Modest Apparel: Who decides? Subjective?

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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
(1) Who decides what constitutes modest apparel?
(2) How does the individual or group of individuals determine what is modest apparel? Is it a cultural decision (so what is considered immodest in one culture might be modest in another; even perhaps going to the extreme of no clothing)? Must we look through Scripture and see what is considered modest or immodest and make determinations from there (as is done, e.g., at here)? Is apparel considered merely a matter of the heart?
(3) Is modest apparel relative within a culture? By this, I am referring to one's clothing in front of others, e.g., most (?) consider a bikini or speedo to not be an unacceptable form of clothing at the beach but might be okay with a two-piece or one-piece bathing suit or just swim trunks.

(4) If modesty is a matter of the heart, or purely cultural, or relative to the situation, then why do so many condemn certain forms of clothing at the beach? Or at schools? Or even at our church services?
(5) Whoever or however modest clothing is decided, if it is determined on some ground besides a universal, principled one, then how does one determine when the standards have changed or whether the standards require being changed (some people argue that the body should not be so sexualized--in fact, should be less sexualized so that a "looser" standard of clothing would be acceptable)?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
6) What constitutes male modesty?

I ask this one because very often female modesty is endlessly scrutinized while very little is said to men. I'm not meaning to attack anyone here, just a general observation (and I'm one of those men who wears a T-shirt to the beach--mostly because I sunburn easily).
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
This is an interesting question and I frankly do believe there are cultural considerations. I think Bible-believing Christians in general are uncomfortable about this, because we don't like cultural considerations to inform our decision making.

For example, were I to show an ankle 100 years ago, I doubt I'd be allowed in most Christian churches in the U.S. But today in a knee length dress I am perfectly modest. Both of these observations are 100% true.

Same goes with pants. I could not have worn pants to church probably even 75 years ago. Today it's considered totally modest as long as the pants are not very tight.

Same goes with male/female distinctions. I doubt we'd allow a man in a dress into our church service. But in the Middle East they wear long white dress things, and of course there is the much-beloved kilt.

So we have to be honest and not rationalize things and it's a sticky wicket and very difficult. I can honestly say, though, that I am pretty clear on what is modest in our culture. A bikini is not, frankly, even at the beach, nor is a speedo. A one piece at the beach, yes; at church or generally in public, no.

And yes it is sort of arbitrary.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
How do you think most of us would respond if a guy showed up for worship wearing a powdered wig and lace around his neck? Just saying . . .

It's been a while since I read anything of hers, but I recall Edith Schaeffer having good advice along the lines of being attractive without the cheapness western society has pushed. God loves beauty in all areas of life. So often people will end up dowdy in the name of modesty.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
I grew weary of thinking about it years ago. I will concur that "modesty" agendas for churches have usually been applied lopsided between the sexes. Unless it's an extreme case, it should be left alone. Measuring pant legs and top drops is not a way to go about encouraging modesty that springs from a circumcised heart.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
Supreme court (USA) justice Potter Stewart asked to define p0rnography said something like, 'I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.' I think for most Bible-believing Christians the same applies to perceiving modesty.
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
I think the biblical principle should govern us. Particularly by 1Peter3:1-6. Though it teaches an internal disposition of modesty and christian character, that is also connected to the visible deportment and dress of the believer. The house of God is no place for the sisters to have plunging necklines and bare shoulders, that so obviously can be a stumbling block to the male members. Neither am I a fan of young men turning up with rugby shirts and shorts, there is a decorum in approaching the high and lofty one. Concessions are made for the unconverted or the stranger, but the Lords people are to display that modesty of character in their carriage. An aphoristic of the Puritans was, a man is known by the company he keeps and the clothes he wears. The world and sadly some Christians would consider the Puritans antiquated, but they are an example of practical doctrine and piety.
 

2ndViolinist

Puritan Board Freshman
(1) I think it is a combination of Scripture (Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:8-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.), one's culture, and personal conviction. My best friend is not comfortable wearing anything shorter than pants or ankle-length skirts, but when she sees me wearing Capri pants or dresses that reach just past my knees, she still believes I am dressed modestly.

(4) Modest apparel may sometimes be relative within a culture. There is a difference between clothing that is inappropriate in some circumstances vs. clothing that is flat-out immodest. Athletic pants or shorts of the rugby variety may be appropriate for sports, but such attire would never be appropriate for a worship service--not because it is immodest... it's just not the right context.

Others may differ with me on this, but I do not believe most one-piece bathing suits, any bikinis, or shirtless-ness are ever modest or appropriate in public... :2cents:
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
6) What constitutes male modesty?

