“Immodest and attractive is easy. Modest and repulsive is easy too. But modest and attractive is an art form.” –Douglas Wilson
It may not be inherently obvious by the way that I dress, but clothing is everything to me. My absolute favorite pastime is making fun of people with horrible fashion sense, (just ask anyone that has the misfortune of going to a mall or otherwise crowded place with me). I watch shows like Project Runway and the Fashion Police vicariously. I subscribe to every single free fashion magazine I can find, stalk trends on tumblr and Pinterest and in my spare time at home, spend hours trying to recreate my favorite pieces with my sewing machine. Well, that was a little bit of a confessional. And while I’m not sure if I’m a very good example of styling fashionably modest clothing, I hope my interest in this subject is by far large enough to make up for any shortcomings that I may have in reality. So with that said, I’ll get started.
Showing Our Faith: 1 Timothy 2:9 says, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” The one recurring theme in recent (and by recent I mean the last fifty years) fashion styles is that everything gets a little more over-the-top, and a little less modest. But for Christians the whole dealio is that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else. The point of being saved is that we are separate from the world, and what’s a more obvious way to showcase that part of our awesome faith than by the clothing we choose to wear? Just as a fun little trivia piece, clothing is usually the first thing someone sees when they look at you and in the first five seconds of meeting a person for the first time, 70% of their impression of you is made simply by your clothing choices. (Unless they’re blind.) Those first few seconds before you even open up your mouth to talk to someone for the first time are imperative to their decision of what kind of a person you are. 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, “Come out from among the unbelievers and separate yourselves from them says the Lord.” Do you think that people are going to think that we’re genuinely different from the rest of the world if we dress and act just like them? Our goal in everything we do, and that includes everything we wear, should be to show that we are separated from the world and we are a chosen people and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
Personal Modesty: Everyone has different understandings of this word and what it means. I’ve met some people that believe it has literally nothing to do with what you wear, it’s more how you conduct yourself. Personally, I think clothing is a huge part of showing how you conduct yourself, so either way modesty is at least partially about your clothes still. Now I don’t believe that there should be one fixed set of rules for every Christian woman everywhere dictating what you can and cannot wear, I believe that it’s a decision you have to make between yourself and God. I’ve met women that believe in being really, really safe and never wearing anything besides blouses and skirts, and others that think that as long as your midsection isn’t showing, it should be fine. I can’t judge anyone, because I’m not an exemplary model of Christian modesty, but what I’ve learned is that when I’m getting changed it helps me to ask myself, “What if I were to meet Jesus on the street today, would I want him to see me wearing this?” This is of course a kind of silly exercise, since God sees us all the time, but it helps me put it into more physical terms. In the end, though, no one can dictate what you wear besides yourself, so it always comes down to what your decision is and whether you made it based on personal preferences or what you believe glorifies God.
My Decisions: Coco Chanel is my personal fashion icon. She changed women’s clothing as we know it today from being restricting and innately bland to being decorative and something that we wear for fun as well as necessity. She changed everything about the perception of looking amazing. I could go on for a long, long time about how she innovated the first women’s skirt suits and high waisted bottoms with fitted sleeves and tailored waists as wearable separates made from tweed for THE VERY FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, but I really don’t have enough time in my day to cover her genius. My whole point of bringing her up is because of this quote by her: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” I live by this quote when it comes to my clothing choices. I like to be able to look in the mirror and know that I look fabulous without compromising my class. I do this by having a few simple rules for myself:
1. Nothing strapless (seriously, it’s just tasteless.)
2. With my hands at my side, I should be able to touch the hem of my shorts.
3. Nothing that shows cleavage.
4. Nothing that shows midsection.
5. The shortest skirt I’d wear about an inch above the knee.
These are pretty standard rules that still let me wear things that I feel amazing in. And while I’m sure I’m not the best model of what purity in dress should look like, I do my best to show Jesus through what I wear and how I act, and when it comes down to it, I don’t wear anything that I don’t think I could wear to dinner with my grandma.
Fashionable Modesty: The point of this blog post was to cover if modesty is conducive to good fashion or not. The short answer is yes. The wonderful, wonderful thing about fashion is that it has no set rules whatsoever, it’s as subject to change as the BBC is to its networking schedule. The beautiful thing about fashion is that it can be absolutely anything that you want it to be. The dictionary describes it as “the make or form of anything”. That’s a pretty broad description that has infinite meanings you can fill it with. Of course there are the simple rules of clothing that you should equip yourself with, such as broad stripes will make you seem larger, grays should absolutely never be mixed, polka dots are probably a bad idea if you are in between the ages of 8-80 and low heel pumps are a sin against humanity. But besides that, you have a huge range of creative liberty. The ingenious style tycoon Gianna Versace summed it all up very well when he said, “Don’t be into trends, don’t let fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.” What we should be expressing by the way we dress and the way we live is that Jesus lives in us. Every choice that you make should be hinged around that, not only in clothing but in every other area of your life.
Just as a last note, I’ll leave you with this verse.
1 Timothy 2: 9-10, Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.