What is modesty anyway?


Reading through the threads that are on the subject of modesty, I find myself asking what modesty is anyway? How does one decide if a certain outfit is modest or not?

Is it just based on cutural norms?

Is it only based on how the opposite sex responds to the clothing? This can’t be right because humans are excited by such a wide variety of outfits and everyone, male and female alike, would have to wear a burqua to protect their fellow Christians from lust. Yet, the opposite sex must play a part because Britney Spears school girl outfit is immodest because of the effect it has on males.

Is it based on what we feel is modest?

Does it take a certain amount of skin showing to make an outfit immodest?

The bible does tell us to be modest so this is important in a Christian’s life, still the bible doesn’t exactly go into details as what modesty is.:confused:


It would have to be based at least partly on cultural norms – did you get to see those TV shows about the Bunlap people of Vanuatu? Normal, everyday attire there is a short grass skirt (and nothing else) for women, and just a penis sheath for men. The same attire would be quite shocking in this country.


1.having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions. 2.free from ostentation or showy extravagance: *a modest house. *3.having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: *a modest neckline on a dress. *
There is more to modesty than clothes.
Modesty should involve the way we communicate as well.

Sisters in grade school had simple rules…skirts must touch the floor when kneeling
necklines no more than two fingers below the nape of the neck
no sheer material…no undergarments revealed underneath
slacks must not hug the derriere nor must any inappropriate parts of the anatomy be revealed
no sleeveless anything
shorts had to be no less than a hand width above the knee…
Am I the only antique out here?:o


I don’t know if I saw the same documentary that you did but I know I have seen the same tribe portrayed in other documentaries. I remember the penis sheath.:stuck_out_tongue:

What about here in America? I was flipping through the channels and due to the phone ringing had to stop at MTV. When I came back the speaker was discussing how innocent Britney Spears appeared in her school girl outfit. Um…in my eyes that certainly was not modest but perhaps by today’s standards it is.:frowning:


See, those seem like good basic rules to me. I must be old also.:o


I think modesty isnt so much about how you dress but how you act - I wear fashionable clothes - I am 20 years old in a serious relationship and a practicing catholic but I will wear whatever looks good and feels comfortable I don’t where belts as opposed to skirts but I do own several wonderbras and cleavage bearing tops - I follow one rule which s more a rule of vogue never show both tt and are (sorry for the terminology its a very british saying") so if I am wearing a skirt a few cms above the new my top will comfortably cover everything if im wearing a top which shows of my breasts I will wear pants or a floor length skirt its sensible. I think in todays world modesty is important so as to avoid the problem of being accostered by leacherous men in clubs (we can go to bars etc from 18 over here although many start going from 16!) I do not think a women should be accused of enticing men merely because she dresses in a way percieved as provocative that is the mans sin not the womans. In the western world we are very lucky as women to have a free right to dress however we choose and I feel modesty is in the way you act not the way you dress if i want to wear a LBD i will BUT i will act modestly I will not draw attention to myself and my attire will always suit the event I am attending!:wink:


No. I don’t automatically find anything that doesn’t fall within some of those limits to be immodest, but they are good principles and safe ones, I believe. The rest depends on the climate, particular conditions and circumstances and the girl maybe, or the audience. What I’m absolute about is no underwear showing and no certain parts of the anatomy, no certain kind of hugging. (Basically this is where I stop replying specifically to the quote. ;))

But modesty isn’t so much in the externals as it is in the internals. Actual clothes are perhaps even accidental to the virtue of modesty, which is within the spirit. I’m not sure about the limits of showing off the body, but whatever is counted not on being pretty but on being sexy is dangerous and whatever is outright counted on giving men problems is even more dangerous. The problem of the looker’s own responsibility is not the problem here: the problem is the intent of the wearer’s. The wearer’s intents cannot be justified by the looker’s perversions. Since there is no actual benefit in what I consider dangerous, unless it’s temperature for example, the potential harm is to be given consideration. Basically, if I had no good reason to wear something which I knew girls could be brought to sin by, I wouldn’t wear it if I could avoid it. It’s probably different with girls, but in case of some garments girls insist on having the right to wear without any moral qualms, I do fail to see the benefit, the just cause, whatever. Just for the recond, I’m not the Centimetre Nazi, I just don’t like the whole sexy thing. It’s demeaning to women and men alike. Sexy stuff turns the wearer into a sex object, which is demeaning, and looks at the looker from the perspective of his sexuality, reducing him or her a lot.


See, this is where it gets confusing.:confused:

If we go by cultural norms alone then you are dressing in a way that is not much different then youth your age. Doing as you say you do and not showing both clevage and too much leg at the same time, but only one of the other, might even be considered modest by today’s standards.


I agree with this statement up to a point. But your inner modesty does have an effect on what you choose to wear.

Besides, I’m pretty certain that Paul does speak about the fact that we are to be modest in dress also. (can’t remember the exact verse)So, the attire one chooses is a factor in Christian life and something that we all have to consider.


Once, I heard a woman give a speech on chastity while wearing jeans so tight that she must have jumped out of a six story building to slide into them:bounce::banghead:


I think occasion plays a big part too. In the summer, when I am just at home, I wear shorts and sleeveless tops to keep cool. When I go to mass in the summer, I wear a shirt with short sleeves and a skirt that goes at least to my knees. Out in public I wear long shorts or capris and a short sleeve shirt. It depends on the potential audience as much as the clothes themselves. But in public, I never wear anything too revealing, although I do think pants are perfectly appropriate, as long as they aren’t too tight.


