7 Things To Remember When Talking About Modesty & How People Dress.

This weekend I read another delightful article from a well-meaning man, talking about how if you dress modestly, you’ll attract a man for who you are, and if you wear revealing clothes, you’ll only attract men who are interested in your body.

After being calmed from my hysterics by my dear husband and his friend, and talking it all out, I decided to pen a few words that I believe all of us girls should remember when reading or listening to other people talk about how we should dress and what our clothes say about us as a person.

1a. How People Work. Yes, your clothes have the ability to say things about you. But one thing we leave out of this conversation is the nuts + bolts part of how communication works. What we say isn’t always what people hear. People hear and read (make discernments and assumptions) based on their worldview, and that is utterly uncontrollable. If you wear something to express beauty and someone else “hears” that you’re an immoral or too-sexually available woman, that’s not your fault or responsibility.

1b. Clothes and Assumptions. We all use clothing as a form of expression. Sometimes they express styles and color palettes we love, and sometimes they express that we are confident in ourselves, or that we aren’t. [On late Sunday nights, my sweatpants express that I'm exhausted and comfort trumps anything anyone thinks about me, hah.] What they can’t do is express the position of someone else’s heart or what kind of value they have as a person, or what they believe spiritually or religiously. Never let someone tell you that your sexy self on a Friday night out reflects the fact that you have Daddy issues or low self-esteem or don’t have a close relationship with Jesus. Just because a person exudes confidence or appreciation in their body doesn’t mean they are shallow. Study up on the logical fallacies, darlings.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT NOTE TO MY GIRLFRIENDS: Making assumptions about a girl’s character or priorities based on how she dresses SLAUGHTERS our ability as women to befriend other women. It’s not a competition or a Holiness Assessment Game unless you decide it is, and that will keep you from making friendships with incredible girls.

2. Individuals Don’t Speak for Everyone. No man can speak for all men, and no woman can speak for all women. A lot of us girls like to hear men’s opinions on things, AS WE SHOULD. It’s awesome when genders interact. However, we often make the mistake that one man giving his personal opinion about how he perceives women when they dress a certain way is what ALL men perceive. That “awesome man” writing that “awesome article” about sexiness or modesty in women? Remember that he had parents, was raised a certain way, had certain life experiences, went to certain churches, lives in a certain city, had men and women in his life tell him certain things – - and that’s how all of our beliefs get molded and defined, and in the end, they are individual opinions and views. “He” doesn’t necessarily think like all other potentially dateable men, all other good men, or your husband.

3. Cultural context. Clothing is cultural, and I don’t mean just international. There are plenty of outfits in my wardrobe as a 25 year old woman in Los Angeles that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in Alabama or Ohio or even the Carolinas. And that’s not because I’m suddenly more convicted when I’m on the East coast, or because men there are more susceptible to lust. It’s because cultural dress is very different in Los Angeles, and what would be shocking to a midwestern small town is “totes adorb” and quite normal here in Hollywood. I dress to be comfortable, attractive, and sometimes sexy if I feel like it that day – but I personally don’t go for the gawked-at outfits. (If you do, MORE POWER TO YA, WOMAN.) The Internet is awesome, but it often means we’re living in one place listening to another person speak about how what’s culturally acceptable in their city or country, not ours.

4. Fear Of Beauty and Sexuality. Don’t be modesty-ed into being terrified of being noticed or being attractive. Often when we say things like “the good men will notice you if you’re modest!” and, “selfish men will just want your body if your shirt is revealing!” we come, naturally, to the conclusion that to be noticed for our beauty, sexiness, or good looks will be terrifying and even dangerous. Not only is this conclusion harmful to both us and men, it’s simply not true. All men (and women) notice attractive people, and that’s totally okay. We all notice how people look before anything else. That isn’t shallow; it’s how our eyeballs work. It used to be that if a guy openly noticed me for my looks or complimented me, I felt like my boundaries had been plowed down and that he’d thought I was an easy girl who would say yes to going home with him. In the real world, he was just complimenting me. But in my terror-by-way-of-modesty-brain, I assumed he was making judgements about my character or revealing his own.  And HOLY CRAP that makes normal conversations with strangers and friends nearly impossible. It also can force us into choose each mornings whether or not we’re going to “be good and not feel attractive” or if we’re going to say, “to hell with it, I just want to look awesome today.” 

5. If You Want Guidance On How To Dress. If you’re set on dressing in a way to please or attract good men, remember that good men (and nearly all men) are attracted to confident women, and they can determine that based on your posture and whether or not you “hide” [physically and emotionally] in your clothes. I put this pretty brutally because it’s a painful war I’ve been fighting since I got married to The Best Husband Ever. I feel the sting myself as I say it, and I write it to hopefully nudge a few of you girls into learning to be confident in your body. My husband can tell when I’m hiding my body either in fear or because I’m ashamed of it, and he tries to help remind me that I’m a beautiful woman and can be confident in that. He loves when I wear things that fit well, that show off my figure, and give off the comfortable-in-my-sexiness vibe. Not because he’s just looking to see a little more boob, but because he wants me to embrace the woman that I am.

6. Lust vs Attraction. Hey dudes – Just want to make sure you know that noticing how sexy or attractive a woman is ISN’T lust. This is probably really relieving to some of you. You don’t have to guilt trip yourself for your sin every time you notice a pretty girl or a hot girl. Also, if you try to assess which girls are morally sound, are emotionally healthy, and love Jesus, DON’T SKIP OVER THE SEXY ONES. She didn’t choose that body just for you, God gave it to her. That body doesn’t define what kind of person she is. And she isn’t necessarily whoring out her cleavage, she just feels confident and beautiful in how God made her. I’ll say it again: observing isn’t lust.

7. You have the right to be you, whoever that is. How you dress is up to you, it’s no one’s place to assume things about your moral caliber by it. If you choose to dress more on the covered side, there is NOTHING wrong with that! For those of you new to “the modesty debate,” I’m sure you’re relieved to hear someone say it’s okay to show a little more leg. But for those of you familiar with the modesty culture discussions, I know you can feel judged for wanting to show less than others. At the end of the day, remember that how you choose to dress is none of my business. And I will never assume something about you because of how much you reveal, or how little you do. Make your what-do-I-show and what-do-I not decisions on what is appropriate for where you’ll be today, and what will make you comfortable and confident. Don’t make those decisions to protect men from their ‘uncontrollable thoughts’ or because it will take a hit on your morality or value as a person.

END THOUGHT: As Christians, we should view everyone as a person with immeasurable value who was created by God and who is our equal in all things, and letting someone’s clothing choices alter that view should have no place in our life. End of story.

FOR DISCUSSION: A lot of us have been pulled aside or confronted by people in our church to be rebuked for how we dress. How have you handled it? What words did you use to explain yourself? A lot of us simply don’t know what to do or what to say in this moment. What’s a good way to stand up for yourself graciously and respectfully?

Comments arguing for modesty absolutism or our responsibility to keep men from lust will be moderated. Thank you in advance for understanding the intended nature of this post. 

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  1. Jeremy says:

    Hi Lauren, I really like what you have to say about girls and modest and how us guys fit into the debate. I may not agree with everything you say but that’s fine. I do want to ask you a question: What would you say to a youth pastor that has fairly strict “dress code” for the youth group? I say “dress code” because it’s not necessarily official, but girls do get talked to by the female staff members if they are wearing something deemed inappropriate. Personally, I find that there is a big difference between telling a grown woman that she should dress however she feels comfortable and a teenage girl who, I feel, doesn’t have the life experience to be a good judge of what is appropriate and where it’s appropriate. I would really like to hear your thoughts.
    Jeremy

    • / / / / lauren nicole / / / / says:

      Hi Jeremy! That’s a really good question. Before I try to give my opinion or experience, can I ask what the purpose or end goal of your youth group having a dress code is?

      - lauren

      • Jeremy says:

        The obvious and short answer is to be modest.

        I do think that there is a bit more to it. Its documented that teenagers don’t really think through things. They just act. I think it’s a good idea to give some guidance. Thoughts?

        • Well, I was asking why it’s important to you to have your teenage kids in youth group following a pro-modesty dress code. So, I was wondering if there was anything deeper than the reason for being just ‘to be modest,’ if that makes sense.

          I’m would assume that you have the dress code to enforce your church’s/leadership’s view of sexual modesty [I use the term sexual modesty to differentiate from financial modesty which is what Paul was talking about in his verses on women dressing modestly] since you desire for all of your attendees to live a modest lifestyle, is that correct? Or is it mostly to keep teenage guys and leadership from being distracted by the girls in your youth group? Combination of both?

          In the meantime, I’d both agree and disagree with you saying that teenagers don’t think through things. Teenagers are thinking through things WAAAAAY more than most adults give them credit for. Particularly girls when they decide to get dressed. Lots of thought goes into that, I assure you. :)

          • Jeremy says:

            I really appreciate what you are saying. Thanks. And for the record, I am not the youth pastor. I am on staff but I’m just volunteer. I do really like what you are saying. We may disagree on some smaller points, but I see your heart and what you are doing and it is awesome.

