Modesty of dress is one of the topics that 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”? I grew up wearing pants, like pretty much every other girl I knew. Yet, I always felt a curiosity to understand this issue. I wished other people would talk about it, because I really wanted to know what this was all about.
Maybe you have felt that way, too. Maybe you are wondering, “Why do some ladies only wear skirts and dresses?” Or, perhaps you are already familiar with some who do, but have not chosen this lifestyle for yourself. Reading the reasons why I have personally decided to do so may help give you increased understanding about this, and help you relate better to others who have chosen to live differently. Wait, I forgot one more person–the woman who is reading this who has already been living the skirts and dresses only lifestyle for awhile, but is becoming discouraged. She feels like the only one in her world who does this, and she seriously needs 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.
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? You may not be a feminist, but every time you wear pants, you have the radical feminist movement to thank for it. Women rebelling against traditional roles made your pant-wearing possible. Is that something you want to be a 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, or working from the home; however, those are to be exceptions 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.
If you read Proverbs 31, you will see a very active woman who buys a field and plants a vineyard; who weaves fine linen, and sells it. You may be thinking, “Isn’t that the same as a woman who works outside of the home?” 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 her 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. “She looketh well to the ways of her household…” (Proverbs 31:27) It’s hard to look well to the ways of your household, if you’re away from your 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.”
God wants the women to be keepers at home. How can you be a keeper at home if you’re not at home? Additionally, married women are to OBEY their husbands, not argue with them or boss them around.
Now, here’s my point: We women are not to compete with our husbands, but to complement and support them. Our way of dressing reflects our attitude. 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 your beliefs about yourself, how you want other people to relate to you, and projects your values in a way that other people can understand, without 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. 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 you honestly say that it is modest for your breasts to show when you lean over? Can you be modest in pants that outline all the curves of your bottom, and emphasize your crotch area? Is a skirt modest if it only reaches down to just below your bottom? I think the answer to these questions is easier to answer than you think. All private areas, such as breasts, bottom, crotch, and upper thighs should be hidden. It’s that simple. A modest skirt or dress that is not too clingy or tight, and that falls below the knees does the job well. If you’re worried about your skirt flying up, or your toddler pulling on it, wear leggings underneath. Make sure your blouse covers your chest up to about your collar bone. Stay away from sleeveless tops, because they reveal the areas of flesh near your 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 you 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 (you know what I’m talking about), 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. Be careful with the overall way you present yourself. 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 things start to get over-the-top intricate, then perhaps what started out as no big deal becomes just way too much. How much time do you spend on your hair? The time we dedicate to certain activities shows how important we believe those things to be. Is your hair really worth an hour of your 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 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 really nice dyed hair, is that she must have quite a bit of extra money to spend on something like that.
Another consideration is your 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. Be happy with the face that God gave you! You’re beautiful the way you are. Maybe use a small amount of makeup, but be sure not to hide the gorgeous face you were born with! Long lashes and a ton of cosmetics contribute towards a “come get me” kind of vibe ( kind of like a prostitute).
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 can dress in a modest skirt or dress, with a bust-concealing blouse, keeping jewelry to a minimum, and simplifying my hair and makeup–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 arguments 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 you do those things in pants? What if your pants were not too tight, and you kept your 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 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? Also, take into consideration how all this pant-wearing got started. It wasn’t by women who were trying to please God in their roles of homemaker and child-bearer. It looks to me like those “pioneering” women were rebelling against God. Are you in their group?
I didn’t always wear skirts and dresses only; I grew up wearing pants, and wore them into young adulthood. I asked a question at the beginning of this article: “What is it about wearing skirts that would make someone feel ‘not free’?” There may be several reasons 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. Perhaps the reasoning behind this was never explained, leaving 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 as unpractical, unfashionable, or even ugly.
What do I think about these concerns? They are all valid, to a certain degree. Dig deep, and try to discover why it is that YOU do/don’t wear skirts and dresses. Are they good reasons? Do they fit with what God’s word says about how women should dress? Maybe you’ve already thought it through, and you’re still fine with wearing pants. 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 to 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 two books, and Power-point presentation:
- Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, by Jeff Pollard
- Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, by Mary Kassian
- 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)