be shown, and God forbid if any woman would have dared to show cleavage. I can also remember back when I was young, we were made to wear panty hose under our dresses when attending church. Well, today you can barely find a pair of panty hose in a store. Why? Because times are changing and the beliefs that we once had about covering the entire body to look or be modest have also changed.
Our young women are seeing so much in magazines and on television that they are adapting to the patterns of the things they see. I mean, do ladies even wear slips underneath dresses anymore? The younger generation probably has no earthy clue of what a slip is. I remember my mother making me wear one under my best Sunday dresses so that no one could see through the material of my dress. Picture that today.
First off, the dresses today have become so short that if a slip were worn, it would be longer than some of the dresses sold in stores. Now, does not wearing slips or panty hose up under dresses define the type of woman you are? No, but I remember when Michelle Obama took a lot of backlash for baring her arms while being the First Lady. It was as if she had committed a crime of some sort. Does wearing sleeveless shirts make you unworthy of being called a modest woman just because of your position in society? What Michelle Obama was doing was breaking a barrier that had been set in earlier times for women of her position. And society had something to say about it. Yet now, women go into the workplace and into the church with sleeveless shirts and dresses, and while going about their business, are seen as graceful.
We must also remember that different cultures have different beliefs on what modesty is. For example, in some cultures, women are still not allowed to wear pants for certain reasons. But, here in the United States, women wear pants probably more so that we do skirts or dresses. So, are we modest women with our pants on?
Here are my personal thoughts on modesty. Personally, I still believe in covering the body. Everything does not need to be seen and some things ought to be left to the imagination. Though things have drastically changed when it comes to the way women dress, I must say I miss some of the rules that were put into place when I was coming up. I think that those guidelines were needed then and are still needed now.
Modesty begins within and works its way outward. I believe that a woman can be classy and modest at the same time. I believe a woman can dress sensually and still be considered modest. There is an appropriate time for each. I also believe that the issue with women who lack modesty is that they have never been given the proper examples or guidance. It starts at home.
Girls must be taught how to respect, love, and cover themselves, and they need modest women to show them how. But that gets hard when you have schools that allow only certain attire to be worn and churches that now say: “Come as you are!” It’s funny how businesses can mandate how to dress for work, like how nurses are made to wear scrubs or how we are expected to dress professionally for a job interview, but we allow anything to go in places that we should highly respect.
The Bible teaches us to come as we are. That is true. We are all born into sin and shapen in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). But we live and learn daily. Once a person knows to do better, he/she should do so. Once the Holy Spirit takes over you, you are no longer the same. Old mannerisms should die. I cannot walk outside today in some of the outfits I wore twenty years ago. I would feel so convicted if I tried to do so.
That brings me to yet another question. Does modesty, like wisdom, come with age? A woman walking with Christ should not be able to put on certain garments and feel comfortable. If the skirt is too short, she will probably be seen tugging at it to try and constantly pull it down, and if the shirt is too low cut, she will probably be seen holding her hands upon her chest to cover what is being exposed.
As a Christian woman and a mother of two daughters, I must set good examples. I must check myself out in the mirror to make sure that I am appropriately dressed and displaying how a woman of God should appear. If I walked outside wearing clothes that I would wear to a nightclub, I would certainly get attention from people, but it would be the wrong attention. As we become closer to the Lord and more knowledgeable in the Word of God, we should begin to put off old ways and put on the mindset of Christ, which most likely will lead us to wearing garments that cover us. We will dress according to the respect we have for ourselves.
A modest woman is a woman of worth and value. A modest woman receives wisdom and understanding from God on how to carry herself and so she carries herself differently. The woman who lacks self-esteem and is seeking some type of validation shows off her body to everyone.
A modest woman sees herself the way the Lord sees her. Therefore, she clothes herself respectfully and honors her body. She is teachable and submissive. The choices of a modest woman reflect God’s heart and are no longer those of her selfish nature. A modest woman would never wear anything around another woman’s husband that she would not want another woman to wear around hers.
That is the difference that having the love of God in our lives makes. When I was a sinner, I dressed and acted like a sinner. I put on whatever I wanted and had no shame because I had not come into the full knowledge of the Scriptures. Being in step with God’s grace and mercy, bearing fruit, and submitting to His will have become an intricate part of my life. I must not only watch my conduct but watch what I wear.
I pray that every woman can become as modest as the Bible teaches us to be. Modesty is simply a sign of our godliness. May Christ shine through you today.
Written by Melody Hansley