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How Do I Dress Modestly?

Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash

My sweet sisters, I’m so glad you are here with me today! Have I told you lately how precious each of you are to me and what a joy it is for me to get to share this time and fellowship together? I’m so thankful for you! You are in my prayers every day.

My goal with this post is to discuss biblical principles. It is really easy to veer into personal convictions. I want to avoid that out of reverence for God’s instructions to us to keep our personal convictions private – in order that we may not create division and contention in the body. I want to honor the Word of God and not add man-made rules for anyone to follow. So I am not going to dictate specific rules to other women:

  • You have to only wear skirts/dresses.
  • Your hemline has to be a specific number of inches.
  • Your collar line has to be so many inches away from your collar bone.
  • etc…

But what we can share together are things like:

  • Biblical principles for modesty.
  • Practical guidelines about choosing modest clothing.
  • Resources and tips to find modest, affordable clothing.

The goal for us as believing women has to be real heart change. Once we understand God’s heart for us and for the body of Christ, we will want to dress in modest ways to please the Lord so that we show proper respect for:

  • God
  • our brothers and sisters in Christ
  • the world
  • our sexuality
  • our marriage
  • our husband
  • the Word

What Does the Bible Say about Modesty and How We Are to Dress?

Pure Heart Motives:

  • Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Prov. 31:30
  • I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Rom. 12:1
  • Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor. 6:19-20
  • For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 1 Thess. 4:3-4

How to Dress, and What to Avoid:

  • Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 1 Tim. 2:9-10
  • Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Pet. 3:3-4

Avoiding Being a Snare and Temptress:

  • “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” Matt. 18:7
  • Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Rom. 14:13

Now that we see God’s principles for us as women, that we are to dress in modest, respectable ways, that we are to avoid being extravagant, flashy, and pretentious, that we are not to draw attention to our bodies but rather to Jesus, that our beauty is to come from our spiritual character and inner selves and the things we do, let’s prayerfully consider our closets. <3

Defining Immodesty and Modesty:

Immodesty is about drawing the eye of unavailable men (and maybe even women) to my body, my sexuality, and to thinking about lusting after me. It is about how beautiful I am, how desirable I am, and about making my body look inviting and welcoming to other men in a sexual way. It is about advertising my “wares” so that other men don’t have to guess very much about the shape of my body. It is about attracting attention to my particular form and curves.

My favorite definition of modesty is,

“Modesty is humility in clothing.”

Modesty is all about exalting God, not exalting self. It is all about bringing glory and attention to the Lord not to my appearance. It is about making Jesus, the gospel, holiness, chastity and purity the focus. It is about covering my body in a way that draws the eye to Christ. It is about avoiding expensive hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing that would draw a lot of attention away from Christ. It is about being beautiful in a spiritual way rather than a worldly way. Modesty is about looking feminine in ways that are wholesome and appropriate in public. It is about advertising my faith in Christ rather than my skin or my curves. It is about showing my reverence for God, the gospel, others, and myself. It is about being content not being the most beautiful, attractive girl in the room.

Modesty is also an attitude that avoids acting in flirtatious, inappropriate, or vulgar ways. It is about conducting myself with integrity, purity, and sound speech. It is about guarding my heart and my marriage. It is about avoiding the appearance of evil and seeking to treat my brothers (and sisters) in Christ with honor, respect, dignity, and holiness.

Principles of Modesty:

In order to assess whether a particular outfit is modest, here are some questions I may want to prayerfully ask myself:

  • What are my motives when I wear this outfit?
  • Will this outfit draw the eye of my brothers in Christ to my body or to the Lord?
  • Does this clothing cover all of the important areas well?
    • Even if I bend over, lean down, or reach up?
    • If I have to sit in a chair, will someone be able to see up my skirt/shorts?
    • Will I be doing activities that will cause private areas to be visible in this outfit?
    • If there are buttons, does the material gape between the buttons?
    • Am I likely to have a wardrobe malfunction in this clothing?
  • Am I purposely or inadvertently encouraging men to focus on my body or on lusting after me because this outfit reveals too much skin or exposes the exact shape of my body?
    • Is the neckline too low?
    • Is my midriff exposed?
    • Is the clothing too tight?
    • Does this outfit draw the eye to my breasts, hips, or crotch?
    • Is this clothing see-through in the right light?
    • Are my undergarments showing?
    • Is the hemline too short?
  • What would my husband or dad (or another godly man I greatly respect) think about this outfit?