          • / / / / lauren nicole / / / / says:

            Thanks Jeremy. :) I’m having a big conversation with Sasha who also leads young girls/guys in a youth group type scenario – - that’s probably worth reading just to get some of my thoughts fleshed out as well as hers! You may enjoy reading a lot of the other comments that have been left on the post, which gives a lot of insight into how girls (and guys) tend to handle being given dress codes and modesty rules!

  2. Emily O says:

    Its amazing how opinionated everyone is about my body, other women’s bodies, and the clothes that they wear. I’ve had heated discussions with church leaders that have left me disappointed in their close-mindedness. I’ve been ashamed at comments that “christian” guys make about unsuspecting women and the way they dress… (I’ve gently reprimanded some of my close-guy friends for this!) and am saddened that myself, as well as some of the high school girls I mentor, are conflicted over the fact that: We. Have. Boobs. We shouldn’t have to hide them!! Anyone who knows me truly says they consider me a classy, modest girl… despite my love for mini skirts and v-necks.

    I guess it may have more to do with your heart? Who knew! ;)

  3. Sam says:

    As always, love this piece.

    I went to church camp the summer in between my 8th grade/freshmen year. Around the 2nd night of the camp, everyone was gathered and sitting in the tabernacle as we waited for the evening service to commence. Having been super self conscious with my looks my entire life, I actually felt really attractive that night as I wore a night yellow mini skirt and black tank top (three fingers width on the strap)… A youth leader from another church allowed two boys (yes, boys.. as in my age give or take a few years) to walk up to me in front of everyone and stand over me and say, “s’cuse me, but we feel that you should know that the way you’re dressed is disrespectful and distracts us from worshiping our Father and having pure thoughts.” I tried defending myself and they continued to spat hurtful words and yell at me, only to return back to their group leader and tell her what they said to me. I watched them in tears throw their arms around and act like I had destroyed their entire camp experience. The youth leader just nodded her head, shrugged her shoulders and turned forward, not giving me a second glance…. I must have disrespected her someway too.

    I could go into 69735896758 things that are wrong with this story, but what kills me the most is how dirty I felt. How responsible I felt for every single impure thought of every boy in the entire camp. How much that stuck with me for years after that. How I couldn’t worship fully in that tabernacle for the rest of the camp because I felt like everyone was staring at me and upset; much less how God must have seen me…. How I never could wear that outfit again without feeling like a slut.

    Sometimes I love living in the bible belt… other times, I’m so ready to leave.
    Safe to say though, I’m not a fan of church camps.

    • Oh Sam, I am so sorry. I know firsthand how being confronted for things like that can crush our hopes of being beautiful or attractive, and how much harm it can do to us long term. :( I wish I could say that I haven’t heard some version of this story a thousand times.

      Wish I could hug you. xoxo

    • Ugh. The epitome of the super religious leaders gone wrong. It makes me sad when teenage girls are shamed because they’re attractive. Or made to feel “easy” if they try to look stylish and pretty. I grew up with it, too, but sooo wish I could tell our girls to be proud of how God created them. And not to feel guilty if a boy looks at them. And I’ll bet you looked smokin’ in that mini and tank top!;)

  4. Chantelle says:

    Another great piece darling. My skin crawls when I hear men, even some of my male friends, utter disrespectful & stereotypical condemnations against women they’ve never MET just because of what she decided to cloth herself in that evening. Who are they to judge?! I’ve gotten into so many arguments with these brainwashed people, that sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth spending time explaining myself. I hate the assumptions, I hate hate hate them. And I detest it even more when women tear each other down with the “skank/slut/whore/bitch” words (sometimes because a stranger is getting more male attention than they are, oh geeze as if that’s the pinnacle of a successful night or LIFE.) Females aren’t even standing up for each other nowadays, which breaks my heart.

  5. I think this is fabulous. I love this so much I can’t wait to read your other posts.

  6. Sasha says:

    Hi! I love your posts. They make me think, they encourage me, and they challenge me. Thank you for what you do– here and on the Good Women Project. There are certain posts that I come back to & reread simply because they speak to my heart & have helped me find encouragement and healing. I do have an honest question about this topic, so I hope you see where I’m coming from & know my heart is sincerely to understand. I TOTALLY agree that we cannot judge someone based on what they wear. Some of the nicest, sweetest people I know are not always dressed according to the ‘perfect church dress code.’ Believe me, I’ve been there… grew up in circles where all of that stuff was strictly monitored, camps where boys & girls weren’t even allowed to shake hands, etc. So I totally get the idea that it’s not right to treat girls like they’re anything less than beautiful daughters of God based on what they wear. That being said, I also wonder where, then, our responsibility lies? I wouldn’t advocate going topless, and I don’t think that’s what you’re advocating, either. I don’t think doing so would make anyone a slut, but it’s like you said about things being culturally acceptable. I also believe that part of being comfortable in who you are is respecting your body… and if you respect your body, you will respect your privacy. You can show off your curves and your womanly body without wearing tight wet t-shirts, if that makes sense? I guess what I’m wondering is, where do you draw the line for modesty? Or do you draw one? I don’t think we should all be walking around in skirts that barely cover our nether regions and tops that are nothing more than a few shreds of fabric– I honestly don’t think that’s being respectful of your body, or your value. If we are looking to God for our value, we can dress in a way that’s attractive, and even sexy, without going overboard into territory that actually makes us appear to cheapen our bodies and offer them up for others’ viewing pleasure in any way they choose. Actually, I’m doing a really poor job of explaining this. I don’t think what a woman wears cheapens her value or body, but I guess what I’m saying is sometimes we as women sell ourselves short, and we dress as though we believe we are objects rather than valued daughters of God who wants us to be cherished. How do you draw a line between ‘modesty’ in the Biblical sense of respecting yourself as God’s child and respecting God by being mindful of the worth He has ascribed to you, vs. modesty that is merely man-made rules? Is there a difference? Is it wrong to dress in a way that really does leave nothing to the imagination, to where you know that you are purposefully drawing the attention of men in ways that are wrong? I’m not at all trying to question what you’re saying here, because I think you make a very good point. I guess I’m just wondering if you think there ever is a place for dress code, and how do you suggest a person goes about understanding where to draw the line between modesty in a pharisaical sense vs. real, sincere modesty that we should have as women of God, i.e. like not showing up to church naked. (I know that’s an extreme example. I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I’m using that because I’m not quite sure how else to get across what I mean. I apologize if this doesn’t make sense!)

    • Hi Sasha! Haha, I TOTALLY get what you are trying to figure out. Largely, that entire paragraph is what floats around in my head.

      It’s an incredibly difficult thing to figure out “where the line is”, and I believe that it can only be determined and chosen by the individual. But I DO believe that choosing sincere modesty instead of pharisaical modesty can be done.

      For example, I don’t wear thong bikinis. I think that’s kind of an outright “okay holy crap whoa no thank you” type thing. So, I choose to stick with bikinis that I feel cover me fairly well because that’s what a) I’m comfortable with and b) what feels modest to me. HOWEVER, I’m sure there’s a sexy woman out there vacationing on a beach in Brazil wearing a thong bikini on her honeymoon, and that in no way should change anyone’s view on her or who she is, you know? Also, there are tons of Christian woman who would never wear a bikini, and would feel that since their tankini is what qualifies as modest, they’d view what I’m wearing as immodest. So I can’t blame anyone else for dressing differently than I do.

      You asked, “where does our responsibility lie?” We always have responsibility, but for ourselves. We can’t have responsibility for how other people dress, or how other people perceive our dress. I am responsible for dressing in an appropriate manner, so I choose to not wear some things to church that I’d happily wear out to dinner later that day with my husband, you know?

      From birth to 18, my family and social environment enforced one of the harshest dress codes you see in America (one piece swimsuits with shorts, dresses below the knee, no tank tops even in summer, etc). Most Christians agree that that’s extreme, however everyone must understand that Christians who argue in favor of modesty rules are agreeing with what my parents agreed with, just in their own way. So that’s a good dose of humility I try to keep with me. When I went to college, I started wearing things that my family would have considered scandalous: short shorts, spaghetti strap skirts, etc. However, I was just trying to figure out how to be comfortable with myself and fit in, and survive the 110 degree summers on Arizona State’s campus. If at any point I dressed that way strictly to get men to affirm me for how I looked, I think that Jesus would have been faithful to kind of lovingly remind me that that isn’t necessary. And THAT is what I think we are responsible for: To make sure we’re listening to Jesus about the condition of our heart. And realizing our heart isn’t in the right place doesn’t even always demand correction of behavior, it just demands love/healing for our hearts. I still don’t believe there’s anything wrong with spaghetti strap shirts in 110 degree weather, but it would make me sad to know that I or another girl is wearing them expressly to feel affirmed by men.

      A LOT OF RANDOM THOUGHTS. What do you think about all that/does any of it make sense? Haha.

