This is a little vague, but how far should I take modesty?
Your question may feel a little vague, but it’s a great start to looking at modesty—the who, what, why, and how far?
First the what: what is modesty? Some people may instantly get a picture of someone dressed all prim and proper and certainly not stylishly. While that may be the definition of modesty to some, the dictionary defines modesty as:
• the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one's abilities.
• the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level.
• behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.
I’m guessing your question is really asking about the last definition. How far should I take my “behavior, manner or appearance to avoid impropriety or indecency?” So what do we need to do as Christian girls to act and look in a way that is modest, but (and I’m just guessing) still allows me to look and feel pretty and stylish?
I think it would also be helpful to look at “why?” Why do parents/adults/the church encourage us to be modest? We want to dress in a way that makes us feel pretty, fit in, and if we’re honest most of the time, causes others to think we look great and maybe even compliment our outfits or style. It can feel like adults want to squash that and have us dress in boring or old-fashioned ways. Why the fuss about what we wear or how we look?
Two big reasons we need to think about it are:
• what our style says about who we are
• how guys think when they see us
What do you want people to think about you when they see you? That you’re pretty? Look nice? That you’re fun? Intelligent? Would be fun to hang out with?
Do your clothes/style convey that?
Here’s a problem. Most girls want guys to look at them, think they’re pretty, and be interested. We want them to notice. But guys think differently than girls. Guys are very visual. You may know that, but you may not understand how that works for them. A guy sees a girl with a low cut top and his brain automatically tunes in—you may know that part—but his brain often begins “finishing” the picture. A short skirt--and his brain just keeps imaging a little higher. A guy actually has to intentionally work at not letting his mind go there. In the book “For Young Women Only,” Shaunti Feldhahn shares from the answers of 404 guys between the ages of 15 and 20 from all over the United States who participated in a scientific survey to look at how guys think and feel. The results reveal that this is an area of huge temptation for guys. How you dress and carry yourself not only gives them an impression of who you are, but can also cause them to think things that are not what you’re going for. It’s true that even when you dress modestly, guys might still think about your body. It’s true that it’s their battle. However, it’s also true that we can make it easier for them by simply dressing modestly. And it’s probably true that you’d rather them think about you being a fun, intelligent person and want to get to know you better than having them focused only on your body. So dressing modestly helps a guy—as well as others—see YOU as a person and not just focus on your clothes or your body.
So the how? You may be groaning right now, thinking that you’re destined to wearing boring, drab clothes for the rest of your life. Not true. While it may be hard to find great pieces in today’s malls where the focus is on being sexy, revealing clothes, etc., you can do it.
• Create your own style. Who are you? What clothes make you feel pretty? Allow you to do the things you enjoy doing? I know a young woman who loves cowboy boots. She loves comfy jeans and tshirts. She accents her look with great accessories. It’s a simple, casual look, but it is so her. Another friend loves dresses. Dresses them down with sweaters and flats. Finds great boots or shoes to kick it up a notch.
• Discover what colors really pop on you. I love rich, deep colors. One of my friends loves softer colors. Pick a color or two that you love and make them your signature color and collect great pieces—clothes or accessories—in that color. Or something else that can be your signature. (One of mine is heart pins. I wear different heart-shaped pins whenever an outfit needs a little something more.)
• Do a little research on dressing for your body type. What works best with how you’re shaped? Our bodies are all different sizes and shapes and what looks great on one person may not look great at all on another.
• Like yourself and then be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else—dress like someone else, talk like someone else, do things just because they are what others enjoy. Be you. When asked for their best heart-to-heart advice to girls, the top answer from the guys in the research behind “For Young Women Only” said was, “Be yourself, because you are more valuable than you think.” Many shared that one of the things that makes a woman beautiful is her confidence. These were guys from all walks of life. Some were Christians. Others weren’t. It surprised the researchers. We might not think about confidence when we think about getting dressed, but confidence can make a huge difference in how we carry ourselves and in how we look. Do things that build your confidence. Talk confidently to yourself (squash all that negative self-talk.) And wear things that make you feel pretty and confident.
So your question: how far should you take modesty? Only you can answer that for yourself. But you make that decision by thinking about what you want your look to reveal about you. What do you want it to say about who you are? Do you want it to reveal your heart and thinking and personality or your body? What type of attention do you want to attract? You can dress in ways that are stylish and pretty, yet modest, and will cause people to see the real you and not your body.