PEACEFUL WIFE VIDEOS

The Joy of Modesty

Where to Find Beautiful, Modest Clothes

POSTS

My Journey into Femininity and Modesty

My Journey into Modesty by A Fellow Wife

Modest Swimwear Ideas

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What are some of your favorite ways to dress modestly?

Where are some affordable sources of modest clothing you have discovered?

What are some of your favorite stores and websites for modest clothing?

 

 

29 thoughts on “How Do I Dress Modestly?

  1. Thanks for this post, it’s fantastic. One thing I’ve learnt from Thai women over the last 10 years I’ve been living here is – when bending forward, they ensure that one hand is holding their blouse to the chest so they aren’t exposed by a gaping blouse. This is something too many women don’t even think of doing, which is sad.

  2. I LOOOOVE This article!! I appreciate your careful thoughts and gathering of verses! For using your gift of writing and collecting thoughts to help give voice for others who aren’t as able to articulate what we/they want to say!!

    I have many thoughts on this subject, gathered from 2 decades of being a mom of daughters AND sons, aunt, and teacher of church youth, being a woman, and being a wife of a man who greatly desires to have godly thoughts about all people around him. I feel for all of us! I have so many thoughts and I want so much for them to be understood and taken the right way. That is probably why I haven’t dared take on this subject in such a public forum before and am so glad you had the courage. 🙂 It is an important subject we need to be more clear about!

    – I BELIEVE God loves his daughters and has special feelings for us. I believe he made us naturally beautiful and softer than men generally to beautify and uplift and soften the earth.
    – Modesty is not about hiding our beauty but about allowing a celebration of ALL the aspects of our beauty, including our minds, our eyes, our voices, our words, our hands that serve.
    – It is about blessing our homes, being that special person for our husbands to celebrate being home with.
    – Being modest also isn’t a way of stepping back into the shadows, but as you said, to not need to be the center of attention.

    My husband has sometimes said “I know women want the right to wear what they want and not be criticized, judged, or considered objects, but if men came to work in fabric that only covered a certain amount of their legs,(like shorts as long as some skirts) and plunging necklines, we would be distracting too! And wouldn’t be considered professional.” Then he said with a mischievous grin, “I’m going to try that sometime!” I think it helps to see it through that perspective. There are some good reasons for some of our professional norms. They aren’t all trying to be against women, and indeed, the opposite–to consider them as more part of the equal circle.

    My daughter was in a grocery store line recently and pointed out a magazine cover; it was a modestly dressed woman! And she looked beautiful! The attention went to her sparkly, intelligent and kind-looking eyes. Several of my daughters have been in speech, tennis, dance competitions, gone to proms etc…, where what they wore mattered a lot, and where there was plenty of temptation to be immodest. We have talked about the right places for which clothing.

    I’ve talked to my boys about not judging girls who aren’t wearing modest clothes, but recognizing those who are, because it takes a lot of work to be modest with our current choices at the stores! They see see how much effort and self-respect their sisters put into it! And they are grateful.

    We’ve found beautiful clothes in less expensive stores like Ross or thrift stores and learned sewing techniques to modify them. It isnt’ always easy but it feels like a chance to honor ourselves as very special creations of God.

    1. Excellent thoughts. I love the comparison with men and may use that. I was raised in the south and am modest especially compared to my husband and his family raised in California. They are used to swimming, beaches and as a result, less coverage.
      I’ve traveled a lot in ministry and seen extreme differences in people’s version of modesty often influenced by the culture and climate they live in. So I try not to be judgmental but I still want my girls and my boy covered. I am also going to use your advise on focusing more on ladies who are modest and dressed nice.
      Great advise. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you for this blessing dear April. I went on this journey several years ago and found it to be glorious and freeing after a lifetime of seeing myself through male eyes. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one going into the water fully clothed in my surf top and boarders! Although I wouldn’t have it any other way. Much love to you!

