Dressing modestly is very important to me. Growing up, I didn’t hear this subject talked about much. Something I did hear from time to time went along these lines: “Jesus made me free–so I don’t need to wear skirts.” But why would people say that? What was it about wearing skirts that would make someone feel “not free”? For the first 28 years of my life, I had worn pants most of the time. Especially during my girlhood, they had been very handy while riding bikes, building forts, and playing sports. Yes, I had dresses; and these I wore only on special occasions. Yet I always felt a curiosity to understand this “skirts versus pants” issue. I wished other people would talk about it, because I really wanted to know what it was all about.
Maybe you have felt that way, too. Maybe, just like me when I was a little girl, you are secretly attracted toward that which is feminine and beautiful, though society claims that girls don’t have to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” You are almost afraid to admit that you like the look of those skirts and dresses and wouldn’t mind dressing that way yourself, if you could find a good enough excuse.
Or, perhaps you are familiar with some who dress in skirts and dresses only, but have staunchly decided against this lifestyle for yourself. Reading the reasons why I, personally, have decided to do so may increase your understanding about this and help you relate better to others who have chosen to live differently.
Finally, it could be that you are the woman who has already been living the skirts-and-dresses-only lifestyle for awhile, but are becoming discouraged. You may sometimes feel like the only one in your world who does this, and you seriously want and need some encouragement!
I will try to write this keeping all of your different possible backgrounds in mind. This article will be very basic. There’s not enough room to address everything here, but if you want to know more, I can recommend some very good books, which I will list at the end; I will also provide links to several of my other articles that get more in depth on this topic.
Reason #1–To Make a Clear Distinction
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a
woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Even though the Hebrews all wore robes, male and female alike, for this verse to make any sense, there must have been some kind of distinction. Whatever that difference was, God wanted them to maintain it. There were to be no blurry lines. Females needed to dress like females. Males needed to dress like males.
For God to say that cross-dressing is abominable, it must be something He regards as very serious. I think the reason it may be such a serious issue is that cross-dressing demonstrates a rebellious attitude toward God-given roles. Homosexuality may also be in consideration here. In our culture, when did women first begin to wear pants? Why did they do it? What were they trying to say by it? We may not be radical feminists, but every time we women wear pants, we have the radical feminist movement to thank for it. Women rebelling against traditional roles made our pant-wearing possible. Is that something we want to be part of?
Wearing a skirt or a dress is the clearest possible way to outwardly demonstrate a difference between the genders.
Reason #2–To Show Submission to God-given Roles
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
1 Timothy 5:14
God’s will for married women is for them to be homemakers. There are certain circumstances that may warrant a woman working outside of the home; however, that would be an exception to the rule. Her main task is to manage the house. The man has the duty of providing for his family; the woman has the duty of bearing children, and caring for them from within the warmth and comfort of their home.
In Proverbs 31, we see a very active woman who buys a field and plants a vineyard; who weaves fine linen, and sells it. Someone may be thinking, “Isn’t that the same thing as a woman working outside of the home?” Not necessarily. I believe she consulted with her husband in all of her important decisions. He may have even come with her when she bought that field, to inspect it and make sure that she was getting a good bargain. The field may have been right next to their own property. When she went out to plant the vineyard, her children may have come and helped her. I can see her conversing and laughing with her family as she wove her fine linen, seated in the main room of their house. She probably accompanied her husband to market, and laid out her wares next to his. Her children got a first-hand look at how to negotiate prices.
I don’t see any reason to believe that the Proverbs 31 woman ever had a career outside of caring for her family and her home; she may have worked outdoors at times, but everything she did was intertwined with her all-encompassing role as a homemaker. “She looketh well to the ways of her household…” (Proverbs 31:27) It would have been pretty hard for her to look well to the ways of her household, if she were away from her house, don’t you think?
“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
Once more, we see that God wants women to be keepers at home. Again, how can we be keepers at home if we’re not at home? Additionally, we are told that married women are to OBEY their husbands. This teaches a model of womanhood very remote from what our pop culture idolizes. Biblical womanhood is all about supporting our man, not competing with him. The beauty of this role is in our being different from the man, not in our being the same as him.
Now, here’s my point: Our way of dressing reflects our attitude . . . what attitude are we expressing through our mode of dress–a biblical one, or a worldly one? For example, a woman who desires to be respected in the business world will dress in a business suit. Image is important because it communicates our beliefs about ourselves and how we want other people to relate to us; it projects our values in a way that other people can understand, without our ever having to say a word. A woman wearing a suit might be saying that her goal is to be successful in business, and wants to be respected by her colleagues just as they would respect a man in the same field of work. On the other hand, a woman who believes it is her career to take care of her home, might express her goals by wearing a dress or skirt to show submission to her husband, the one who “wears the pants” in the home. By doing so, she illustrates the difference in their roles, and says “I don’t want to compete with my husband. We are not the same; we are different, and I’m okay with that.”
Reason #3–To be Modest
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10
What is modest apparel? Can we honestly say that it is modest for our breasts to show when we lean over? Can we be modest in pants that outline all the curves of our bottom, thighs, and crotch area? Is a skirt modest if it stops short right below the bottom? I think the answer to these questions is easier to answer than we sometimes think. All private areas, such as breasts, bottom, crotch, and upper thighs should be hidden. It’s that simple. A modest skirt or dress with ample, opaque fabric that falls below the knees does the job well. If we’re worried about our skirt flying up, or our toddler pulling on it, we can wear leggings underneath. We should also make sure our blouse covers our chest up to about the collar bone and stay away from sleeveless tops, because they reveal the area of flesh near our breasts.
