Biblical Modesty (and why it’s a big deal)

I’m so excited (and terrified) about this blog post! For years I’ve been wanting to “write down” my view and biblical standpoint on women’s modest dress. So when a question came in last week about our biblical stand on modesty I knew the Lord wanted me to take on the challenge. Let me preface this post with a few points …

  • I am kind and polite to EVERYONE. This (hopefully) mutual respect is not dependent upon what you’re wearing.
  • This post is written for those looking for biblical reasons to dress modestly, not those who have already made their decisions. I’m not here to debate. I know what I believe, and I’m not ashamed or embarrased.  I’m just sharing what the Lord has asked me to.

Before we start, I’m going to share my personal standard of dress. I’m not saying this is the appropriate standard for everyone. These are the guidelines I’ve set for myself and any girl that lives in our home. I follow the Rectangle Rule.

I wear loose fitting clothes, that aren’t see-through, to cover this area of my body. Shirts that come near the end of my shoulder, skirts and dresses that touch the knee, and tops that come close to the top of my sternum (the bone near your throat). I’ve never worn a pair pants or shorts in my life. Those would show the exact form of my bottom and thigh, even “loose” bottoms would still show some form. The thought of ANYONE (male or female) knowing the exact shape of that part of my body makes me sick to my stomach. Except my husband, of course. 😉 In the snow I wear snow pants with a light weight skirt over top. To swim and bike ride I wear loose fitting basketball shorts (similar to cullotes) that come to my knee. I’ve done everything imaginable with these guidelines … biking, horseback riding, rock wall climbing, zip lining, trampoline parks, swimming, water tubing, paintball, four-wheeling, etc. I can’t think of one thing I couldn’t do wearing these clothes.  If I want to protect my legs, or if I’m worried about my skirt flying up, I wear tights or leggings under my skirt.

Let’s start with a question … what’s your standard of modesty and why? Most of us have the “what” part, but not the “why” part. Myself included! I freeze when someone asks me why I dress the way I dress. “Becuase I’ve always dressed like this” or “I just like it” seem like shallow reasons for me. So le’ts look at the Bible (and some common sense) and get to it!

1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” – this is one of the most populoar verses used when discusing the issue of modesty. Instead if using just the last part of the verse to justify what we’re wearing, let’s take a look at the middle section of this verse. “For man looketh on the outward appearance” … a lost person ONLY sees what we are wearing. Are my clothes a testimony, or a hindrance to others? Are my clothes pointing others to Jesus or myself? Sure, what we are on the inside is much more important than the clothes we put on our body, but we live in a physical world for the time being. Those around us can only see the physical aspect of our being.

Matthew 5:28, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – here is the argument that it doesn’t matter to what we wear, men will still have impure thoughts. Ladies, let’s just take responsibility for ourselves. We are not in charge of the thoughts of others … only our own actions. If you can get dressed in the morning, look in the mirror and ask God, “Are you pleased with this?” and not feel one prick of the Holy Spirit saying, “no”, then walk out the door in confidence that you are honoring the Lord with your dress. Don’t worry about what others think, male or female! Do I think women should be extra cautious about modesty and the way they look to the opposite gender? Yes! Do I think men should be extra cautious in averting their eyes to avoid wrong thoughts? Yes! Work, effort, and consideration should be taken on BOTH sides.

1 John 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” – the flesh is a constant battle. Our flesh wants to take over our lives. It’s creeping into our homes, the church, our cities, etc. EVERYTHING surrounding us is about our flesh. The movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the places we go are catering to our flesh. Let’s be sure that what we are wearing is not solely about our flesh. We should wear clothes that fit, are in style, and compliment our feminity, but clothes should not CONSUME us. I’m not talking specifically about seductive clothing either, what about wearing certain styles over and over because it’s “easy” or “comfortable”? As Christians, we should be the sharpest people in the building! We should be put together, clean, and polished … so God gets the glory. Even if it makes us stick out or a little uncomfortable. 

One of the main reason I choose to dress the way I do is my unspoken testimony. I don’t have to say a word and people know there is something different about me. They can see me and my daughter from across the grocery store and notice a difference. Talk about a conversation starter! Stick an 18 month old little girl in a jean skirt and you’ll get all kinds of comments! Mostly good, praise the Lord, but I have the “judgy” ones too. “How can she run in that?” “Poor girl must feel constricted” 🙂 Ha! You should see my daughter, she gets around just fine. Our testimony is much more important to me than those comments.