    1. Hope,

      If I could have found this kind of swimwear when I was young, I would have worn it! You are right, it is very freeing not to have to wear a tiny bathing suit and to feel fully clothed, even when swimming.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      <3

    2. I hated swimming largely because I was uncomfortable, even in what most considered modest swimwear. This last summer my family went to a homeschool swim party where modesty was encouraged. As we were preparing and shopping, I made a great discovery! Some gym and workout cloths are made from the same water repellant fabric swim suits and they are even kind of cute. I purchased those for me and my girls. It was affordable, we were covered, and I really enjoyed the water park.

  4. I love this and wholeheartedly agree. I did a complete turnaround in my wardrobe many years back after being convicted about what I was deliberately portraying of myself to EVERYONE around me. I have a background as a cosmetologist and spent many years “beautifying” women with hair and makeup. Needless to say, I no longer work in that field because I felt that it glorifies self instead of God. I am also a mother and example of two girls who watch my every move.

    This is so important. Beauty in its true sense is not measured on the outside.
    Let our dress be a reflection of our hearts in unabashed obedience to God.

    I did try to wear long skirts exclusively for a while and failed miserably. Everyone around me noticed the change but I received A LOT of negative comments. It’s sad to feel persecuted for wearing skirts. I felt a little conflicted because I felt uncomfortable in a skirt as well. (They were all knee length and longer)
    Anyway, I do feel sort of drawn to trying it again. I’m definitely not one to back down to unfair criticism especially when I know that what I do, I do for the Lord and no one else.

    Thank you again for tackling this very important subject.

    1. Cara,

      Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I love that you decided to leave something that you felt was not glorifying to God and that you want to be a good example to your girls.

      I changed over to skirts when I started a new job – which helped a lot. Those people didn’t know I always wore pants and jeans before that.

      I’m SO sad to hear that you received so many negative comments – and that you felt uncomfortable in skirts. Poor girl! That breaks my heart! Do you want to talk about what happened a bit?

      Much love to you!

      1. Hi April,

        Thank you for the encouragement!

        Yes, I would be glad to explain the negative comments I received a little more.
        I did it cold turkey so to speak. Literally, it was bad timing as well with the weather going into fall. Lol! I just completely overhauled my pants in lieu of skirts that I found at goodwill. I had a whole bunch from denim to wool. I decided that it would be better to wear leggings under them to keep warm too. So, needless to say I think I felt really confined in a skirt. I had trouble pairing my skirts with tops that didn’t make me look frumpy and then finding a pair of shoes for my big and narrow feet to wear with skirts became overwhelming for me. Lol! In hindsight, I think I should have started this whole thing in the summer so I could wear flip flops and no leggings underneath!

        So, that whole mess with the comments from family members like, “What’s with the skirts? Are you a missionary now?”
        And “are you going to wear those everyday?” I was also questioned by my brother about why I don’t wear makeup anymore and how I look like I don’t care about myself…It all became a bit daunting. I didn’t decide to wear skirts so I could look holier than though and that seems to be the impression that it gave people. I found that I had to explain myself a lot. That is really sad actually!
        Thanks for letting me share.

        1. Cara,

          I love making dramatic changes all at once. Some people prefer to make changes more slowly. But it is interesting that you got so many negative comments from your family. I guess my family was pretty tolerant! The main comments I got were, “I like your skirt!” I did have one tech at work a few years later ask me why I only wore skirts. She was one of the only people who every said anything about it other than a compliment.

          I love flip flops and long skirts in the summer. And boots with skirts a bit past my knees in the winter. 🙂

          I think your family probably loves you and was concerned about you – maybe wanted to be sure you were okay. If you want to talk about possible responses to negative comments, we can definitely think about some together.

          I really like skirts with elastic waists. They are SO much more forgiving than jeans or pants.

          So thankful you are free from so many chains. I love that!

