What Does Modesty Look Like?

When my husband and I first got married, I owned this cute little black skirt that showed off my personal best asset — my legs.  I had bought it on sale at a store where I didn’t usually have the money to shop, and I loved the way I looked in that skirt.

My hubby asked me to get rid of it.  What?!  Are you kidding?!  He said that it was too short, and he didn’t like other guys seeing that much of me.  Hmmm.

Frankly, I’d always thought of myself as being relatively modest.  I never wore a bikini; always a one-piece.  I didn’t wear low-cut blouses, even if I didn’t have the cleavage to spill out anyway.  I didn’t squeeze myself into clothing two sizes too small or wear dresses with cut-outs on the sides.  But I had to take his word for it — his male perspective on what draws a man’s attention in an inappropriate way. 

When I look around now, I sometimes can’t believe the eye candy that we dangle in front of men’s eyes and then expect them to pay attention to our inner goodness.  I was at a church luncheon once (I repeat, church luncheon, for heaven’s sake!) and saw a woman lean over to get her food, drawing up her blouse and giving a peek at the black thong coming out of her skirt.  She probably had no idea. 

And that’s the point.  We ladies are not always great at gauging what is appropriate to wear publicly.  The newest fashions come out, everyone’s wearing them, they make us look good, and we buy.  We are often not even aware that the micro-mini reveals too much when we sit across from a male co-worker or that a loose blouse is giving a glimpse of our lacy bra to the waiter at our table.  We don’t even think like that. 

So we have to start thinking like that.  We have to pause and ask whether what we are wearing is going to encourage temptation to lust for men around us.  Yes, I know men lust anyway.  My father swore that young men can find a way to lust after women wearing potato sacks, but we should make it easier for guys to focus on what is most important. 

Some things modesty is not:

Modesty is not backward.  Modesty is not dressing like you are from past century in a fruitless attempt to turn back time and keep things on the up-and-up. 

Modesty is not frumpy.  Wearing sweat pants and crew neck t-shirts all the time will cover everything, but that is not a look that presents the best you. 

Modesty is not old.  A 30 year old need not dress like her grandmother to maintain a modicum of modesty. 

Modesty is not gender-neutral.  Straight clothes that hide that you are, hello!, a woman is not modesty.  

What modesty is:

Modesty is covering up skin best reserved for your spouse.  If you aren’t sure whether it’s appropriate, ask him.  Do not ask, “Do you like me in this dress?”  He might say, “I love you in that dress (and out of it).”  Ask where the dress makes him look.  Does the dress draw attention to areas best left for his eyes only?  Ask if he is comfortable with how much of you will be revealed to others. 

Modesty is dressing like the beautiful woman you are.  You are a woman with a womanly shape; it is okay to wear something that demonstrates that you have a figure.  But fitted and tight-fitting are quite different.  Don’t get hung up on the numbered size of a garment (sizes vary so much by manufacturer); find what fits you right. 

Modesty is fashionable.  Yes, you can find styles that are fashionable and modest.  Teenagers in particular may have to treat clothes shopping like hunting an endangered species, but it is possible.  

Modesty is keeping your underclothes under your clothes.  For some reason, I feel the overwhelming compulsion to state this.   I don’t think it’s backward to presume that bras, panties, etc. should not be as visible to the public as your brand-new haircut.

If you struggle with what makes you look beautiful and fashionable without falling into inappropriate styles, I recommend going online and looking for tips on dressing your body type.  Frankly, in the few episodes I’ve seen of What Not to Wear, the experts did an excellent job of dressing women in clothes that highlighted their best parts and kept everything tucked in as it should be.  (Mind you, I cannot speak to the series as a whole since I don’t get that channel!) 

Pause and think about what you’re wearing.  Think about whether it’s honoring your husband.  Think about whether it’s helping another woman’s husband keep his eyes on his own wife.  And then go out there and be the fashionista that you are! 

Remembering, of course, that your inner beauty is what matters most.

17 thoughts on “What Does Modesty Look Like?

  1. Heather

    Thank you for this; especially the part about underclothes being UNDER the clothes. Though I think that applies to a lot of young men these days too.

    I read parts of this to DH and he kept saying that he didn’t really care what I wore, because I was the one who had to be comfortable with it. I respect his opinion, but I disagree. For me, I don’t want men looking at me in that way. I don’t want to contribute to someone else’s sin.

    I am in the process of losing weight right now (see Thrive90 posts on my blog). My reward for making it through and losing the weight, is going to be some new dresses. I can’t wait to shop for pretty, feminine, modest dresses. Now, if I can just figure out where…

  2. FatherOf4

    Don’t forget, Biblical Modesty is NOT related making sure certain parts of your body are covered.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post. It is so important for us ladies to realize just what our clothing does or doesn’t do. I think it is a wonderful gift to give our husbands all of us and not share ourselves with others even in sight.