      • Sasha says:

        YES, that totally makes sense! Thank you! And I do agree with that– I think a lot of the problem comes in because in today’s world, a lot of people don’t listen to what Christ has told them about what their personal convictions are and where to draw the line. I get it– my sister is totally fine with wearing bikinis, and more power to her! My other sister is a little uncomfortable with that, so she sticks to tankinis– more power to her, too. :) Neither one of them is wrong; it’s just a personal conviction. However, what about instances where girls aren’t thinking that way, where they are dressing to be affirmed by men or where they are purposely dressing to arouse guys? I don’t believe that women are at fault for how men feel, but I do work closely with teen and tween girls, and recognize that while several of them are mature enough to know and appreciate their worth in Christ, and respect themselves because of it… there are a lot that aren’t quite there yet. We do have a dress code on beach trips, at pool parties, etc. because of it. It’s not extreme; it’s just to ensure that, since not everyone is on the same level of personal conviction or of spiritual maturity in recognizing that it IS about your heart being in the right place… rather than trying to impress that hot guy that’s the catch of the school. I love my girls, and would be heartbroken to see any of them hurt either by false convictions about modesty, or by total & complete freedom to wear whatever they choose and making decisions that they may regret one day or that don’t respect themselves personally. I totally get what you’re saying about different times & situations being appropriate. I, too, wear the spaghetti strap tops and have some shorts that I’ll wear out with friends that I wouldn’t wear to church or on a mission trip. So I really like the way you put all of that, and it DEFINITELY made sense!!! Thank you!!! I also love the part about how we don’t have responsibility over anyone else. I totally agree. I think, too, part of what I’m understanding from you is that some of it is about ‘context modesty’? i.e. knowing when something that you’re totally fine wearing in front of a husband isn’t something you’d necessarily want other guys to see you in, knowing when a skirt for church should maybe be a little longer than a skirt you wear out shopping, etc.? Really, as I’m asking this, I’m thinking of the girls who I work with and wanting to understand how to set boundaries that respect that they are NOT what they wear and are worth so much more than pharisaical nonsense… while also teaching them how to listen to what God says about them and their value and why, just as He doesn’t want men to objectify them, He also doesn’t want them purposefully objectifying themselves to attract men, if that makes sense? haha I appreciate you taking the time to respond. This is an issue that’s close to my heart as I spent a lot of time in very conservative circles, and don’t want to see any of my girls being taught to accept the shaming or guilting that is often place on women simply because they’re women.

        • Hmmm yeah I totally see where you’re at. It’s such a challenge to help mentor other girls on this topic!

          For a little bit of perspective, here are things that are more important to talk to them about right now: How to have healthy relationship with guys, how to view their bodies/sexuality positively when the entire world condemns them or says they aren’t pretty enough, how to express what you are comfortable with and not comfortable with to boyfriends, how to say no when you want to say no, how to talk to Jesus when you have questions about what your lifestyle should look like.

          I say this because girls at this age have been (generally) given PLENTY of rules, and have already picked up on the fact that they should tone things down in Christian environments. At the end of the day, teaching girls how to communicate what they think, feel, and want in their interactions with other guys is waaaay more important than teaching them how to dress a certain way in order to not have guys thinking about them sexually or lusting after them. For young girls, this message is super intense to handle, even if you believe that we should dress to avoid lust and distraction. Usually to girls it just sounds like a weird “you’re so attractive that you don’t understand it so hide yourself” which easily slides into “don’t tell anyone if a boy touches you” and “if you hate your body hide it” and “if you don’t understand yourself, hide yourself,” and “there’s something bad about my breasts,” etc. Modesty is a very complex issue that, if taught, should be saved for adulthood, in my opinion.

          You DEFINITELY can teach appropriateness though, for the girls you’re mentoring and leading. Everywhere in life there is an “appropriate” dress code. I can’t wear swimsuits to church, I can’t wear denim shorts to work, etc. I’m sure you know that most of this stuff isn’t really ‘laying down the law’ but rather having individual conversations with the girls to where they’re at in their decision making process on things. These conversations are GOLDMINES for learning how they view their bodies, how they view men, for giving you clues on whether or not they’ve been molested/compromised in some way (which is about 30-40% of them), etc.

          All of this is hard because I personally believe that there is value to dressing in a way that is classy and beautiful, but when the principle turns into a rule, we lose the loveliness of it and start to see the symptoms of hurt manifest in our lives. I know that’s what you want to keep your precious girls from.

          Oh and PS: the thing about wearing certain things when I’m with my husband vs when I’m not…this is actually fascinating and I’m still figuring it out. Sometimes I feel ‘safer’ when walking around with my husband, or more adventurous with looking sexy – - so I’ll wear things more revealing when I’m out on a date with him. Obviously other men can still see me when we’re out, but what I’m wearing remains between me & how I feel, and my husband and him enjoying that his wife is hot. :) When I’m just out running errands, usually I don’t feel the need/desire to look ultra sexy, and I don’t like getting stared down by all the very interesting people walking around the neighborhood where our local grocery store is haha.

        • Oh one more thing: I wouldn’t be worried about other boys on the summer trips thinking that the girls are hot or attractive or sexy. For the rest of the world, that’s the adorable and innocent part of life. For Christians, its like OMGQUICKSAVETHEMWHILETHEYREYOUNGBEFORETHEYHAVECHILDRENOUTOFWEDLOCK. Haha.

          • Sasha says:

            i totally get what you’re saying! thanks for discussing this with me. (and thanks to everyone else who offered godly perspectives as well!) it’s definitely a tough issue. HAHAHA YESSS, I know exactly what you mean about the overly-zealous even looking at someone is a threat to purity kind of thinking. No- God created us for relationships and friendships, and liking someone does NOT mean that you’re being lustful or impure, and I personally think that disallowing innocent relationships takes away the opportunity to learn more about what it means to build and grow Godly friendships. It’s not healthy to over-analyze the guy-girl relationships that go on for kids as long as they know who they are and Whose they are. I don’t have a problem with any of my girls wanting to look pretty for a boy– I mean more when one or two of the girls have decided that they want to “show enough cleavage to get a guy.” That’s heartbreaking to me, because it says she finds her worth in what boys think of her, and she feels like she has to ‘earn’ their attention by showing herself off and allowing him to view her as an object. Those are the kinds of thoughts that are saddening, and whereas it might actually be a perfectly fine top to wear in a different setting & not really particularly ‘revealing’, if that’s the mindset behind wearing it, then there’s a heart-level issue that needs to be addressed by helping them understand they’re worth so much more than that. That’s when we have to have a talk about boundaries and appropriateness and self-dignity. I really like what you said about the difference between appropriateness and modesty. That’s an important distinction to make. Shame and guilt aren’t the tools that God uses to capture our hearts. His Spirit convicts us, but Satan is the one who is the accuser… and I completely agree that shaming girls for what they wear or teaching them to hate their bodies simply because they might ‘tempt men’ is not actually teaching them to be godly women. Absolutely, the individual conversations are the best way to go– any opportunity for bonding time like that is fantastic, and as long as you listen while they’re talking, they will definitely tell you, whether subtley or point-blank, what some of the things going on in their lives are. I like the idea that modesty is something between you and God, while appropriateness is something that we can teach. That actually clears a lot up for me; my girls do need to learn how to be appropriate, but appropriateness can be taught without making it seem like people are sluts for dressing differently in different situations. I think that’s where I was getting confused– between appropriateness and modesty. I think sometimes use the term ‘modest’ when I should be using ‘appropriate’, to explain to my girls why it’s okay to wear anything that is okay between you and God, yet still need to be able to recognize which situations certain outfits are appropriate for. i.e. bikinis in sunday morning church service. haha. thanks so much Lauren. I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to talk with me about this. I really respect your opinion and, being very personally familiar with a lot of the struggles and shame girls can face both inside and outside of the Christian community, have found a lot of healing & encouraging words in your posts. This has been so helpful to me, and I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and the things that God is teaching you!!!

    • Philip says:

      Hi Sasha,

      I’d like to respond from the perspective of a single guy. As Lauren said, I can’t speak for all men, but I can give you my opinion based on the set of filters I see through.

      Unfortunately, there is no line to be drawn in regards to modesty, and if there is, it must be explored by each person individually. There are no set of rules outlined for how to dress, because God never intended for us to live life by a checklist. The question is not “how should I dress?” The question is “how does God see me, and how do I see myself?” Understanding your own self worth will affect how you dress, and no one can tell you how. I think the goal is to simply be comfortable with what you wear, and that could take you either direction.

      Having said that, I think there are some facts about life that are important to be aware of, not to conform to necessarily, but to take into consideration in your search for peace.

      First of all, your clothes communicate something about you, and you need to be aware of what you’re trying to say, keeping in mind that not everyone will understand you the way you want to be. This is a universal truth whether talking about modesty or not. Clothes talk. Period. You wouldn’t go to an office job interview in jeans and a t-shirt. It sends the wrong message. In regards to modesty, though, the message you send and the message people receive can be polar opposites, and there is nothing you can do about it. So, take a breath, listen for God’s voice, and wear whatever you want to. Seriously, if there’s something wrong with it, your conscience will let you know.

      Next up, guys will be guys no matter how you dress. If your goal is to keep guys from lusting, just stay home. It doesn’t really matter how much you wear, they can always imagine taking it off. Nor does it matter how little you wear, there will always be guys that couldn’t care less. Don’t worry about how little is too little, because everyone’s opinion is different. It’s your journey and God is your mentor.

