Thursday, January 31, 2013

Modestly Beautiful! The Modesty Survey

Modesty had never really been on my radar. I knew what I thought was appropriate and what I thought wasn't, but never really looked into it any further than that...Until now. With all of the pornography ingrained into our culture, I have been studying and researching what makes men want to look at those things & what can we do to help them? While the answer does not entirely fall on us, I believe a man's heart needs to be pure and focused on the Lord. The Lord made the answer very clear to me as to my part. As I have been reading, studying and interviewing different people I have discovered one very helpful thing that we as girls/ women can do to help our brothers...How we dress. Men were created very visual beings. It may surprise some of you the thoughts that go through a man's mind through out the day. Some of them surprised me. As a good friend of mine pointed out to me, "You don't know what you don't know." That is until the Holy Spirit convicts you, or illuminates you, you don't know that you are doing something wrong. I never thought the way I dressed was making anyone stumble. I had always been appropriate, nothing too revealing, or so I thought. But in my journey I discovered there were some fatal mistakes I was making. Spiritually fatal, that is. Each discovery opened my eyes further to see that I was a stumbling block to my brothers in Christ and even to other women's husbands. Here are some of the resources I received on this journey that I would like to share with you. They have helped me a great deal to create my own family standard of dressing modestly. A friend of mine studied Scripture to see what it said about nakedness. She found that every scripture on nakedness was a woman's thigh showing. After I found the "Modesty Survey" I realized that ANY cleavage showing was a stumbling block for men. So my friend made up a catchy little tune," Neck to knee, no one should see!" I thought it was cute and that is the standard my family tries to live by. Also after reading research about how men's eyes immediately go to a girl's crotch when she wear pants, I did a screeching halt. I surely don't want anyone but my husband looking at that area or anyone looking at my daughters in that way except their husbands, so trying to wear pants after knowing these things really convicted me. We now wear skirts or dresses 90% or more of the time. My daughters have also chosen to do this on their own. Even after I told them it was o.k. for them to wear pants because there were no more clean skirts until I did laundry, they insisted on finding a dress to wear instead. These are our families own personal convictions. Not every family will have the same journey as we did. I just want to bring to light some of the truth we have learned to educate and encourage fellow sisters to be mindful of their dress.To do further research, read below for some more resources on modesty.



Then God Clothed Them

By John Piper ©

What does it mean that God clothed [Adam and Eve]? Was he confirming their hypocrisy? Was he aiding and abetting their pretense? If they were naked and shame-free before the Fall, and if they put on clothes to minimize their shame after the Fall, then what is God doing by clothing them even better than they can clothe themselves? I think the answer is that he is doing something with a negative message and something with a positive message.
Negatively, he is saying: You are not what you were and you are not what you ought to be. The chasm between what you are and what you ought to be is huge. Covering yourself with clothing is a right response to this—not to conceal it, but to confess it. Henceforth, you shall wear clothing, not to conceal that you are not what you should be, but to confess that you are not what you should be. One practical implication of this is that public nudity today is not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality. God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off.
And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Clothes are not meant to make people think about what is under them. Clothes are meant to direct attention to what is not under them: Arms and hands that serve others in the name of Christ, “beautiful” feet that carry the gospel to where it is needed, and the brightness of a face that has beheld the glory of Jesus.

Modeling Modesty
The mention of the word modesty conjures up images of women in petticoats and bonnets. It has become an outdated notion instead of a desirable trait. Christians are wise to remember that modesty is biblically mandated. It is an attitude that starts in the heart and works outward.
As we narrow our look at modesty to the issue of clothing, it is easily observed that when women of the world head out in the morning, they are not concerned about appearing modest. Instead, most women are heading out hoping that they are in vogue, in fashion and not wearing last year’s styles. Many clamor to be in step with whatever Hollywood has trotted out. 
Does God care how we dress? Yes, He does. He cares about every aspect of our lives. We are called to holiness, holiness in what we do, what we say, where we go, how we act, how we think, what we listen to, what we read, what we sing, and yes, how we dress. Scripture bears this out. Read Ephesians 5:8-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 and 1 Peter 1:15 for starters. May God give us both the desire and the wisdom to live lives that are holy in every aspect. A lost world is watching. -Mary K. Mohler 
Read more of her article HERE

The Modesty Survey-What men want women to know about how the way they dress affects them:

Girls are in a tough spot when it comes to modesty. They are called by God to dress modestly, but because they aren't born with the same "visual nature" in their sexuality as guys are, it is difficult for women to spot where modesty begins and ends. Where are the boundaries? What trips a guy's trigger, and what doesn't?