  4. Anonymous

    Great post but I have the opposite problem, my hubby wants to see me in short shorts but I can’t bare to where them. Every now and then when summer arrives we will have a mini argument, he is not a fan of the long skirts etc.

  5. Anonymous

    My husband also wishes I could wear daisy dukes and tank tops. He never pressures me or even requests it, but says that is what he wishes I could wear when I ask his opinion about clothes. We’ve never argued about it, we’re usually mutually apologetic. I try to compromise by coverig my body through the day but then showing him all he wants to see when we’re at home and the children are in bed. In addition to my responsibility to be modest, chaste, & discreet, I also have a responsibility to be naked and unashamed and to cause him to be ravished with my love!

  6. J

    Hmmm, two Anons w/hubbies who want more skin showing. Interesting. I wonder if he’s thinking what other guys are seeing. Some men seem to want to show their beautiful women off.

    My own take would be to dress modestly and wear something sexy underneath. Then let your hubby know it’s there. “Hey honey, underneath my conservative sheath dress is a red lacy bra and matching thong, just for you later!” Or “Underneath this dress is nothing at all! And that’s for you!” Maybe then, you could please both sides of the equation.

    I like the statement of being naked and unashamed with your husband and the line “ravished with my love!” Oh yeah, baby. Happy hubby with those words, eh?

  7. Dana

    Only problem with the red bra and thong is that underneath the modest dress which is pleasing to God, is someone dressed like a heathen. Don’t think you have to look like the “world” or what is acceptable to the “world” because the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Stand up and be counted for Jesus which is purity. Modesty is an issue of the heart and it shows on the outside. :o)

  8. Anonymous

    Dana, its not like you’re going to be parading around in your underwear. Its just for your HUSBAND. No one else. Its pleasing to God to please your spouse. AND you can be just as modest in pants as you can skirts. Remember, men think “its easier to lift up a skirt than to take off pants.”.

  9. J

    I think I’ll pipe in here and suggest that your undergarments need to be comfortable to you. If you do not want to wear a black lace teddy, don’t. But we need to be careful with judging the heart of a woman who wears a thong that only her husband sees. Or judging the woman who doesn’t want to wear suggestive lingerie at all. A reading of Romans 14 would be in order here. Verse 5 says, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” Personally, I am fully convinced that dressing modestly for others and sensually for one’s husband is God-honoring and hubby-pleasing.

  10. Anonymous

    Another aspect is that no one sees the thong so long as the outer clothes are on!

    Think about it this way, you’re already covered. Underneath the underwear is nothing. At some point, you’re bare. No matter how many layers you wear, you’re still naked after the last layer.

    Also, how is a thong and fancy bra immodest? If it’s okay to be totally naked in the presence of your spouse, how is a bra and underwear less modest? They would actually cover up some of the body, more than nothing at all would. If a woman’s butt is reserved for her husband’s viewing only, how they decorate it is really their own business.

  11. Anonymous

    I’m the “second Anon”, and yes, my husband wants to show everyone what HE’S got :0)
    We both don’t have a clear conscience to do that though, so I follow my personal convictions of modesty: collarbone, shoulders and mid-calves covered, as well as everything between neck and knees, no pants, and no form-fitting. Thats *me*. I do often do what “J” described and wear things just for him underneath, and let him know it, as well as get an eyeful when there’s no one but him to see :0)
    Also- YES to what the “third Anon” said! :0)
    I think the old saying holds some water: “a man should have a cook in the kitchen, a lady in the living room, and a wildcat in the bedroom.” (dh adds: “and they should stay in their respective places!”)

  12. Anonymous

    I’m so glad someone has brought up that frumpy does not equal modest! As for “dressing like a heathen” – do heathens not wear suits and ties? Rain coats? Socks and shoes? A man can wear a suit and tie to discuss illegal business activity, while another man can wear a suit and tie to go to church. Suits and ties are of the world, and heathens wear them. Why is it wrong for a woman to wear something that will help her husband desire her and turn his head away from the hooker on the street? It all depends on where you wear it!

