By THE SET APART GIRL TEAM
At around the age of fourteen, there was one older girl in our church that I looked up to as the epitome of godly femininity. She was tall and elegant, soft-spoken and kind, meek and modest … at least that’s what I thought. Imagine my dismay then,when I saw her in a rather revealing evening dress. It entirely baffled and confused my understanding of modesty. More and more I saw it happening. The older girls that I looked up to seemed to feel no hesitation to compromise in the area of modesty, especially when it came to certain occasions. Maybe it was okay for a dress to be a little shorter when it is for a formal event or perhaps I was being too old-fashioned in thinking that my bathing suit needed to cover up in the same way my other clothes do.
Modest clothing is more than just some outward choices we make, like a longer dress over a miniskirt. Modesty flows from a heart that is humble before the Lord. Our culture has made many of us believe that being unfashionable is a high sin which can only be cleansed at the altar of low necklines and sheer fabric. We’re so afraid of being a faux pas, that we’ve thrown away all standard of what modest, feminine apparel ought to be.
God calls us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received,” and though there might be greater pressure for us to compromise in certain areas, the entirety of our lives should be held to the same standard of modesty and discretion. We seem to be excellent, and cunningly creative, at finding excuses for immodest apparel. Our figure, trends, other girls’ choices of clothing or the desire to “express yourself” all seem to have found their way into many young Christian women’s justification for clothing that is less than the standard that the Bible calls us to. Modesty is not optional, it is commanded, and not just when we feel like it, but in all areas of life, all the time. (See 1 Timothy 2:9.)
The flesh is always looking to find a voice and position in our lives and many young women give it place through their clothing choices. We are commanded by God to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Excusing away an immodest outfit is only making provision for the flesh to gratify its unhealthy desires in your life. Instead, let us, as blood-bought children of God, put on Christ allowing His purity, beauty, and radiance to shine through us!
Excuse #1 – God doesn’t want me to be ashamed of my body, does He? He gave me a (curvy, slim, petite, athletic, etc.) figure, I’m going to embrace it and flaunt it – not hide it.
On the surface, this argument may seem to be logical, appealing, and even honoring to God. However, it is flawed because it is built upon a humanist premise instead of a biblical premise. As Paris Reidhead said in one of his sermons, Ten Shekels and a Shirt: “Humanism says, ‘the end of all being is the happiness of man’ [. . .] Christianity says, ‘The end of all being is the glory of God.’” Humanism has taught us that self-expression is the highest form of fulfillment, purpose, and self-actualization; this is why we have so much self-esteem, believe in yourself, follow your heart mumbo-jumbo. Thus, if we buy the bait, and believe that “expressing ourselves” (including our figure and form) is the course of greatest fulfillment we will be left with a phony bill of goods. Self cannot satisfy self.
Thus, as Christians, we submit to the Bible and what it says. When it says, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20) – it means it. And we believe it and we obey it. We, then, are to conform ourselves to that command (to glorify God with our bodies), rather than endeavoring to preserve ourselves at any level – including the shape of our body. Our body is to be used to be a reflection of Christ’s nature, character, and holiness. The excuse of, “Well God made me this way, so I’m glorifying God by flaunting what I’ve got,” is foolishness at the highest level. I could say, “Well, God made me with a fist so I’m going to punch annoying people for His glory,” but obviously I’m missing the purpose for which God made my hand. Yes, God made your body, and each of us will have a different shape, however, we must recognize that we are responsible to use this body in a manner that conforms to His Word. We can use our body as a tool of “self-expression,” but we are made to be a tool of God-glorification. This means we ought not to dress to accentuate ourselves, but we ought to adorn our body in a way that accentuates the beauty of Christ.