I find I have a sort of internal radar that lets me know when something I’m wearing is immodest. If I feel like I want to keep pulling it up at the neckline, or adjusting it because it feels too tight, etc, I figure it’s probably not modest, or borderline… Modesty has to be both an internal and external thing. They go hand in hand, you can’t really have one without the other. I dress modestly for two reasons: 1, to help out guys who are trying to be clean-minded and fight lust; 2. to not give guys who don’t care or don’t know that lust is wrong an excuse to use my body to further their mental images/fantasies/desires/whatever. My boyfriend is the first type, and he gave me a good idea of what will attract a guy’s gaze. He said it’s a bit of an unconscious thing; guys are just built to want to look, but what they are drawn to look at probably shouldn’t been seen until the wedding night… It would be a cultural thing, too, because he also said you tend to get desensitized to it. But I wonder what we might see if we could see inside the minds of the guys who’s ladies only wear grass skirts? 0.o


I’m 22, and for me the concept of modesty has changed A LOT in the last couple of years. As I grew in my faith, and desired to have a chaste relationship with my boyfriend (now my husband) I started to realize that I needed to change the way I was dressing. ESP. for my DH’s sake…how could I ask him to be chaste with me while wearing a really low-cut shirt, or a really short skirt?? Not fair. Plus, I started to realize that I still LOOKED like my peers, and thus I was still treated the same as other girls…I was on Spring Break in Florida and pretty miffed that guys kept making passes at me, and not treating me respectfully…for days I was so mad, thinking, “Can’t they tell?? *I *am a Catholic, I am chaste…etc.” Then, toward the end of the trip, I looked around and realized…“Oh. OF COURSE they can’t tell. I’m sitting out here in a bikini, so basically, my underware, just like everybody else. Leaving no mystery, nothing to the imagination.” That was a big revelation moment for me :slight_smile:

Modesty is certainly an inward disposition, but I believe that it reflects itself in how we dress and behave. I won’t wear anything that shows my stomach, nor will I wear strapless things, spaghetti straps, low-cut blouses, or skirts shorter than knee length. The way I see it, I’m not ashamed of my figure, I’m veiling the best parts because only my husband (or previously, my future husband) has the privilege of seeing them. As a side note, I enjoy being respected and treated like a lady by men much more than I ever enjoyed getting “checked out” by them in my pre-modesty days…I feel like I am seen for more than just my body.

I DO think modesty in dress is dictated to a certain extent by culture, and by circumstance (ie I wouldn’t wear a really short skirt, but I’ll wear a one-piece bathing suit to the pool/beach…it’s appropriate there). I’ve actually often thought that those tribes who wear the least amount of clothing are closer to how Adam and Eve must have been before the fall, “naked and unashamed” before one another. Clearly in those cultures, the sight of a woman’s breast does not incite lust, because they’re not surrounded by over-sexualized images constantly like we are.


I definitely think it is a cultural norm…and in our culture in the US, there are certain guidelines that I’ve been told that I find help a lot. My friend introduced me to the four Bs - butt, breasts, back, and belly - should all be covered when dressing. So, that helped me a lot…plus you don’t have to pull and tug so much when you have clothing that fits appropriately (aka. not like a second skin). I’m in my early 20’s and so I do like to dress stylishly. However, I think it’s not just the clothing itself, but the manner you act in them. A girl could be wearing a beautiful, modest dress, but if she sits with her legs wide open or decides to do cartwheels while in it, she isn’t going to leave much to the imagination. Like a previous poster mentioned, wearing a one piece bathing suit is modest at the beach or the pool, but one wouldn’t normally wear it to the mall or definitely not to church!

I have been more aware of the types of people I’m surrounded by too…if I am hanging out with just my girlfriends or my husband, I have no problem wearing a tank top and shorts, but if I’m out in public, esp. around men, I would never wear that. I don’t want to be responsible for leading them to sin. True, some men will anyway, but my intention is to do the opposite, so I am not at fault then :).


But of course! I fully agree with that. Modesty does not allow the wearing of clothes considered immodest in a given culture. I wouldn’t be absolute about what or how much of it it shows, but whatever’s aimed at inciting lust is immodest to wear and things which are risky are more culturally dependent. I think a better question than, “is this modest?” would be, “would a modest person have any good reason to wear this?”


Modesty is also to help women avoid leading men into sin (which is a sin). Modesty also helps women avoid attracting the kind of attention they don’t want. It helps women avoid certain kinds of pride, as well.

Additionally, modesty also works for men and whatever they wear, as it’s not like women are immune to visual temptations.


The distinction has to made, however between tempting men and the man actually sinning. If he does sin, and was tempted because what a woman was wearing, that woman has a part in it, but if a man sins that sin is always his responsibility! A man should be able to have a woman dance in front of him naked and not lust after her. Lust is that terrible! I don’t advise any guy to try it… but lust is soooo bad. Christopher West’s talk, Woman: God’s Masterpiece touches on this. I highly recommend this recording to all ladies!!! and men, too. ^^


I think modesty is mostly culturally based…

But I think this notion of “leading men to sin” should also take into account the woman’s intention, all with reference to the cultural norms of society.

If a woman is simply intending to dress stylishly, and men have an inordinate problem with viewing that “cultural norm of society” as “immodest”… then the woman isn’t necessarily to blame… unless her intent is to turn on men…

We can’t judge simply based on what we see…


Thank you all for your answers.

I agree with you pumpkinbeast. We are all responsible for our own sins. If a woman dances nude in front of a man with the intent to entice the man to lust then she is sinning also but that doesn’t make the man less responsible for the sin of lust. They are both equally guilty.


This is why we are told not to judge. We just don’t have the ability to see into one another’s soul. We can only judge ourselves and try to control our own actions.

So, even if I decided that a burqua was necessary for me to be modest(don’t worry I won’t:p ) I can’t look at another Christian woman and judge her for not wearing a burqua. And on that note the non burqua wearing woman can’t judge me either.

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