As guys, we complicate it further by carelessly sinking to our own lowest levels sexually. Our visual nature first forces God to call women to modesty, depriving them of their freedom to define their own style of dress. While that is frustrating in its own way, their real frustration comes when we only pay attention to the girls in our youth groups that dress hot, while ignoring the ones who dress modestly and chase after God. We expect the women to protect us from our own visual nature by dressing modestly, while doing little to rise above that nature ourselves, allowing them to be penalized twice over for our nature

Who can blame the girl who throws up her hands and snaps, I'm through worrying about this modesty thing! Their eyes are their problem, not mine! I certainly can't blame them as long as we are being so lazy about it ourselves. We must take care of our own responsibilities first by disciplining our eyes and our minds to line up with scripture if we expect our women to line up in modesty. We are men. We must lead in all this.

And that is what I love about The Modesty Survey. It allows guys to take some responsibility and leadership. We can honestly help train our sisters in Christ about where those boundaries lie and, hopefully, as we think through the issue ourselves, we can begin to stand up as men by joining the Rebelution against low expectations. Expect more of yourself sexually. Begin by honoring those girls around you who are dressing modestly and who are focusing as much on their inner beauty as their outer apparel.
    Fred Stoeker, best-selling author of Every Man's Battle series

"Respectable apparel is the fruit of a Godly heart. Modesty is humility expressed in dress."

Modest Dress: The Heart of the Issue Surrounding Clothing, Sexuality & Biblical Femininity

