Thursday, August 21, 2008

Modesty in the home and outside it

As you know, I'm passionate about modesty. Truly, I can't think of anything that would glorify, uplift, and enhance sweet beautiful femininity more than being modest, inside and out. Modesty also helps to make a woman respected, valued and cherished by men and women of all ages.

In my photos, you can see I dress by Orthodox Jewish standards - I wear long skirts, my elbows are always covered, my clothes are not too tight, and when I got married I started to cover my hair.

However, that's what happens when I go out. At home, alone or with my husband, I allow myself to relax my standards. I can wear a skirt that is shorter than normal, or even a pair of slacks and a sleeveless shirt, and I don't wear a hair covering. My husband likes it that way. While I'm visiting my mother, I might also change into something lighter.

Recently, I started thinking about what is the right thing to do, regarding modesty, when babies come along and then start growing and reach an age when boys and especially girls must be educated about the importance of modesty. Can I continue relaxing my standards at home? Or will I have to dress at home the same way as outside?

Will my children see it as a sort of hypocrisy, if the moment I come home I shed my long sleeves and hair covering and change into something more comfortable?

Or will it, on the contrary, convey a positive message: you can reveal your beauty in the circle of your family, but not in front of strangers?

... At this point, I truly don't know. I suppose we still have some time to think about it. It would also be lovely to hear from you, ladies with a heart for modesty: is the way you dress at home different from how you dress outside the home? What sort of message do you think it gives the children?

65 comments:

elena rulli said...

Dear Anna,
I'm not a religious woman but appreciate modesty and good taste in dressing, so I can try to understand what is your point. In my humble opinion we are allowed to relax at home, in front of our children and husband, because they know deeply who you are and the sincerity in your heart. If you show them that your home is a place of joy, serenity and playfulness (in a good sense, of course) I don't think they would judge you as hypocrite; on the contrary, you will transmit them the right behaviour to adopt in front of different people: family are special; strangers are to be respected, but they do not own your heart.
Sorry for the ramblings, it's quite hot here, too :)
Have a wonderful day
Elena

Anonymous said...

hmm...this is an interesting question because it begs "what is the real purpose of modest dressing?" I think it's clear in your case that your purpose in modest dressing is simply to shield your beauty from the possibly disrespectful eyes of strangers and not to fall into the trap of overemphasizing physical beauty because you feel you are always on display, but then also to relax in the heart of your family and not hide from them. If you were to follow a strict code at home- there is the risk that you would almost be subverting your own purpose, I think. I think your children will see from your example and hear from you the purpose of modest dressing. I don't think they will be confused or think you are a hypocrite.
-Lisa

TheRetroHousewife said...

I think that you should be able to relax at home. The reason for your modestly is to keep yourself from being pray to other men's stares and lustful thoughts is it not?

When your children grow up do you want them to dress modestly all of the time even at home? I guess thats the question you need to ask yourself. What do you want for your children when they grow up as far as modesty goes and then model that.

Michelle Potter said...

I also think that it is appropriate to relax within the intimacy of the home. It's important to convey to our children that our bodies are beautiful and not shameful, even as we teach them to protect their modesty and virtue.

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

I agree with Elena and ANON. You will most certainly have to adjust your at home, relaxed wardrobe a bit when your child is old enough to recognize the difference (around 3 or 4 years old) but to uncover your hair or wear slacks in front of them is totally acceptable, IMHO.

Amanda said...

I don't think it would be hypocritical at all to continue to relax your standards at home. As you said, it's fine to reveal your beauty to your husband and family. It's when you decide you need to reveal it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry passing by on the street that you encounter problems.

I think that for daughters, as well, it would be a wonderful testimony. Since you mentioned your husband likes it when you "let your hair down", so to speak, you'd be illustrating the importance of doing little things that make your husband happy.

Amber said...

My thoughs are this, you are "relaxing" at home to please your husband. What better way to bless him, and your children, by showing them how to bless their husbands/wives. Ask your husband what he wants done. Maybe, after you little blessing is of a certin age, he will request that you keep your head covered, but make time in the evening when little ones are in bed, that you uncover, just for him. You would also be making time to show him that he is inprotent and that you love him. Sometimes we mama's can get so cought up in caring for the needs of a baby that we skimp on the needs of our husbands.

Amber

Rosemary said...

I have found it easier to only wear modest skirts or dresses, no pants, even at home. It makes the whole "issue" of pants a non-issue with my daughters. Our sons learn to appreciate and respect femininity. Of course, it is just the way our family does things, and I do appreciate that others have different views.

Anonymous said...

By all means continue to relax at home. Among other things, this is a way you can teach your children about outside the home rules and inside rules. This will be useful lesson the first time your little one "streaks" through the house and starts to head outside. (smile) This DOES occur to most little ones. It also gives you an opportunity to teach outside safety issues...and that is sad that those lessons need to be taught to an innocent child.

Thia said...

I haven't read any other replies yet, so forgive me if I repeat. I think the most important aspect of modesty at home is respect. The children need to respect their parents and each other no matter who is wearing what. They also need to have enough respect to clothe themselves decently. I think that line is something that you and your dh will have to draw. I had more to say, but pregnancy brain has made it disappear...

Heather said...

Anna- I do dress a different way at home than I do when I am out and about. I do not dress the same as you but in a way it is still the same. My children also dress differently at home than when they are out.

When a child grows up in a household that does things a certain way most children believe that is how everyone does things and they don't think to question things until they are older.

I think that by dressing in a way that is modest when you go out is showing respect to yourself and your family, and that by being more relaxed in your dress when you are home is saying these people are my loved ones, and they are the only ones who really matter.

I hope that makes some sense.

God Bless
Heather

USAincognito said...

Good question....since I am not one who wears according to Jewish customs, I cannot say what I would do in your shoes. I know here in America I wear the same clothes at home that I do in public. Of course, there are times at home (and it is just me and the dog!!) I will walk around with not much on because I am home alone with no one around! I guess it will just all depend on what your husband is comfortable with. And maybe you can speak with some older women who follow the same Jewish customs and see how they balanced it all....