      People will make assumptions about your morals based on your clothes. It sucks. I hate it. But it’s a fact of life. Again, I’m not saying you have to conform to others’ misconceptions, but the way you dress will affect how people think you live your life, just like a job interview.

      It’s been said before, modesty is an issue of the heart. I think there is a close connection between modesty and humility. Too many people think humility is beating your ego down to size, and modesty is a visual demonstration that you shouldn’t be noticed. Seriously, some people think that if a guy notices a girl sexually, she is doing something wrong. I call BS on that. I think that humility is simply understanding how we fit into the bigger picture. It’s understanding our value, shortcomings, potential, struggles, grace, and being able to look at yourself objectively. I think modesty is the same. It’s taking into account the occasion, location, audience, mood, company, your own emotional status, and what God’s been speaking to you, and choosing your threads accordingly.

      You won’t always get it right, because that’s the journey.

      • Sarah Lorain says:

        Both Sasha and Lauren, thank y’all so much for this honest conversation. It seems like all the advice from friends and mentors tells you to be careful -in the way you dress, when it comes to relationships ect. Coming from a Christian home school family this is not the advice my life needs! Yet also coming from a Christian home school family I see the value of having standards. Thank you both for openly having a conversation about the struggle to balance the two and calling into question the actual reasons for those standards!

  7. Hope Elliott says:

    I bought my first bikini today, something I had been guilted into deeming “immodest” for as long as I can remember. Now that I know I’m free from a false responsibility to keep the minds of men from “stumbling,” I’m freer, happier, and have a greater understanding of God’s grace than ever before. Thanks a billion for daring to speak up, Lauren!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      YAY FOR BIKINIS!!!!

      Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Wear that bikini and wear it proud. God gave you a beautiful body and it is NOT a problem!

      • YAAAAAAAY BIKINIS hahaha. I will never forget the day I bought my first one. :D

        • I will never forget the day I bought my first one either! I was 19 making my own money and bought basically a sports bra and sports panties type bikini. the bottoms were actually more modest than my swimsuit was…and as I have a long torso it definitely fit better.
          To this day I remember the look on my mom’s face and her telling me just how disappointed she was in me that I would compromise myself that far. All these years later – though we have a good relationship now I still sting from that remark.

          Nothing about that made me less modest or less holy. To me it was just clothing…comfortable clothing.

          YAY for bikini’s! Wear it proudly and remember that it is your heart intentions not your clothes that make you who you are!! <3

          • Elizabeth says:

            I bought my first one too. Haven’t really had a chance to wear it yet, but still. I was so afraid to tell my mom, but when I did it actually opened up a great conversation about modesty and context.

      • Vivi says:

        YAY!! for one piece swimsuits and tankinis!!!

        • Vivi says:

          YAY!!! for MODESTY!!!!!

          • Vivi says:

            I believe young girls and ladies should NOT wear BOOTY shorts or Hot pants to CHURCH!!!!
            It is very disrespectful and tacky!!
            Lets try to dress with CLASS and ELEGANCE!!
            and NO, wearing BOOTY shorts is NOT Elegant!!!

    • Emily Kendall says:

      Just had to also say: YAYYYYYYY for bikinis!

      I came from a super-conservative (am now several years into being on my own) and just finished having a drawn-out discussion with my younger brother regarding modesty. His perspective, sadly, is still hinged on the unfair, unattainable standards we grew up with.

      However…my 22-year-old self has discovered my penchant for bikinis and short shorts (among other previously off-limits items).

      So go you! And really, go every woman who has discovered life outside of false modesty.

  8. This is refreshing! My wife was a worship leader judged weekly on her wardrobe – to the extent she was once nearly ‘pulled’ from performing because her neckline, which wasn’t revealing cleavage, could cause someone to ‘imagine’ the breasts that were hidden safely below the vee. Thanks for this perspective!

    • Oh my lord. Travis I’m going to have to ask that you no longer comment on my blog since I could imagine that you have junk under your pants when I’m looking at your name. ;)

      HOW UNCOMFORTABLE DOES THAT MAKE EVERYTHING. Hahaha.

  9. wombat says:

    Short and sweet:

    you say she was given that body by God and that she didnt choose that body just for you. But lets be honest about all she COULD have done with her body if she intended for something other than its sexual appeal. She could have been an advocate for plus sized women, teaching her daughter and other women in the church that appearance is not as valuable. She could have chosen to Bodybuild (which is widely considered unnattractive on women) to illustrate the limits of the human body (and especially the female body). There are countless other things she could have done with her body, but she chose while being granted what might be called natural beauty by God to maintain and enforce that natural beauty instead of countless other MORE beneficial methods of Godly pursuit. And why might you ask? because these alternatives require a sacrifice of beauty, and a sacrifice of what beauty gives (which is attraction both good and bad forms). No matter how intently you advocate, you will always be arguing that the “rich” deserve to keep thier riches while the poor suffer. God does not give rich beauty to some and poor beauty to others, valuing ones beauty as rich and hoarding it is not in his design for any person.

    • DJ says:

      help me understand: you are hating on healthy slim figured women for NOT becoming unhealthy (obese) so that they can advocate for unhealthy body types? and hating on women who maintain a naturally healthy (slim) body type by not becoming obsessed with their image through hours per day of body building (self focused) exercise? so a natural healthy body is now something you feel a need to judge? I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

      Lauren, loved the article. Refreshing change from the usual shame based stuff that calls self-covering modesty when its really about not focusing on yourself.

  10. Liz says:

    This is really nice. I wish someone would have told me this as an eight year old.

  11. Mark Pixley says:

    Thanks so much for this and let me add a male perspective that is fairly wholesome…

    I was a single dad to four incredibly beautiful girls in a small mountain town…3 of the four were homecoming Queens/Prom Queens and all would have been except my second oldest went around the school threatening anyone who voted for her a fight, she was independent and refused to follow her older sibling who started the mess by winning all sorts of beauty/debate/scholastic contests (she is now a District Attorney in Cali, sorta blowing the dumb blonde nonsense)…so. Know a thing or two about clothing, style and shopping for dresses.

    I was also an associate pastor during this time…so between parishoners opinions, having a vacancy in the godly woman at home colume I often struggled with communicating modesty in dress to them and eventually gave up…not because they were immodest, no, what I discovered was they were all born to create culture, this is the core of most women and our society clamps down on it, but my desire for them was that they each one develope thier own identity and I refused to tamper with it…

    The result has been 4 incredibly powerful and independent women who refuse to let men (or women) dictate to them thier identity…this includes the fashion industry and current culture, and each girl has developed a culture unique to her identity and it has been fun watching it grow.

    I believe in modesty because the Bible suggest it, but I also understand tht my definition and the Bibles are both products of history and culture and ultimately everything about the kingdom leads to freedom…where the Spirit of The Lord is there is liberty…by trusting the Holy Spirit IN in them, I taught my girls that they were trust-worthy…instead of demanding compliance to a rule they had the power to break anyway…no one controls you but you…

    The end result has been a generation coming around who do not let culture dictate or define kingdom…and that includes the ridicules notion that some western culture is Christian…

    Thanks for this hopefully more women and men will stand up and point out that our current church culture has no power to transform life, only Jesus does.

  12. Kate B says:

    Hi Lauren,
    My thoughts on modesty radically changed in high school when my boyfriend (now fiance) mentioned to me that my shirt was a bit too low. We’ve had many conversations since then that have been really hard, but so so good. He has helped me see the perspective of men much more clearly and in our sex-crazed culture explained what we as daughters of God can do to help steer that in a different way. It didn’t hit me fully until one day when I was reading in Matthew about meat and wine….how some may stumble over the drinking of wine or eating of meat but others do not, and if it causes anyone to stumble to not partake….We may not think it’s bad or understand why it’s bad to show more cleavage, leg, or show off our figure by wearing leggings/spandex/etc., but what the Bible says is to not cause our fellow brothers and sisters to stumble. All the things I just mentioned DO catch the eye of men, whether we like it or not, and that presents the opportunity for them to consider going further in their mind. Yes, thankfully some men have been granted God-given control to not lust and to not stumble, but it means a quick switch of the mind to something else and a darting of the eyes to the ground if they really want to and decide to “flee from sexual immorality” and lust. Why provide this opportunity for them? I know as an engaged woman I really don’t want my fiance to be stumbling nor do I want the opportunity of stumbling to be presented, let alone by my Christian sisters. I cannot control how people dress, and I know as our culture becomes continually obsessed with sex– younger and younger, this problem will not likely cease, however as Christians we are called to be children of the light, living our lives Differently. And I believe this means through Loving our brothers in Christ (pastors, fathers, brothers, sons, etc) by dressing Modestly and not putting any stumbling block in their way. I still have days when I really want to look as other women of this world look, but from Proverbs we know that we are not to be jealous of what those people not following Christ can do. I know that I GET to save that for my future husband, and that he is the only one who needs to and gets to see it. Although there are times I struggle with self-image, I embrace who I am in Christ and the body God has given me and I don’t dress like a slob..I dress in way cute clothes, although they are hard to find! And I find joy in doing this, and I think other women can find joy in doing this as well. It really is a matter of the heart, and a knowledge of the way God wants women to “Dress Modestly,” Not…on the verge of inappropriate. He wants us to embrace our identity in Him and the body He has given us, but to do that by honoring Him and also the men in our lives. We shouldn’t be the stumbling block for other men that we don’t want other women being in our man’s life. I just wanted to share my thoughts from the last few years on modesty and the realization God has brought me to. Thanks!