I ask this one because very often female modesty is endlessly scrutinized while very little is said to men. I'm not meaning to attack anyone here, just a general observation (and I'm one of those men who wears a T-shirt to the beach--mostly because I sunburn easily).

Teaching my boys early, they wear 'surf shirts' when swimming :) I always wonder if people are like??? uh why?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Immodest attire is clothing that intentionally draws attention to the body.

For example, Sunday morning I noticed a man's tattooed arms in church. He was wearing a short-sleeved tee shirt. Although the day was warm for late January, it was a bit bracing for tee shirts unless the purpose was to show the tats. So, I would consider his attire immodest.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Immodest attire is clothing that intentionally draws attention to the body.

Would tailored clothing be immodest, then? Tailored clothing (the suit jacket in particular) is designed to compensate for the body's flaws and draw attention to its advantages. Or would you recommend that men buy ill-fitting clothing and not spend money on alterations?
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Immodest attire is clothing that intentionally draws attention to the body.

Would tailored clothing be immodest, then? Tailored clothing (the suit jacket in particular) is designed to compensate for the body's flaws and draw attention to its advantages. Or would you recommend that men buy ill-fitting clothing and not spend money on alterations?

I'm not sure how one goes from "intentionally draws attention to the body" to tailored suits.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
I would think, if anything, you draw less attention to yourself wearing tailored clothes than ill-fitting ones.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
I wonder, did John the Baptist dress immodestly since his clothes were unusual enough to remark on? There has to be something more going on.
 

Nathan

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society once stated in a sermon that "If your clothing is a frame for your face, from which the glory of God is to shine, it’s proper, if it draws attention to your face. If your clothing draws attention to your body, to outline it, to make it noticed, then it’s sensual."

I thought there was simplicity and wisdom in that.

May the Lord turn His face toward you,

-Nathan
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I wonder, did John the Baptist dress immodestly since his clothes were unusual enough to remark on? There has to be something more going on.

Not sure which post you are directing that towards, but I've dealt with that in my post at 10.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I would think, if anything, you draw less attention to yourself wearing tailored clothes than ill-fitting ones.

You do know the difference between drawing attention to yourself and drawing attention to your body, don't you? If a woman is wearing a 2 carat diamond on her finger, she probably isn't expecting folks to stare at her knuckles. I wear a sportscoat my father bought in Scotland, I'll get comments on the jacket, but folks certainly aren't looking at my shoulders or waist.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
It seems in at least this admonition of Paul the focus of modesty is different than is often the target of the discussion. There is often more discussion on pants vs. skirts and skirt lengths and less about expensive garments and jewelry and hairstyling.

"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments" -I Timothy 2:9 (NASB)
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
Immodest attire is clothing that intentionally draws attention to the body.

Would tailored clothing be immodest, then? Tailored clothing (the suit jacket in particular) is designed to compensate for the body's flaws and draw attention to its advantages. Or would you recommend that men buy ill-fitting clothing and not spend money on alterations?

I'm not sure how one goes from "intentionally draws attention to the body" to tailored suits.

In times past, much clothing was tailored if it wasn't mass produced. Now tailoring is an exception, a luxury. If I were at the body composition that I'm aiming at (and missing), I'd want a bespoke suit but I doubt I'll ever be able to afford one.
 

psycheives

Puritan Board Freshman
This is an interesting question and I frankly do believe there are cultural considerations. I think Bible-believing Christians in general are uncomfortable about this, because we don't like cultural considerations to inform our decision making.

For example, were I to show an ankle 100 years ago, I doubt I'd be allowed in most Christian churches in the U.S. But today in a knee length dress I am perfectly modest. Both of these observations are 100% true.

Same goes with pants. I could not have worn pants to church probably even 75 years ago. Today it's considered totally modest as long as the pants are not very tight.

Same goes with male/female distinctions. I doubt we'd allow a man in a dress into our church service. But in the Middle East they wear long white dress things, and of course there is the much-beloved kilt.

So we have to be honest and not rationalize things and it's a sticky wicket and very difficult. I can honestly say, though, that I am pretty clear on what is modest in our culture. A bikini is not, frankly, even at the beach, nor is a speedo. A one piece at the beach, yes; at church or generally in public, no.

And yes it is sort of arbitrary.