          Much love,
          April

        2. So very sorry to read the feedback you got when wearing skirts, but glad you’re here with April! <3 You know, no one made a fuss over a gal who wore skirts everyday at the office I used to know. She was a larger lady, and it was almost as if people figured she wore them because she was larger. :/ I get comments every once in a while… "One of these days you're going to come in here wearing pants", stuff like that. I have a few replies I like to use. 🙂 One is just a silent smile. Another is, "Ladies have options as we age. Some show more skin, others play the feminine lady card." (and I let them decide which one I am) Another favorite is a heavy pause, then making a cautious attempt to 'explain because it's complicated', then smiling playfully saying at a whisper level, "Because I like skirts." 😉

          1. Anonymous,

            I have had a guy say, “I want to see you wear pants.” One of my patients, actually. A patient who loves to ogle the other women who work with me. I simply say, “I only wear skirts.” Or “I like skirts.”

            Now, if it is someone who truly seems interested in why I wear skirts, I may tell them, briefly, only if they ask, about modesty and femininity. But for the most part, I have found a simple, “I like skirts” to be adequate along with a smile.

            Thank you so much for sharing these helpful suggestions with Cara and for reaching out to her.

            Much love!

  5. I also want to add that the past 10 years for me have been a time of really accepting myself as far as body image is concerned.

    It’s been a process of letting go very slowly and one step at a time. I’ve let go of fashion standards, I’ve let go of trying to cover grey hair and just accept it as a crown of glory, I’ve let go of hiding behind makeup so that I can show the face that God gave me, I’ve let go of trying to maintain a certain weight (which has been the hardest one so far) but instead to focus on being beautiful on the inside as God sees fit. Now maybe wearing skirts is a better option for me since it is more forgiving in the waist and thigh areas than jeans are! Lol! I still have such a long way to go but many chains that held me prisoner to myself are long gone! Praise Jesus for that freedom!

  6. Thank you for sharing this, April! I love your distinction between personal convictions about specific standards of modesty and looking at the principles of modesty as shown in God’s Word. I began experimenting with wearing primarily skirts a couple of years ago, and have found them SO comfortable and feminine! I DON’T think it is sinful to wear pants (honestly, both pants and skirts can be either modest or immodest depending on the cut and style), but have enjoyed exploring how to wear skirts in non-frumpy and stylish ways! I have found Lands End to be a wonderful source for modest and comfortable swimwear!

    1. Kristi Bothur,

      Hey, sweet friend! I’m glad you liked the post.

      Yes, there are some pants that are quite modest. And some skirts that are not modest.

      We appreciate the recommendation for Lands End. I didn’t realize they had modest swimwear.

      Much love! <3

    2. I grew up wearing modest skirts, at the time and with my lifestyle it made sense. Now my life has dramatically changed. I now live on a small family farm and I love it. My LA California husband seems often amused by his redneck country wife. (What a pair we are.) Anyway I recently discovered a need to simplify my wardrobe in order to spend more time and thought on what I felt God had called me to do rather than what to wear. Now I basically live in jeans boots and comfy casual shirts. Often I wear a pretty apron over it all. Here at home. I am free to do what is needed around my home as needed and I still manage to look like a nice modest girl. I guess I’m a little pioneer style. When I go to church or someplace nice I dress accordingly, but I have loved the freedom of not being slave to my clothes.

  7. Ladies, I just wanted to share an awesome nugget of advice that I read.
    When going through your wardrobe each day to decide what you are going to put on, keep this thought in your head…

    “if I was standing next to Jesus, would I feel comfortable with what I am wearing?”

    Wow! I think this is so very useful for this particular subject. When I imagine Jesus standing next to me, that totally changes the way I see myself and also how I want others to see me. I want to be a reflection of Jesus’ glory but do not want the glory myself. I don’t want that attention!

    I hope this is useful to others like it is to me. 🙂

  8. I was raised in an anabaptist church where there is a dress “uniform” for women, cape dresses, “cap” head covering at all times in public. (We’re still in it) as a child it was skirts/dresses below the knee.

    My parents even made me swim fully clothed several times as a teenager (if boys were around), which didn’t last long b/c seriously?? In a jean skirt in a river, you’re lucky not to drown! 😂 my husband and I are questioning staying here, partly due to the huge burden on women to be bound to dressing plain. When you’re not even allowed to choose what you wear, (we do to an extent – fabrics, shirts, and sweaters over dresses) it’s hard to even have convictions on it.