    • Love this! Thank you for adding in a balanced view. I think that it’s harmful to take things to either extreme where modesty is concerned.

    • Madison says:

      Hi Kate,

      I totally agree with this here. It is about consideration for others. And I love your point about being different than the world. I may be allowed to dress however I want but I’m living my life for God, so I need to be aware of that. Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. I think you are right about modesty. Thanks for saying this.

    • Tiff says:

      Kate thank you so much for responding.. I tried to capture the same thing in my post which was way longer than I anticipated hahaa… A balanced approach is what the church needs…Thank you to Hayley, Crystal & Madison too… We can not just be “done” with modesty. Healing needs to take place for those who have been hurt by others in the modesty & sex talk, but at the same time we need to be true to the lives that God has called us to live! In Ephesians it says to live a life worthy of the calling of God. In all areas. I also love that such good stuff came from your fiancee addressing your clothing! Healing for those who have been hurt is needed along with a balanced approach. We must learn how to correct the areas where we fall short without recklessly abandoning the good stuff.

  13. Hayley says:

    Hi Lauren, I really did enjoy seeing your thoughts in this and I loved seeing you take the issue from multiple perspectives. I live in Florida, so my perspective is probably a mix of the South and LA. Essentially, I think our desire as women of God should be to point others to Christ. Putting aside all rules and stigmas, there are many men who will see an abundance of skin and their thoughts are altered, which sucks! But that is the way our God has made them. Daily, I just wanna throw on some daisy dukes and rock the day away. But I do not want to be a person who is leading someone’s thoughts away from God, in any way. Whether it be with my words, my dress, drugs, my pride, anything. As believers, we are called to point others towards Christ and to be set apart (1 peter). I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but this is what we are called to. I think that I would better benefit from taking this truth, and then applying all that you said. I pray that our actions and dress will ultimately bring God glory by expanding His kingdom.

  14. Ruthie Dean says:

    I love the question at the end. Unfortunately, I never knew how to respond, so I usually apologized profusely and then beat myself up afterwards. I wonder how to respond in these situations.

    “I’m really trying to love my body. I’m on a journey to cast off shame and feel good about the body God has given me. So I’m going to respectfully disagree with your definition of modesty.” … I wonder if that would work…I don’t know. I’ve seen too many bad things come from these conversations.

  15. Genesis says:

    The one time a leader feom youth group told me my skirt was too short, I told her it was the longest one I had. I was being honest and her eyes got huge 0.0 haha my value does not equal my clothes or amazing legs lol your awesome Lauren<3

  16. I really really like this, especially the part about being terrified of being seen as attractive, because getting compliments on one’s appearance CLEARLY means that I’m just being noticed for my body, etc… And the part about how lust and attraction are NOT THE SAME THING. (I wish everyone knew that.)

    Also this: “And she isn’t necessarily whoring out her cleavage, she just feels confident and beautiful in how God made her.” Yes!

    I think one big problem with modesty culture is the idea that whatever a guy thinks about a woman’s clothes is the “correct” perspective. Like, if a woman wears something and a guy thinks she’s “flaunting her body” then modesty culture says he’s right and it’s evil for her to wear that. Why can’t we just tell the dude, “No, you’re WRONG, and your incorrect perceptions of my clothes are not going to control my life.” At it’s core, it’s all about dressing to please other people, and that’s just impossible.

    And here’s what I wrote about modesty on my blog: The Story of Me and Modesty. Basically, I am SO DONE with modesty. I am SO DONE with feeling guilty for wanting to be beautiful, hiding and not being noticed and wondering if I’m “helping the guys” or whether my sacrifice even makes any difference at all.

    • “I think one big problem with modesty culture is the idea that whatever a guy thinks about a woman’s clothes is the “correct” perspective. ” aaaaaamen. so much sickness and hurt and problems can come from operating out of a place where “just because you’re a man, you’re right.”

  17. Jess Swafford says:

    I appreciate this article so much. Two years ago a woman told me I couldn’t possibly be a Christian. If I was, she said, I’d know what Ephesians said about modesty and I “wouldn’t be dressed like a slut.” I was in a fully covered shirt and skirt three inches above the knee, so I assumed my long legs were the problem. I cried a long time and tried to hide them for a few months, but now I embrace them. I realized she wasn’t being loving and that I wasn’t dressed inappropriately. It also helped that it’s impossible to hide half your body… haha.

  18. thanks so much for sharing your heart, lauren!

    i remember receiving a ‘modesty checklist’ every spring/summer at my church. i remember that we were taught/told to only wear nude colored bras and underwear, so that they would never show. i remember being told by my pastor’s wife that i needed to talk to my mom about buying tank tops to wear under my clothes because as a young girl who was developing a little sooner than others, i was ‘causing boys to look at my chest’ when i would wear a white shirt without a tank underneath. all kinds of extremes like that. i also remember not being allowed to wear spaghetti strap tanks even in the dead of summer in super hot GA.

  19. Amanda says:

    Lauren,

    Thanks for writing this post. I recently lost a few pounds and so to celebrate I bought a few new bathing suits (bikinis). In college I went on short mission trips where I was told I wasn’t allowed to wear bikinis and so I hadn’t bought one in years. I will be visiting my boyfriend soon and going to the beach but when he told me he would prefer me not to wear a bikini because its basically the same thing as me wearing underwear and he doesn’t want other men to see me like that. But what about all the other girls who wear bikinis? I just wanted to celebrate my body and look cute – my intentions were not to draw unwanted attention from other men. While he obviously cannot forbid me from wearing what I want, I also think he has a good point, however unfair it may be. What are your thoughts?

    • Alice says:

      I think I see a possible controller / jealous person / insecure person..

      Well, does he wear swim trunks?

      That looks like underwear!

      duh

    • / / / / lauren nicole / / / / says:

      Hi Amanda!

      Well, Alice (below) has a really great point haha. Swimtrunks look exactly like boxers to me too, so “it looking like underwear” isn’t a totally valid point. Also, the square footage of fabric being the same of something else doesn’t make something appropriate. There’s the same amount of fabric/same structure between a camp army uniform and a tuxedo, but you wouldn’t wear one to a funeral. (Well you maybe would, but you see my point. Hah)

      I can’t tell you what to do with your boyfriend, but if it were me, I would never date someone who wanted to tell me what was appropriate for me to wear. That’s a decent red flag for future behavior that appears in marriage. He might not realize it, but he’s actually saying “your body is mine to say what you should/shouldn’t do things with,” and “hide yourself for me” and “I want to hide you for myself.” You can choose to reserve certain parts of yourself for someone else, but it’s only a GIFT to them when it’s given. If it’s mandated or expected, it becomes ownership over you, or taken from you, and that takes 100% of the beauty away from it.

      At the end, I think it’s more telling to see how he handles your relationship and how he reacts when you wear a bikini (what you want to wear). That will shed some light on the more important issue of how he handles you being yourself, rather than the very simplistic issue of what you wear to the beach. :)

      • Leelee says:

        I bought a bikini last summer with the intention of wearing it to the beach to celebrate losing the weight I had struggled with since college. However, I got sunburned while chaperoning a school field trip and then ran out of decent beach days. I pulled it out of my closet and it looks better on me now than last summer. I heard all the modesty lessons for years and even believed some of it for a while. Now I just want to celebrate my healthy body and increased sense of self-worth.

    • Annie says:

      Yeah your boufriend sound controlling. And like everyone else said swim trunks look like boxers IMO so it’s not really a valid point also I don’t really see the bog deal with bikinis it’s the same thing was a one piece except you’re showing your stomach and back! When did your stomach and back become a private part that needed to be covered? Guys show Their backs and stomachs when their in swim trucks so should they wear a shirt it be more modest? Sorry about the rant I could go on and on but I’ll stop here! Hope everything worked out with your boyfriend!

  20. Shamed and Done says:

    I feel so thankful that you took the time to write this article. Most of my life was spent with me being the “object” of every eye that went by and noticed my seriously large breasts. I didn’t create my body and I fear the risks involved in a reduction surgery so I choose not to get one. Most of my young life I longed for one because I thought that maybe men with their arms around other women wouldn’t “oogle” me as they walked by if only they were smaller.

    I never dressed in a way to show them off, quite the opposite actually. I discovered bras that would hide them and wore high necked shirts (that actually backfired because they looked even bigger when the neck was so high) I even remember one day using an ace bandage in hopes of taming those babies. Shame, shame, shame always delivered to me by the hurt women who thought I was “distracting” to their men. I was 11 when I had larger breasts than most older women so this started early. I remember walking through a swap meet when I was 12 and feeling like I must have worn the wrong thing because EVERYONE man and women were watching me. I wanted to hide under a blanket. This was made worse by my family (trying to support me and let me know they noticed I am sure) saying, “wow, every guy 8 to 80 looks at you.” YUCK.