Anonymous said...

I responded to this earlier...but have to assume I clicked on the wrong button.

Most of the very ultra-Orthodox Jewish women I know maintain the same level of modesty inside. They change their hats and wigs for kerchiefs, and their dresses for loose robes, but everything remains covered, down to their pantyhose. Maximum maybe they let their hair out when no one's home. I never really thought about why they do this. I do believe that it's considered a segula/blessing for the home.

Logistically, it's going to be tough to continue to wear sleeveless shirts and pants once your kids get older, in the community you live in. Once you have kids, your home becomes an open door (especially in Israel). People and kids come in and out without much warning, and it becomes too complicated to change your shirt and pants and cover your hair every time you hear a little knock.

Personally, I believe a woman must be comfy in her own home and I certainly relax my standards at home. But my standards of modesty are more flexible than yours, and I don't run to change my clothes when guests come over, especially if they are little ones.

I also think that your kids,when older, might feel awkward if you dress in pants/tank top, etc. I am guessing you live in a very religious area. Your kids will likely internalize some of the attitudes of the community, and I imagine it isn't common for mothers there to putter around the house in pants or sleeveless shirts. Although many probably uncover their hair at home, if they belong to the stream of Orthodoxy I think they do. It's easy enough to put a kerchief by the door, if you're already in a skirt and long shirt.
Tammy

Wenonah4th said...

Even a lot of conservative Christians (I don't know about Jews; may be true there too) have their "town" clothes that are dressier and/or more modest than what they wear at home. I'm afraid I dress very ecclectically and may wear just about anything at home- although I try to dress up a bit more when I'm out and about.

Aelwyn said...

I think it is good to teach children that you dress differently for different circumstances. Even some things that boys might wear, such as old tattered jeans and t-shirt, might be fine for being at home on a quiet day, but not for going out in public.

I also think that your husband is your best guide. I read a wonderful post on modesty over at Ornaments of Grace entitled "I'm all for Modest, but...." The author also comes to the conclusion that one's husband is one's best guide in matters of modesty. I would probably add, "as long as he is a righteous man." It sounds like yours is. =)

Mrs. B said...

Good post.
We do the same in our household. Outside, legs are covered (even for the boys) and shirts don't expose much. At home, the children are free to wear what is clean and comfortable. Here's the neat part, though. Because the older ones are more aware of the the how's and why's of modest dressing, they seem to accept and expect this as a part of their dedication to God. They also shepherd their younger siblings by reminding them of how they should choose clothes and behave. (It is so sweet to see how protective a big brother can be over his little sister!)

All of that is to say, (and you know this already), don't worry about the world's standards. If this becomes a part of your family's "culture", you need not worry about being labeled a hypocrite by your children.

Mrs. B

Mrs. B said...

I forgot to add earlier, perhaps it is not obvious, but we are a homeschooling family. This makes it much easier to instill our values in our children away from the destructive pull of secular peer ( and state) pressure.
If the children attended private or public school, I am not sure of how much of an uphill battle modesty might be. (I say this based on my observations of other children whose parents have obviously "given in" to secular standards.)
Mrs. B

Gothelittle Rose said...

With a baby, it's important to maintain close contact for bonding, and that includes skin to skin. When you're alone with the baby, I wouldn't see any problem (of course) with breastfeeding with your shirt off (in a private room and/or a private house).

When mine turned about 3/4, he started recognizing that men and women are different, and that he was a boy who would become a man. Now when I change clothing, I do so in the bedroom with the door closed.

I think the biggest thing about modesty at home is what another reader has already mentioned.. once your kid is old enough, your home becomes an "open house" with neighbor kids running in and out. For that case, I'd recommend dressing like, well, "someone else's mom".

I haven't got much specific advice since my situation is different... Of course I always dress decently, and I always dress nicer when I'm leaving the house than when I'm in it, but I don't cover my hair and my level of decency in leisurewear and nicer wear is about the same.

Miss Amy Smarty said...

I feel that at home is totally different than going out somewhere, and that families should understand this. For example, what I'm wearing right now I would NEVER leave my house in, but I wear it because its A) Comfortable, B) I slept in it, and C) It's August in Texas...that means it's HOT!!

I am all for modesty. My standards are different than yours, but there are still things I think are totally NOT Okay to wear out. But I don't care if my mom sees me in them. Also...I do theatre and we have to get pretty comfortable with being around other women in various states of undress because we all help each other out. It's just part of it.

I think your kids might actually respect modestly MORE if they grew up understanding why home was different than out.

But, of course...they are your kids :)

Miss Amy Smarty said...

Oh, and as for the "no pants" thing...there are a TON of chores that are MUCH easier to do in slacks. Seriously.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

To a point I do believe you can relax your standards at home and do believe it's a good thing. Treating your "inner circle" better than other people is perfectly acceptable, IMHO. :o) Right now I am striving to get my wardrobe up to certain standards--slowly but surely-- and while I'll no longer be wearing shorter sleeves outside of the home, I wouldn't be opposed to wearing a well covering tank top inside my home on warmer days, while cooking, cleaning, and so on. I do always wear longer skirts, as chasing after toddler does demand something at least a bit past the knees. :P I'm not yet covering my head full time, as I'm having issues keeping the scarf in place (grrr), but in a weird bit of backwardness, cover my head more at home than out & about.

With that said, I do believe a bit of "mystery" I guess it could be called, is good to maintain between spouses as it can "keep the fires burning." All too often in this world, certain things that are meant to be special have been made common, and while I am not saying that wearing a sleeveless shirt does such things, I do believe modesty can go a big way in (ahem) maintaining that specialness between husband & wife.

Penny McKinlay said...

I think it is wonderful that you are striving to present yourself in a modest and pleasing way to God and to your husband. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints. As a temple attending member, we have modesty requirements. We cover our shoulders, torso's and to our knees. That doesn't change whether we are in or out of the home. (Unless of course you are alone with your husband.) I always feel confident that I am dressed appropriately no matter where I am. I realize that your situation is a little different than mine, because of religious standards. I have found that it is always appropriate to maintain some standards of modesty even in the home. It has helped my daughters to realize that they are not at liberty to dress inappropriately in front of their brothers, etc. I do think it would be very hard though, to not feel that I could "relax" at home if I had stricter requirements than I do. I'm sure that discussing this with your good husband will give you reasonable and comfortable standards that you both feel good about.