    It reminds me of James, saying that works are the proving of our faith, but when the works are “enforced” there is no faith behind it driving the work, so it’s really useless I personally don’t find a problem with pants worn right, but even if we left this current church, we’d have so much pressure from family. If I stepped out wearing pants they would honestly question my salvation. (Same goes for the head covering. The Bible says it’s for prayer, which I think is a lovely symbol, but we’ve turned it into more of an object to make us look “not of the world” or “not like the ‘worldly’ churches”).

    Not sure what this adds to the discussion, but wanted to throw my different perspective out there. We all come to modesty from different backgrounds. I find ours particularly challenging. 😊

    1. ByGrace,

      I’m really thankful for your voice in this discussion. It is DEFINITELY possible to take almost any principle or command of Scripture too far one way or too far the other way. Both licentiousness and legalism are toxic.

      It’s much easier for leaders to make a lot of rules than to trust people to follow God’s Word themselves through the power of the Spirit. We are all, in every denomination, tempted toward legalism and manmade rules. But that quickly can become oppressive and can squeeze the spiritual life out of people.

      I pray that the Lord might give you and your husband wisdom. I’m thankful that our dress doesn’t determine our salvation. I’m thankful that we don’t have to follow a bunch of rules to earn salvation. But that Jesus died to provide the salvation we need and the power of the Holy Spirit for us to live in obedience out of peace and joy – rather than legalism.

      That would be a challenging background. It is so easy to swing too far one way or too far the other way. But I am thankful that in Christ, we can live in His glorious freedom and light and we don’t have to stay imprisoned to the opinions and rules imposed by people. How precious to know that ultimately, pleasing God is all that truly matters. We can seek to bless others. We can seek to honor our parents. But we are not slaves to people or to man’s rules. We are bound only to righteousness and to the love and grace of Christ.

      Much love to you!

  9. I grew up in a strict evangelical environment. My mother strictly opposed women wearing pants so I grew up as a skirts/dresses only person. After she passed away, I married and joined a more mainstream church which my husband attended but still wore skirts only. Most of the women at my office regularly wore pants to work and often wondered why I only wore skirts. During a cold spell of weather, I discussed the matter with the minister and some other church ladies who were all of the opinion that if I wanted to wear pants there was no overpowering reason to prevent me from doing so. I prayed about it and my husband said he had no problem with me wearing pants.

    A few days later I plucked up the courage to try on some black dress pants in a store. They felt a little strange but comfortable and it looked really odd to see a reflection of me in pants for the first time ever in the mirror – at the age of 35! I bought them and wore them around the house for a while until I got used to them. When I first wore them to the office I received a few comments at first like “Wow! Rebecca’s wearing pants!” but after the first few days it became the norm.

    I try to wear pants modestly with a long shirt or tunic to cover my rear when in public and I avoid slim fit styles. I hope that my story will give some comfort and encouragement to some skirts only women who are considering wearing pants occasionally.

    1. Rebecca Young,

      I appreciate you sharing your story so much. 🙂 Thank you for talking about your background and about how you sought wise advice from godly people you trusted, and from your husband. That is awesome!

      Much love to you!

  10. April-
    Thank you so much for your prayers. That means a lot to me. Your words are always so positive and motivated by love. ❤️ We don’t know of any other prospective churches that really line up with our thinking, and we don’t want to spend time jumping between churches while our children are young, but it’s also hard to imagine having to impose lots of man made laws on our children when theyr’e (hopefully) “baby Christians” in their teen years. The other big thing is that the clothes rules are a huge hindrance to any potential converts. We don’t see how that can be changed without loosening the extra-biblical rules.
    Thank you for what you do encouraging sisters in Christ! Love and Blessings to you.

    1. ByGrace,

      It is so hard to find a healthy church that finds that tightrope of balance – through the Holy Spirit – that doesn’t veer too much into legalism or licentiousness. But that is united by God’s love and His heart for people.

      I pray for the Lord to lead you, your husband, and your family to a place where you can all thrive spiritually and grow like crazy in Jesus for His glory!

Thanks for joining the discussion! Let's keep it classy and respectful. I'm so glad we can walk this road together.

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