How does one adorn their body to accentuate the beauty of Christ? Well, they must surrender their desire for self-centeredness and recognize that God’s Word speaks very plainly about how a woman ought to adorn herself. Beautifully, this adornment begins with Christ at the very center of a woman’s life and affections, this then flows outward to the clothes and adornment which she wears externally. God’s pattern brings life. Humanism’s pattern is a prison of death. Dressing to glorify Christ, and not to glorify your own shape and form brings forth true beauty!
Excuse #2 – Modesty standards are relative. Everyone is entitled to determine what they feel comfortable wearing – you can’t put pressure on people to only dress a certain way.
One common excuse that comes up in regards to modesty is that everyone has their own standards and those standards are relative to each person – “that’s good for you, this is good for me.”
Yes, it’s true, there are not specific guidelines in the Bible for how high your neckline should be or the length of your hem. But that does not mean that modesty itself is relative. As Christian women, each one of us is called to maintain a purity and dignity in the way we dress that points others to Christ. This may vary somewhat between women depending on personal conviction, but there are certain things that cannot be compromised.
1 Corinthians 12:23 says, “… and those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty.” Paul here is using an analogy for the church as the Body of Christ, but his point can be applied to our actual, physical body. There are certain parts of our body that are not to be seen by others, not because we are to be ashamed of them, but because we are “honoring” them, as the verse states. And not only is it honoring to your own body, but to your husband, future or current. So our thinking shouldn’t be, How much can I show and still be modest? but, How can I go the extra mile to honor my future husband and the others around me? It can be eye-opening to take a moment to consider how you would like other young women to dress around the man you will one day marry … would you want him to constantly be battling temptation because of the way the women around him are dressing, or would you desire them to go the extra mile to encourage him in his pursuit of holiness and purity, out of honor for him and for you, his future wife?
It might mean a little bit of a mindset switch. But when the motives behind your wardrobe choices are in alignment with the Bible, it will be a joy to dress in such a way that you know will not cause others to stumble and will bring glory to the Lord. Modesty standards will no longer be relative, but will be dictated by the truth revealed in the Word of God!
Excuse #3 – Guys ought to be responsible for their own eyes – I can’t help it if they think impure thoughts because of what I’m wearing – that’s their own issue!
While it is true that you cannot control the thoughts in a guy’s mind, you can control whether or not your wardrobe is a catalyst to impurity and lust. You can be a champion of purity by simply obeying Scripture, dressing discretely (see 1 Timothy 2.9-10), and allowing the beautiful and reverent Spirit of Christ to shine forth in every area of your life (Mat. 5.16).
The calling to purity, honor, and modesty in the way that we dress cannot be argued away – it’s simply a matter of laying aside selfish excuses and choosing the fear of the Lord. Our lives and bodies are not our own, for we have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6.19-20). We are called to in like manner that Christ did – bearing humility of mind, obedience, and servanthood (Phil. 2.5-8). We are to consider the good of others (including their purity) of higher esteem than our own opinions, desires, or convenience (Phil. 2.3-4).
If you are struggling to discern the appropriateness of your wardrobe, take a step back and ponder eternity for a moment. We must understand the weight of Jesus’ words when He said that it would be better for a millstone to be tied our around our neck and be cast into the sea than to cause another to stumble into sin (see Luke 17.2). We will be held accountable for the choices that we make – even in regards to our wardrobe. On that final day will Jesus be able to commend you, saying, Well done, my good and faithful servant?
Overcoming Common Areas Of Compromise
Super-tight tops and figure-hugging pants seem to be filling up the racks of the athletic wear department of most stores. Finding modest work-out wear is a task that requires prayer and purpose! I found that buying tops and pants in stretchy fabric in a size up met the standards of modesty and comfort. T-shirts that are extra long length are always a good option when you are planning to be active, and need the assurance that your shirt will not accidentally ride up. Always be mindful about the activity you are planning on participating in, and make sure your sports bra provides extra support for running, jumping, and all other high-impact activities.
