Justice Potter Stewart said, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” In the same way, I can’t define immodesty, but I know it when I see it. That’s because there is no set standard of modesty. Technically, it’s possible for men or women to dress immodestly, but let’s just admit that modesty is a woman’s issue. As a male pastor, talking to a woman about immodesty ranks up there with getting a root canal on the “things I don’t want to do” list, but here we go! Scripture says that women should dress themselves modestly with decency and propriety (1 Tim 2:9).
I’ve spent a good deal of time looking, and there’s not a lot written defining modesty for a woman of God. Of the few articles I have found, many of them are opinionated and offer strict standards for ladies to follow. The tips were practically oriented and gave instructions how to tell if your shirt is too tight and if your skirt is too short.
The problem is that there really can’t be one set standard for modesty. Women have to individually assess themselves and make judgment calls about what they should or shouldn’t wear. I strongly recommend for ladies to find a trusted female mentor who can offer honest feedback. That being said, I believe the three main factors of determining modesty are: age, body shape, and ….personality.
Your age plays a factor. It’s pretty safe to say that, as a lady ages, her modesty standards should become a little more conservative. An immodestly dressed teenager looks like she needs a dad, whereas an immodestly dressed older woman looks desperate and sad. The more you age, the more you should err on the side of caution.
One size does NOT fit all! Let’s just say that the more “assets” you have, the more you need to cover up. Two gals of different body shapes could try on the same piece of clothing in their respective sizes. One may look modest, while the other looks scandalous. Dress for your shape!
Ladies, those of you with outgoing and friendly personalities will eventually be accused of flirting. If this is you, I’m not saying that you are flirting, but that guys are notoriously bad at reading signals from women. Some guys believe that any woman who offers a smile wants to be asked out on a date. An outgoing personality should consider a slightly more conservative standard. You already hate it when a guy gets the “wrong idea.” You definitely don’t want to give him a reason to get a worse idea.
::This is a culture issue::
Like it or not, the standards of modesty are heavily influenced by the culture. Styles change, and cuts change, but the female body does not change. At one point, women wouldn’t wear pants. At another time, bikinis were scandalous. Today, almost anything goes. This is where it gets sticky for ladies and for the parents of young girls. Tomorrow I’ll offer some tips for making the tough calls!