This is an old article I wrote seven or eight years ago on the subject of ladies’ dress and modesty. Some of it seems really funny now, because I have really changed my style – when I wrote this, my hair was very long and I was very plain. These days, I’m rockin’ a short highlighted hairstyle and wear makeup and much nicer clothes (and I love it).
Although I’ve grown and changed a lot, the article still has a lot of merit and hopefully will spur you to ask yourself some questions:By what standards do you live? Is salvation internal, external, or both. Who determines what is “modest” and what is not?
Sometimes I look at the blogs and websites of homemakers (and homesteaders) – Over the years I’ve picked up many helpful, time-saving, and frugal tips this way.
One thing I’ve noticed is that nearly all of the Christian ladies also express a conviction to “dress modestly” or “be feminine” – in other words, to wear dresses all of the time. A few also wear headcoverings.
I’ve given this a lot of thought. Read up on the passages they frequently list as an apologetic for dressing a certain way. While I certainly can’t fault a woman for wanting to wear dresses all of the time, I don’t think that’s a requirement God has for us. (Modesty, on the other hand, IS). I’m not posting this to demean dress-wearing women – not at all! I simply wish to offer a counterpoint that other women can investigate when making a decision on this matter.
A frequently-heard verse is this:
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. (Deut. 22:5)
Speaking logically about this – men did not wear pants at the time this was written. The verse is not talking about pants. Today, men wear kilts and in some cultures, robes – and no one thinks they are “wearing women’s clothing”.Â Methinks there’s a bit more to a concept of “intent” behind this verse than is often considered. The entire chapter is “do unto your neighbor” and “go through life without hurting anybody intentionally” – if this verse was simply about mode of dress, it would be rather out of context. If, instead, you consider intent/motive for wearing clothing, it suddenly makes sense in context: “A woman must not [pretend to be a man], nor a man [pretend to be a woman]…” My wearing jeans doesn’t hurt anybody, but if I was to bind my chest, wear a coat and tie, and affix a fake mustache… that’s deception, and it’s wrong. (not to mention that I’d look pretty ridiculous!) Likewise, if a man shaves his hair, dons dress, falsies, and makeup so he can pass himself off as a woman, this is wrong.
Another verse frequently mentioned is this one:
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Tim. 2:8-10)
Generally people who quote this passage start with “In like manner also…” – as I was preparing to copy same out of the online Bible, those four words stopped me. In like manner to what? In like manner to the men – praying everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. Paul moves on to say, (paraphrasing) – Women, do likewise; don’t wear clothing, hair or makeup that will distract you or others from your Godly purpose.” I don’t see this passage addressing “Women must wear a dress”.
Have you ever been amongst a group of women and felt – well, rather like a sparrow amidst tropical birds? It happens to me quite often, as I tend to dress rather plainly, don’t wear much makeup, and if I do anything to my hair I’ll pull it back in a ponytail. I look at other women – wearing $300-$600 between dress, shoes, and purse, makeup that looks professional, and hair styled ever-so-perfectly… and they most always do it to be seen by others. So that women will envy and men’s heads will turn. I think that’s the sort of thing that Paul was getting at. (Is it wrong to dress nicely, to do your hair and makeup? Not at all. In fact, as we’ll see in a moment, it’s probably wrong to be a total slob). So ladies … for what purpose are you dressing up? (and as a side-thought… if you’re wearing a $500 dress, how much “good work” are you going to want to do? Goodness, might get it dirty!)
I also see this passage addressing the concept of “modesty” – a difficult word in our culture.Â The word Paul uses for “modest” in this passage is kosmios – which Strong’s defines as “well arranged, seemly, modest”. He uses the same word in 1 Timothy 3 to describe the behavior of church leaders: (A bishop must then be… of [kosmios] good behavior…)
Well arranged, seemly, modest, of good behavior. Begs the question: what is well-arranged, seemly, good behavior… and how does that relate to our dress? First of all, the obvious: if a woman’s body is for her husband, then a) the private parts of the body should be kept private – period, and b) a married woman should not dress in such a way that she commands the attention of men other than her husband, and c) an unmarried woman should dress in a way that reflects good behavior, and (if she’s trying to attract a husband) in a way that will attract the right kind of attention. Sorry, girls… dressing like a whore means that you’ll get someone who wants to treat you as such. Dress like a lady (whether that means a dress to your ankles or blue jeans and a t-shirt) and men will treat you like a lady. Likewise, men should be modest. Guys, if you want to wear a thong in your fenced-in backyard so you get a nice tan… go for it. Keep it off the beach.
Another oft-quoted passage is 1 Peter 3:3,4:
Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
However, if you pull the entire passage (1-5) things come into context:
1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel– 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,Â Â
This is an if-then statement – If a woman is in true partnership with her husband (in a situation where she’s become a Christian and he
remains an unbeliever), her Godly actions speak louder to him than her dress. Key words in this passage are “own husbands” (as opposed to any other man), and “merely” – Do not let your adornment be MERELY outward. In other words, don’t neglect your appearance so as to be a bum, but know that what you do is far more important than how you look.
For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7 sums it up:
Again… I’m not trying at all to say that women who choose to wear dresses are “wrong”. I’ve nothing against doing so! Sometimes I like to wear them. I also like to wear jeans and shorts and t-shirts and such. Some women argue that jeans are not “feminine” – I’ve never felt that way. I feel just as feminine in cut-off jeans as I do in a dress – perhaps feminine in a different way, but definitely not the opposite (masculine)!
So – that’s my thoughts on the matter. If you feel that you should wear dresses, then by all means do so! If you feel that you don’t need to, then by all means, don’t! And if you’re not sure… Ask the Lord for wisdom, consult the Word, read what I have to say, read what others have to say, and follow what God says to do!