Modest, fashionably so.

1:28 PM



   Can the two co-exist? I dare to believe they can.  These days, there is much talk of modesty.  I seem to stumble upon it everywhere I look.  I don't know if it's the revolution known as "Kate Middleton", or the fact that people woke up and got sick and tired of seeing belly shirts all over the place.  How was that ever even in style?!!  I digress.

   Someone gave us a book on modesty a while back and while I'm sure they had very good intentions, (i.e. thought I needed it) the book is extremely hard to relate to.  I mean, it uses terms like "derriere" and quotes like, "This is a perfect description of the modern fashion industry.  It is geared to showing off the body in a sensual way and fulfilling the lust of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of life.  The very concept of 'BEING COOL' which is so important to young people, has to do with something that excites the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."  

   It also goes on to claim that basically ALL male designers are gay, and since they are, the entire fashion industry is permeated with moral debauchery and anti-Bible attitudes.  That is almost a direct quote.  While I would agree that a LOT of fashion does not even remotely follow Biblical, modest principles, I would argue that this is not something you can say for all of the world of fashion.

   Another quote from the book is, "Of all the cultural wolves that prey upon Christian principles, none has been more merciless toward virtuous, modest womanhood than modern fashion....each new craze dares women to cast aside their inhibitions and reveal themselves in a new a bolder way.  Tragically, many Christian women have sacrificed the precious virtues of modesty, decency, and discretion to the ruthless determination of the cultural wolf whose appetite for them is never satisfied."  

   The first thing I would say to that is that we are giving a LOT of credit to the power of fashion if we are going to claim that it can make a virtuous woman throw away her virtue and decency.  I mean, that is seriously putting the "power" in power suit!  I would dare to claim that a lot of other factors are at play than modern fashion, when a woman chooses to degrade herself in the form of dress.  Secondly, I have seen people look "right" outwardly, and be completely lost inwardly, as I'm sure all of you have too.  Thirdly, when I hear dramatic statements like this about "modern fashion"  the only thing it serves to do is cause me to begin to tune everything else out, as I am not convinced the author even knows anything ABOUT modern fashion. 

I love modesty.

   I have a heart for this topic, and it only takes me about 15 minutes of observation in a mall or theme park for my blood level to rise, and for something within me to want to set up a soapbox in the middle of the line for the Raging River and shout, "LADIES!  We are people, not objects!! Don't you realize what you're doing??!" to anyone who will have ears to hear.  Summer comes along and all of the sudden inhibitions go out the window.  The tiny tops and shorts come out of hiding and so does a lot of other things.  But that's not really the issue I'm going to address today.   Today, I want to address the way we tend to alienate all fashion from modesty, and when we are starting from a premise (like the book I mentioned) that the two cannot even co-exist, that eliminates....well....pretty much all clothing if you want to buy your clothes, AND dress modestly.

I love fashion.

   I haven't always, but I do now.  I went through a phase of life for about 5 years where all I ever wore was a school uniform, something slightly dressy to church, and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts.  Tennis, denim skirts, etc.  I basically got up in the morning and threw on whatever was lying on my floor and didn't smell bad.  If you combined skater boy and farm girl, that was basically my fashion sense.

   I'm not sure what changed, but now I love fashion.  I agree that clothing started out as a result of sin (fig leaves and animal skins, you know the story)  but the way I see it is, we're stuck with clothes now until we die, so why not enjoy them a little along the way? And so the theory I want to propose to you today is this:  It IS possible to love fashion and modesty, and for the two to co-exist. 

   Here are some examples of fashionable modesty, in my humble opinion.


   I could go on and on and on, but I am getting tired of copy and paste and trying to find links.  I dislike using images off of Pinterest because so often it feels like no one even knows where the original source is, and it's impossible to find, and I always feel like I'm stealing, no matter how hard I try not too.  Ug.  In any case, all of these pictures are off of the great wide world of Pinterest, and so if I get in trouble for using them, so be it.  For more modest fashion, follow my pinterest board here.

   I welcome/encourage/embrace/wrap my arms around and squeeze any feedback or opinions you may have to offer.  If you disagree, fine!  This is (hopefully) a safe place for discussion, and my goal is to have an open mind.  And most importantly, I do not feel like I have ARRIVED or something to the top of Mt. Modesty and can stake my flag in the ground and say, "Hurrah!  I have everything figured out!  I am an expert now!  All hail St. Shelley the virtuous!"   just to set the record straight, in case any of you were wondering.  

