So I’ve been thinking lately that maybe in the interest of modesty, I should wear shorter skirts.
Maybe I should explain that.
I wear long skirts. I love the way they swish around my ankles when I walk. I love the way they hide stubbly legs and spider veins. I love the way they make me feel exotic and eastern. Unfortunately, while I may FEEL exotic, I usually LOOK like an old tired out hippie crossed wardrobes with a prairie woman. Add to that three kids in tow and I have found that people tend to make assumptions about me. It’s not that there is anything necessarily wrong with the assumptions – no one has assumed I was a sister wife from a fundamentalist Mormon compound, for instance – but I am giving the impression of being connected with a specific approach to home and family with which I am not, in fact, connected.
This has led me to an interesting question about modesty.
Modest is often defined as “not showing off the dirty bits.” Even in the more conservative Christian circles that focus specifically on this sort of thing, it boils down to hemlines and necklines – knees and cleavage. Scripture, however, has a bit of a different approach. When both Paul (in 1 Timothy) and Peter (in 1 Peter) encourage Christian women to be modest, they do so in the context of letting their conduct, rather than their clothing, jewelry and hair, define their impressions. Both speak strongly against the sort of obsession with clothing and accessories that seems to define western women. Paul even refers negatively to the expense of a woman’s wardrobe. I am NOT suggesting that the Lord condones (or even commends) the vast expanses of flesh that our culture puts on display. I’m just saying that’s only the tip of the modesty iceberg.
So when my clothing stands out enough that people assume I have strong convictions on specific social issues, am I being immodest? If the way I am dressed speaks louder than my voice – or even before I’m given a chance to have a voice – am I being immodest? If a young woman came to me and said, “Everyone thinks I’m a slut because of the way I dress, but I’m really a virgin.” I would tell her to dress like someone who wants to remain a virgin. I would tell her that her clothing is sending a message that isn’t letting her real message be heard. So does the same rule of modesty apply to a middle aged woman and her saggy clothing?
I am not at liberty to replace my wardrobe, but I think I have some friends who could help me “renovate” some of it to make it a little more main street and a little less bag lady. This is a two fold challenge for me. First, I have almost no fashion sense. Once in high school I paired a bright pink jersey knit pantsuit with a bright yellow t-shirt. The question of why I ever owned that pantsuit didn’t even cross my mind until right now. I can try to be purposeful in my clothing, but I’m operating at a handicap, which leads to my second challenge. In an effort to reach some sort of golden mean in my attire I can end up turning that pursuit into the very idol I am trying to avoid. I can end up as obsessed with clothing as the women to both extremes who spend hours in front of the mirror trying to be perfect – in the way they chose to define that word.
The conclusion I have reached is that a little more care in my clothing choices would not be amiss, and that includes occasionally wearing skirts that fall just below my knee instead of below my ankles. I am trying harder not to leave the house looking like a collection of plastic bags filled with water. I’m going to seek some help from my sewing friends and I’m officially retiring the maternity t-shirts.
However, my bigger resolution is to ask the Lord to keep working in my life so that it speaks so loudly of Him that no one has a chance to wonder what my clothes might be saying.