I appreciate the direction and content of your blog. It is very uplifting and encouraging to see that there are women in the world who really care about being what God intended them to be. Thank you so much for sharing.

Kelly said...

Great post Anna. I know that after I gave birth to my daughter I become more focused on finding a modest dressing style, or atleast much more modest than most of the society I live in.
I know that I relax a lot more at home, even though I am trying my best to dress modestly. I too use my hubby as a guide. And there have been a few times I've said to my daughter, "we need to change clothes before we go out honey, we can't wear this out." Usually because it's too informal for wearing out, not necessarily immodest.
I agree with the general consensus of commenters that you should be able to relax at home. I too feel the point of modest, inside and out, is as a shield to strangers and the rest of the world. At home with a loving family, there should be some loosening of standards. I think it's great for a child too see that some things are for hubby and family only.
Kelly

HisBeloved said...

I too dress more freely at home than in public. If I know I am having company, unless it is my mom or mother-in-law, I will change to a skirt if I am wearing pants that day. I usually put my hair up during the day but as my husband loves my hair down, I try to take it down when he gets home, or at least once our daughter is put to bed.

As far as when my children get older, I think I would be more careful to dress with more modesty, as I think my husband would like. I want to be a good example for my children. But as I write this, there is a growing conviction that I should be doing that now, when no one cares so when the time comes, I will have no regrets or reason to blame my children for "taking away my freedom".

Thank you for posting this. It has been truly encouraging to read the responses and ponder the way I should conduct myself.

Anonymous said...

When I look at modesty, what you're doing (covering up to go out, and relaxing when at home) is a sensible format. What I find legalistic is women who are always covered, no matter who is around. I think your children may ask why you dress two different ways, and you can explain the difference. It's logical, not hypocritical. What would be hypocritical is if you didn't always follow your standards or the standards you'd expect them to follow when going out. That's where I struggle with my mom- she always taught me that wearing tanks and halters was immodest out of the house, but in the last couple years she has slackened and started to wear them. That is what confuses a child, not a change of location. Whereas, we were always allowed to wear short shorts around the house and not outside- that makes sense.

Tracy said...

I believe that modesty in the home is of the UTMOST importance. I am my husband's treasure, and not the treasure of my children. For instance, I would wear a low cut top if it were just my husband and I alone, but not in front of my children. The same goes for the children themselves. I don't believe in allowing children to run around in their undergarments as so many do today, or leaving the bathroom door open, or changing in front of anyone. I think that our children need to be taught that their bodies are very special, not bad, but to be kept as a secret treasure for their husband or wife. What's so special if everyone sees it including your siblings, etc?

I certainly don't understand why parents think it's fine to allow children to see them undressed, but if a stranger were to be undressed in front of them it would be sexual abuse.

Bethany Hudson said...

Thanks so much for asking this quetsion, Anna! It's something I've often wondered myself, and I have really appreciated reading all the responses.

In our home, I am more relaxed with what I wear. For example, when I am pregnant or just having a day in, I might wear lounge pants and a tank top or sweatshirt (depending on the weather). Also, some of my pajamas are not exactly...um...modest...but as you put it, "my husband likes it that way" ;-) For the most part, though, I do wear what I would wear outside, but that's because I don't want to have to change if a delivery man shows up at the door or I need to run an errand, not because I don't want my daughter to see my calves or something. As others have said, I think your children will not see you as hypocritical. They will understand that your modesty is not legalistic but recognize it for what it is and the reasons you embrace it.

~Bethany

xoxo, Chloe said...

I always enjoy your modesty posts. It doesn't seem hypocritical to me if you dress casual at home because your husband is the only one who will see. I may dress in tank tops at home but not out in public, I just feel too bare. My mom has always dressed modestly from the day I was born so I was never confused on what was modest in our house.

Bailey said...

I agree with Tracy. The whole reason I dress modestly is not just because I don't want strangers to behold my figure, but simply because it is private. Please don't misunderstand me and think I'm ashamed of my body, but our nakedness is our "shame"--and God clothed that. Except in husband/wife relationships, it sort of defeats the purpose of modesty (covering our shame) if we allow it in the home and not out. Of course, it also depends on what one means by "relaxed." There's nothing wrong with wearing shorter things or clothing that you would not wear in public. But we can't confuse "relaxed" with "immodest". :) I think it is just as important women keep their bodies from family eyes--brothers, sons, even sisters and mothers--as from strangers' eyes. And also I think it's an excellent way to instill authority in children if they see their mother dressed modestly with dignity, though in an informal style. ;) Hope this helps! God bless!

goatbasher said...

I've wondered about this myself. And I think that pants or and uncovered tank top around the house can be ok. However I have had the issue of someone kncks at the door and I'm in lounge wear and need to cover up quickly before I answer the door!Plenty of pajamas don't cover much and when it just my husband an I we see no need to cover up at all.

but it something that can be explained to children. Certain clothes are appropriate for certain things.

Rebecca Grider said...

I agree with the comment that says that your children may be better taught the role and importance of modesty even if you do "change" your appearance when at home. It also opens up a discussion - when it's time to go out you explain to your little one why you're dressing differently. It allows them to be able to find their own way through the maze of what is and is not modest in a healthy, supportive setting, i.e. the home, while reducing the tendency for them to experiment around friends, etc. I think it might foster more open communication between you and your children, especially if you have a daughter. I can imagine your daughter, as she gets older, pushing the limits a little at home since she's comfortable there and she's struggling to find her own version and comfort level with modesty and by doing so at home, in a place she views as safe, you have more opportunity to discuss her choices with her and steer her in the correct direction.

I've posted before and been open about the fact that I am not religious and my life is very different than yours, but I have always been more comfortable being more modest - maybe not as modestly dressed as some of the women who post here and not for all the same reasons.