    I am now 49, my breast are still big but I learned in my 20′s if you gain weight you lose at least half of the audience. I now am on a journey to lose what God has for my health sake and still I am so afraid of what I am inviting. I am as secure in who I am in Christ as anyone I know, I am certain of His love and care for me and I KNOW my own heart, still I walk with reluctance toward health because of the constant judgement of mankind.

    I would rather err on the side of Grace than judgement and shame (I capitalized Grace on purpose) even if the heart is broken and it is attention seeking dressing because nothing comes from shame that is healthy. When and if I feel like I want to have a conversation with a girl about her clothing choice, it is a “heart check” and I never even mention the way she dresses. God is big enough to change people from the inside out if HE desires to.

    Thank you for the courage and confidence to write this. I wish the whole world could read it and hear the heart of judgement. My goodness, if we are trying to stop people from stumbling I am afraid we would have to just stay home. Some people are “tempted and turned on” by big feet, even in India where they are totally covered the men “judge” the look of the women by her ankles. Grace.

  21. Reina says:

    Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!!! I have been told all my life that how a man looks at me or responds to me is ALL my fault! That I have somehow manipulated his desire and invited his “attraction” or attention by being “me” and that makes me a bad person! Not just by how I dress but also how I respond to people by being what others define as “too friendly”. Because of this I have hidden my true self in fear of inviting “inappropriate” attention or being blamed for someone else’s actions! Thank you for your honesty and boldness to speak up and call attention to a very tough subject to address in our “christian” culture. Also, it is so refreshing to know that I am not alone in my struggle with this.

  22. Mel says:

    To expand on your point, sometimes the weather is the biggest factor for me when getting dressed. I know, shocker. I hate that I have been made to feel uncomfortable wearing anything less than my brothers crew neck t-shirt and bermuda shorts when it’s 90+ degrees at summer church events. It’s hot, I’m sweaty, and I’m wearing a tank top. It’s out of my control that I happen to have larger breasts that can’t be hidden in summer wear. I recall one day at a summer concert with a youth group that a leader told me my shirt was too low. It was nearly identical in style to what other girls were wearing, they just simply weren’t as developed. Just because I have a curvier body type and long shorts don’t flatter my 5 foot frame as well as shorter ones doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than the girl with the same outfit only showing less because she has less to show, or a girl that more clothes that have been deemed modest look better on.

  23. So what do you do with the Biblical passages calling us to dress modestly? I agree that people have different ideas of what exactly it means to be “modest” (some believe it means wearing nothing but long skirts, others might believe it means keeping certain things covered, etc.), but can we really just abandon the notion altogether when God’s word calls us to modesty?

    With that said, I fully agree that we should have grace…toward others. However, I still believe that we should hold ourselves to God’s standard.

    • / / / / lauren nicole / / / / says:

      Hi Crystal! The word that Paul used with referencing modesty was actually a word used to reference financial extravagance/wealth. He was saying that we don’t need to dress in a way to show our financial extravagance or place in the world. The women he was writing to were wearing gold and really over the top outfits to tabernacle/church to try to appear as more holy or more valuable or to show their status, and Paul’s response was essentially, “aw, women, you don’t have to possess wealth or expensive clothing in order to show God who you are before him. He sees your heart and your good deeds and who you are as a person, not the gold jewelry you’re draped in. You don’t have to impress him.” So, it’s unfortunate that our Western culture has turned that into a rule, instead of a gracious reminder that there is no outward standard for appearance in the Church, but rather that this is the one place showing off or being perfect doesn’t matter.

      Does that help explain things a little bit? Probably is blowing your mind. It blew mind when the professor explained it to me and when I did some research and found out he was actually right. Hah. I felt like my whole world had been wrecked and everything I’d so fervently believed was thrown into my face.

    • Vladimir Karabegov says:

      the Lord attains specific results in our faith by our”religious physical prefferances”called earthly priorities,but if itinterferes with the season of time,or will of men or your own will excceptions will be judged and turned into blessings, that is to say don’t worry about what people think in this case,hwtere we dress are we the better or wethere we don’t are we worse,everything is to be done fittingly and vice versa because mnaximum lost is maximum found

      • Vladimir Karabegov says:

        pleasing God and men with you phiscal and spiritual value can be intercahmnged but not merged in bounadries accepet for fullens times,
        we need to seek to live opened and have all things incommon above lawas and limitations,we need to also think of others in view of our
        visual benefit

  24. Alice says:

    Know what I think? I believe people are jealous!!

    Define “modest”

  25. Alice says:

    Off topic: I am a 66-year old woman who endured 36 years of verbal and physical abuse. I found the courage to get a divorce…….too long to go into here; in the end my name was put up on a big screen (on my birthday) followed by the words: “Conduct Unbecoming a Child of God.”

    I was called to a meeting of deacons, not allowed to have a woman present and asked “Are you still having sex with your ex?” I had allowed the x to live in my house for awhile afterwards.

    I fought the spiritual abuse for 18 months to try and stop the pastor (of disaster) from counseling any more women going thru a divorce, because 2 of them were suicidal (because of his “counseling” skills)

    As always, I was able t make something positive come from the “ashes” of my life….my website with over 21,000 hits so far. Spiritual abuse is rampant.

    They did this to me on my birthday.and removed me from the choir……and I haven’t been back to church since….10 years……….it is a wound which will never heal….it is as painful now as it was 10 years ago……my family still attends and that is a further betrayal.

    I wrote about my life of overcoming and won a scholarship and am a sophomore at 66! Social work/counseling. I am also the moderator of an abused survivors’ group.

    Dancer, singer, author, poetess, Veteran (Women’s Army Corps)

    Born standin’ up and talkin’ back to make a difference in the world!

  26. Vladimir Karabegov says:

    if indeed the judgment of this world is now,then how does it not also pratain to the fruit judgments,that which poeratin to how we glroiify God who so loved the world while still making sure we are not of it. God is just and the more we honor him the less judgemnts we receive and inflict on other states and conditions in which we walk and reside..
    If there were no trsansient states then how woukld we be able to know what is modest and good or unmodest and bad ass.
    if we apply by His stripes we are healed(1peter2:24)to being healed by the stripes of the body of Christ,then how is the modern invention,which is a scriptural application of the passages on manisfestaion of the body for production of fruit applied and how is giving guys stipes,by leaving a body stripe open, not a empowremant of the household of faith and a good testimony to thouse who are outide even if pharessees call it a bad one,and they are right because reverse can also appliy but we are to listen to phareceses and make our own conlcuaion each according to the example,in this case a pattern that CHrist provides in the Vineyard,that is universal mind,which becomes our sourse of information.

  27. Scotty says:

    I had to walk through this with my wise mother through all of high school, as I persisted in wearing baggy athletic gear to be seen as less feminine. In college, I remember her telling me, “Why do you insist on being ugly? You did not get extra holy points for not wearing makeup. If you don’t want to, that’s your decision, but don’t think it’s because you’re Christian.”

    The joke “Why do you insist on being ugly?” still comes up in our house frequently and, to be honest, this is still a problem I run into (though I have definitely improved). Now, I live with three Christian girls extremely afraid of their sexuality or improving their appearance (vanity) so we’ve been walking through those conversations together. Hard to see/realize how entrenched these ideas are in the American Church.

  28. JM says:

    Hi Lauren,
    The modesty debate in Christian life is very interesting. I do believe that there are some universal limits (I won’t get into the list here), but also that everyone should ask God what those limits look like for them as an individual.

    I attend a women’s college. It has been an incredibly empowering experience being around other girls who dress purely for themselves. Here, we develop our identities independent of our interactions or relationships with men. Although our student body is incredibly diverse, many young women here are way more confident about wearing only dresses and skirts than those at a co-ed school that I attended in the past. I know some who never, ever wear pants (me included). Interestingly enough, students seem to wear more feminine clothing amongst women (and the few young men from neighboring colleges who take classes here. We shun them. It’s funny.) This level of comfort with my femaleness has filtered into my life off campus and at home. For me it was a sub-conscious change and something that I’m still trying to figure out in my head.

    As far as modesty, I have noticed that it is different for different bodies. I couldn’t wear a bright red, way above the knee mini skirt because it would just be too sexy on me. But my friend with a straight figure (little or no butt or hips) can pull it off without looking like a pole dancer. I can wear lower cut tops and spaghetti straps because I’m pretty small on top, but my D cup friends all concede that they would be very uncomfortable in my clothes. Ultra petite girls wear leggings instead of pants and look adorable, not like they want to show the world what’s under their clothes.

    I did grow up in youth groups where tank tops and skirts were a topic of conversation on modesty, but I have always had my own style regardless :) (honestly, I was too obsessed with my Smiths t-shirt to think about feminine clothes). Modesty is different for different people (though there are some things that no one should wear), and we all need to find those boundaries for ourselves. God made everyone differently, thus we need to ask Him what modesty looks like for us.

