Saturday, January 12, 2008

Modesty = remaining in the shadows?

Today's question about modesty comes from dear Margaret, who writes:

"Dear Anna,

At the moment, I am doing my best to become more modest... it is an uphill struggle! Everything I have read on the subject suggests that part of modesty is not drawing attention to yourself, and while I agree with that wholeheartedly, it does raise a problem for me. While I love pale colours and neutral shades, I also love bright and intense colours very much. Is there a way of incorporating this love of bright colour into my dress without being immodest?"


Dear Margaret,

First of all, how wonderful it is that you are currently on a journey to developing a gentle, modest and feminine appeal. Trust me, you will be richly rewarded beyond anything you can imagine! It has been so for me and for every other young woman I know.

Modesty isn't just about how much you cover and how much you show. Like you rightly stated, not drawing too much attention to oneself is an integral part of being modest. However, in no way modesty is about being frumpy or blending in with the crowd! There's a variety of sweet, feminine styles to choose from, which can enhance your natural beauty and bring out your loveliness without screaming, "HEY! Look at me!"

In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with bright colors, in moderation. I think it's a question of finding a good balance and sensing what is appropriate for every occasion. A spot of color, such as a turquoise blouse or an orange scarf, will not look out of place as long as you don't walk around looking like a neon signpost. Also, an item of clothing that is appropriate for everyday wear might not be quite right for attending a place of worship for example, that's something else you might want to take into consideration.

As you understand, I believe there aren't any clear-cut rules about what exactly is appropriate and when. I think you should simply use your common sense and pay attention to how people react to what you wear. If you receive compliments on your pretty, colorful outfit, that's great. If just about everyone in your surroundings turns their head whenever you walk by and can't stop staring for several minutes, it might be a good idea to ask yourself whether something you are wearing is attracting too much attention.


Gothelittle Rose said...

I'd encourage looking into ethic African styles. A lot of things has to do with style as well as color, and a brilliant jewel-tones print on a long, loose dress is more modest than, say, an orange scarf drawing attention to a too-tight shirt.

The biggest thing to me is to watch my own reaction to what I wear. When I'm dressing sexy for my husband, I feel different and act different. Recognizing that difference in something a subtle as a certain shirt or skirt in your everyday wardrobe will give you a good clue as to it's effect on others.

Coffee Catholic said...

I've discovered that regardless of colour, if you wear anything that is not in like with the latest popular fashions you'll draw attention to yourself. I guess it's human nature to be slightly threatened by anything/anyone that is different.

Rebekah S. said...

Wow-what a wonderful and very helpful post, Anna! I completely agree.

Thank you for this!

Stephanie said...

I must say that I am not very convinced that modesty includes not wearing bright colours... I go to church with a lot of Africans... I have never seen so much colour in one place in my life!! But they are covered from their feet all the way up to their head coverings or hats. No one could ever accuse them of not being modest, simply due to the colour of their clothes.

Alexandra said...

I agree - color modesty depends on the environment and we notice them most by others reactions. Most times, the colors we wear reflect nature around us which gives glory to God's wonderful natural world. In climates with four seasons we see this a lot; the color of our clothes change to reflect the seasons.

You can get away with wearing bright colors in warm weather, or in countries with tropical climates closer to the equator. I know when I lived in Latin America, bright colors were everywhere and you would have drawn attention to yourself if you wore beige and black everyday.African colors are bright and bold; color modesty is relative to your latitude(and culture, of course).

Maggie said...


I think Anna hit the nail on the head with regards to modest wear. I would suggest that part of modesty is how you carry yourself. For example, when you walk down the street are you staring at the sidewalk/your shoes? If you are, you might want to consider standing up a bit straight, holding your head high (but not with your nose in the air of course!) and walking with confidence. This sends out the message of having positive self-esteem and self-worth.

Another area with regards to modesty is footwear. Are you wearing shoes that are difficult to walk in? Is your heel too high? For example, you may have that beautiful turquoise blouse on that Anna suggests, paired with a pencil skirt, but if you're tittering down the street in 3 inch heels, than perhaps you may want to rethink your choice here. I am not suggesting dowdy grandma shoes, but rather a shoe that allows you to be able to walk with confidence. IF you feel you MUST wear the high heels than practice at home at how to walk in them properly.