First of all, I was told, very plainly, that it was not acceptable for me to engage in provocative dress. My parents, especially my father, told me that when a girl dresses simply to show off her body she's automatically seen less respectfully by society, and, in particular, by boys. My skirts were always at least knee length, shirts covered up my cleavage and tank tops were unheard of. When I got to college I flirted with the miniskirts and low cut blouses but because I had been raised to view them negatively and because I was unused to them I was never comfortable in them. Hence, I simply went back to what made me comfortable. True, I am not very interested in fashion and I haven't a good eye for it, but I have felt more like "me" when dressed in a professional and simple manner. I do wear pants but even those have never been the low-ride, tight pants - always conservative. Even when I now try something a little daring it's just one item - a skirt that's cut to the knees but has a little slit on one side or a pair of tailored pants and a shirt that has a slight hint of cleavage - not to be provocative to strangers, but because it's so outside the norm for me that my boyfriend thinks it attractive and different. It's like a little treat to please him and make me feel just a little special.

But I can attest to the fact that having my parents let me dress as I wished at home and guiding me towards what was appropriate was more helpful than never having that opportunity. It allowed me to choose my fashion style on my own to a degree and therefore it was one that I've stuck with and feel proud of.

Don't know if any of this is useful but it was very interesting discussion topic.

Neuropoet said...

I completely understand the general consensus here - in a certain sense I think it's normal to dress differently for the rest of the world than you do for your family - as long as you have access to a wardrobe with variety. My wardrobe (if you could call it that) is very limited - not due to any convictions as much as due to finances and living with extended family (limited space for clothing). All of my things are kept as clean and neat as possible, but most of the seams have had to be re-sewn etc. My situation is different in that I don't live with just my husband and children, but with extended family as well. While I might have my head "uncovered" when I'm in my nightgown before bed - the only one who sees my hair down is my husband - it is for him alone. During the day I wear around the house what I would wear out - generally a long skirt and a shirt with at least a three quarter sleeve, along with a kerchief of some sort. If I know I won't be going "out and about", or if the temperature is very warm, I'll wear one of my few shorter sleeve shirts - but since I have little boys who are now seven and ten I do not wear sleeveless shirts or blouses at all. I think that a woman's modesty in dress is probably something her husband needs to help her work out - practicality wise and all. A husband can be a big help in this area! Plus, it has a lot to do with the age and genders of your children. I know I would have been very uncomfortable as a girl if my dad had just walked around in shorts with nothing else on. I think more little boys would be uncomfortable seeing their mommy's in short shorts and tank tops with a lot of flesh showing if they weren't so exposed to it regularly in the society around them - there are plenty of cultures in the world where that would be unexceptable. Ultimately, though, modesty in dress at home has lot to do with each particular families situation - culture, convictions, general society etc. While it's easier to say what is appropriate for women's dress in public - modesty at home is more fluid I think.

~Jenny

Ways of Zion said...

Great question, one I think I need to ponder over as well!

Michelle said...

I'm kind of in your shoes as well right now. I wear more relaxed things at home as well, but I'm about to have a baby girl...my mind is flooded with questions of how I should train her to love being modest and God-honoring with how she dresses. I'm not real sure how I'm going to approach it either...

eli said...

Dear Anna;
Even though I haven't left much comments on your blog, I do visit it regularly and find some of your thoughts very thought-provoking. Concerning what you have written concerning modest clothing inside and outside the living quarters of one's home and the outside, I must say I completely agree with you. I personally think that children look up to their parents as their first role model and one's home is in fact the first training center for a child. I believe even little children understand much more than what we may think they do. I say this because as a mother of a five year old son I have the living experience of having to realize more and more that my son is in fact very much alert to EVERYTHING going on around him and every minute detail seems to get recorded in his God given recorder. Sometimes I notice that after a very very long time when I myself have forgotten an event, he clearly remembers and relates the incident to something else which has happened in the present.

The first thing I taught my son concerning modesty was around the time he was toilet trained, teaching him not to go around in front of everyone (visitors who were for eg present) without his panties on. Of course at first he wasn't much worried about it and I didn't force anything on him.. just tried to put his clothes back on very quickly before he had a chance to run off playing without them, but now he has learned that the private parts are something not to be presented to others and I think this is the very first step in modesty ( as I believe modesty is not just for women but for both men and women).

Concerning what you wrote about the mother for example wearing different clothing inside and outside the house and this leading to contradictions in the child's mind I have this to say: I believe that a man and a woman should dress modestly wherever they are BUT I think that inside the house when one is with one's family members one need not be as observant as when one is outside in the public. I think that children should be taught that the house, when occupied by the parents and brothers or sisters should be a place to relax even in terms of clothing (of course I deeply believe that this relaxing should never go too far -as it unfortunately has gone in many families-incidents such as fathers raping daughters and many more despicable events are I think results of immodesty INSIDE the household.)

As my son is getting older and understanding much much more of EVERYTHING! I am more careful of what I wear and sort of realizing that I can't exactly wear everything that I wore prior to his birth when there was just me and my husband.

If we give our children proper guidelines for appropriate clothing inside and outside the house then I think the contradiction shall be eradicated and we need not be as strict inside as for example we may be outside, children should just be taught that in the presence of non family members especially those of the opposite sex they should observe certain rules of modesty which are a little more extended than the modesty they may need to observe in the presence of family members.

Answer to your question: yes I dress differently when I am at home and when I go outside BUT I observe modest clothing even inside my home.

I actually think dressing the same both inside and outside is a bit Talibanistic!! ;-)

sorry my comment was soooo long. I just felt the answer to this certain post needed to be comprehensive.

I wish you success with your pregnancy and hope your little fairy a safe and sound journey to this world.

Eli

Anonymous said...

