June 4, 2014

Let's Discuss // Is Modesty Still Relevant?

Don’t worry, this is not another rant about Rihanna’s recent look for the CFDA Awards – although it did inspire this post. I’ve read so many opinions on social media written by people who either loved Rihanna’s dress of choice for her risqué approach to expressing herself through fashion – perhaps the very reason why she received a Fashion Icon award – or people who hated it due to her seemingly rude and blatant disregard for social norms and views on modesty. Whether said views are conservative or liberal, she smashed both as she showed 99% of it all making sure that there was no confusion about what she was going for. And, by the way, she wasn't the first. (Check past looks worn by Cher, Barbra Streisand and countless others.)

Although I have my own personal convictions about style and public decency, I hold firm to the belief that those convictions are indeed that – personal. So, I do my best not to pin them on others, especially ‘others’ like Rihanna who could care less anyway. Now, if someone puts up a front that leads people to believe they subscribe to a certain standard and then deviates from that standard for a different audience or occasion, they are not being true to themselves or accepting responsibility for being deceptive and fickle, thus asking for judgment. I’m just saying.

With that long intro out of the way, let’s discuss the meat of the matter: Is modesty still relevant? I am quite aware of the audience this blog reaches, and while many of you have responded with a resounding “YES,” most of you aren’t really sure anymore. Further to the point, most of you in the “unsure group” will ask the probing question, “Well… It depends. How are we defining ‘modesty’?” Good question.

What is modesty? Is modesty subjective? Is it a personal decision? I hate to disappoint, but I don’t plan on answering any of those questions here. Quite frankly, I don’t have the answers. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t think the questions are important. I do support obedience to God, your church assembly’s leadership (if you attend church), and your personal convictions – in that order – because, well, it’s Bible. Why obey the Bible? Now, that’s a question I can answer, but I won’t get into it here. Feel free to email me.

I digress.

Assuming we all value what the Bible has to say, in 1 Timothy 2:9, the apostle Paul wrote that Christians should “dress modestly, with decency and propriety.” Based on that scripture alone, we can end the discussion here with the unanimous conclusion that, yes, modesty is and always will be relevant. If only it were that simple in today’s world.

For the sake of this discussion, while we cannot universally define modesty, let’s associate some key elements to the concept and broaden it beyond merely the way we dress:
  • Modesty applies to both men and women.
  • Modesty implies a reserve about how one carries themselves, including and beyond outward appearance.
  • Modesty requires a humility that willingly owns the fact that our actions and choices do affect others whether we like it or not.

It is quite obvious that fashions, culture, and traditions are changing at a pace more rapid than ever, and all that we are seeing around us make us question our core beliefs, whether those beliefs are social or religious (and sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the two). Knowing this is the first step towards understanding the pertinent revelation in all of this: It’s not the questioning of the beliefs that we must dwell on, but rather why we are questioning them. Before we’re quick to bash or praise Rihanna and people who represent her trend of ideals, we must individually ask ourselves, “What is in my heart?”

Fashions come and go. Skirt hems go up and down. Clothing gets tighter in some seasons and baggy in others. Whatever the current fashion rave, my only suggestion to those of you who are skeptical about the relevancy of modesty would be to think about how powerful it can be by the positive impact it has on those we encounter and hopefully impact if we subscribe to it; consider the power of modesty, decency and propriety – a power that far transcends the power of the alternative. Think about it: Rihanna undoubtedly made history with her recent red carpet appearance, but that’s just what it is – history. The fashion world is just about done talking about it, and it happened less than two days ago.

If my opinion holds any weight, I personally think you can be as fashionable as you want, as long as your heart is clean and clear, your motives are positive and of substance (i.e. bigger than yourself, unselfish), and you don’t receive constant complaints from those you love and trust. This requires a careful reflection of what’s in the heart and at least some level of modesty, thus making it ever-relevant.



  1. I definitely think modesty is relevant. In fact, I think it is becoming more relevant and important as the world continues to change and go in the opposite direction at such a fast pace. The definition of modesty varies for everyone, and that's okay - I think what is most important is that you really seek to KNOW God and what He is asking of you. The deeper your relationship with Him, the more in tune you will be to what He is calling you to do, and the more convicted you will feel to do it. Personally, I have felt more convicted to dress modestly over the past several years as I see the world around me practically forgetting about any standard of modesty that society once had. In several years I think in the US it will start to become socially acceptable to even be nude or at least partially nude in certain settings (ex. the beach). Christians are called to be holy (separate from the world) and peculiar - yes we may look weird, feel weird or uncomfortable, but that is part of the Christian walk. Jesus lived his life being scorned and reproached, if all I get is an occasional weird look I would barely call that suffering. Another point that I always make about modesty is that it is a way to shine our light for Christ without having to say or do anything. Certainly you should always act Christ-like, but when people see you out in public dressed modestly (I always wear a skirt or dress), they automatically know that you are most likely "religious" and a Christian. Many people will barely notice or take a second look, but there are several out there who will come to you because your modest dress is like a lighthouse shining out to the lost in the world. Will it save everyone? No. But even if it saves just one person, it's worth it. And I am not saying that modest dress saves a person, rather that a person may never have approached and asked you a question about Christianity if you hadn't been wearing something to help identify you as a Christian. As the world gets worse and worse, more and more people will be looking for the truth and modest dress is one way that can help in their search by easily being able to identify a modest Christian. I view modest dress as a banner that we are waving for Christ without spot or wrinkle (which means you must have modesty within as well). I think modesty often starts within, and the desire to serve God and follow Him manifests eventually to your outward appearance.

