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Modesty: How that impacts our lives

24 November, 2011

So, following on from yesterday when I discussed modesty and that at the very core of modesty is not drawing attention to oneself, I want to talk about how that impacts our lives.

Well, mostly I want to talk about how that impacts the way we dress, since that’s what most people associate with modesty.

People who know me in real life may have noticed that I generally only wear skirts or dresses.  On the whole they are below knee length, and have sleeves (there have been a few dresses and skirts that have not fitted these guidelines, mostly unintentionally). We also dress our daughters in the same way.

Part of the “have sleeves” aspect is a practical one.  We live in Australia where the sun is very hot in the summer especially and you can get sunburnt, even on a winter’s day.  Wearing clothing with sleeves is partly a practical thing, of protecting ourselves from the sun.  We also feel that it is more modest, and this applies to male and female.

The knee length aspect is also fairly practical.  Any shorter than this and it is difficult for adults and children alike to not be flashing their underwear while going about our daily tasks.  Someone working in an office may find higher hemlines are suitable for their work, but as a SAHM, sitting on the floor playing with children and whatnot, I can’t manage to be modest in anything shorter.

This covers our day to day clothing, but there are some exceptions to that.

For swimwear, we all wear boardies (board shorts) and a “rashie” – a tshirt made of UV blockout fabric, designed for swimming.  This is functional – it protects us from the sun.  It is also modest, in two senses of the word.  We are covering up body parts that would be inappropriate to show in any other public context.  People don’t go to church with their decolletage half hanging out the side of a bikini top, and so we don’t go swimming like that either.  We cover up those things that are improper to flaunt (as I am badly paraphrasing 1 Cor 12).

However, there is another aspect to why we wear the swimming gear that we wear.

I have seen modest swimming dresses that many conservative families wear.  Some of them are quite nice.  However, I have come to the conclusion that wearing those to the beach or the pool only draws attention to ourselves (albeit for different reasons).  The purpose of modesty is to not be drawing attention to ourselves.  Our desire is not to stand out because we are radically different.  It draws a different type of attention, but it is still attention.

While we are usually the most covered-up family at the pool or on the beach (or at least in the same league as others) we don’t stand out in a way that a swimming dress may cause us to.  We are attired in clothing generally considered acceptable for swimming.  We just wear the most modest version of it.

Modesty really is a cultural construct.  What is considered modest in our time and place is very different to what was considered modest in Bible times and lands, and very different to what was considered modest in Victorian England and very different to what was considered modest in the tribes of Papua New Guinea.

The Bible doesn’t command us to wear what people wore in Bible times (and women often wore pants in the Middle East in Bible times, while men wore flowing “dresses”).  The Bible commands us to be modest.

The other time I wear clothing that I wouldn’t wear for every day use is when exercising.  It would be less modest to exercise in my daily attire (ever tried doing stomach crunches in a dress?) than it would to pull on some pants and a shirt.  Sometimes I wear a dress to my exercise classes, but I wear bike pants underneath and the dress doesn’t get in the way of my movement in that class, but for that to be true it needs to be a little shorter than what I would generally wear in day to day life.

I could turn up to my class in a long skirt and long sleeved shirt.  It would be virtually impossible to complete the class, however, in a long skirt.  And awfully hot in a long sleeved shirt – we really do work up a sweat!  However, my clothing choices would generally be considered modest for gym-attire, in my time and place.

My class generally only includes women (it’s not a women only class though, occasionally one or two men are present) and so as long as I am not drawing attention to my body intentionally, then we believe that my attire is appropriate for the situation.

There are other aspects of modesty, which I don’t have time to get into now, but ultimately it is a heart issue, that flows out into our behaviour and our choices.

One Comment leave one →
  1. FatherOf4 permalink
    24 November, 2011 4:22 pm

    I mostly agree. I’m confused about your comments regarding not dressing for attention. Perhaps, you’ll agree that dressing (or not dressing) for attention is acceptable when one is pointing to the Cross (As Isaiah did for 3 years or a bride on her wedding day.) I have a harder time providing a blanket statement for other social injustices* and issues. (There is a Wikipedia entry on Nudity and Protest as well, which was not linked due to some of the pictures associated with the page)

    *displays a woman with the breasts obscured by pixelization

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