Just to say I agree with everybody else so far - modesty standards can be relaxed at home. Although I will add another vote to the ones who added that relaxed should still be modest too, for delivery men, surprise visitors, teenage sons, sudden errands, etc. Personally, I wear more casual and less fashionable things at home but still as modest as "outing" clothes and only cover my head after hubby leaves in the mornings and uncover my head and remove a layer or so in the evenings when he gets home and we won't likely have company, because really, if you do it for him what's the point when he isn't even there to enjoy it? The children still get a chance to enjoy it as well, and the sexier things come out after their bedtime. The kids have the same sort of rules for their clothes, and having both boys and girls they are neither unduly alarmed about some degree of exposure nor entirely comfortable with too much.

Lydia said...

Well, coming from the view point of a older daughter at home with a father and two older brothers I can tell your what I do. I pretty much keep the same standards at home as I do when I am out. I occasionally wear a pair of loose pajama pants before bed, but even then I often throw on a tunic. That is just what I feel comfortable with. Of course if I ever chose to wear a head covering I would probably remove it at home since revealing your hair isn't like revealing your body. I think the husband/father has the ultimate decision of what the modesty standards are in the home. Just my thoughts.

Mrs. Parunak said...

My husband and I are working through these issues right now, too. One conclusion we've come to is that while it is OK for me to have slightly lower standards inside our home than out, it is still important that our children do not see our "nakedness." Leviticus 18 and 20 forbid uncovering nakedness even in close family relationships. To us "nakedness" means more than being completely naked. If I were wearing nothing but my underwear, some people would say that I am not naked, but we look at passages like Exodus 28:42 in which the priests were commanded to wear clothes on their thighs when they went up to the altar "to cover their nakedness," and it looks pretty clear to us that God considers us "naked" whenever any part that should be always covered is not covered, regardless of whatever else we have on. Some body parts that are associated with nakedness in the Bible are the thighs (Exodus 2:42, Isaiah 47:2-3), the buttocks (Isaiah 20:4), and the breasts (Ezekiel 16:7). I try not to let my children see anything from the base of my neck down to my knees. (Although, I wear next to nothing in bed with my husband, and that does make it hard when one of the children has a bad dream and starts crying in the night. We're still figuring this all out!) But I do wear clothes that are much tighter at home, so that my husband can still see my shape. This has led to a lot of really good discussions with my daughter about how difficult it would be for other men if I were to wear something this tight out and about, but that since God made my body for her daddy, it's nice for him to be able to see it a bit better.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, I have much of the same standards of dress, sleeves past the elbows, dresses and skirts covering the knees, tops that never show cleavage, long hair, and I try not to wear things that are clingy or too tight... I get it right most of the time... : ) I am happy to report that I do enjoy dressing this way... there is so much more respect... and as far as home... I basically dress the same... when I am exercising I wear those types of garments but never out... there are so many cloths that are modest but not necessarily matronly.. it is important eventhough being married that we dress feminine and pretty...

Jennifer said...

Hello Anna,
As someone else pointed out, it depends on what you mean by "relaxed". For me, "relaxed" means I'll go barefoot and maybe sit cross-legged on the couch. But my clothes don't change. I put the head covering on when I get dressed in the morning and I take it off at night when I'm getting ready for bed. I realize that you and I wear it for different reasons (although, only my husband and children see me without it on), I have found it far more convenient to put it on once and leave it on. That way I don't have to worry about who will drop by and where is my covering?!

It's the same with the way I dress. Of course, I do have "work" clothes that I would never wear to the store or to church. But they are not any more tight or short than what I normally wear. And I have found with my daughters, that consistency is very important. While they, too, have "play clothes" that I don't allow them to wear in public (meaning the store, dr.office or church), those are the only "different" clothes that we have. We live in town and when they go outside to play or we take a walk, it would be too much to have them change clothes just to step outside. It's the same for my sons. I want to teach them that there is the same level of modesty inside the home as there is outside. And while it's important be more relaxed within our home, modesty should not be compromised for that relaxation (I realize that different people have different standards. I've never liked nor felt comfortable in shorts, skirts above the knee or sleeveless shirts. This to me would be a compromise).

The Lord says we are to be "given to hospitality" and to be so, means my door is to be "open" at any time. For this to happen, I need to be prepared for anyone to see me at any time. And if I wouldn't want the neighbors to see me wearing something, then I should reserve that for the bedroom and with my husband.

Sorry for the book! :0)
Jennifer D

sydney said...

I would like to chime in with those that said 'consult with your hubby.' He's, I think, the one to make the best choice in this decision...apart from God Almighty! :-) I would say to be careful with what you wear in front of brothers so they don't get used to seeing a girl dress that way. Dressing a little less at home, I believe, is fine. But, if you are one to say "skirts only," I can definitely see the benefit in never making pants an option, when you are raising girls especially...it's never an issue. Good post Mrs. T!

Shalom! :-)

Betsy said...

My daughters are very young still, but I also am thinking about modesty in the home as well as out of it. At this point I agree with the posters who say that they try to maintain the same standard of modesty in and out of the home, though perhaps not the same level of dressy vs. casual style. I might wear something more worn out for housework that I wouldn't wear to someone's house for dinner, but not something I'd be ashamed to be seen if an unexpected visitor did drop in or the neighbor kids looked in the window. I'd be casual, but not exposed. To me what seems hypocritical is to put on a front of modesty in the face of public, but not to maintain it for your family, especially between the genders in the family. If it is sacred and private, then it is only for the one who is one-flesh with you yourself. My body is beautiful but private, as are my daughters bodies. If we have sons they will only see if their sisters and myself what I would show any other man in the world other than my husband, and vice versa for my husband and our daughters. I know this is sickening and wrong, but I think a lot of boys and young men first learn to lust by seeing their sister's bared bodies. I personally know of two families where that happened, and I expect it happens a lot more and we'd know that if men where not so ashamed of it that they won't admit it. I think what children need most is consistency, not changing of the rules for here and there and somewhere in between. I want my girls and one day boys to respect me and my body and to respect themselves and their bodies, and I think maintaining modesty always helps emphasize the sacredness of the body. Also think about this, you and your husband wouldn't touch and fondle each other in marital intimacy in front of your children, so why should they see those body parts that are intimate.

