I am a 25-year-old young woman, a Christian and a college student. There are very few guys my age at either my college or my church, and most of my interactions with the opposite sex are either with non-Christian men or married men at my church. I am a strong believer that modesty in clothing and attitude is a must for Christian women, and I try to live that out.
My problem is that I have a hard time feeling very feminine. When all the girls my age are dressed in sexy, very revealing clothes, it is hard to feel attractive. On the other hand, I don't want to start compromising my modesty, especially since most of the men I am around are married. Do you have any suggestions on how to maintain my femininity without compromising my modesty? Is there any way, in today's society, to stay modest without ending up androgynous?
Thank you so much for writing. I really appreciate the opportunity to answer your question. The answer is YES! There are many things you can do to achieve your goal of modest femininity.
The first and simplest thing you can do is wear dresses and skirts. No one will ever think you masculine or asexual in something pretty. Obviously skirts and dresses that are too tight; too clingy; too see-through; or cut too high, too low; or with slits "way up to there" will defeat your goal of modesty. So you'll have to shop with both modesty and femininity in mind. That said, there are plenty of clothing companies that make very feminine, very pretty, very stylish skirts and dresses that are modest.
And don't think that only one style — lace and frills and tiny-little-flower patterns — is feminine. I happen to prefer black and white solids, not prints, and typically buy more tailored, crisp fabrics. But just because my closet doesn't have any flowing, flowery rayon dresses doesn't mean my clothes aren't feminine. There are so many choices today, it's possible to dress according to your own personal style — whether sporty, classic, sophisticated, whimsical, frilly, etc. — and still be modest.
Even women who live in small towns with few stores to choose from can access the Internet where virtually every clothing company is available. And by watching websites, you're often able to catch items on sale that you might otherwise miss.
A quick rule of thumb is that what's modest is that which conceals, and what's feminine is that which adds to a woman's beauty. This includes not only her clothes, hair and makeup but also her heart — this is the second and more complex aspect of your femininity. First Peter 3:3-5 says,
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
This verse is not saying that outward beauty is wrong — many of the holy women of old were quite beautiful. Rachel, Abigail, Vashti, Esther and the Shulamite come to mind. In fact two of them were so beautiful in outward appearance, Sarah and Rebecca, that their husbands, Abraham and Isaac, lied about being married to them in order to protect their lives.
What this verse is saying is that true and biblical external beauty flows outward from your inner character. The most beautiful form and figure can be made ugly by a rebellious, selfish or angry heart (see Isaiah 3:16-24 for a look at what happened to the women of Israel who were concerned only with their outward appearance).
Ideally you learn these things from your mom and dad. My mom taught me what was appropriate, and when I tried to slip something past them, my dad spoke up about what wasn't. He was always loving about it, but clear that I wasn't allowed to leave the house until I was dressed modestly. That included everything from hair that was too wild, to too much eye makeup, to a skimpy bathing suit. I always knew he was acting on my behalf, as my protector, even when I didn't like the fact that I had to go back upstairs to change.
I still use the "what would my dad think" test when I'm in doubt about buying or wearing a certain garment.
I realize that not every woman has parents who took an active role in teaching her how to dress, let alone how to be feminine. And fashion magazines are little help. In most cases, those magazines do more harm than good. For me, the temptation they raise is to buy what I don't need and can't afford. Beyond that, they make me feel inferior and inadequate. For others, the immodest standard they raise is irresistible. Add to that all the crass, unbiblical advice, and you've got plenty of reasons to steer clear of them.
Thankfully, as believers, we have a provision for modeling beyond our natural family — and far superior to glossy magazines — in the form of mentoring. Ever since the church started, we've been exhorted to look to older godly women in all areas of our womanhood (see Titus 2).
If you didn't have parents who took an active part in teaching you how to dress modestly and look and act feminine, it's not too late. Consider the married women in your church. How do they dress? Find one you admire — one who's stylish, pretty and modest, and who also exhibits godly character. Ask her if she'd be willing to coach you in this area of biblical femininity.
As women we must not indulge our desire to stir up a fleshly reaction in men.1 It's tempting to want to do things that get us noticed. But it's sin on our part to be soliciting notice for the wrong reasons. And ultimately, any relationship that would come out of such notice would be corrupted from the start.
It's well worth your effort as a single woman to cultivate beauty both inward and out. Not only does it honor the One who made you lovely, it works to protect you from the kind of suitors who have less than honorable intentions. How you dress does affect the type of men who will want to get to know and date or court you. If you are careful with your appearance, balancing your efforts to enhance your God-given beauty with your attentions to your heart and soul, you will be more attractive to the men whose intentions are honorable.
I wish you all the best.
1 Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho Copyright 1997, p. 49.
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.