  13. Dana

    As a young woman about to marry, someone told me that to please my husband that I should be a lady in every room but the bedroom and a whore in the bedroom. Shocking, yes and it’s just not true and not why God designed us. Our sexuality is not for flaunting, but in pleasing our spouses and of course reproduction. Guess that is why I say you do not have to wear sexy or slutty looking underwear just because that is what models are strutting on public television. My personal comment and my personal conviction goes against wearing clothes or underwear that makes my body eye catching, or revealing or distasteful in any way.
    I am not very good at putting outfits together, so I just might look frumpy at times, but I’m here to tell ya that I am covered! When I wore jeans or more tight and revealing things, I didn’t match all that too good either.
    I have some underwear items that might be sexier than my everyday wears, but they are tasteful and feminine. I have cute underwear and I have grannies.
    Point is, do not feel like you have to wear thongs or the latest bra from Vic Secret.
    I don’t believe that Jesus would be impressed.

    Let me say this also in defense of my views, please.
    A lady meets her to-be husband. While they were courting, she had discovered certain “magazines & publications” in his bathroom.
    I won’t call them ladies because they are not, but women, in those magazines dressed in those skimpy, sexy, slutty underwears or nothing, too I supppose. DO they not?
    She asked her fiance to stop looking at those and throw them out and he did. He never looked at another one before they married or since they married.
    Now, she never wanted to EVER resemble anything of which he may have seen in those magazines. She wanted to please his eyes with what pure and Godly love could ignite. Because the love and exposure of her body to her husband when they married could still be VERY exciting without looking like the trash he had seen before in those publications.
    Now, you can attack my views all you like, but that is where I am at. I am nauseated at the thought of dressing how I used to. I thank God for showing me how wrong I was.
    YES heathens wear ties and suits. I am talking about aparrel that is suitable for a born-again, CHRISTIAN woman, married or single. A woman who desires to be the lady I believe God would want her to be.

  14. Dana

    Oh and I wanted to respond to what J said. Just in case you thought I was judging. For me, personally I think trashy underwear is trashy. Does not mean that the person wearing them is trash.
    It’s like taking a precious beautiful Jean-Bonet Ramsey child and plastering makeup on her until she does not even resemble the innocent child she is.
    One time, when I went to church, a woman visitor went up to the altar to pray. She was very upset, crying, pleading with God. She was not dressed real good, but the clothes she had on might have been her best. She had a rough and tough appearance, but I did not judge her,… I put my arm around her and prayed earnestly with her and for her. I wanted to help her.
    By bending down to her knees, she was exposing her black thong like I know many of you have seen since nowadays it seems popular in the world to wear those low-rise tight little jeans. It shows your thongs when you bend over.
    I have seen it 1 time too many.
    Did I see her thong and go “oh gosh, she is a horrible person because she is wearing a thong!”
    No. I happened to be wearing a long skirt that night and I had plenty of fabric to cover her while we prayed.

  15. J

    I appreciate you piping back into the discussion and clarifying your views. I definitely agree with you that modesty is important for a Christian wife.

    I do take issue with one sentence here, Dana: “It’s like taking a precious beautiful Jean-Bonet Ramsey child and plastering makeup on her until she does not even resemble the innocent child she is.” That is not a good analogy to a wife who dresses in sexy lingerie for the sole viewing of her husband.

    Obviously, a black thong peeking out is a problem. That’s inappropriate, and some women simply don’t realize and need training in that area. However, to my thinking, a black thong that I never see on a woman in a very modest dress is between her and her husband.

    I am glad that this blog provides a place for people to discuss these topics. If we think these issues through, we are more likely to come to better conclusions – even if they don’t all align with one another. Thanks again for your input, Dana!

  16. Anonymous

    Realize that this post is several months old, but I just discovered your blog. First, LOVE IT! So thankful for a frank and faith-centered discussion on Christian marriage and sexuality. It has already sparked several fruitful discussions between my husband and me.

    Second, this post in particular has made me think. I believe it is important for a lady to look classic and elegant in clothes that fit her well and complement her body. Clean lines and tasteful choices are beautiful. And, my husband agrees.

    BUT…I have a few things that I only wear when we are on a just-the-two-of-us date, or on a little weekend getaway. Of course, they are still well-fitted and tasteful, but maybe the skirt is a little shorter than my typical conservative length, or the neckline of the dress is a little more daring. Still classy, but a just little more exciting. My husband LOVES IT.

    I asked him after reading this post what he thought about it in light of remaining modest in front of others. First, he said, “well, you’re beautiful, so no matter what, I know other men are probably looking at you.” (LOVE that man, especially since motherhood has brought with it crows’ feet, five extra pounds, and a few grey hairs.) But secondly, he said that it made him feel special and excited that I had dressed up for him, and not just by getting out of my regular everyday clothes, but by wearing something special just for him. He likes when I make an extra effort to be a little “sexy” for our date nights, and in turn, his positive response makes me feel so special and adored…and I’m not sure that crosses into immodesty or immorality.

    Just my two cents! LOVE the blog — thank you for this unique and much-needed ministry! God bless you and your marriage.

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