Basic Modesty 101

Not every Christian is called to the Plain life. Some will be called who are reading this, and some will think, “Not me!” But every Christian is called to modesty, and we live in a world where modesty has vanished.

I thought of this as I watched a television ad for laundry detergent. The young women in this ad were wearing simple dresses of a drapy knit material, and they showed everything. This was considered acceptable daywear for twenty-something women! There was a gap of several inches between hemline and knee, bosoms were displayed, and the fabric clung to the body. A light breeze would have revealed whatever they weren’t wearing underneath. It struck me that not too long ago, garments like that were underwear, not street wear.

Okay, Christian women, this is basic modesty.

The body shape is not apparent. Dress to suit your shape. Fabric and cut in a modest dress do not cling to the bosom, the waist or the hip. The garment skims the body without outlining. This does not mean you need to wear a potato sack. But the cut of the garment should not outline the curves or accentuate certain parts of the body.

Skin between neck and knee is covered. Shoulders are covered, preferably to the elbow. (I’m a little lenient on sleeves, but there should be at least a cap sleeve to avoid underarm revelation.) I myself rarely have my elbows uncovered. The three-quarters length sleeve is practical for work.

Waistbands and belts are acceptable in modest dress as long as they are not cinched tight to emphasize the bosom or hips.

The delineation of the buttocks should not show.

Knee length and longer skirts prevent the inadvertent immodesty of flashing a thigh when sitting in a chair, or the skirt riding up as you get out of a car.

Colour and pattern should be subdued. If wearing a bright colour, keep it solid rather than patterned. If wearing a pattern, keep the colour subtle and the print small.

Jewelry should be close to the body and sensible – small earrings if any, and a simple chain and small pendant from it (or if a larger handcrafted piece, natural materials in natural colours.) Watches should fit between the wrist bones and the hand. Wedding and engagement rings are important to many people; wear them if appropriate. Widows may continue to wear their rings unless they are intending to remarry soon. Wedding and engagement rings are not worn as a fashion accessory on either hand otherwise. Divorced women should remove their rings. Don’t even ask about ankle bracelets and body piercing. No.

Tattoos, usually obtained in a more liberal youth, should be covered as much as possible. I don’t think it necessary to go to the trouble and expense of removing one unless it is an embarrassment. (I think of a former co-worker who, against her parents’ wishes, had a small Playboy bunny tattooed on her thumb joint when she was seventeen. She kept it covered with an adhesive bandage most of the time, and was saving for laser removal.)

Shoes should be practical. I don’t mean everyone has to wear brown oxfords – but keep the heel low, the finish simple and easy to maintain, and ornaments on the shoe to a minimum. This includes a range from plain black pumps to ankle boots, with mary-janes in between. I’d say keep the colour neutral.

There’s the question of pants. I don’t wear them, although I will don overalls to shear sheep. If a modest woman wants to wear pants, they should be loose, feminine in cut, and be covered by a top that reaches the hip or even the thigh. Some ethnic clothes that incorporate a tunic and loose pants are very pretty, feminine and modest. I don’t like shorts. There is nothing modest about them, and anything at knee length or mid-calf looks like pajamas, too casual for street wear.

Obviously, I believe women should wear their hair long or at least in a feminine cut. Hair care should not take more than a few minutes a day. Make-up, if used at all, should be subdued and natural.

Headcovering is a personal choice. I believe women should always cover in church, with a simple hat, scarf or veil. Elaborate garden party hats are not modest. They draw attention to the wearer, which is not modest.

I think this covers a broad range of modest expression for Christian women. We should not and need not slavishly follow the fashions of the world, even if we are not called to be Plain.


3 thoughts on “Basic Modesty 101

    • Hi, Anna!
      I had a quick look at your blog. Which Orthodox jurisdiction are you in? (I guess Russian, because of Old Calendar and St. Herman – one of my favourite saints!) Always nice to hear from an Orthodox sister; I sojourned with the Ukrainians for a while.

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