Our family had always tried to dressed as modestly as we could in our pants, however I wondered why some Christian families had all of their ladies wear dresses or skirts.  I couldn’t find a scripture that said, “Thou shall always wear dresses or skirts”, and yet we continually saw beautiful, conservative families dressing this way exclusively and intentionally.  We’ve watched clothing trends moved towards less and less material especially for women and even worse, less and less clothing for young women and girls – and disappointingly, the church is less and less a haven of refuge from these trends. 
Finding pants for our girls that were even moderately conservative was becoming nearly impossible.  Then in 2007 some dear friends of ours suddenly made the change themselves to wearing only dresses and skirts – and I had the opportunity to inquire as to the reasoning behind this. 
This friend loaned me a book she had recently read that changed not only the clothing they chose to wear but also their hearts in many ways.  The book, Dressing with Dignity, by Colleen Hammond (written from a Catholic perspective, which we do not endorse, but there’s little reference to this in the book), gives an abundance of practical how’s and why’s of truly dressing and behaving modestly.  There is a link to this book on our “Recommended Books” list.  It is a smaller book, concise, persuasive, very informative in practical information.  This was an opportunity for us to tie what we had been doing casually to some great Biblical principles, physical realities, and emotional needs of our girls while at the same time setting a great example for our boys, and protecting the eyes of men around us.  We do not want to stir up inappropriate thoughts or behaviors on the part of men or boys, or provoke emotional or physical actions towards our girls.  There is a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract (not that dressing to attract her husband is a bad thing when a girl is married!).  We are preserving our girls’ innocence while they are learning to accentuate their grace and beauty.  (Dressing modestly does not mean frumpy!)  Our family has also been so pleased to discover several other invaluable blessings after our transition to modest clothing!  *smile!*
Before learning some reasoning for wearing only dresses and skirts we were trying to find pants that weren’t too tight in the bottom, too low on the hips, or shorts that weren’t “short-short”.  One of the reasons for wearing dresses or skirts exclusively is that when a woman is wearing pants a man’s eyes fall to a woman’s crotch.  This isn’t necessarily intentional; it’s just the nature of men “to look”.
“Advertising agencies quickly prepared marketing research to find out the reaction of men to a woman wearing pants.  Do you know what they found?  Using newly developed technology, they tracked the path that a man’s eyes take when looking at a woman in pants.  They found that when a man looked at a woman in pants form the back, he looked directly at her bottom.  When he looked at a woman wearing pants from the front, advertisers found that his eyes dropped directly to a woman’s most private and intimate area.  Not her face!  Not her chest! (DWD, p. 49)”
And when we’re talking about wearing dresses and skirts I mean long ones, not mini ones.   When women wear slacks, short dresses or skirts, or ones with a long slit, men’s eyes follow the lines he sees right up her legs and complete the picture in their imagination.  (Women’s eyes do the same thing, but since women don’t have the same type of temptation their imaginations don’t complete the picture like men’s do.)
And yet,
“…when a woman dresses with dignity, men tell me that this appeals to their chivalrous nature.  Her femininity helps them to elevate their thoughts (not to mention their eyes).  It allows them to uphold a woman’s honor, to respect truth and beauty, and to grow in their role as a ‘gallant knight’ (DWD, p.14).”
God’s Word speaks very clearly about our responsibility towards one another, and on being above reproach. 
“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  - Matthew 5:27-29.
 “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  - 1 Cor. 8:9.  (also Rom. 14:13b; 1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 27-32.)
“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”  - 1 Cor. 7:35.
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…”  - John 14:23.
God’s Word is not to be taken lightly.  We cannot say that we have made Him Lord of our life, and yet keep certain areas of life for our own pleasure.  You may have heard it said, “He is lord of all, or He isn’t lord at all.”  Christians belong to Him, we are purchased with the price of His Son’s life.  We show Him love through our obedience, and we are held accountable to what we have learned.  God was bringing revelation to my spirit, and initially I didn’t like it, and I didn’t want to “sacrifice” my clothing style likes for obedience.  But God surprised me.  *smile* 
As I contemplated the reality of making this change in lifestyle, I shared with my friend four of my main concerns,