Proverbs 7:10, “ And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.” – we see here that there was a certain style of clothing a harlot wore. Modesty has changed throughout the decades. We are not wearing what they wore in Biblical times. I dare say, that what harlots wore back then would probably be more modest than what we wear today. They were dressed and covered from the top of thier heads to the tips of thier toes! Certain religions today would deem us “immodest” for showing the ankle, or not wearing a head covering. So aside from mentioning specific articles of clothing … what would classify as “the attire of an harlot”? Let me suggest this list: too tight, too low, too short, too sheer, too guady, too loud, etc. Anything that would bring unnessecary/negative attention to our bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:31, “ Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” – EVERYTHING we do in this life is to be pleasing to the Lord. Why hold back on something so small as dress when Christ gave so much for us. Of course, we would all prefer to do things in our lives a certain way. It’s difficult to surrender specific areas of our lives. But in the grand scheme of life, NOTHING we could do could ever repay the price He paid for us. Holding onto a temporal piece of clothing seems pretty petty when we put things into perspective. Are we glorifying God in all the other areas of our life, but holding back in the area of modesty? Remember, we will all stand and give account for what we know is right. Did you use to hold a standard of dress that you have recently let slip? Why? Was there a biblical reason? We have to stand strong for Christ in ALL areas of our life. Not just the ones that make us feel comfortable.

We are responsible for what we know! My heart goes out to anyone that is ignorant of God’s call to modesty. They don’t know … they’ve never been taught. What breaks my heart is those who drop their standards (in any area) because of the “freedom they found in Christ” or “God only cares about what’s on the inside” or “my church changed the standard, so it must be fine”, etc. Our God is a Holy God. The closer we get to Him, the MORE seperated, holy, undefiled, unlike the world we should be. Some of the kindest people I know don’t dress modestly. But ladies, it’s time we stand strong in a world that’s shifting. Who will the people we win come back to when they need the Lord? They will be counting on us to be in the same place we were when we reached them! My heart is broken for the state of our churches in this country. We as ladies need to keep our standards high!! It’s not popular, it’s not fun (at times), but you can’t beat the reward of doing right. Nothing is worth sacrificing the approval of God Almighty. No one will stand before the Lord one day and be thankful they dropped a standard. But we will ALL be wishing we had done more … so much more.

Is what I’m wearing pleasing to the Lord? Would you have to change for church? Would you change if you were meeting up with a certain group of friends? Would you be embarrassed if you ran into someone that knew you from your Sunday School class? These may seem like small fears, but they ask a very serious question. Is God honored with how I got dressed today? Plain and simple. If there is even the smallest tug on your heart, it’s time to reivaluate where we are, and get back to where we should be. NOTHING can compare to the feeling of being in complete obedience to God’s Word and His principles.

Most of this post has been Bible, some has been opinion. I hope you know my heart and know that I love each one of you, no matter where you are in the Christian life. My prayer is that we are all sensitive to God’s leading in our lives … myself included. May we not only be hearers but doers!

1 Thessalonians 2:4b, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” – Let’s carry the gospel and represent Christ well in every area of our life … especially our dress. As a result, we will be pleasing the Lord!

13 thoughts on “Biblical Modesty (and why it’s a big deal)”

  1. No criticism, but rather a thought. You say you’ve never worn shorts in your life, but then you say you’ve worn basketball shorts. Maybe an alteration should be made to your statement. Could be confusing to some.

    1. Michelle Hoover

      Thanks so much for your comment! The basketball “shorts” I’m referring to are loose around the rear end, and hit my knee. I don’t consider these shorts because of those two guidelines. Shorts are fitted pants that come above the knee. Those articles of clothing, I’ve never worn. I used the term “shorts” so others would know what I was referring to.

  2. Dear Michelle,
    I appreciate your article on the important subject of modest dress. I did want to comment on something that was a little confusing. I noticed that in the beginning of the article you mention that you have never worn pants or shorts. Later in the article you mention that you wear loose fitting basketball shorts . (That are like culottes.?) I also wear loose fitting basketball shorts to do sports in. I have always thought culottes looked stupid on me and so I would rather wear loose fitting. Basketball shorts or a skirt but not culottes. Loosefitting basketball shorts are still shorts and so I wondered how you can say that you have never worn a pair of shorts. To wear only a skirt or dress is very confining for me for doing sports and If the only option is culottes thats not much comfort to me but when I have the option to wear loose fitting basketball shorts my life becomes a little easier I must admit and easier than if culottes were the only option to a skirt or dress. Loose fitting shorts are fitted around the rear end as are most culottes so it might be good to wear a long shirts to avoid showing certain shapes that you wish to conceal. In the end the most modest is a dress or skirt and it is also the most feminine. So are we doing less than our best when we choose shorts over culottes or culottes over a dress? Some would argue that culottes are more feminine than loose fitting shorts. I think I agree. So then the issue becomes deciding to dress feminine or not. In short I just think that if you are wearing loose fitting basketball shorts then you are wearing shorts irregardless of what the reason is and to say that you have never worn shirts is misleading. I’m sure that you never intended for that be that way but I thought it was confusing and wanted to point that out because I do struggle somewhat in the area of dress. Keep up the good writing and may God abundantly bless your ministry.
    Kindest Regards,

    1. Michelle Hoover

      Thanks so much for your comment! The basketball “shorts” I’m referring to are loose around the rear end, and hit my knee. I don’t consider these shorts because of those two guidelines. Shorts are fitted pants that come above the knee. Those articles of clothing, I’ve never worn. I used the term “shorts” so others would know what I was referring to. Most people would consider them cullotes. As far as femininity, i wear these a few times a month. They are not my everyday wear. And being feminine is more of an attitude and the way you carry yourself as it is what you wear. 🙂 I hope this makes sense! Thanks again for your input!