I very much appreciate what Miss Marple wrote above about style changes that used to be considered unacceptable in different times and places. Her comments go along with Zack's last post about tailored clothing (above this one). These two comments point out that our modesty standard must be either applicable across ALL cultures and ALL times (if we claim it's a hard fast rule from the Bible) or it must be admitted that the biblical standard of modesty is flexible and influenced by cultural expectations and views. Any Biblical standard must be applicable across cultures and time - such as no nudity. And if we use no nudity as certainly immodest, it seems degrees of nudity can be expressed by less and less clothing. So immodesty seems in part to be a degree thing more than something where we can easily draw a line. So you can't claim women were immodest for showing their ankles back in the day and not immodest today unless you are making a flexible cultural argument. Same for wearing pants. Hey, women not wearing those huge puffed out dress skirts and a corset probably would have been considered immodest back in the day too. This shows the cultural element.

And I very much appreciate Kat's comment about shirt-lessness for both sexes and one-piece bathing suits. They are not modest. Women in skin tight, butt-showing bathing suits is not modest. Here I appeal that it gives the closest illusion of nudity - it's practically there. There is really no difference between this and plain simple underwear. And sorry men, men without shirts is not modest. So I very very much appreciate you guys who are wearing and teaching your sons to wear the surfer shirts! Hey, those actually make you look much cooler with the fun colors and geometric designs.

Since I've been watching old classics from the 60s, I must point out that anyone who is upset and surprised by the current generational trends and immodesty and wants to return to those decades is naive. It is clear that the immodesty of today is coming from the Swinging Sixties and our parents and grandparents. I'm shocked that the majority of the most popular movies were celebrating cheating and sleeping around. In fact, I've had a hard time finding a movie during those decades that isn't all about "romanticism" and sexual infidelity. All your famous actors were all making these movies: Astaire, Bogart, the Hepburns etc. And the women were wearing butt-showing shorts and bikinis in these movies too. Noting that TV began in the 1940s and was used for such family-destroying purposes, I kinda see why theater was banned and considered evil by many Puritans.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
What if modesty is almost entirely based on how we've allowed culture or perhaps times of the age change us? Back in the day women were only allowed to wear long skirts/dresses. If we could go back in time to say the 1800s and walked into the Puritans' village/church, well I think things wouldn't go so well for most of us. Modesty seems to change with time....good or bad it does change and we change with society's change. Even the Puritans back in the 1800s would have had trouble not raising eyebrows while walking through the villages of Biblical times....men just didn't wear pants during Biblical times.

So could it be that it appears to be whatever we've allowed ourselves to become desensitized to over the ages and then think our struggle with sexual sin is on the same level of sexual sex our predecessors struggled with? I'm not saying they didn't struggle with sexual sin but it certainly was not what our generation is bombard with out in the open. :2cents:
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
I would think, if anything, you draw less attention to yourself wearing tailored clothes than ill-fitting ones.

You do know the difference between drawing attention to yourself and drawing attention to your body, don't you? If a woman is wearing a 2 carat diamond on her finger, she probably isn't expecting folks to stare at her knuckles. I wear a sportscoat my father bought in Scotland, I'll get comments on the jacket, but folks certainly aren't looking at my shoulders or waist.

Edward, I agree that there is a distinction, but I see both parts pertaining to modesty. Are you saying that drawing attention to yourself (not your body) with your adornment has nothing to do with modesty?
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
In regards to the idea of "drawing attention to ourselves," of course I have not done any massive Bible Study on it, but I think of women in scripture sort of praised for looking pretty. That is to say like in Psalm 42, praising the beautiful bride in fine embroidery, the woman/women mentioned wearing purple ( a rare and beautiful dye ), Lydia of course selling it, the bride and bridegroom in Song of Solomon; there are perhaps others that a random check in my brain have not come up with. Something beautiful is described as being like a bride adorned for her bridegroom. This seems to presuppose that it is ok or even praiseworthy to look beautiful, which is certainly "drawing attention to ourselves."

So I am not sure modesty involves the required wearing of drab, unremarkable, or actually unattractive clothes.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Are you saying that drawing attention to yourself (not your body) with your adornment has nothing to do with modesty?

The original question specified apparel, and later clothing, which I distinguish from accessories.

If that point has been exhausted and you concede my points, we can move to accessories.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Immodest attire is clothing that intentionally draws attention to the body.

Would tailored clothing be immodest, then? Tailored clothing (the suit jacket in particular) is designed to compensate for the body's flaws and draw attention to its advantages. Or would you recommend that men buy ill-fitting clothing and not spend money on alterations?

There is a difference between clothing that is complimentary and clothing that is revealing.
 
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