  1.     “Isn’t it uncomfortable; don’t you feel dressed-up all the time?”  According to her testimony initially, and now from what I’ve found - not at all!  Wearing dresses or skirts doesn’t necessarily mean dressed up formally.  We girls in the family began searching out a style of dresses and skirts that was “us” – pretty but casual, comfortable, feminine, and attractive – not frumpy.  We buy all of our clothes used, so we began frequenting our favorite used-clothing stores every week looking for dresses, skirts, and shoes for all our ladies.  Initially we found 1-3 items at a time for one of us.  We couldn’t afford to just go out and replace my and our 3 daughter’s wardrobes suddenly; it took a year or two to really grow a new wardrobe and find what types of dresses & skirts we were comfortable in.  The Lord so blessed our decision towards modesty this way!  We have found plenty of real nice clothes for each of us, and doing it used was very affordable.  *smile*  We are more comfortable now than we ever were in pants, and we feel much more feminine (more on this down below). 
  2.     “How do you clean a bathroom in a dress?”  My friend replied with a smile and in her practical way that I love, “The same way our grandmothers did.”  And she was right.  With comfortable skirts or dresses it’s just as easy as it is in pants.  With the right skirt or dress on (not too full or too long), it’s no big deal, actually.
  3.     “How do you stay warm in the fall and winter?”  We wear what we refer to as “dress pants” and/or warm knee-high socks or tights.  Our littlest girls wear cute bloomers, or white stretch pants/shorts (because white goes with all of their dresses), or Capri sweat pants or stretch pants.  The older girls also have white stretch pants or shorts, or other thin cotton Capri pants, like brown ones to wear under their brown skirt, grey ones for under denim if they’d like.  I wear either a pants slip that goes to my knees, or white Capri or long stretch pants.  We all have tights, and we have knee-high boots, and warm under tops that also help, and sweaters & sweatshirts.  We’re very warm! 
  4.     “How do little girls play easily and modestly?”  They always have some sort of “dress pants” on.  We do keep one pair of jeans and one pair of shorts for each of the girls for when they ride bikes in the yard and when they go boating in Puget Sound in the summer.  They can’t climb in and out of the boat into waist-high salt water wearing a dress.  Swimming shorts are pretty modest, and wet suits are worn when they’re swimming, plus life jackets.  It’s not exactly “skimpy” attire when we go boating in Puget Sound!  *LOL*  No matter how hot of a summer day it is, Puget Sound is C-O-L-D.  And boating is almost exclusively with just our extended family, so we’re not too concerned about it right now.  We start our baby girls into full time dresses when they learn to walk around age 1 because dresses don’t seem very conducive to crawling.
When starting out on our search for a whole new style, I really had no idea what to look for!  So I’ll give you an idea of what my favorite wardrobe includes now.  For every day wear I love cotton, stretchy fabrics best.  I’m also comfortable in soft cotton, corduroy, and twill fabrics.  I love an Eddie Bauer, J Crew, or Gap look, fairly tailored but not confining, sometimes a little sporty, yet still very feminine.  My favorite dresses are the tee-shirt type dresses (like in the photo below), and dresses with an empire waist, which sits on the rib cage rather than low on the hips.  Skirts need to have some room to move around in so they’re usually a fuller style with gathers or tiers, and short slits in the back or front.  I love tiny floral patterns for tops or solid colors, beige and denim skirts that go with most any top.  We had to find a new shoe style, too, and I had no idea what that would look like at first.  We began patiently shopping at the used clothing stores so that buying several pairs of nice shoes for each of us wasn’t expensive at all.  I learned that a Merry Jane style shoe goes with any dress or skirt (not black patent leather necessarily, but the style of a Merry Jane), slip on flats, smaller, dainty tennis shoes, sandals, or a nice tailored boot.  I wear cotton knee high socks mostly as they go with Merry Jane style shoes or tall boots for warmth, sometimes I’ll wear tights but I don’t prefer them, and ankle socks with tennis shoes.  Our girls dress very similarly in clothes and shoes. 
For Church I wear very similar clothes but not the sporty look, and I try not to wear denim as it just feels too casual with everyone else dressed up.  I’ll wear a more fitted strait skirt because I’m not taking care of daily tasks and activities, or dressier fabrics like rayon for dresses.  I sometimes wear heals, although for me it’s harder to carry babies and toddlers wearing these right now, not to mention balancing when I’m expecting a baby *chuckle* , so I usually stick with low heals if any.
There were a number of very pleasant unexpected heart changes for us ladies as well when we made this transition.  Women move and act differently when wearing a dress; I think all women would acknowledge this.  We began to feel and act more feminine, prettier, and even more submissive to the head of our home, my husband and the children’s daddy.  I always knew that my husband enjoyed seeing me in a dress every Sunday, but it never occurred to me to wear a dress all the time as a blessing to him.  This alone would have been worth the change!  *smile!*  After all, I’m the only wife he’s ever going to have – I desire to dress to please him.  It’s good for a woman to fill her husband’s eyes and thoughts with pleasing sights to help him never be tempted to look else where.  Bob was thrilled with our new style, and was happy to fund our wardrobe change!  