Now as far as when it's only women around me, I think modesty is better but I can understand some lessening of standards for certain situations. My mother and mother-in-law have been at both of my births and I have had sisters-in-law nurse me following those births with what I might call "medical nakedness" that we ended as soon as possible. That is just reality. I did not let my father, brothers, or male in-laws come to these times and I unless it is an emergency I always seek out female doctors and nurses. This area of women-only and medical situations though, I'm still examining and thinking about.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it seems to me that modesty (and how one views it) is such a cultural concept. I live in Finland, and while the concept of decent clothing is something that we discuss on a societal and general level (what and how to dress when outside), we practically never think how it should be in the circle of our family members.

Don't get me wrong. We aren't any worse than rest of the world in this regard, but we invented sauna :). It is very common for all kinds of families (even with children) to take a nice relaxing bath in sauna as a family (yes, fully unclothed, no towels). Children here usually see both of their parents naked and their siblings as well. (Of course, when puberty arrives, separate turns in going to sauna usually take place.)

So it never really occurred to me that there might be something immodest to see one's parents or siblings naked (in appropriate settings, like sauna). They are, after all, a family. But it is interesting to see how different concepts we may have.

- Helena

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

A wise man once said THIS about children: though they may not always listen to you, they rarely fail to IMITATE you. The example we set for them has a far greater impact than we can possibly imagine...

MarkyMark

Candy said...

Hi Anna! :)
I would like to add my 2 cents here LOL
I feel like were dressing modestly for The Lord too, right? So would we only dress modestly when we are outside? He sees us when we are inside too so we should dress modestly all the time.
Otherwise were saying that we dont really feel as modest when we dress less modest at home.

I was raised a pastors daughter and because my parents were in the ministry, they tried hard to live a godly lifestyle. Yes they are human and make mistakes and let us kids down but whenever they did, to be honest, as kids, we naturally did lose respect for them a little. There were times were I seen my parents preach one thing but inside the home, they would be a little slack on it and so yeah, we thought they were hypocrites.

So my personal opinion is that for myself, I would dress the same way at home as I would outside, and I do.

BUt thats just my own thoughts..

Anonymous said...

I just want to add....of course mothers and daughters can change before one another, as can fathers and sons. If you have only daughters, I think you can be a bit looser with what you wear around the house. (Although I definitely would never want my MIL presiding at my birth or my SIL taking care of intimate stuff after....the previous poster has a lot of confidence to be able to do so!)

After thinking it over, I realized I observe pretty much the same level of modesty in and out, only that my clothes are more informal and comfortable at home. (Of course, I don't cover my hair or wear only skirts. I just dress decently, long pants/skirt, short sleeves).

I can't imagine consulting my husband about how modest I should be (I think he would never get over it if I came to have a talk with him on the issue...) Of course, he's never objected to anything I wear, so I guess we're on the same page.

And, finally...I kind of agree with the poster who said that one should reserve bare skin for the bedroom. I don't quite understand wearing tight/revealing stuff before your husband when your kids are around. They don't have to be witnesses to how you sexually attract your hubby; leave it for closed doors. If you want to wear pants because it's more comfortable for mopping, I think any child would understand that; but if it's so your husband can enjoy the shape of your ahem....well, I don't think I want my kids' minds going there.
Tammy

NoFreeLunch said...

If the reason for the way you are dressing is to follow Jewish law, then your dress before a child should also concur with halakha. My understanding is that once a child is old enough to speak, you are obligated to dress in a fully modest manner in front of them for educational purposes. A rabbi should be consulted.

Marste said...

Hi Anna,

I always find it so interesting to read the conversations here. Although I come from almost a polar opposite background, I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the feelings and viewpoints of others and the opportunity to reexamine my own beliefs in that light.

Having said that, I'd like to offer one other thing to think about. This may not apply to you in the area that you live in, but where I grew up (near Hollywood in California) I was surrounded by images of women in various states of dress, and all those women looked the same. It was very clear to me as a child and a teenager that there was a certain type of body that was considered beautiful, and that my body was not that type. (Now that I'm older I know about things like airbrushing and PhotoShop, but at the time I really thought all those women looked like that!)

I grew up in a liberal home where I saw my mother and sisters in various states of undress on a regular basis. Although I'd like to make it clear that I'm NOT recommending that you appear that way to your children, as it would go against your religious beliefs, I must say that seeing "more" of my immediate family members taught me that women's bodies really DO come in all shapes and sizes; that not all women looked like the women in the advertisements I saw.

Not having the "perfect" body was something I struggled with for many years, and being able to see that no one is "perfect" (at least not before the airbrushing!) helped me learn to look at my body as something beautiful to be treasured.

I understand and have great respect for the women who have commented saying that they are just as modest inside the home as outside the home, but speaking for myself, it was a great help to me psychologically to realize that beauty comes in different ways. I wouldn't have learned that if my mother had been strictly covered all the time.

Again, I'm not advocating anything you would be uncomfortable with, but I think your idea about short-sleeve tops and even occasional slacks might be a good thing, for both little girls, who will learn to see themselves in you and for little boys, who will learn that they should not be looking for one standard of "beauty."

Of course, if you live in an area where there is NO media influence, then this might not be an issue at all. :)

Nate and Elizabeth said...

I agree with the comments about keeping our bodies treasures for our husbands, not our kids. My husband and I don't have kids yet (not by our own choosing), so I am free to wander around the house in whatever I like. However, I don't. I used to, but I have come to find that dressing in low cut tops, tight pants and/or tank tops without undergarments changes my attitude. It makes me feel less like a woman who desires to honor God and more like I'm pushing the line because I can.
My nieces and nephews see me wearing pajamas when they spend the night, but never anything questionable.
I have gotten into the habit of cleaning the shower right after using it (not dressed yet), lol, but that's in the bathroom, by myself, so it doesn't really count as doing housework while dressing immodestly.
I do wear pants most of the time, and so I'm sure our standards differ, but I guess my opinion is to just say, if you wouldn't wear it in public, don't wear it at home.
I have a niece who's 14 and quite busty, and she spends a lot of time at our house. If I'm running around in a tank top, she feels free to do the same. If I'm careful to cover myself, she is too. The same probably goes for your kids, and I agree with Betsy about unhealthy gender/crossing lusts beginning at home. My brain is everywhere today. :( Sorry.

