I’ve always been one to appreciate style. Maybe not style in the sense of what is “in,” but a particular sense of what I thought was beautiful. Growing up, one of my favorite things was to coordinate my clothing and accessories. I had a Veggie Tales shirt and earrings that were always worn together. On Valentine’s Day, you better believe I was decked out in hearts. Or when I wore blue, it was all blue. And every once-in-a-while I got my three younger sisters to match with me, hairstyles and all.
Now-a-days you won’t find me in hearts from head to toe, but I do still truly appreciate an outfit that is coordinated and has a sense of order and style. But I’m also very serious about dressing in a way that glorifies the Lord and reflects His life in me. I’ve thought and prayed quite a bit about how these two – modesty and style – go together. As a stay-at-home-mom, is it practical to have clothing that is pretty rather than just functional? Is it vain? Is fashionable clothing modest, or is it always worldly? I’ve also been asked some of these questions by other women who are thinking through these same things. So, here are some thoughts I’ve come to over the years of looking at God’s Word and talking with godly people that have been helpful for me in evaluating my clothing choices.
[One little thought before I dive in: I truly hope whatever I write will be based in Scripture, and will point you back to Jesus. BUT, I don’t want you simply to take my word for it, or just “do what I do.” I strongly encourage you to seek the Lord in these things for yourself, measuring all I say against God’s Word.]
Alrighty, here we go.
1. Modesty starts in the heart
The Bible doesn’t give detailed lists of all the pieces of clothing that are modest and all those that aren’t. But what the Bible does tell us is that modesty starts in the heart, and that the overflow of that will be reflected in our clothing choices. But just simply dressing in appropriate clothes doesn’t mean we have a heart of modesty.
Here’s a snippet from another article I wrote on modesty for Set-Apart Girl:
Simply put, true modesty is an outflow from a heart that loves God. In 1 Timothy 2, one of the core passages that speaks of modesty says, “…women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty…” (v.9 ESV). Do you see how the word “modesty” is used here? It isn’t actually describing the clothing, but the attitude that should accompany the clothing. Some translations use the word “reverence,” and in Greek it also can be a word used to describe having an awe of God. This is where modesty starts. Every piece of clothing we choose to put on should come from a deliberate choice to honor the Lord — not as a choice stemming from either selfishness or self-righteousness.
Scripture doesn’t give a long list of “dos and don’ts” in regards to what we should or shouldn’t wear. It gives principles to follow, but most of the practicals are left to us. However, it does tell us that women who truly love God and obey Him will honor Him in their outward appearance.
[ You can read the full article HERE ]
Ultimately, we should be far more concerned about what’s inside than what is outside. If we’re going to put time and attention into beautifying ourselves, it should start with the Gospel – spending time in the Word allowing the Lord to beautify us from the inside out. Then, when this comes first, we will more clearly be able to discern what kind of clothes and accessories are right and good to wear.
2. Style itself is Amoral
I think it could be fairly easy for conservative Christians (such as myself) to subconsciously embrace the idea that just because something is currently in style it’s necessarily worldly. But I don’t believe this is true. The principle of modesty encompasses all eras. It’s not more modest to wear something that isn’t seen as stylish today just because it’s not stylish… if that makes sense. What we need to do instead when evaluating a piece of clothing is ask, “is this going to glorify God by lining up with His principles of modesty?”
Modesty has to do with not drawing attention to yourself unnecessarily. Some of the synonyms of modest are: moderate, unpretentious, unostentatious. So, you could say one meaning of modesty is not sticking out. Wearing culturally acceptable clothing is not wrong in and of itself. It’s making sure that any particular piece of clothing is honoring to God that matters.
There is lots of room within these bounds for personal conviction. There are many principles in Scripture that are black and white (i.e. dress in a way that glorifies the Lord), but it doesn’t say exactly what that means (i.e. wear this shirt, don’t wear that one). Each of us are responsible before the Lord to seek Him personally in regards to how He desires us to live out this call to “respectable apparel.” I know and love many godly women who fall into varying places on this. Some choose to dress more conservatively than I do, and some choose to dress less conservatively. But I see the common thread running through each of them of a desire to honor the Lord and others in their clothing choices. It’s important that we be sensitive to personal conviction when Scripture gives room for variance.
3. God is a God of Beauty
We see, both throughout Scripture and in creation, that God is a God of beauty. It takes one glance at a garden to know this – the vast array of color and design of each flower is mind-blowing. Not to mention the rugged beauty of mountains or the breathtaking beauty of oceans. God takes delight in the tiniest and largest of details. He could have made one kind of flower, one kind of bird, one kind of landscape… but He chose to create a world overflowing with beauty of all kinds.
In the Old Testament, we see the kind of detail He had put into His earthly dwelling places – the tabernacle and the temple. Intricate goldwork, precious stones, richly colored and embroidered curtains and clothing. Not one thing was overlooked.
Part of being made in God’s image is having a delight in beauty, too. And one outflow of this can be found in our clothing. There is no condemnation of lovely, beautiful clothing in Scripture, only the heart that idolizes these things. The highly esteemed Proverbs 31 woman is dressed “in fine linen and purple” (v. 22), and purple was considered a “precious color.” Clothing can be another evidence of the creativity and beauty that God made us to appreciate and enjoy for His honor and glory.
Within the bounds of a heart that desires to honor the Lord with every aspect of life, there is freedom to wear clothing that is beautiful, and even what is considered fashionable. Whether we choose to wear something that is “in” or something that “isn’t” is not the point. If it has been evaluated through the lens of a submitted and right heart before the Lord, then we can wear it with joy. If we’re not sure if a piece of clothing fits into that framework, we can ask another godly woman (or our husbands if we’re married), or simply choose not to wear it. But fear of man, whether of those more conservative or less conservative, should never drive our clothing choices. Love of God should. When this is the case, we can wear the styles we enjoy with a free heart, and He will give us sensitivity for what is the right thing to wear at the right time.
(Note: There are times when we may be around others with differing convictions or cultures. In these circumstances it’s appropriate to put aside our preferred clothing out of love for them and the God who made them. This doesn’t mean we’re fearing them, but simply honoring them and removing a potential stumbling block or means of offense. In our freedom, we can choose to put aside our preferences to show love to another, and that is a beautiful thing, too.)
So, whether business casual or with a western flair, whether athleisure or boho, we can choose to allow what is on the outside to be a reflection of an eternally stunning reality: the life of Christ in us. We are in this world, but we are not of this world. What a privilege to be ambassadors for the Kingdom… even in the clothing we wear.