  29. becca joy says:

    I really appreciate this article. My ex-boyfriend and I had plenty of arguments that centered around the issue of female clothing and what modesty means. Although he fully accepted the responsibility for his own sin, he asserted that some of my outfits tended to make him more likely to be led down that path, and gently told me that I should probably not continue wearing them. This frustrated me immensely, and although I believed that I should be considerate of him and support him in his struggle against sexual temptation, I still fostered a resentment towards him and often felt as though I had to hide my body from him so as to not incite lust in his heart.

    As a christian who has grown up in the church I have always been taught to be considerate of men and to not purposefully wear certain clothes or act in a certain way that will invite sexual temptation, because I was taught to believe men were more likely to be tempted in sexual matters.

    I am now of the strong opinion that men are not more likely to be tempted to sexual sin because of the way God made them. I am convinced that men are more likely to be tempted into sin because our society is one that teaches them at a very young age that it is okay to objectify and sexualize a woman.

    Because of this, they are unable to see the body except through a sexualized lens. Because of this, my ex-boyfriend was unable to appreciate the body that God had given me and see it as beautiful because he feared that it may cause him to sin. Because of this, I was afraid for so long to wear a cute summer dress that showed off my long legs, and made me feel confident and free.

    • Hi Becca! Thank you for the comment and for your thoughts.

      It sounds like your ex-boyfriend may have confused seeing you as a sexual/attractive woman with actual lust or sin. Being attracted to you isn’t an issue. In fact, if he’s working hard to see you in a way where he ISN’T sexually attracted to you, you probably would have had a lotttt of problems with your sex life when you get married (Speaking from experience).

      Fantasizing regularly about something that isn’t yours is the definition of lust. So, pornography would qualify, fantasizing about women that aren’t his would qualify, and if you want to be ultra conservative on the view, fantasizing often about you would be lust. But, viewing you as super hot or attractive or feeling turned on by you isn’t lust, and nothing he should have needed to worry about.

      I hope that comforts and encourages you a bit in any future relationships you have!

      xoxo

  30. Robn says:

    When I was in college, my dear mother decided to be helpful and do my laundry for me. I walked into the laundry room to find her holding a pair of underware curiously turning them around. “Mom… watcha doin there?” “I’m trying to figure out what this thing is?” “Mother its a thong.” She gasped, fell dramatically against the wall and began to lecture me. (My brother Tom around the corner in the kitchen burst into laughter) “Tom, you leave the room!” “Brother stay where you are.” I refused to accept any shame or give any ground to it over the silly issue. “Men will know when you’re wearing this!” “Really? you didn’t.” (Tom ruptures harder into laughter) “TOM! I said leave the room!” “Tom, don’t. you. budge.”(I can hear him gasping for air between laughs) “GOD is not pleased with you wearing this!!” “I don’t think God has an opinion about my underware.” (Tom is silent now) “You are forbidden to launder this thing in my home or washing machine!” “Okay. Its suppose to be hand washed anyway.” I turned into the kitchen to find my brother crumpled on the floor gripping his side, tears streaming, laughing so hard he couldn’t speak, with milk sprayed across the counter). True story friends. True story.

    That was 15 years ago, to this day my mother and I have differing opinions on modesty. I graciously receive her opinions and comments and passivie aggresive attempts to influence my wardrobe, esp. my swimsuits. She is my mother, God chose to give me life through her and I indulge her for the sake of that and the sake that she is a product of her fiercly strict legalistic church background. (And because I love her…. and her antics entertain me as much as annoy me.) However, she is working against a quaility she herself instilled in my heart. That I am an intelligent, attractive, woman of dignity and my worth is in who I am not what I wear or how I look. AND that how men see me is not what defines me. Christ sees me, He defines me. Like any other issue in life, it really is between me and Him first and foremost, and and everything else rolls from that.

  31. Jeanette says:

    Lauren,
    I just want to say thank you for this post. I was raised in a very conservative home (my mom went through the “you have to wear skirts all the time” phase from when I was 13-16) and I have had to retrain my brain how to dress. It’s so refreshing to be reminding that how we dress doesn’t define who we are!
    Thanks!!

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  33. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for writing this. It was just what I needed to read today…

    “Modesty” has been an issue for me ever since…well…probably since I was about twelve or so. I still remember the hurt I felt when my (well-meaning) friends told me that I needed to wear a “proper shirt” to church and that the lace undershirts I liked to wear layered with shirts looked like underwear and were inappropriate. This attitude towards modesty made me grow up in shame over my body, my beauty, and even my worth. I recently realized that part of the reason I have trouble committing to physical actions (i.e. dancing, just being comfortable while moving) was because I’ve always felt a need to hide my body. As an artist training to be an actor, this shame was a great detriment to me and almost caused me not to be able to follow my dreams.

    Recently, I’ve been thinking about how to dress this summer and what guys will think of me if I wear certain things. After reading your article, I thought about it again. Its still hard for me not to think that a “good guy” or a “true man” might not “like” me if I wear shorts or a tank top or a spaghetti strap dress. Then, it dawned on me…I’ve always dressed to impress guys. I always believed (and still sort of do, though I’m trying not to) that guys will like me better for how modest I am. So, I’ve still been dressing to get a guy’s attention, even without being “revealing.” If that’s not immodest then I don’t really know what is.Thanks again for writing this. You’ve given me the courage to start dressing for myself. :)

  34. Tiff says:

    Hey! I enjoy your blog & the Good Women Project blog as well… I have a question, but before I ask it I want to share a little teeny bit about myself… I got saved at 21 in a random Samoan church (I’m black aka NOT Samoan lol) anyways there is a story behind that but we’ll skip all that for now… Let me just say that I HEAR you, but I do have some concerns..Personally for me when I got saved I had been working as a lingerie model, was out all night all the time, and was sleeping around. A year after getting saved I wound up in Bible College. I literally went from always wearing things that were revealing to after being saved I attempted to dress more modestly (My check was are my boobs covered and is my stomach covered LOL). Well once I was in Bible College and in Urban Ministry the faculty pulled me aside numerous times about what I was wearing. It was either too tight or too short or blah blah. At the time I hated it, but then once I realized through prayer that God had placed me at the school and under their leadership for the time being I needed to listen to them out of respect. So I did and I talked to older women about it. While I don’t think my school administration did the best job of correcting me they did open my eyes to things I wasn’t considering and now five years later. I have learned how to dress appropriate and stylish. I get compliments all the time about how I dress and no I don’t show off anything, but I could if I wanted to. But, that’s the thing I don’t want to. I don’t want to in anyway to resemble that girl I used to be. A part of my redemption is expressed through the way I now dress my body. Before Christ I was known for my “bangin body” I mean for goodness sake I was a lingerie model lol…Now a days that is not what I’m known for. I’m not running around in a moo moo nor are my pants ten sizes too big lol. I dress for me and for the sake that I want to set an example to the young adult women I disciple. I know what your thinking, do I tell them how to dress. No, I don’t I actually just continue to dress the way I do and the more I spend time with the ladies they notice a trend. I get compliments from others in the church and outside the church. Yet no one sees my lovely lady parts or my upper thighs haha… I have a testimony of a young lady I discipled who is now in ministry and she always shares how it was watching me that helped her seek the Lord on different areas of her life. She too gets compliments from many people and is known for her modesty and had a similar testimony as myself…. I personally encourage women in leadership to take that into consideration when choosing how to dress. Dress as a reflection of your redemption and dress in a way where if someone you didn’t know was taking their cues from you that it would lead them in the right direction… Do I believe that modesty is one size fits all, no. I am a curvaceous woman, therefore short shorts are a no no, and low cut tops are a no no either for me personally….

    Now that I rambled for far longer than I intended too… My question is this… After reading all of these blogs responding to the churches approach to modesty, do you think that there should be no guidelines? Should women just be free to wear whatever they want? I understand that we need to learn how to communicate without shaming, but does that mean we just stop saying anything at all? While women are not the source of the lust issues of a man, the reality is that men are sometimes stumbled by what they see. Don’t we as believers need to take them into consideration just as much as we take the sister who is innocently dressing with pure motives in a fashion that is considered inappropriate by leaders into consideration…I’m struggling to find the balance so that women can learn how to dress in a way that is honoring to God without being shamed and where the million other factors fueling the argument are addressed. Is the answer to our war on the modesty culture really to just chuck the whole thing up in the air?

    This is something near and dear to my heart because I learned so much in the midst of the bad approach of those in leadership years ago. However, I drew strength from Jesus and my friends and have never felt shamed about how I previously dressed. I honestly didn’t know any better. If we stop talking about modesty and presenting women with options those that don’t know how to do it will never know how to do it. We also need to talk to leaders on how to address it without attacking identity and worth. We also need to take the men who are using what they see and address their stuff too…

    I get that damage has been done, but the direction were heading in in response to the modesty and sex stuff in the church is scary as well. It sometimes feel like a knee jerk reaction that says don’t have standards and don’t have rules when the Bible clearly has standards (both things to let go of and avoid and things to cling to and pursue) It is a both/and not an either/or.

    I also think that grace needs to be extended to those who hold opposing views, some are simply doing the best they know how to. My leaders in College had a student dress code and they felt I wasn’t following it. Was their approach the best? NO. At the same time they had a responsibility to the whole student body (which wasn’t very big). They didn’t correct me out of legalist maliciousness they genuinely wanted me to learn how to dress in a way that honored God.