Luvs2BMommy said...

Hi Anna,

Funny you posted about this because I was watching something with my dh and the Mother was walking around in front of her whole family in a slinky nightgown and I thought it was inappropriate because it was in front of all of her family (including older male children). My dh was not seeing it as a problem because she was home and it was a nightgown.

I wouldn't have felt comfortable, but obviously there has been a huge change in how I dress now that I became a Mom and a Christian. I think a good compromise is the sexy nightgown with a beautiful robe on in front of the kids. A little eye candy for the dh and it will force me to care for myself and show the girls to please their dhs (in the far off future) without them having to see all their Mama's got hanging out. LOL

I am nursing so I am laughing because I am hanging out now all the time :)

Many Blessings :)
Ace

Hope said...

I believe that having different dress outside the home and inside the home does not convey hypocrisy at all. Modesty partly depends on one's location. For example, wearing a bathing suit at the beach or at a swimming pool is modest (though I would say that especially in American things have been taken too far in that direction), but wearing it to the grocery store would be immodest. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion,
I think that if you decided to continue dressing differently at home than you do in public, your child will understand the connection. Children are not that literal when they're young, and, if they question it when they're older, they will be old enough to understand when you explain. My sister was adopted from Haiti and she grew up knowing (deep down, you may say) that women in her culture never where shorts or that sort of thing when they leave their houses. What they see you do becomes habitual and they see it as normal and right.

Miss Jocelyn said...

Hi there, I found her link off of someone else's blog and I was quite intrigued and enjoyed it! :)

I like how you explained your standards of modesty, and to understand your appearance to others, strangers. I think as long as your children know why you do what you do and the Biblical basis behind it they won't see it as hypocrisy.

I think modesty is very important and I liked how to you explained the importance of it. I recently had a comment on my http://feelinfeminine.com/ that said skirts we very impractical for everyday tasks such as child-care, working outside, etc, and just from that I know people have seriously been led astray about the beauty and the practicality of dressing femininely modest.

Blessings!

Miss Rose Virginia Butler said...

Living in a house with all girls, our modesty standards are definitely lowered inside our house. My sister (who's 15) runs around the house with no pants on half the time (of course, her and I have very differing views on modesty in general). The only time I lower my modesty is in the evening when I change into my pajamas; I sometimes wear a tanktop or, when it's really hot, very short shorts. I suppose if there were guys in the house, we would all be more modest around the house, even in our pajamas.

I like to wear decent, modest clothes during the day, in case someone unexpectedly drops by or I forget about an appointment and have to run out the door in a hurry (which happens frequently). I think that's the only reason I keep it modest at home.

CappuccinoLife said...

I do relax some at home. I might leave my covering off for a while, or on super hot days take off my over shirt and sit in front of the fan in a modest tank top. I always wear skirts though, and generally find that my more modest clothing is more comfortable anyway.

One thing that may make us different from others here is that I have never had any problem with nursing a baby in front of my older children. I don't flaunt it or anything, and they actually pay very little attention. It's just become sort of a natural part of life. I guess we prefer that be their first impression than some underwear model on a grocery store magazine, you know?

Mia said...

From the viewpoint of a 17 year old: I have a younger brother(he's 10)and he is now used to seeing my mother, sister and I always wearing skirts. If I dress in fitting pants/capris, I feel like I've lost something...honestly, I feel 100% LESS feminine and counter cultural, even if everything else is the same. And he (my brother) definetely notices, and expresses his distaste, that I look "too different." I guess I'm saying all this to say, that wearing skirts and modest dress is not only for church, but everyday. The only time I wear pants is to bed (pajamas). The reason I use my brother as an example, is becuase I feel like I need to be modest infront of my dad and brother at home too.

--Mia

Allison said...

My mom has worn clothes in the house before that she would not wear out, and I've never considered it hypocritical. She doesn't walk around extremely immodest, but like you mentioned, wearing things that don't quite meet the modesty standard for outside of the house. :)

Cecilia Rose said...

Hello Anna,
I just found your blog tonight and have really enjoyed reading it! It is so interesting to get an Orthodox Jew's perspective on things. I am a Catholic, and the Jewish traditions have always fascinated me...I think there are many things that connect us, as there are many traditions that Catholics have which are rooted in Judaism. All the Jewish friends I've had weren't very religious, so your writing is all very interesting.

I am also into dressing modestly. I almost always wear skirts, I never wear sleeveless tops, and I make sure my collar isn't more than 2 finger lengths past my throat so that my shirt doesn't gape open. Modesty is supposed to be part of Catholic tradition, but sadly, many many Catholics do not follow modest guidelines, even for church!! It's very sad, but I want to be a light in the darkness. It's also so encouraging to hear of other young women who are trying to hold themselves to certain standards. I go to a music conservatory in the US, and everyone is quite liberal here, so reading this is refreshing.

Thank you also for your pro-life posts. I am involved in the pro-life movement and am so passionate about it!! I think the pro-life movement can be such a unifying thing for all Christian sects, and now, I've learned, for Orthodox Jews and Christians as well!

Please feel free to visit my blog sometime: http://cecilia-rose.blogspot.com

God Bless!

MarkyMark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MarkyMark said...

Anna,

I read your entire post, but I haven't had time to read all the comments yet. Someone may have already offered this suggestion; if they have, then sorry for the repeat. What I'll offer is the general principle of modesty as I best understand it, then offer an application of this principle.

Though I can't quote chapter & verse of the Torah (first five Old Testament books) anymore, I do remember what they say. There are parts of the Torah that specifically say that your nakedness is only for your husband to see. That is, there are parts of your body that no one other than your husband should see. That's the general principle as I best understand it.

So, what to do? It seems to me that you should keep doing as you're doing now; only remove your coverings when ONLY your husband is present. After all, he's the only one who should see your nakedness; therefore, if you remove some, but not all, of your coverings, this should only be done in his presence only. Otherwise, it would seem to me that the coverings should be kept on for the most part.