From seasons spent on various sports teams throughout my high school years, to my personal endeavors to stay fit and trim, I’ve run around the athletic block more than a time or two! Whether I’m out for a run on quiet country roads or on an elliptical at the gym, it is still important to me that I am mindful of what I wear. Time and time again, I’ve experienced that as I seek to honor our God in our clothing choices in all the various aspects of our lives, He is faithful to shower our obedience with perfect blessing and provision!
For those of you who are eager to see the rubber meet the road in your life, here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful! I hope these practical tips are helpful and encouraging to you.
A while back I found some loose, colorful workout tanks on clearance for a mere $3. They were styled in such a way that I didn’t feel comfortable wearing them alone, but I found that layering them over a scoop neck tee or a fitted workout tank was a great solution. (On a further note, one thing to be wary of when layering and pairing is that your layers stay in place – continually having to tug-and-pull at your clothing isn’t practical and having things slip out of place can be embarrassing.) While it can be more challenging to find tops that can be worn alone, with diligent searching I’ve found a few of those over time too! Searching for the just-right workout wear can be discouraging at times, but remember the reward of well-honoring our God means so much more.
There are also great workout pants and capris that have a tailored or loose fit, rather than the exercise pants that cling to every curve. Different athletic companies offer longer shorts that can be great options as well. Another option that you can search for are “skim shorts” which are loose fitting and longer.
We can easily begin to excuse modesty from workout clothing simply because of what is available in stores and what we see around us. But excuses aside, may we freshly look at our workout wear with our hearts open to correction before the Lord. Does it expose too much of our figures? Is it honoring to God and to those around us? Would we wear it in front of our pastor without a blush? May we be faithful to prayerfully evaluate this area of our lives with hearts that are ready to cheerfully follow the leading of our King!
The options for swimwear seem to be either lacking decency or lacking any sense of beauty. Creative mixing-and-matching of modest pieces has proven very necessary for me in finding modest swimwear. Pairing a shirt, in breathable fabric from the athletic wear department, with longer-length shorts, a floppy sun hat and some extra protection sunscreen will provide just the right outfit for soaking up some Vitamin-D-loaded sunshine.
The culture we live in shouts, “If you’ve got it – flaunt it!” This mentality has quietly leeched into the hearts of modern girls and women in the area of dress, including swimwear. Oftentimes, the way we dress can evidence that parts of our lives are submitted to the culture’s opinion, rather than to Christ’s.
All too easily, we make excuses to pardon ourselves from a higher standard. It’s not like I’m wearing a this-or-that! Did you see what so-and-so was wearing? It’s too hard to find X, Y, and Z … this was the best I could find! But what are other people going to think if I wear this? I’ll stick out like a sore thumb! . . . And the list goes on.
When God awakened me to living a set apart life for Christ, He gently began to touch on my wardrobe. And I’ve found that the greatest relief from these pit-falling excuses has been to cheerfully and confidently embrace the standard that God calls us to as His prized daughters. Rather than comparing myself to others, desperately contemplating what is acceptable, or criticizing the standards of others, God is continually teaching me to walk with the eyes of my heart fixed upon Him, not looking to the left or the right. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be armed with an apologetic discourse to in an attempt to make other people feel comfortable with my choices. Nor do I need to heed the voice of insecurity that attempts to persuade me off course. God is simply asking me to walk humbly before Him.
As a lifelong lover of summertime, sunshine, and water, I’ve diligently searched for swimwear that I feel comfortable in. As I’ve sought to honor God in this area, I’ve learned to look to Him with full expectation that He will faithfully provide all that I need to honor Him – and I’ve found that He always provides! In hopes of encouraging and aiding you in your quest for set apart swimwear, I wanted to share a few helpful tips.
In the past, searching in the sportswear and outdoor sections have reaped some great pieces for me. At the top, I’ve worn an exercise top that has some sweet feminine detailing that I layer with a fitted colorful exercise tank underneath. This provides an extra layer for the coverage I was searching for. Other times, I’ve been able to find actual tankini swim tops that fit well and are modest.