  35. Donna says:

    I can tell that lots of people posting here have been hurt by being approached to be more modest. I have only a couple things to say. I was part of a legalistic church that had strict views on dress code and was often called out for what clothes were inappropriate. I disagree with going extreme one way or another and though I had that experience I don’t seek to flaunt my stuff in an effort to break free because I am free in Christ. I would also like to point out that our purpose in life, why we are on this earth, is to glorify God and to love others as we love ourselves. It is never about me and when it becomes about me it’s not glorifying Him. I am married with three beautiful daughters and I have three brothers so I know the struggles that guys can face and strive to guide my girls to glorify God with their bodies. Yes I have boobs, but they are my gift to my husband and he is the only one who gets to enjoy them. Don’t be afraid of modesty even if you’ve been burned in the past. Don’t put freedom on the ability to do what you want, rather rely on the freedom He has given to you through His Son.

  36. Lindsey says:

    Sorry I’m a little late on the commenting! Just stumbled across your blog and have been taking a look around! Love this post and how convicting it is for me. Unfortunately for me, as a girl who is currently in her twenties having been guilted into a life of modesty, I almost feel like I’ve missed the boat in really being able to appreciate my body the way it is. I use modesty as a way to justify “covering up” every inch of skin, and I find it extremely difficult to feel good in almost anything I wear. The mentality of “people are always judging you based on what you wear” has become so drilled into my brain that it is an ongoing struggle for me to find clothes that both look good on me and FEEL good on me. I wish it was as easy as just saying “oh, I feel hot now because this blouse is awesome”. But sadly, it is not for some of us.
    I guess my question to you would be how did you move forward from such painful memories and not hide? Do you feel as if God changed your heart, or you slowly just started appreciated your body more and became less scared? How do you move on from the drilled in mentality of strict modesty and start exuding the confidence I KNOW God wants me to posses?

  37. Lydia says:

    Okay THANK YOU, I’ve been waiting for this! (Not directly, but it’s a relief to see things I’ve discussed with people written out from another person’s perspective). I’m sure I could say a lot more, but there are a lot of other long comments. But seriously, I appreciate your words and the truth you share here.

  38. Cecilia Too says:

    Modesty is definitely one of those topics that people can be very judgmental about. Thank you for addressing it in such a grace-filled manner!

  39. Right away I am going away to do my breakfast, after having
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  40. Jonathan says:

    Thank You, Especially for #6. Lust vs Attraction. *Reading it again(3rd time), and #4 just made more sense now, lol.
    I’ve been struggling with a couple things for years attempting to better understand, and God has been showing me more and more discernment. Knowing the difference between lust of the eyes and the way my eyes are attracted to beauty is a key to my overall sanity and happiness. “observing isn’t lust.” Granted. However, this should in no way become an excuse for some to overvalue looks above true discernment or the truth about people’s hearts. We need to be looking into people, more than at them. Looking at a person and recognizing they have a fit and beautiful physique is exceptionally different than looking at a person and seeing something desirable. Everything has to be processed by our minds, even through our hearts. Jealousy, envy, lust, etc., these are heart issues. We cannot control what others think of/about our bodies or the clothing we wear, merely we can control what we personally think of ours and how we approach ours.

    I have come to realize in my life that more often than not women tend to have more intelligence in regards to heart issues than men, whereas the opposite is usually true in regards to logic based mind centered affairs. This in no wise means that the reverse is not also true in many instances. Therein I am not saying that either gender is better or smarter than the other, merely that we by way of our formation tend to develop connections to wisdom and knowledge through different pathways. I have over time, and by the grace of God, become more sensitive to heart knowledge than most men I have ever met in this life. This path less traveled has meant a huge difference to me in my life. To get true insight on a topic, it helps to consult with those with firsthand experience. Where my heart was once like a stone, it is now like that of flesh, I thank God He is the one guarding it now…like a ninja.

    Please forgive me Lauren for seeking out to know who you are and what you have to say about things. I saw a dissertation posted elsewhere online with your name attached to it with the topic of pornography. In all honesty, since I fear nothing mankind can create, I can openly admit I’ve struggled with this thing for some time before allowing Jesus to conquer it. I don’t know if they had direct or indirect permission to post it as it would seem I have not yet found the article on any pages that seem to be officially yours or otherwise licensed as such. The point in this being that your words on that topic, if indeed they were definitely yours, were very refreshing and liberating for me and touched my heart.

    Max and you must be an amazing couple. I just took a peek/preview into his most recent book on Amazon. I think I’ll get it for my kindle on my Android. Looks like a really good read.

    Again, Thank you for writing this, I think I’m gonna have to read it a couple more times before I fully understand a few things a little better(*on the 3rd time now, lol).

    Your blog is apparently very well thought out and quite appropriately and grammatically written. I too am still “learning about sex + love, pain + grief, & the jesus i thought i knew but didn’t.” I believe on some level we all will be on this quest for all our lives if we remain faithful. It gets a little easier after each little/huge victory.

    It would seem you are a busy individual, and I love to see how that GoodWomenProject is coming along. Truthfully I just found out about these things only a few days ago. I don’t seek an answer to anything I’ve written. That is completely up to your prerogative, and if you have the time. However, if I could ever ask you a few things, and only three things, it would be:
    What out of everything you’ve ever learned or experienced do you believe is really, truly real to you?
    Do you really believe what you believe is really real?
    Would you bet your very life and everything you know or have on these?
    I have no inherent God given claim or privilege to ask these things, and you have no obligation or inescapable reason to answer me. Do as you feel is right. I would not pose such an inquiry unless I believed your faith was as staunch as it seems. Please don’t be offended, be blessed.

    Much Love, No Doubt,
    Jonathan

  41. Turkkan says:

    Thank you for posting this Lauren. Soooo needed!

  42. Ariana says:

    I agree with some parts of this post, and not necessarily with others. I absolutely believe that girls should not be ashamed of the bodies they are given, however, I don’t think sometimes we have the right to dress however we want to, because sometimes what we want isn’t right or good for us.
    I used to think that I didn’t have to worry about being modest because I have a small bust and a small butt, so I just counted myself out of the sexy category and wore whatever I wanted. When I was younger, I wanted the freedom to wear whatever I wanted, because I felt no guy could be sexually attracted to the body I had, so I had raging fights with my father about wanting to wear too short shorts or skirts or too tight tank tops or too lingerie like dresses. I could argue that I was just trying to express myself and show pride in the body I did have, but I know that inwardly, I just wanted attention, and some kind of validation that my body was sexy, even though I believed no one could think it was.
    I truly think modesty begins with heart intention. If I’m thinking about wearing an article of clothing to specifically attract male attention or female jealousy, I don’t wear it. I still think some of the rules of more conservative modesty are silly, I will always love my skinny jeans, and I like form fitting clothing, but I also know that I want to set myself apart, and dress at least a little differently from everyone else, so it’s more obvious what faith I follow. I also want to respect my boyfriend, who may someday by my husband. I don’t want every guy around to get an eyeful of what may be his someday, because I want to save some parts of me for only my future husband, and not have it be a common occurrence that they are showing. And if something I’m wearing is causing him to have a harder time keeping his mind pure, absolutely I will change, because I’m proud that he’s striving to be pure in that area.
    I just know now that I dress differently from when I was younger, less skin tight, less short shorts, less tight mini skirts, because a) I was wearing those things in an attempt to get attention, and b) Even though it may not be right, people often look at girls who dress like that and the first word that comes to their mind isn’t “Christian.” I want nothing about me that could reflect poorly on Christ or create a poor witness, so I try to be cautious, but not overly so. Plus, I want Christ to shine through me and be the first thing people notice about me, not necessarily my legs or my hips. It’s a personal conviction of mine, and one that has developed over the years, and I’m not saying that you or anyone else should agree with me, but that’s how I try to live modestly.

    • Sarah says:

      I am from Alaska where women and men are covered for the most part in order to survive the extremely cold climate. I recently moved to a southern state and have culture shock by the scantily clad people in this warm climate. Everytime I go out I feel that everywhere I look I see nakedness and very immodest clothing choices, I’ve seen butt cheeks people!!!! I have been enjoying reading all of these posts about modesty and lack there of and can relate to this topic due to my recent move. I do not know all of the motives for these choices, but I have made speculations: the hot weather, love starved people, attention seeking, desperation… I really do not know. I do hope that the women in America and in the world realize that they are women of God, that they belong to Him, and that they are intrinsically valuable because God loves them and created them. Their worth should not be determined by the approval or attention of men, but by their virtues and good character.
      I am an Orthodox Christian woman. I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I also know from personal experience that when people are living a sinful life God finds us and corrects us, because He loves us. He gives us a conscience and discernment between good and evil when we walk with Him and follow Him. No one is perfect, we are all from different walks of life and different levels of spiritual maturity.We shouldn’t judge others by the way they dress, but each follow God in the best way we can and lead others by example.

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  1. [...] so I’m basically raiding The Beheld this week, but this examination of the (predominantly Christian) idea that dressing modestly will get you noticed by the… is very interesting and refreshing.  I especially liked #6: “She didn’t choose that body [...]

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