   The fact is, I am on a journey, like many, many others, and I am still learning and discovering what it means to be feminine and Godly and modest in today's world.  Like I said, I like to think I have an open mind and so feel free to test me out on that!  Opinions, thoughts, ideas.....I'd love to hear them. 

Blessings to you, dear sister, as we walk this journey together. 

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  1. I really enjoyed all but three outfits, my mom wore a double knit dress like the off white dress with red hearts or lips back in 1960. navy white pokadots, lt. green, & tan jacket????. Lt purple, med brown, & black?????
    I always get comments on your stylish dress, I appreciate your modest dressing. (MOM)

  2. Great post. I think it's important in relating to people in this world that we don't dress sloppy, and without taste. There is something to be said for looking good for our husbands, and I'm not talking about just in the bedroom. But modest, neat, and fashionable, so that he can be proud to walk along side me and hold my hand in public. I also feel that our dress says something about how we feel about our femininity and how we take care of the body that God has given us. In a world we're girls are throwing there femininity out the window, it goes a long way to see a young lady who is neat, modest, and feminine. I have not always arrived, but this is my goal. As far as modesty is concerned, I've always said that our fathers and our husbands can tell us a lot more about what modesty looks like than other gals can. I think it's sad how many times we try to throw the baby out with the bathwater, where modesty is concerned. And don't get me started on the trends that happen in conservative circles who have their own sense of fashion. There's a sense in which we want to look like something or someone we admire. With that said, I think we need to be careful that our fashion is emulating the right person, or person whom we want to be associated. As woman we are created by God to admire beauty and want to emulate beauty in ever aspect of our lives, and me thinks that's a good thing.

  3. I enjoyed your post! I recently wrote a blog post challenging current mindsets regarding modesty... I was sent your blog post by one of my readers.... Thank you for being bold enough to step up, stand out and speak truth, (with grace and poise, I might add).

  4. Great post, Shelley! I think the thing I struggle with regarding modesty is...what is considered modest? Depending on who I am around, I will get very different definitions. There is much difference of opinion, even (or especially) in Christian circles. It's easy to begin to think and dress the way the people around you do (I have been guilty of that). I think a lot has to do with personal conviction, but is there a basic standard we should all follow? Thanks for prompting me to think more about this...I would love your thoughts!
    Amanda Miller

  5. I love this, Shelley!
    Having three sisters, and now two daughters of my own, this is a topic I've thought of often, and I am passionate about it! My dad used to say something along the lines that Christian women should be the most modest, but the most beautifully dressed of all women. I quite agree. We are representing our Lord, and it's a privilege to do it in such a way as brings glory to Him, to His beauty and creativity.

  6. so just a thought or two... being in Taiwan and Italy and immersed in other clothing cultures certainly did affect me and the things i choose to wear now... i think the biggest thing i took away is that while every culture is very different in its standards of sexy/attractive/decent/proper/modest, and every culture cares about image and how you present yourself, the US is particularly obsessed with clothing choices reflecting the individual. and this is both a secular and a religious community issue -- whether its the girls in california breaking into celebrity homes for designer items or the dress code at ACE conventions or the "trends" within conservative churches. and not only clothing, but attitudes towards the body. north america has this very "if you've got it [a hot bod] - flaunt it; if not - hide it" thing going on that really focuses on and judges how much/what kind of body a person shows. going from Taiwan where i was buying 1XLG jeans to Europe where middle-aged, non-gym-going mothers wore bikinis and sat topless by the pool was super refreshing. certainly European culture is very secular but the attitude that your body is your body and it's just this thing that you live with 24/7 but it's not the sum reflection of your identity or your beliefs or your values seemed to be quite healthy.

    in a completely different area, i've spent the last 9 months attending a study led by one of our pastors on the Torah -- first five books of the OT and the basis of Hebrew/Jewish thought and culture, as well as the NT writers. And even while going through allllll of the laws given in exodus and leviticus and the histories of the patriarchs, the emphasis has been on Heart foremost. On living out through action the holiness and identity we have as people of the Holy God. but the only time clothing has come up was in discussion of church leaders in relation to the splendor of priestly garments!