You'll have to consult with your Rabbi on this, of course. He'd know the Torah much better than I do; besides, he's Jewish, and I'm not, so there may be other Jewish laws and customs not covered in the Torah. Those are my thoughts...

MarkyMark

P.S.-I don't know if any of the regular visitors are praying for God to soften up my heart; if there are, it's working...

Alysa said...

I have been reading your blog for a while, and greatly enjoy doing so, but haven't commented yet. I thought I would add my 2 cents to the many comments you have already. :)

Personally, I dress the same at home as I do outside. I always wear long skirts and sleeves, and even to bed my nightgown is below my knees. While I have more casual and comfortable clothes for home, they are still as modest as my more formal wear.

My personal conviction is that I aren't just dressing modestly to appear before man, but before God also.

I am still living at home with my family, and have many brothers. I feel that it is important to dress modestly before them, and also consider that we never know when we will have visitors. I guess I would feel hypocritical if someone should visit unexpectadly, and find me dressing to a lower standard than I would usually.

Thank you for your blog, and I look forward to reading many more great posts! May the Lord bless you and your precious little one.

eli said...

Dear Anna;

It is very pleasing to read your posts on modesty and the Jewish rules on the matter. As far as I have discovered so far, in all the main religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam there are talks about modesty for men and mostly for women. By what I have gathered through your posts as an Orthodox Jew I have come to realize that women have to dress modestly (this includes girls and unmarried women) throughout their life and this is for the welfare of mankind as a whole. What I can't come to terms with and decipher is the fact that Jewish women have to cover their hair only AFTER they get married. You have mentioned how after marriage a woman's beauty should only be kept and be precious to her dear husband and to no one else. Well I completely understand this but what I cant understand is , what then happens to those women who don’t get married or get married late in life?!.

If one of the aspects of modesty is to cover your hair in order to not let other strangers (men) see your beauty other than your husband, then does this imply that all stranger men are allowed to look at the beauty of unmarried girls? Does this mean that when the husband is present one should observe this mode of modesty but unmarried women who for one reason or another never have a chance to get married should be looked at by other men and enjoyed for their beauty? You see I just can't make very great sense out of this concept.

If modesty is supposed to keep the society healthy in terms of male-female relations then it would be much more reasonable to have ALL women observe certain rules of modesty whether in clothing and appearance or in behavior and conduct, NOT to expect the married women to observe it and the unmarried not to.

Could you please be so kind as to explain this aspect of Jewish rules as I believe it is a question of many others as well. One other aspect was the verdict of some Rabbis concerning the wearing of the wig for the married women, which I actually find quite hypocritical. Wigs can sometimes make a person look even MORE BEAUTIFUL than she actually is and therefore be a very great show off of one's beauty which I believe is next to forbidden by the Rabbis except for the husband.

I know there are some Rabbis who don’t accept the wig but the fact that SOME OF THEM considers it acceptable is immensely puzzling and misleading!!

What then is a person to do concerning her choice in such a paradoxical stance? Is she to do whatever she feels is better? I myself doubt that any religious authority should leave a person to decide for herself as such contradictions would just leave people either baffled or help them choose something which would actually be self-deception to me ( using a wig). Like saying OK I'm doing what the Lord wants but inside she knows that she is NOT keeping the rules of modesty at all.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful response.

Eli

Mrs. Anna T said...

Eli,

Do know that in some countries, unmarried Jewish women used to cover their hair as well. For example, a few months ago a man who came to Israel from Yemen kindly wished me to get married soon. :-) I was a bit baffled, of course, because up to that point, I was always recognized as a married woman because of my covered hair.

And I think that's very important.

Today, covered hair serves as a distinction between single women and married women. No, I'm not saying men should shamelessly ogle single women with uncovered hair (and typically it doesn't happen, if you wear long skirts and sleeves). But, when single men might notice a young woman with the intention of courting her, I believe it's a VERY GOOD thing when an alarm goes off: Ding! Ding! This one has her hair covered! She's out of bounds!!

Regarding wigs: as far as I know, ALL rabbis warn against wearing long, too attractive, provocative wigs. The concept of wearing a wig started, I believe, in order to avoid being very obviously marked as Jews (due to Jew-hating) in a society where hair covering stopped being the norm - you'll notice that the ones wearing wigs are mostly Jewish women of European origin, not Jewish women from Muslim countries where everyone covered their hair. From there, wearing wigs became a habit and some rabbis support wigs very strongly because they make it easier to cover all of the woman's hair without leaving even one loose strand.

By Jewish Law, a wig is a valid hair covering, but of course *it must be modest* and NOT flashy. I personally wouldn't wear a wig because they seem hot and uncomfortable to me, compared to a cotton head scarf, and besides, they are terribly expensive. Oh, and I love everyone noticing from distance that I'm a married woman. :)

Melian said...

I think modesty is about behavior as well as dress, and much of it boils down to what is appropriate for a situation. How a woman behaves modestly with a single male friend is different than how she behaves modestly with a female friend, a suitor, or her husband. There are certain topics of conversation that would be immodest in the wrong setting, but perfectly appropriate in the proper place and time, with the proper people. I think that there is nothing wrong with expressing modestly differently in different situations. You still have principles of modesty in your home, but because you are in the protective circle of your family, you can set different boundaries than when in public. And deliberately modest behavior and conversation will go a long way toward helping your children to understand and respect these boundaries. Because you are passionate about this issue, I think it would be impossible for your children to miss the significance.

Auntie eM said...

I am in line with Rosemary and Mia - though I did not have time to read all the comments. I dress modestly at home if there are others around - only my husband sees me casual. I've worn a headcovering for prayer and if I am sharing the gospel - as God's word says to do in the New Testament. I want to wear it out all the time, but so many women judge me and don't understand headship of husband, etc. I admire the woman who donns a covering. I pray God gives me the courage here in California where churched women are rather immodest and rebellious of the head-covering passage. Thanks for the encouragement! Bless the Lord.