Now, I wasn’t neglected by him at all when wearing pants, but now I receive extra special attention and flirtations from the man of my life!  How fun is that to feel like my appearance is so pleasing to him, like when we were first courting!  When I’m wearing a dress, I do not feel like trying to be the head of the home, either.  I didn’t realize that I had that tendency before we changed our clothing style, but I really did behave that way – and Bob felt it.  This may seem like an over exaggeration, but our marriage has really been blessed by changing over to dresses and skirts, and most all of the friends we’ve met  who have made this change in their own families (hundreds of families we’ve met now) have said the same thing!  It’s truly a deeper heart issue, the way we dress.  And Bob and I are so pleased to introduce these feelings, behaviors, and protective innocence in our girls at a young age.
Once learning of the Biblical importance and moral responsibility behind protecting men and boy’s eyes and thoughts, and our girls’ hearts, we did make the change pretty much “cold turkey”.  Once we found a couple of dresses or skirts for each of us to wear to start with, we wore those only, and we continued to shop for nice used clothing every week until we each had a complete wardrobe for each season.  Thankfully we began this process in the spring season of Washington so we did not need a bunch of warmer items immediately, just some basic summer dresses.  We gave away all of our pants, shorts, women’s Spedo one-piece bathing suits, and even desired to give away our pajama pants.  We eventually found very pretty night gowns, cool ones for summer and warm flannel ones for winter that are just as warm as pajama pants were – and we feel so pretty!  My parents purchased for our girls’ new bathing wear from the only place we knew of at the time, J Crew, who makes darling shorts and tee shirt outfits out of stretchy, quick-drying swim fabric.  Yes, swim pants, not the most modest but far more so than the more common bathing suits today!  It was a start.  Since then we’ve learned of a couple of places that sell very cute dress-style bathing wear and we hope to buy those some time in the future.  These swim items are not inexpensive, but it is the one thing that we’ve chosen to save for and invest in new for the children as we feel it’s important for them to have this option, and we do all go boating all summer long with the grandparents.  However, once the girls all have swim wear that first year the younger girls have items to grow in to and we no longer need to buy for them all, only for the oldest daughter who then passes the items down.
We were so pleased that all of our girls eagerly embraced the change to wearing dresses.  Girls seem to generally have a natural delight in dresses; it’s like their hearts just resonate with this femininity.  So it’s nice to run with that natural feeling beginning when they’re young ladies or younger; before the masculinity of the culture gets a grip on them.
Finally, I would love to share with you some of the websites where we’ve found great dresses, skirts, night gowns, dress pants, knee high socks, and maternity clothes online!  We’ve actually rarely needed to buy anything new because the Lord has provided abundantly through the used clothing stores, but once in a while there’s the need to purchase a specific item new.  For example, nightgowns for our girls, as women’s night gowns for our older girls do not fit them right.  Below is a list of places where we’ve found very nice clothing items.  A couple of which we’ve purchased from, and friends of ours have purchased from some of the other sites.  The web sites vary in price and style, so I encourage you to look through several of the sites if you’re shopping.
New Creation Apparel – long skirts, and maternity long skirts!
The Kings Daughters -- Well made (seems finished with overlock serger), long, wide variety of dresses, pinafores, jumpers, slips, aprons, variety of fabrics to choose from ($29-39/piece -- mostly $30).
Lilies Apparel – High quality, beautiful, huge selection of styles and fabrics, similar prices to above site, everything from dresses, maternity, jumpers, bloomers, socks, etc.  You can order their catalog to be sent to you.
Meant To Be Modest – skirts ($10-17), bathing attire ($40-70).
Katies Mercantilelots of things.
Ringger Clothingdresses & jumpers ($50 average).
Practically Pretty Design – Nice quality, girls’ dresses $45.
Jumpin Bloomers -- ($12-16 each); nightgowns ($15-21 each); FREE shipping!
Works Of The Heart -- This appears to have great quality, too (seems finished with overlock serger) and has cute styles ($35/dress or so).
Hannah Lise -- Jumpers ($21), Dresses ($52-64) pretty & long.
April Cornell -- Dresses $54 each, but modest and pretty (I've heard a rumor that they're going out of business?)
Targetleggings ($6.99).
Laina Line -- Bloomers ($16-$22), and a few dresses.
Hanna Andersson -- Bloomers ($18); other dresses $42+ each.
Lands End -- Girls' Cap-Sleeve knit Jersey Dresses ($19.50)

God has so blessed our family, our marriage, and He has renewed mine and the girls’ attitudes towards modesty and femininity.  I am completely confident that He will do the same for you if you ask Him to!  *smile!*  It’s been so nice, surprisingly comfortable – I so much more prefer dresses now than pants any day, and we have peace knowing that we’re following the Lord’s instructions in dressing modestly.  We asked the Lord to change us to fit His will, and He was so faithful to do so!  What a blessing!