    i guess in writing all this out, i've been doing my usual verbal processing and i'm just now realizing that while i recognize God puts different issues and sensitivities on different peoples hearts, for me personally, it's not one that requires a lot of meditation discussion and prioritization at the moment. which is weird because i really do love love love clothes and the effect of the look of something. but as a spiritual thing, i'm at the point that it seems pretty simple to say that of course we should reflect respect for ourselves and our God in our appearance (which i would summarize as don't be sloppy and keep the private bits private) yet the details are ultimately a personal thing.

    so my thought or two has gone really long, but there's verbal processing for you! xome.

  7. I'm envious of the European example Anna L gives above! How much nicer it would be if a person--fat or thin-- *could* just wear a bikini without it being any big deal! Like those National Geographic 'tribal' pictures you see... all the ladies in an African village wearing just skirts, and it being no big deal. Too bad that those same locally benign pictures become 'National Pornographic' in the U.S. Why are body parts so charged here? Why is there so much shame? Then again, it's significant that *total* nudity isn't, to my knowledge, the norm anywhere.

    Back to reality, I like the pictures you posted... long flowy skirts look so nice in the summer. It's weird how having bare cleavage can really objectify a girl, whereas covered-yet-still-fitted clothing doesn't seem to.. but it's true.

    Pleats are so nice. Pretty, and so forgiving. I used to think pleats added bulk, but they're nothing compared to gathers. And they cover any embarrassing bulges. Back to embarrassment... oh for normal bodies to be as socially acceptable as mediocre manners, dispositions, etc. ...

    Clothing really is fun to ramble about.

  8. I've been wondering about something recently that is related-yet-different. As Christians, we're supposed to follow the Golden Rule and to love others. And there are people all over the world who don't have enough to wear or enough to eat. So, as Christians, how do we justify spending a lot on clothing that, if we're honest, we don't need? I wish I hadn't thought of's making me very uncomfortable and is making me rethink my spending habits in many areas. But I can't reason all my doubts away, either. Any thoughts?

  9. 'other anonymous' above, the best way I can rationalize (definitely not justify!) spending some extra money on clothes at the same time as other people go hungry is, if those 'other people' who don't have adequate food and clothing suddenly did get more than enough money to cover their needs, would we not delight in seeing them get a little something special for themselves, rather than dress in the cheapest of rags and eat the plainest of rice? Also, 'God loveth a cheerful giver', and who do we think we are? Can we be cheerful giving everything away? God bless those who can, but how many of us is that?

  10. Great post! I would love to see more on this subject from you! I agree easily on the whole modesty thing, but the fashion part is very confusing. How do you reconcile following fashion with Biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3,4? Is following fashion the same as "being conformed to the world" (Romans 12:2)? All this coming from a conservative Mennonite background, which I assume you understand.

  11. About fashion being "conformed to the world," I don't think it's any different than buying grocery store brands as they come and go. It would be hard to buy breakfast cereals or any other commercial product that wasn't popular with the world because by definition, they aren't manufactured. For that matter even whole grains follow trends: North Americans eat wheat and corn for cultural, not just climatic, reasons. And so on. It's odd how clothing is singled out as being trendy, when potato chips and bathroom cleansers and soft drinks--which I believe conservative Mennonites buy--follow trends, as well... were the housewives who served jellied tomato salad on iceberg lettuce sinning in the 1950s??

  12. I like how Leslie Ludy puts it in her book "Set-Apart Femininity":

    "There is nothing "spiritual" about wearing dowdy, unattractive clothing. In fact, the Proverbs 31 woman seems to have an incredible sense of dignity and style. is vital that we follow the Spirit of God rather than the messages of the culture when choosing what to wear. Our clothing choices should be an outward reflection of the beauty, radiance, joy, and purity that Christ has built within our inner life. Personally, I love dressing with elegance and style--and it is something that Eric appreciates as well. But if I ever find myself obsessing over my wardrobe or lowering my standards of modesty just to stay up with current trends, that's when I know God needs to remake my habits in this area."

  13. I absolutely love this post. I love modesty. I actually have a group board on Pinterest dedicated to it. :) It is so hard to find modest shorts/ bathing suits these days but it is possible!


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