April 17, 2012

My Thoughts on Modesty, Fashion, & Lingerie

Warning: This post contains my thoughts about fashion, lingerie, and the oh-so-popular church motto "modest is hottest!" If you're in any way offended by those three things or a member of the "Council of Legalistic Fashionistas," than I suggest you read no further.

...women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control... -1Timothy 2:9
Honestly, I don't like talking about modesty. That's why I've never blogged about it. (And I've rewritten this thing like five times now.) Why? Because I feel like there are already people who champion the message of modesty pretty well... and it's one of those topics that gets redundant and boring after a while. At least for me. Maybe that's because it's not one of those things that's ever been on my radar or was really an issue in the churches and schools I went to growing up. And I feel like a lot of stupid stuff gets thrown in with the discussions (from both ends of the spectrum). For instance the whole "Modest is Hottest" campaign just seemed really lame to me. (If you like that sort of thing I'm not judging you in any way.) Mainly because I feel like whoever came up with it was just trying to come off sounding cool and thought they could sell a ton of T-shirts to teen girls. Or maybe it's because I can think of something a heck of a lot hotter than modest outfits that's found in Genesis 2:25 and throughout Song of Solomon... but I could get in trouble if I went around proclaiming that, so lets just leave it at that.

Modesty is a Heart Issue. Well meaning Christians tend to teach modesty in a legalistic way without getting to the heart. It becomes about putting rules and regulations on a girls wardrobe, behavior modification, and catering to the men because of their struggles with lust (which I'm going to get to here in a minute). And those are all wrong ways to go about discussing and promoting modesty. Modesty has to be about your heart and pleasing God first and foremost. Not those church ladies and the men. Put them out of your mind for now, because what you decide to wear shouldn't be based on what other people think you should wear, but on what would be honoring to God. God's opinion and honor should always have priority over everybody else. In this recent post by Jeff Bethke, he really got to THE center of what modesty is to be about:
"... am I getting dressed thinking about God's gaze upon me or someone else's?"
Ladies, modesty needs to primarily be about God's gaze upon you, not other peoples. That should be the chief driving force behind the outfits you and I choose to wear.

Modesty and Men. The fact: Men, in general, tend to be visual. We live in a highly promiscuous society and culture. Christian men have openly spoken about their struggle with lust and how immodest outfits tend to hinder, not help, them in fighting to think pure thoughts. Now, let me repeat, the driving force behind our clothing choices is God's gaze, not man's, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be aware of what can cause others to stumble. Perhaps you've echoed this sentiment or know someone else who has:
"Why should I care about whether or not I'm tempting a guy? It's his responsibility to control his thoughts!"
I think there's actually is some truth to that statement. Ultimately, men are responsible and accountable to God for their thought life, irregardless of what you and I wear. I can't sit here in good consciousness and say that if a guy looks at you lustfully, it was your fault to begin with. Some men could look at pilgrims and think lustfully about them! Men do need to be responsible for their thought life. But! As Christian women, that shouldn't mean we get a free license to wear anything and everything under the sun. If we really think about it, when we say things like, "I can wear whatever I want because it's my body" or "Why should I care if I'm tempting a guy" we're taking on a selfish attitude. The fact is it's not your body. My body is not my own and your body is not your own. As Christians we were bought with a price and the Holy Spirit resides in us making our bodies temples:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. -1Cor. 6:19
Perhaps some other good questions to ask is, "does this outfit honor and steward the Spirit's temple within me?" or, "Am I being considerate of those around me?" It always comes back to glorifying God first and foremost, which I feel would take care of most of the issues surrounding dress anyway.

Modesty and Fashion. If you're prone to think that one cannot be fashionable and modest at the same time, allow me correct this line of thinking: You're wrong. We can dress fashionably and still maintain a standard of modesty. We even see women in the Bible dressing in what was fashionable for their time. A great example is the Proverbs 31 woman who was a bit of a fashionista (Proverbs 31:22). Being fashionable or having clothes that are in-style isn't necessarily sinful. Some of us have a tendency to look at clothes and right off the bat decide it's either "immodest" or "modest." If that's you, I'd like to encourage you to be a little slower in making those choices, because often these are the girls who I hear complaining non-stop about not finding anything in the mall that's modest. It's true, there are a lot of items when bought and worn "as is" are immodest, but there's also a lot you and I can do with these items to make them work in our favor. It could be as simple as layering it with other items, or actually altering them. (Taking all those sewing/fashion design classes in high school ended up being more useful than I'd originally thought.) So be slower in dismissing that top you really like, because with a little creativity, effort, and thought you probably can make it modest. Make your wardrobe work for you instead of running around the mall frustrated. And this is just a side note, but girls, please, please, please don't come to class (or for that matter go out in public) in outfits that are border-line lingerie. Lingerie is great when it's for you and your spouse, otherwise keep in under your clothes. That's why it's called underwear... hence meant to be worn under something! That's a "rule" I actually will vocalize and is definitely without a doubt immodest.