Whether you are spending the day kayaking on the river, swimming in the ocean, or playing bocce ball on the shores – board shorts offer great coverage and amazing versatility for fun in the water and sun! (Board shorts can be ordered with various inseam measurements, so longer ones are easy to find!)
Finding board shorts online can prove to be a long search, but well worth it! While I would have thought that board shorts had to resemble guys’ swim trunks, I found that there are longer options that still bear a feminine flair. (I once had a pair with colorful flowers printed town the side and a tie-waist with beaded detail.) Remember that God is the Creator of beauty and isn’t out to quench the notions of it!
A few more helpful tips:
Searching online is a great way of finding good deals and ordering multiple sizes for trying on is helpful. I’ve also found some great swimwear options at stores like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Ross, and sporting goods stores such as Dicks. Even Target and Wal-Mart have had some decent options in their athletic wear sections.
If you are looking for some specific brands to get you started, here are a few that have (some) good options: O’Neill, Roxy, Columbia, North Face, Nike, Sperry, Marika, and Champion.
Now that I’m close to six months pregnant, I definitely understand the challenge of finding modest maternity wear! Prior to becoming pregnant, I had noticed that snug-fitting clothing seemed to be the norm amongst many expectant moms. At first, it didn’t seem like the thing to do, but early in my pregnancy, the Lord began to impress upon my heart a renewed vision for modesty during pregnancy. If I wouldn’t have worn a tightly-fitted top before I was pregnant, then why would I wear one simply because I was pregnant? Though pregnancy is a wonderful time of expectancy and celebrating a new life growing within, it is also still a time of cherishing feminine mystique and seeking to point others to Jesus – not just one’s growing midsection.
Now I’m not telling you to wear baggy sweatshirts and workout pants! However, as you shop for maternity wear, do be mindful of how a top or a pair of jeans fits you all around. Your sweet baby bump may look adorable in a certain blouse, but is the overall fit a modest one? I am a girl that loves to be comfortable, and while I’d sometimes rather wear a big t-shirt and lounge pants these days, I have really made an effort to find pretty, yet comfy, maternity pieces. Lately, I love wearing flowing blouses that can be worn with a belt for added structure. Maxi skirts are also incredibly comfortable and look much nicer than lounge pants. Also, don’t despair over the cost of new maternity clothes. Set a budget and trust the Lord to provide. I was so blessed to acquire many lovely pieces through thrift store shopping, clothing loans from sweet friends, and even my mom!
Our culture seems to give license to pregnant women to be more revealing, whether it be showing more skin or wearing tighter clothing. I admit, there is definitely a desire to show off that baby bump! But whether we are pregnant or not, as Christians we are called to maintain a dignity and honor in the way we dress. This doesn’t at all mean wearing shapeless potato sacks! As I picked out my maternity wardrobe, I tried to choose things that would be modest and comfortable, as well as feminine and pretty. With a little bit of patience, you can create a maternity wardrobe that is flattering to your rounding figure and honoring to God and those around you.
Even though I was never tempted to lower my standards when it came to my wedding dress, I hadn’t considered how choosing modesty on my wedding day could actually bless others. At my reception, I had various people come up to me and tell me how refreshing it had been to see a bride in a beautiful yet modest dress. The dress had originally been designed in a way that I wasn’t comfortable with, but by trimming the train of the dress, my amazing seamstress was able to fashion a small lace ‘jacket’ for me to wear over the dress. And did I mention that I found my dress in a thrift shop for only $50? The Lord always provides in His way, in His timing… so trust and obey Him!
When searching for my wedding gown, I was living overseas at the time, and only had the option of looking online. As I laid it before the Lord, asking Him to provide just the right dress – appropriately concealing yet beautiful – He abundantly answered my prayer! Not only was it all I had hoped for, but when I tried it on for the first time, I didn’t need even one alteration! It was such a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness when we commit even seemingly “small” details to Him out of a heart that longs to glorify Him!