    Those are just some thoughts, sorry if they were a little scattered - but my mind was swirling with things to say and it was hard to organize it all!

    For more, check out my blog, The Modest Blog, at http://mymodestblog.blogspot.com
    I'm pretty new to the blogging world, with only 4 posts, but hoping to continue to grow.

    1. Wow... Very well said! Thanks for sharing!

      Some very great points have been exchanged on my Instagram as well. Check it out when you get a chance (@typhaniestewart). I'll be sure to check out your blog as well!

    2. " I view modest dress as a banner that we are waving for Christ without spot or wrinkle (which means you must have modesty within as well). I think modesty often starts within, and the desire to serve God and follow Him manifests eventually to your outward appearance. " ----> Very well said!

  2. A different kind of post; I like! I had to give it some thought before responding; and I'm going to respond as a Christian to fellow Christians. You hit on many key points. Primarily, you pointed out that amidst the debate on modesty (or any other moral/cultural/religious/ethical discussion), we as Christians must ask ourselves what is in our heart and WHY we question this or that other norm or belief, before we jump on any bandwagon. Here are my additional thoughts, and some practical advice I've gathered and hopefully will help someone else:

    - Modesty is still relevant to our Christian walk, because God says it is and it matters to Him. You've given a good scripture to exemplify that, and there are others throughout the Bible.
    - The increasingly heated debate over modesty is rather a reflection of how far we and the world around us have gone away from God. So far that it is harder for us to even "SEE" anything worth wanting in modesty. It's the same issue for example with the conflict of opinions over premarital sex; courting vs. the way the world dates today; etc.
    - So as Christians we must be careful to not be swept away by trends left and right. And we must honestly and regularly do some soul searching to see whether we are beginning to use our opinions over God's Word in our decisions.
    - As you mentioned, one may ask: how do you define modesty anyway? It is indeed a valid question, and sometimes a difficult one to answer. I'm happy to see you did not use the difficulty as grounds to dismiss the subject. We should continue searching for God's guidance. Because trends are changing at a rapid pace, a fashion checklist may be a good start but it won't take us very far. Rather, we should look at the essence and God's purpose in modesty to piece out principles to apply to the way we dress. Principles will outlast mere checklists and specific examples.
    - If we are still struggling with modesty; then let's ask ourselves these questions: Am I killing my witness by dressing this way? Would I be comfortable with a younger lady or guy in or outside the church emulating the example I am giving? Would Christ be comfortable sitting with me? What fruits am I portraying that my walk with God is yielding? And if your conscience is clear, then move forward. If you are still unsure but you must take an action in the meantime, then continue asking God for guidance but err on the side of caution in your action. Don't take the possibly questionable action anyway just hoping God's answer ends up matching it.
    - As we ourselves are getting a clearer picture of how to be modest, we must also be kind to others who may not be "there" yet. There are things I got rid of in my wardrobe even just recently, as I took an honest look at my wardrobe and what I am portraying as a Christian.

    You know, this Christian walk is laden with enough obstacles by someone who HATES our gut; the devil. His purpose everyday is to see how to keep us from eternity with our Father (but praise God, with Christ' strength, we don't have to fall). He doesn't care if it takes him a minute to make us fall, or a lifetime to make us subtly and gradually descend into his territory. So let us be diligent and ask God for discernment in our daily decisions, and let us live in view of eternity.

    And if I made any typos in my brain dump, please forgive them.

    1. Dang, this is how long my response was??? >_<

    2. Thank you so much for your "brain dump"! You presented your thoughts beautifully and provided some very valid points!

      I hope to write more discussion posts like this more often... I'm glad you liked it!

  3. The using of today's entertainers is not a good example for us to base our spiritual beliefs on. Today, that industry is about pushing the limits...to shock. It's not about honing a craft of music or acting, but about taking the "norm" to the limits. Rhianna is just a victim of this industry that can no longer rest on good ol fashioned talent.

    Modesty is still relevant, however it is being challenged, just like the rest of morality.

    1. Interesting take... I love oldies myself :)

      Thanks for commenting, Glenda!