Let’s play a game. I give you a word, and you tell me what immediately comes to mind. Ready? First word: Immodest. You likely either pictured Donald Trump or a scandalous female wearing a mini skirt, or *gasp* yoga pants!
In modern Christian culture, immodesty has become synonymous with revealing and tight clothing, just as modesty has become synonymous with conservative clothing. Clothing gets a disproportionate amount of attention when it’s only one limited application of modesty as discussed in the Bible. Modesty is more so about our attitude, behavior, and motivations than it is our dress. In a culture saturated with social media and slogans like “modest is hottest”, it’s far too easy to promote modest dress with an immodest heart.
I think it’s time to flip the conversation about modesty and explore the other side of it, particularly what immodesty looks like beyond seductive dress. But before I dig into the keywords of this post, I think it’s necessary to define them:
- (adj) having or showing a high or too high opinion of yourself or your worth
- (adj) of clothing: showing a lot of your body in a way that is considered improper
And just for kicks…
- (adj.) not too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities: not showing or feeling great or excessive pride
- (adj.) of clothing: not showing too much of a person’s body
- Bonus: The definition of the Greek word that translates to modest (kosmios): orderly, virtuous, decent, and well-ordered.
With those basic definitions in mind, let’s examine 6 common behaviors that are just as immodest as any miniskirt, legging, or other article of clothing that’s widely considered immodest.
Judging women who don’t share your views on modesty
Yup, I’m going there, but mainly because I used to be that girl. Perhaps you’re convicted to refrain from wearing pants or makeup. Perhaps you feel convicted to ONLY wear ankle-length skirts and dresses. If that’s how you feel you can honor God with your dress, that’s wonderful! I encourage you to dress as you feel convicted. However, be wary of imposing your personal dress code on others and harshly judging women who don’t share your views (because such judgment implies the belief that your dress code is more righteous). The Bible doesn’t outline a strict dress code for all of humanity, and neither should we. (Edit: While we weren’t given a detailed dress code, I do believe God has set standards for decency that include covering our nakedness (see: Genesis 2:31).) Instead of jumping to judgment, let’s encourage each other to come to scripturally guided understanding of modesty that encompasses both heart AND dress.
Flaunting expensive clothing
Another difficult lesson I’ve learned is that clothing doesn’t have to be provocative to be immodest. You can wear the most conservative maxi dress but still be immodest if it’s a Dolce & Gabanna maxi dress paired with a Chanel purse and Prada sunglasses. The intent of such an extravagant outfit is to display how luxurious and expensive one’s tastes are. And that vain motivation is exactly what Paul is speaks against at in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. He doesn’t condemn *all* pearls, braids and everything concerned with fashion and beauty (I mean, he does actually command us to dress ourselves, but respectably). He’s calling us to examine the motivations behind our dress, particularly when we get dressed for worship. Is the intent to draw attention to our wealth and style, or is the intent to focus on God?
Spending an excessive amount of time in hair and makeup
This point is similar to the point above, so I’ll use the same verse. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul singles out braids, pearls, gold and costly attire for a reason. The women who wore elaborately braided hairstyles and extravagant clothes during Paul’s time were trying to emulate royalty. Ultimately, they wanted to impress other people by showcasing their wealth through the intricacies of their physical beauty. Although braided hair is commonplace today as is gold and pearl jewelry, we can fall into the same trap of trying to impress others with our appearance. If you can’t leave your house without a full face of makeup and perfectly coifed hair, ask yourself: are you trying to look respectable, or are you trying to draw attention to yourself with your beauty?
For men: going shirtless
Yes, I’m primarily writing to women because that’s my audience. But I must include this point because too many conversations focus exclusively on women. While there is no hard and fast dress modest dress code, there are rules for decency. Even in today’s very liberal culture, it’s considered decent for men and women to cover their chests, particularly when members of the opposite sex are present. Just as women are expected to cover the top half of their body, men should be expected to do the same…even on the beach or while playing basketball.
Posting excessive photos of yourself on social media
Nobody, I repeat nobody, needs to see your selfies every single day. Nor do we need to see every single item in your closet. As with all things in our walk, our use of social media requires balance and a strong dose of humility. As a fashion blogger with an active Instagram account, I know it’s hard to maintain that balance while trying to contribute to visual conversations about modesty with the intent to encourage other women. So, I encourage you to find that balance through prayer..and maybe not post every single day.
Preoccupying ourselves with fashion more than good works
This is a difficult point to make because I’m guilty of this behavior. While I absolutely don’t believe it’s a sin to want to look pretty or dress well, I know major heart issues arise when improving our physical appearances takes precedence over our spiritual responsibilities. Let’s not forget that we were created not to be exceptionally beautiful in our modest clothes but to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). So let’s spend less time obsessing over our appearance, and more time planning how to help members of our congregation, evangelize to our communities, and show the love of Christ to people around us who need it.
The purpose of this post is not to nitpick or be controversial. I simply want to challenge our understanding of modesty so conversations aren’t so narrowly focused on dress. My good blogging friend, Erin of Clothed in Sunlight, expressed the meaning of modesty perfectly:
“We tend to separate modesty the virtue and modesty in dress in our minds. They are not separate. The second is an extension of the first. The key to modesty is humility.”
I’m also writing this post to challenge myself just as much as anyone else who may read this. As a fashion blogger, I constantly fight to maintain the humility that should accompany my modest apparel. So here’s my challenge: Instead of focusing solely on how modest our clothes are, let’s also consider whether our actions are as modest as our clothing is.
I want to hear from you, friends. Do you agree that the above actions are immodest? Are there some actions I haven’t considered?
This post is a part of a new series on Downtown Demure that will explore beauty and modest according to scripture. I hope you’ll join me on this exciting journey through scripture and share your lovely thoughts! New posts will go up every Tuesday for the next 2 weeks. Here’s more good stuff I have planned:
- True Beauty (A Guest Post From Jasmine Gray)
- 6 Actions That Are Just As Immodest As Mini Skirts And Yoga Pants (this post)
- Why I Choose Modesty: Perspectives From 4 Modest Fashion Bloggers
- Godly Beauty: A Look At 5 Beautiful Heroines From The Bible
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