One of the key issues behind modest fashion is this question: is fashion and dressing well a sin?
Most people would say right off the bat “No, of course not.” We know that looking good and wearing nice clothing, is not a sin in itself. If it were, God would condemn the beautiful people He made, plus those lucky few born into wealth. While all blessings have some strings attached, those people are not sinning by existing anymore than the rest of us. Feeling good about how we look is also not a sin, especially if we recognize our physical bodies were God-made. If dressing well were a sin, God would have commanded the Kings of Israel to wear sackcloth and cargo shorts.
The problem is that, like everything else, modest fashion, and looking good can become idols, and that is a sin. So how can we check ourselves without destroying our self-image? Good question.
Ask Yourself “Am I Dressing to Impress Someone Else?”
We’re all at least a little guilty of letting our peers dictate how we dress, even if we dress in a modest fashion. You wear a pretty dress to impress your date. You wear a nice suit to make a good first impression. Sometimes you have to dress with something, or someone, in mind, like choosing to cover yourself while you’re in a more conservative setting.
The problem occurs when we allow our peers’ opinions, rather than God, to dictate how we dress. One of my struggles is leaving the house without makeup on. At first, make-up started as a fun, cool thing that I was learning to do. Over time, make-up became a thing I had to have, or else no one was going to take me seriously. One year I decided to give up wearing make-up for a week, but that day I was invited to an impromptu birthday party. I was so ashamed of my make-up-less face that I refused to let anyone take a photo of me, opting to be the photographer instead.
We should always ask ourselves when pursuing modest fashion: who am I trying to impress?
Ask Yourself “Am I Dressing for the Sake of Vanity?”
Look, looking good and putting together a nice outfit can be hard. Some people are blessed with bodies and faces that look good in anything. But for me, learning how to put together a flattering wardrobe was hard freaking work. It took years of experimenting, making mistakes, and facing the cold reality of the fitting room mirror. So when you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of dressing well, it’s okay to be proud of yourself.
But, as I’ve already said, there’s a problem when your pride takes precedence over the commands of God. This is where the whole “Don’t be a stumbling block to your sibling in Christ” should make an appearance. When your pride and vanity causes you to present yourself in a way that will purposefully mess up another human, we got an issue. Wearing an outfit, or posting a picture of your shirtless torso (men), for the purpose of eliciting lust, jealousy, or shame so that your vanity can take a boost is a –no-go-.
Ask Yourself “Am I Dressing Out of Fear?”
Dressing out fear is the opposite of dressing to impress people. It’s presenting yourself in the safest way possible so that no one can bother, harass, or blame you. It’s choosing to not take any risks, and instead of dressing the exact same way everyone else does so that you can blend in. For me, it was dressing in such a way that minimized my attractiveness so that predators wouldn’t assault me, or that I couldn’t be blamed if they did. Spoiler alert, both happened anyway.
One of the deeper issues behind dressing out of fear is that, to some extent, we believe that if we present ourselves in a certain way nothing bad will happen. That’s Biblically untrue. The Lord never promised us a pain-free life. If that were so, why do we even have martyrs? Why does Jesus spend a good portion of the Sermon on the Mount talking about the afflicted and mourning? The burden may be light, but there are still burdens to be had.
Even so, God calls us to a life of courage, love, and self-control, not fear (2 Tim 1:7). He tells us to not worry or be anxious but to come to Him with prayer and supplication.
Christian Truth Should Dictate Our “Modest Fashion”
This should absolutely translate into how you dress and present yourself. Do not shirk from a wardrobe of things that inspire you to be the human God created you to be because you think that being in the background will keep you safe. We live in a fallen world, and there is no true safety found outside of the Lord. Even in Him, He’ll ask us to go places that might seem overwhelming. Have courage. Wear the red lipstick. You’ll be fine.
What Do You Think?
I know that how we dress is often a hot topic in the church, so I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. I’d ask that, of course, that if you do, you remain respectful. Because this is such a hot topic, it can also be a painful topic. Yet we never get anywhere if we don’t talk about things, so again if you have something to add to the discussion, please do so in the comments below!