Clothing's Unspoken Words. What we wear has an underlying message to it. If we think about it, in a way, clothing is a form of advertising. It speaks to others about ourselves, and people will make judgements based on our clothes be it good or bad. (I'm not saying that's always fair or right, but that's the world we all find ourselves in.) So it might be good to keep in mind what exactly you're "advertising." Typically, clothes that show a lot of cleavage or are ultra short or ultra tight tend to scream an invitation to guys to think about you lustfully. On the flip-side of things, dressing in baggy clothes and not looking put together, says you don't care about how you look and can lead to others thinking you're lazy and careless. In either one of those cases that may not be at all what you're intending to impress upon others, which is why we should make sure how we're dressing tells others that we know our identity is in Christ and that we respect God, others, and ourselves. That way when people do give you attention it'll be the respectful kind of attention, which I'd be willing to bet is what you're actually after in the long run, because nobody likes to be looked as an object or a piece of meat or to be passed over.

We Need Grace. At some point we're going to make bad clothing choices (whether we intended to or not, and wardrobe accidents do happen). So let's extend grace to ourselves and others when that happens. Ladies, if you see women and young girls in your life making bad wardrobe choices be patient. In many ways modesty is an attitude and mindset that we learn and get better at over time. In all things be gracious.

The Bottom Line: I don't have one of those lists of rules hanging in my closet to determine whether this shirt is too low-cut, or these jeans are too tight and how I need to bend over this way and that way to figure it out. That's not likely to change either. However, I cultivate my heart to love, honor, and serve Christ, which I hope leads to me making wise, creative, and fashionable choices at the mall. 

Feel free to ask questions or engage in dialogue in the comment section (I'll try and respond back) if I was unclear or confusing about something... as that is quiet probable, and I'd like to hear your thoughts.

**I highly recommend these great blog posts on modesty: Bianca Jurez's Modesty Manifesto, How Modesty Campaigns Objectify Women Part 1 and Part 2,  and The Idolatry of Modesty.

9 comments :

  1. I love this, natalie!
    i think you did a great job presenting your point of view on it all.
    i've read quite a few modesty posts [most of which annoy me with their one-way-only human legalism] and this post was written just great.

    "I don't have one of those lists...However, I cultivate my heart to love, honor, and serve Christ, which I hope leads to me making wise, creative, and fashionable choices at the mall."
    =mhmm, amen.

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  2. "Natalie is talking about lingerie? Gotta click that!" was my immediate reaction.

    Gotta say, you didn't disappoint me ;)

    and I believe women dress for women more than they dress for men.

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  3. Beka: Thank You! So glad you liked it and my main point (what you just quoted) came across! =)

    Ashley: haha! OK... I admit it, I added it just for a little shock value. Modesty posts can feel redundant after a while, so I felt I needed a word in there that would grab someone's attention. Women in so many ways do dress to impress other women. I would've mentioned that, but maybe I'll save it for another time =) Glad you liked it!

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  4. Wow this is great. I had a "modest fashion blog" for a while. It started because I wanted to encourage other teen girls that you can dress modestly without looking like a Grandma or something. But after a while it just became one long list of dos and don'ts. I deleted the blog soon after. I really like what you have to say about this subject, and you summed up in one post what I took a year to try to explain (and I failed at it lol). So thank you for this. :)

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  5. I remember when I was younger, I certainly dressed with intent. It never occurred to me (mainly cause I probably didn't want to think about it) that I was affecting guys in the wrong way, I just liked the extra attention, but being older now (and let me just say I wasn't a hussy..) I'm so so much more modest and cringe when I see a teen or early 20's girl just hanging it all out for the guys to lust over.

    Its sad to me. But I thought this was great. We need to be looking at this with God in mind.
    Emily at Amazing Grapes

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  6. i just want to give you a big hug. my youth group was all about the 'be careful not to tempt men with your wardrobe' idea, and it made me feel like i couldn't wear anything without having a guy look at me wrong. and i was angry that they were putting it all on us girls for where guy's minds went. i didn't like feeling as though it was all my fault, because it's not.

    that is not to say i think that women should go get swimsuits that are basically three postage stamps and some fishing line, as my father would put it. modesty is a choice i should be making in order to respect myself.

    you rock, miss natalie. you really do.

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  7. totally and COMPLETELY wonderful natalie, I've said it and i'll say it again, I think you've found your nitch..I want to like spread the word about your blog to christian websites etc...man you are good.
    it's always about the heart, i love love love that you talked about that first and foremost!!!

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  8. I had to click back on this one again after seeing it in your Top 12 posts...I read it the first time and highly enjoyed reading it the 2nd time...this is perfect. LOVE.

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