  3. Wonderful article! I’ve not been following the rectangle rule as I do wear tank tops (mainly because I live in a tropical country & it’s almost always very hot) and pants. It is something to ponder and work towards though. I’ll definitely be sharing this article. Blessings!

    1. Anna Arrigunaga

      I agree that this would be the only biggest bending and tweaking I have to do in terms of the context in practicality with the weather in casual outings in a country further south or for summer activities with friends. What always helps me is looser blouses or shorts with a balanced coverage that aren’t too tight to the skin with a thin fabric. Otherwise, that only traps more heat if it’s too hot outside unfortunately. Some designers try to compensate tight clothing for summer by revealing more skin in other areas on top or bottom clothing, which you’ve the probably noticed. But can still make you sweat on that tight area. And that’s no fun either way. :/

      My personal rule is having enough summer length for legs and not showing my stomach around guys. (That can be the context your wardrobe depends on sometimes.) Shoulders is debatable for me mainly when it comes to age of the girl and what more coverage there is aside from shoulders perhaps sometimes. Especially with dresses for formal occasions, not all have thick straps or rely on straps around the neck instead.

      I think my biggest tip that works for me is: if you feel more self conscious about showing too much skin or experience more wardrobe problems with the length of a clothing item based on movement or whom you’re around, it’s ok to go with your Holy Spirit gut, have grace with yourself in trial and error and look for fashionable alternatives that don’t give you too many problems or too much to overthink about. I think with what crowds you’re around and the occasion always helps determine your options in hot conditions best. We don’t want to provoke others to sin but at the same time we shouldn’t force ourselves to overheat ourselves either.

      It’s hard not to overthink it sometimes.
      However, different outfits offering balanced coverage with different designs and textures should do the trick whether it’s with swimsuits or outside super hot conditions!
      Such as: if the straps are around the neck, it can work when it covers your entire chest and stomach from the front without low back and makes up for it without exposing too large of a skin-area for your top if that makes sense?

      But yeah that’s how I manage the modesty on hot weather, the way will always depend every situation and what The Holy Spirit tells you. He will since it’s His temple, He’ll care for it well when we let him guide us!

  4. Awesome article!
    Lately I was feeling bad because I have large breast and I cover myself and wear no revealing clothes but I see so many other women older and younger revealing all ?‍♀️ I feel uncomfortable like Iam doing wrong. But we that are modest stick out and are treated differently nice and respectful.

  5. I appreciate your post so much!
    I have been feeling convicted of wanting to dress more modestly & converting my wardrobe to dresses/skirts that hit below my knees. I have been trying to find more scripture that backs up this change in lifestyle and this post just really helped solidify.

  6. Good evening.
    I have a dilemma that I hope you can help me with.
    My husband is NOT saved. I was backslidden in my faith when I met and married him. I have since returned to the faith.

    He does NOT want me to dress “too modestly.” He thinks dresses are for special occasions or church. He wants me to wear short shorts and tight-fitting jeans. How can we compromise here?

  7. Really it’s touch my heart, when you say ask holy spirit of what I should wear it..
    Always in my mind come lot’s of questions when I know what should I wear and feel guilty about I am not listen word of God, one question always come to my mind , God forgive me ya not and now when I know so can I follow the scriptures,
    Can you please suggest me a best outfits which make me comfortable and please tell me according to bibel and how I’m control my thoughts .
    Your words to good but when I read it I feel more guilty . God bless you abundantly and your family.^_^

  8. I come from a background that teaches these standards of dress for women and girls. My concern is why is it always focused on the women and girls. Nothing is ever talked about concerning how men dress. In the Bible all wore robes. I’m sure there was a distinction between men’s robes and women’s but I don’t know what it was. By the teaching of these standards it seems women are the “problem ” and we are only sexual objects that must keep every bit of our womanly shape hidden to keep men from lusting but men wear clothing that show the shape of their bodies. I believe both should be concerned about modesty and how they conduct themselves. Why is all the focus on women?

    1. Michelle Hoover

      Most of the preaching and teaching I have heard has addressed the male AND female side of the issue. I’m sorry that hasn’t been your experience! But ultimately we’re responsibly for our own walk, not anyone else’s.

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