One of the reasons why it is so important to be modest in dress, is that love demands it. Love isn’t self-centered, thinking only about what makes us happy. Love looks out for others, and what will be best for them. Jesus said that for a man to even look at a woman lustfully is the same to God as committing adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). So why should we care about what a man does with his eyes–isn’t that his problem?
“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way…Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” (Romans 14:12-13, 19)
It is true that what a man does with his own eyes is his responsibility, but it is also true that how we women dress is our responsibility–if we dress seductively or flirtatiously, we are putting a stumbling block in our brother’s way. We are making it harder for him to obey God. Is that love?
Being modest also means being humble. A humble person isn’t one to show off or draw attention. We should be careful with the overall way we present yourselves. The verse cited above (right below Reason #3) mentions that women are not to have braided hair. What’s wrong with a simple braid? Maybe nothing. But when hair braiding and styling starts to get complicated and intricate, then perhaps what started out as no big deal becomes way too much. How much time do we spend on our hair? The time we dedicate to certain activities shows how important we believe those things to be. Is our hair really worth an hour of our day? Also, fancy hair-dos can be expensive. Women at the time the letter of 1 Timothy was written wore their hair in complex braids, and adorned them with jewels and fancy pins, probably to show their social status (and to show off their good looks). The women of today perm, color and straighten their hair. Pretty much for the same reasons, don’t you think? I can’t pay for a $200 color job, but the first thing I assume about someone I see with nicely-dyed hair, is that she must have quite a bit of extra money to spend on something like that.
Another consideration is our jewelry. We women have a tendency to show off with that, too. It doesn’t have to be real gold and pearls. It just has to be “blingy” and flashy. Maybe a simple locket would do better: pretty, but not flirtatious or ostentatious.
Makeup is a similar issue. We should be happy with the face that God gave us! We are beautiful the way we are. It may be alright to use a small amount of natural-looking makeup, but we should be careful not to hide the gorgeous face we were born with! Long lashes and a ton of cosmetics contribute toward a “come get me” kind of vibe ( kind of like a prostitute). Our husbands obviously like to see us looking nice, and that could be a very good reason to freshen up our complexions with a bit of classy color. However, there is a balance.
Last of all, a modest attitude requires that we not be prideful that we are doing what we believe to be the right thing, when others are not. I have chosen to wear skirts and dresses only–but, if I have a prideful heart, all the good things I am doing just get swallowed up in the ugliness of arrogance. Other people will be repelled by my condescension. True modesty springs forth from a humble heart.
So, ladies, those are my three basic reasons for wearing skirts and dresses only: 1) To make a clear distinction, 2) To show submission to God-given roles, and 3) To be modest. Can we do those things in pants? What if our pants were not too tight, and we kept our bottom and crotch area covered with a long shirt? That certainly is a consideration; however, I still think that skirts and dresses do a better job of covering our private ares and of making a clear distinction. Do you know any (straight) guys who would be willing to wear a dress? If a man wouldn’t wear a dress, why is it okay for us ladies to wear pants? And as I mentioned before, let’s take into consideration how all this pant-wearing got started: it wasn’t by women who were trying to please God in their role of homemaker and child-bearer. It looks to me like those “pioneering” women were rebelling against God. Are we in their group?
I asked a question at the beginning of this article: “What is it about wearing skirts and dresses only that would make someone feel ‘not free’?” I believe there are several possible explanations for that.
Perhaps some ladies grew up in churches that mandated skirts/dresses only attire for all its female members. In order for the women to feel accepted in the group, they had to obey the regulations. If the reasoning behind this was never explained, or if they did not agree with it, this would have left some people feeling controlled.
Or, there may be some women who have been unkindly judged by others who are more conservative in their dress. A judgmental attitude can cause hurt and leave scars. Some people condemn others without ever trying to get to know the person being judged or her circumstances. Those painful memories can last a long time.
And then, there may be some who consider skirts and dresses unpractical, unfashionable, or even ugly.
Lastly, some women simply don’t like the role that God has designed for them; they have been misled by our culture to believe that they are entitled to live the same as men do. Their aversion to wearing skirts and dresses only is not so much rooted in their distaste for the style as it is rooted in their disgust for God’s design; they have a rebellious attitude toward what the Bible says about the woman’s nature.
What do I think about those concerns? They are all valid (except the last one), to a certain degree. This is our chace to dig deep; this is our chance to try and find the answer to the question, “Why do I, or why don’t I, wear skirts and dresses?” Do we have good reasons? Do they fit with what God’s word says about how women should dress?
Maybe there are some of you who have already thought it through, and you’re still fine with wearing pants. I understand. Sometimes in life, we simply have to agree to disagree–and that’s alright! However, it might be helpful to re-evaluate your reasons for doing so from time to time, to see if your motives and actions match up with God’s will.
Personally, I love wearing skirts and dresses! I don’t feel un-free at all. To the contrary, I feel like God has helped me live my life in the light of His word, and that makes me feel at PEACE. I love looking pretty and feminine, and my husband likes to see me looking this way, too. I actually have fun pairing a flowing skirt with a cute blouse. I am free–free to do what I believe is right!
Thanks for reading this. I hope I have been informative, and helpful. There is so much more that could be said! but I’m trying to keep this post very basic, a summary of the major points.
If you would like to read more about the topic of modesty of dress, I highly recommend the following three books, and Power-point presentation:
- Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, by Jeff Pollard
- Dressing with Dignity, by Colleen Hammond
- Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, by Mary Kassian (addresses living wisely as Christian women, with a full chapter on our appearance)
- She Wears the Pants, PDF file available through the website Sisters in Skirts (a Seventh Day Adventist site–I do not endorse everything in this power-point presentation, or in the site, but it is very informative, especially the pictures)
More of my posts on this topic: