I had a great comment posted on an older modesty post, so I wanted to revisit the issue.
My views have probably evolved over time, and not everything has been addressed on the blog, and hopefully there are other people just discovering the blog – and/or the idea of modest Christian dress – who might not have seen these issues addressed anywhere.
The short answer to the post title, of course, is that it’s not about “rules”. It’s about your heart attitude – and modest behavior to compliment your modest attire. And then there’s the question of femininity.
I’m going to try to give some general information, as well as my own opinions, so let’s walk through these questions together.
Okay, so I am new to this….I have been wearing long skirts for exactly a week now and have some practical questions.
I am genuinely exploring this topic for the first time in the last few weeks and seriously interested in thoughts and how you and your readers view the issue of modesty and modest dress.
In the last week, I have become much more aware of how others dress, and been appalled at what women wear to the store (that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed before)!!
1. In your opinion, how long is long enough? I see some sites for modest clothing with skirts just below the knee and others that are ankle-length. I have been going for long.
That is a personal (between you, God, and your husband) decision. I will say that I have not run across much “modesty” literature that advocates anything above the knee.
One thing many people forget is to look at the slit, if any, For modesty purposes, the length of your skirt is only as long as the top of the slit. So a floor-length skirt with a six-inch walking slit is perfectly fine, but you may run into trouble when your below-the-knee skirt has one.
Personally, I find the “just-below-the-knee” length to be immodest. It’s okay when you’re standing still, but how much of your day is that? How does it look when you reach up to that top cabinet? Or bend over to pick things up off the floor? Or sit down? Too much worry for me.
I started my skirts/dresses adventure with a preference for somewhere around mid-calf. Over time, I’ve come to prefer somewhat longer skirts, from lower mid-calf down to even around ankle length. As long as they’re full enough to move in, I enjoy them. But that’s me.
2. If skirts show any skin (ankle), do you shave the legs? And how about underarms (since no one sees them now)?
Many women who dress modestly still shave – whether for appearance’s sake, personal comfort, or even a husband’s preference. Again, a matter of personal choice.
More conservative groups’ dress standards often include hoisery, so for them it’s a complete non-issue.
I have stopped shaving, after deciding that it was (a) vanity, and (b) feeling the need to improve the way God created me. After being raised very much in the world, though, and working in the fashion and fitness industries, I freely admit that I am still uncomfortable at the idea that people may see my hairy legs. Ah, well, that’s how we grow, right?
3. Shoes. My son asked if I feel funny in long skirts and tennis shoes. And my answer is yes and no. I kind of feel like I should be in a practical, comfortable, yet somewhat dressier-than-tennis-shoes kind like mary janes or something. I have worn my solid black Merrels and feel okay in them but today is COLD and so I have on some boots that I would have never worn with a skirt… so I just don’t know. And what about sandals, and flip-flops?
To me, this is a COMPLETELY “non-rule” issue, even more than most of them.
Some people wear sneakers because they are comfy and offer good support. Others feel that that is not a style choice they want to make, so they wear boots, flats, or whatever.
Personally, we don’t have many shoes rules related to modesty – only things like “no heels for little girls”, “no shoes that look ‘sexy’ in that ostentatious way”, “wear appropriate shoes for the task at hand”…
4. Undergarments. In the comments to the post you say you do wear things under skirts and that is my question there. I went and got some leggings because my legs are freezing under my denim, ankle-length skirt today. Thoughts on that?
I don’t know anyone aside from the LDS Church that feels your undergarments are anybody’s business but your own (and your husband’s, if applicable).
Most women who wear skirts-only wear combinations of slips, leggings, tights, etc. For little girls, bloomers are a great option even in warm weather, since skirts can be decidedly IMMODEST when they get crazy in play.
5. Pajamas. Someone said she threw out all pajamas. I got a set that is a long skirt and long-sleeved shirt, but in the cold may need either my fleece bottoms too or leggings. And in the summer do y’all wear a light nightgown? I assume it may be difficult to find a long one that is a lightweight material that isn’t sleeveless….
Different people have different opinions about sleepwear, that’s for sure!
Most of the “skirts-only” women I know do feel that modest nightgowns are the ideal. But how much it matters to them varies widely.
Some people feel that it makes no difference, since only their husband sees them, so they only dress for comfort and/or his enjoyment. Others with children or others in the house, who might come down for coffee in their pj’s, feel that they should conform to essentially the same standards as day clothing.
My daughter and I typically wear long or long-ish nightgowns. I’ve bought some online that are modest but lightweight for summer. She does also have footie “blanket sleeper” pj’s, too, though. She’s thin and delicate, and gets very cold at night. And, again, not like she goes outside in it.
I have a couple of lingering pairs of pj pants. They mostly stay in the drawer, but get hauled out occasionally during those stressful times when sick kids mean everything needs washing all the time, while I meanwhile have less time and energy to do it. I don’t prefer them anymore, but I also don’t see it as a big deal.
6. Speaking of sleeves, how long is generally okay? I wore a shirt the other day and it made me think it will have to go because the sleeves, while not sleeveless, were a bit short (kind of a fanned sleeve). Is the arm immodest? I don’t know!!
A common “test” I hear people use is to raise and wave your arms around, and see if you can see your armpit or your undergarments. If so, too short (and/or sheer).
Conservative Jewish protocol as I understand it is that knees and elbows should be covered. Interestingly, they have no issues with tightness, and many seem to use snug leggings and under-layer shirts (or just sleeves!) with otherwise-immodest clothing.
I have trouble shopping for Jewel at mass-market retailers (I just keep trying! *sigh*), because so many of the tops have the little fanned sleeves, cap sleeves, and so forth – not to mention strappy and sleeveless.
Personally, I prefer 3/4 length, or the sort of “short sleeves” that many men’s shirts seem to have, that hangs down nearly to the elbow.
7. And the looseness. It seems that fitted shirts (well, skirts too) that show the shape is the issue. Does that then mean baggy t-shirts? Not too fitted in button-up shirts?
“Showing shape” is definitely the issue – whether it comes from too short, too tight, too low-cut, or too sheer.
While we don’t need to dress in a shapeless potato sack, and want to honor the femininity that God gave us…
I came up with an illustration that sums it up pretty well for me. You might not relate to it if you grew up in a tamer situation: Imagine yourself in a room with a bunch of drunk “Frat Boys” (my apologies to any men reading who may have been in a fraternity). What are they going to say about you? It it’s a comment about a body part, chances are your clothing choice in that area is not ideal.
8. Exercise. I haven’t gone running the last two weeks now that I have been wearing skirts. While I trotted along with the puppies in my long skirt, I am not sure what you do otherwise–never go to the gym I guess? What about pushups, leg-lifts, crunches and such? What about zumba?? And what about swimming? I am not sure what to think.
I think there are plenty of ladies who run in skirts (probably less long than their daily wear skirts, but still modest). They even make “sport skirts” now out of lightweight athletic fabrics, and loose-fitting culouttes and such as well.
Ditto for going to the gym, Zumba class, etc. No, those tight yoga pants and a sports bra-top are just never appropriate – unless you’re working out alone at home, perhaps.
I don’t think I’d go to the gym anymore, unless it was a women-only facility. I can keep myself fit and healthy at home, without the attire being such an issue.
Swimming is fraught with challenges on many, many fronts. We rarely swim at public pools or waterparks, as much because it’s inappropriate viewing for the males in the family as because it’s a dress challenge for the females.
I know a lot of women who dress modestly, who feel that “modest swimwear” means having a little frill of a skirt attached to their suit, or throwing a t-shirt over their daughter’s bikini.
That has never worked for me. I simply do not see any justification for thinking that presence of a body of water negates any of the principles behind our decision to dress modestly.
I am a customer of Princess Modest Swimwear – one more site for the awesome Jewish ladies who refuse to bend to “society” (their photo above). My daughter’s suit (since they don’t do youth sizes) is from WholesomeWear.
I also wear a fabric swim cap, so that I can swim and still cover.
I also noticed that I get more people looking at me, and I wondered about that. The point is to get less attention for the way I am dressed, but I get more, LOL. The looks are curiosity, I guess, but I find I am more conscious of my behavior because I feel like my clothing advertises my conservative Christianity and speaks to my beliefs (vs. before if I was rude or something no one would necessarily think that I was a Christian behaving that way).
The point is for your private parts to get less attention because of the way you are dressed.
If you attract attention by your Christian witness in this area, it is just as wonderful as if someone sees the love of Christ shining through you because of some action you do.
And if it reminds us that our every action is part of our witness, so much the better! This is a point that comes up often when I discuss head-covering with people.
I’d also like to introduce a similar concept, that I wish I had the opportunity to speak into the hearts of young women who struggle with this.
I grew up acting and dressing “sexy.” I felt empowered because I could always get quick, helpful service from the guy behind the counter at the auto parts store (or wherever). If you had suggested to me at 20 that I should give up wearing tops that showed off my cleavage, I would have laughed.
But here’s the thing: I get special, preferential treatment now, too. If anything, I think I receive admiring looks and helpfully opened doors and so forth more often than when I was 20 – and I assure you that it is not because I am so irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex. I truly believe that men still have buried in their hearts the God-given desire to behave like gentlemen. No, seriously, ladies, men of all ages respond this way.
Perhaps I’ve strayed too far from the purpose of the post. I am certain that I have let this post ramble on far too long. And I’m certain that it is a topic that we will continue to discuss…