“Mommy, that lady’s dress is really short.”
My then 4 year old said this to me as we were pulling out of the parking lot at church one Sunday morning and it completely floored me.
I didn’t remember ever talking with her about dress length, so the fact that she would comment on it was powerful to me. I had to agree that it was kind of short, but I don’t remember what I said to Isabella in response; however, we did have a brief conversation about modesty.
This innocent observation has stuck with me over the past couple of years. I want to train my girls early on about modesty, but quite honestly it’s a tough one.
There are no hard and fast rules in Scripture on what is appropriate, what to wear/not to wear, and as with any ‘gray’ area there are many opinions regarding modesty.
I attended a Christian University that didn’t have a strict dress code, but there were guidelines and accountability regarding our attire. During one of my first few weeks as a student there, we had an all women’s chapel. Several upper class female students put on a skit about modesty. It was humorous, of course, but some excellent points were made that have stuck with me, now 15 years later.
Based on the principles I learned during that chapel, these are some lessons I want to teach my girls about modesty:
Highlight the non-sensual aspects of your body. Wear colors that bring out your eyes. Find a style of dress that is flattering but not inappropriate. Accessorize with jewelry or a scarf. Style your hair beautifully. There are countless ways to be attractive without causing wrong attention.
Wear a slip under your dress. I don’t want to know if you’re wearing a thong, what color your underwear is, or see that wedgie that you want to pick but won’t.
I know they might seem old fashioned, but slips aren’t just for grandmothers.
While I don’t wear a slip every time I wear a skirt or dress, 9 times out of 10 I will. It just helps keep everything underneath a little bit of a secret. Which is a really good thing.
Keep your breasts to yourself. Beth Moore made this statement in a video that I saw floating around Facebook a while back, and I LOVED it. Yes, yes, and yes. I see just as much cleavage at church as I do anywhere else I go. If I’m seeing it, then my husband is seeing it, and I’d rather that my breasts be the only ones he looks at. And I certainly don’t want anyone looking at my girls’ breasts.
So, we talk to the girls about how their boobies are private. Just this past Sunday my older girls were watching me get dressed. In addition to explaining to them what a slip was, I began searching around for a safety pin for the top of my dress. Isabella said, “Why are you putting that on? What if someone sees the pin?” My response: “I’d rather they see a pin than see my boobies.” I want my girls to see me practicing these things so that when they are teenagers wanting everyone to notice them, they will remember the little ways I attempted to cover up the private areas of my body.
Take the dress-up room test. The many mirrors in a dressing room can be your friend. Trying on a skirt or dress? Sit down on the bench, cross your legs and look into the mirror. Can you see up your dress? Then, so can anyone who sits across the room from you. Want that cute top that might be too low? Stand in front of the mirror and look into it from all angles. From the front, you might be good. But, the side view is usually the spot we don’t check, and this often is the angle that can be revealing.
Pay attention when you bend over. If your shirt is too loose, or a tad too low, bending over will most likely be rather revealing. Even if it’s minimal, it’s noticeable, and come on, we all know that men like breasts, every little part of them. Again, let’s keep them hidden.
It’s not just cleavage that needs our attention. It’s amazing how many butt cracks, pantie lines and thong tops I’ve seen sitting behind people in auditoriums or when they sit down on the floor or bend over. Take the time to wear a cami tucked into your pants, go up a pant size if needed, don’t wear the low rise jeans you love, or when in doubt, simply pull your shirt down before bending over.
Keep ‘sexy’ for marriage. I get it. As women we want to be attractive and feel attractive, and the way that our culture says this needs to happen is by dressing to be sexy. Do you know the definition of sexy? One definition: concerned predominantly or excessively with sex. Excuse me, but my girls will not be allowed to dress in a way that says, “I’m thinking about sex. Look at my body so you will too.”
In marriage? Sure. Be as sexy as you want. And often! But not before and not in front of anyone else but your husband.
So, we will set rules about what is and isn’t allowed in our girls’ wardrobes.
We will talk openly with them about modesty and sex and how the two intersect.
Most of all? We’ll teach them about their heart. Because that’s where modesty begins.
Modesty says: I want to please God with my choices more than I want to draw attention to my body.
Modesty says: I want to love those around me by helping them to have pure thoughts when they see me.
Modesty says: I want a humble heart and pure intentions, even when I put on my clothes.
These kinds of conversations terrify me. Because I’m not perfect and I can’t make my girls have a pure heart regarding any issue.
But I can pray that their greatest desire would be to please God. And if they are living to please Him, then I can rest in the fact that they will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts, even when it comes to modesty.
This is Day 22 of a series “Lessons for my Daughters”. Click here for a complete list of posts.