Thirdly, another great area with regards to modesty is accessories. 'Less is more' is my personal philosophy. A girl can't go wrong with a simple strand of pearls (they don't have to be real), or a strand of jet beads. A simple silver or gold chain with a pendant on it. You want something that isn't flashy....think along the lines of Audrey Hepburn. If the style is dozens of gold bangles on each wrist and yet you find they get in the way, don't bother with it. You want your accessories/jewelry to reflect your personality, not the 'what's hot' section of a woman's fashion magazine.

Good luck with your quest!

Mrs. Klause said...

Good day. I found interest in the comment concerning color and our dress and wanted to share something that I posted sometime back. Here is the link:

May God be glorified!!
Mrs. Klause
Psalm 100

Karen said...

Here's my dilemma as the mother of a teenaged son. He attends a private christian school where there is a dress code. They have rules about length of hair, facial hair, shirts tucked in, belts, and skirt length. Skirts are to be to the knees. They crack down on the haircut and the facial hair (Jonathan has received warnings about both) but yet I see girls at the school daily with so much thigh showing that I am embarassed for them! Apparently the school feels that facial hair is a bigger danger than too short skirts? I don't necessarily want to go in and start a big ruckus, but I do think that modesty is an issue here. And honestly, even if it wasn't, what about the challenge to authority? Argh!

deb said...

As has been pointed out, the colors you were need to compliment your skin tone.

A darker skinned person can wear bold colors and still look modest, while a light complexioned individual, such as myself, will look garish in the same colors.

Anonymous said...

I dress kind of feminine hippie style, and that includes some bright/ethic looking colors--you just have to balance it out so you don't look weird!

When you're putting together an outfit, you have to decide on one thing (whether it's a unique piece of jewelry, or a bright fabric/pattern) and build off of that. There shouldn't be too many competing pieces of apparel!

USAincognito said...

Off the subject question...
How did you get your Flickr to post on the sidebar? I have tried and tried to get mine but it won't work. It just keeps posting it as if it were a regular post and I want it on the sidebar like yours. Help!! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with you Anna, bright colours do not necessarily mean immodest, modesty has to do with appropriateness. Something that might be appropriate for everyday wear would not be appropriate in a place of worship, at a funeral, in the bedroom with a husband etc. Obviously dressing modestly even in sober colours may draw attention to us, for example modest beach wear on an immodest beach certainly attracts attention, in such circumstances you may desire to seek out a more modest (secluded) beach (thinking about what influences you have around you, not simply what influences you are giving).

Rebekah S. said...

Alexandra and Stephanie,

I agree that brighter colors may not be a problem at all in churces for instance, that contain a mainly African American membership, for there you would fit right in in bright colors, for everyone there may be wearing them, so you wouldn't be considered immodest. But from day to day or at a church where people don't ususally wear those bright colors, then it's best to not wear them in abundance, for they certainly could become immodest.
I know what you mean! It seems like there's such a double standard.
One thing we have to think about also, is that by wearing modest swimwear at a regular beach, we may be a great witness for God that way. Of course, if at that beach people are just dressing horribly, then it would probably be best to stop going there, for we don't want the men in our family (or us either)to be exposed to that!!
When most people hear the word modesty, they usually think of just not wearing skimpy clothing. But modesty is so much more than just that! Someone can be completely covered from head to toe and still not be modest at all, for they can be wearing skin tight clothing! Modesty also has alot to do with, as Anna said, not wearing flashy, gaudy, bright clothing. But modesty also has to do with how you act. Being a flirtatious, obnoxious, overly silly person is also not modest. It's important that we practice modesty of spirit and actions-that we develop in ourselves a meek and quiet spirit. However, the whole "not drawing attention to yourself" thing can be taken too far. For instance, Anna and I(and other ladies on here as well) wear only skirts/dresses/jumpers, etc., for we want to ensure that we're distinctly feminine. Wearing a skirt in a world full of women wearing only trousers, slacks, pants, etc., can definitely cause you to draw attention to youself, simply becuase you're dressing differently than others are. But should that keep us from dressing to honor God by being feminine ladies? Of course not! So, there is a good balance to find with the whole "don't draw attention to yourself" thing.

Anonymous said...

This is good! Appropriate dress is most certainly the key. That, & motive of the heart.


Adlyn said...

"Chastity is so essential and natural to your sex, that every declination from it is a proportionable receding from womanhood. An immodest woman is a kind of monster, distorted from its proper form."

Wilkes, Wetenhall. A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady.


Rebekah S. said...

I love that beautiful quote, Adlyn!

Jennifer K said...

Dressing modestly doesn't mean you have to be a frump. I'd like to think I dress modestly, and no one will mistake me for Michelle Duggar. I have distinct sense of style. I just love fashion, have since I was a little girl.

One of my fashion icons is the late Audrey Hepburn. Her looks is both timeless and timely. She really influenced me on the idea of having basics in your wardrobe, and then adding your own flourish. For instance, right now I'm wearing a big bold ring and simple silver hoop earrings.

As for wearing different colors, it is all up to an individual's taste and coloring. I'm very fair, so yellow and orange don't suit me. However, different shades of green and blue make my red hair and blue eyes 'pop.' I like red, but I use it sparingly. And black always looks good against fair skin.

Not to brag, but I always get complimented on how I dress, from perfect strangers to the people I work with.

Rebekah S. said...

I totally agree, Jennifer! All too often today, people equate modesty with looking like you're wearing a frumpy paper bag. One can still be feminine and modest, and yet be sort of stylish at the same time(though, of course, being stylish shouldn't be our main goal!). Although, I was sort of saddened by your comment about Michelle Duggar. To me, she doesn't look frumpy at all. I think she looks very pretty and wholesome-modest and feminine. Of course, that just may be a difference of opinion that we have. I think her and her family are truly an inspiration.

Many blessings to you!

Karen said...

I don't know...I LOVE the ornate designs and beautiful colors and fabrics the Indian women here wear. They only attract attention to people who aren't used to seeing it, but most of us here are. Still very feminine and modest!

I personally don't have a problem with wearing, bright, pretty colors, especially for single women. It's hard these days to be noticed in a world where everything seems to be a competition, and when you dress too conservatively it's like putting on an invisibilty cloak!

MarkyMark said...


I visit Anna's blog, and I noticed this post. I'll give an answer based on what the Bible says; since I'm only aware of what the New Testament says on this, I'll confine my discussion to that portion of the Scriptures only.

In I Tim 2:9, it exhorts women to 'adorn themselves in modest apparel'. What's interesting is that the Greek word used for 'modest' (most of the NT is written in Greek with some Aramaic mixed in for good measure) means balance or harmony. What does that mean? I'll take a stab at that now...

Sure, showing lots of leg is immodest; showing lots of cleavage is too. However, being immodest can take other forms too. For example, if you apply excessive amounts of eye shadow in a garish color, then this too is not balanced; this too does not promote harmony.

Another example could be an outlandish hair style. When we talk of modest female appearances, we usually do not have this in mind. However, one's hair could make a woman look decidedly unbalanced, e.g. if her hair is done in a weird style or color.

So, how does one dress modestly? Not being a woman, that would be hard for me to say. I will say this, though: for men, there are certain styles that never go OUT of style, e.g. a navy blazer worn with gray slacks, a white or other conservative, matching shirt, conservative tie (I like yellow prints, what my brother derisively calls 'bankers ties'), and black shoes. During the warmer months, the gray slacks can be substituted with nice khaki slacks. For men, this is a classic look that'll never go out of style; it looked good thirty years ago, and it still looks good today.

Is there something similar for women? If so, then I would say that THIS would be a good place to start. One, if it's a look that transcends generations or era, then you know it's a good, solid style; certain things become timeless, and there's a reason for that. Two, if you can adopt a wardrobe that incorporates those styles which are timeless, then you'll never be out of style; no matter the time period, you'll look good. Three, this will cut down on your clothing expenses. I live in NJ, so anything I can do to reduce expenditures is a good thing...

Oh, and one more thing: I noticed that one of the previous posters said that dressing modestly will draw attention to yourself. This is true, but from a man's point of view, this is a good thing. Guys will notice you, and they'll say to themselves: wow, I forgot what a real LADY looked like! Seriously, that's my reaction.

At my new job, there's a lady who works there. She does administrative stuff, so I'll see her walking around occasionally. When I first started there, I could see that there was something remarkably DIFFERENT about this woman; I couldn't put my finger on what it was though. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me: she ALWAYS wears dresses or skirts, and she always looks classy-always! She doesn't walk across the floor as much as she gracefully FLOATS across it. I think that dressing modestly will do this for you too. Why? Because how we dress affects how we act.

I hope that this helps. Modesty, at least as it's discussed in the Bible, means balance or harmony; anything impacting balance or harmony in a negative way is immodest. Thank you...


Rebekah S. said...

Thank you so much for that input, Mark!! It's always a blessing and a huge help to get a male's point of view. Thanks again for your help! :)