Recently, while shopping at the grocery store, I began to notice the clothes that other ladies were wearing. Some seemed to come dressed for bed, with pajamas and fuzzy slippers to match. Some wore form-fitting clothes that left little to the imagination—including cellulite. Still others had so few clothes on that I had to turn my head away out of embarrassment for them. It seemed most were adhering to the philosophy, “When you’ve got it, flaunt it.” My thoughts were that we will have a big job in tomorrow’s world teaching women something as basic as how to dress.
As I thought about the women I was observing, I began to consider my own clothes. What was I wearing in public? Was I, as a Christian woman, setting the proper example? Was my public attire something others should emulate? I had to admit that it was not. My clothes were not immodest, but they were hardly exemplary. They did not set the tone that I believe will be the standard in the Kingdom of God. I was dressed more for gardening or such than for shopping at a public grocery store. I had to admit that society’s much-too-casual dress code had rubbed off on me.
To be clear, I am not advocating a return to the day when women vacuumed floors in high heels, as we were portrayed to do on early television sitcoms, nor am I saying that we should wear pearls while doing housework, like the mother on Leave It to Beaver. However, I think we can agree that many women’s wardrobe choices have gotten out of hand, to say the least.
To Please God, Not Men
As Christian women, we all too often reassure ourselves by comparing ourselves with women who are not in the Church. Yet the Bible clearly states that comparing ourselves among ourselves is unwise (2 Corinthians 10:12)—so how much less reliable is it to compare ourselves with women whom God has not called?
Our standards should be based on what God says. So, what does He say?
God does not have a law that tells us exactly how long a dress or skirt should be. Christian women should not need the “dress police” to measure hemlines. However, God does give us broad principles that, with His Spirit, we can use to make wise choices.
One key principle to use in selecting clothes is modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines modesty as a “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.” Today’s society likes to believe modesty is situational, meaning that each of us can define it to be whatever we want it to mean. But God’s standard of modesty does not make room for women to dress provocatively. Many women seem not to understand the effect women’s clothing choices can have on men. We are our brothers’ keepers, and we should not want anyone to suffer spiritually because of the clothes we choose to wear. Christian women should employ modesty in their public dress at all times.
Another principle to consider when selecting items for your wardrobe is whether or not the clothes are truly appropriate for women, specifically. Are they feminine, or do they hint at some kind of gender-bending? This may seem obvious, but with today’s transgender movement and the desire to blur lines between men and women, it must be considered. Many fashion designers lean toward either of two extremes in clothing: super-sexy or sexless. Unisex approaches that try to hide or deny the differences between male and female are an abomination to God, who wants women to look and dress like women (Deuteronomy 22:5). Pants are fine, so long as they are designed for women, and it’s not that every woman’s t-shirt and every female baby’s diaper must be pink—we do not need to consider blue jeans, green t-shirts, or white diapers as gender-bending. But we must use our wisdom and common sense to dress in a way that clearly distinguishes us from men. Christian women should want their femininity to be obvious, not obscured by the clothes they’re wearing.
There are many principles we could address, but the last we will consider in this brief article is an overriding tenet that should govern all of our choices: We are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:20). As ambassadors, we represent the Kingdom of God, now. We practice God’s way now. We should emulate today the standards we will teach women in the world tomorrow, and we cannot convincingly teach what we have not practiced.
I am well aware that practicing our beliefs with respect to how we dress can make us stand out. This is especially true for younger women and women who work outside the home. The tendency is to want to blend in and not attract unwanted attention and possibly ridicule. But don’t worry—be encouraged! If you suffer because you choose to dress in a godly manner, you will be well rewarded (Matthew 5:11–12)! Christian women recognize that we are representatives of the Kingdom of God and therefore dress to please our heavenly Father.
“Majoring in the Minors”?
Given Scripture’s broad guidelines of appropriate dress and the broad range of clothing worn today, one would think there would be many choices that meet Christian standards, but there are surprisingly few. Many women’s selections at clothing stores are either too short, or too low-cut, or too tight, or too something!
Dressing properly is not always easy (Matthew 7:14); however, there are options available. The more conservative brands often offer suitable choices. These may cost more, and it’s true that some of us may be very limited by our income when it comes to choosing which clothes to buy. However, while some modest clothing may be more expensive, it is usually of higher quality and will last longer, making it a good investment. Also, a good seamstress can make alterations to some clothes to make them more appropriate, and some brave souls might decide they would like to take up sewing and create their own styles.
In any case, Christian women must not give in to the provocative styles foisted upon us by worldly clothing designers. Choosing to dress as godly women will require more effort, yet with God’s help, we can do it.
Some may question the importance of this topic. They may consider a discussion on how we dress as “majoring in the minors.” After all, God is interested in developing the inner person; He is developing our hearts and minds to be like Christ’s (Philippians 2:5). Clothes are just a physical thing; does God really care about this?
This way of thinking is a false narrative, because both are important. Yes, God wants us to develop the inner person—and yes, God cares about what we wear. The clothes we choose to wear are an outward expression of the inner woman we are becoming. Our choices, including what we wear, reflect our faith (James 2:18).
While this article discusses some broad principles about the characteristics of clothes Christian women should wear in public, I am in no way advocating that we must dress in Sabbath-wear whenever we leave the house. There are appropriate clothes for differing occasions—we would not wear the same clothes shopping as we wear to the beach, for example. There are many times when a pair of jeans and a t-shirt are quite fine. Yet should we wear jeans that have holes in strategic places or t-shirts that have unchristian or political sayings on them? Should we be seen in public wearing clothes that are noticeably torn, stained, or dirty? The casual, grungy look has become very popular, and we should want to avoid that. Whatever the occasion, our public attire should be modest, and whether we are in public or not, our attire should be female and representative of our Christian values.
Yes, what we wear is important, and God does care, because we are His daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). We are in training to be “kings and priests” in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 5:9–10). We have the unique perspective of being women, and we will be able to relate to other women in God’s Kingdom. We will have the pleasure and the opportunity to teach them God’s way of life in the soon-coming millennial reign of Christ. We have been enlisted by God the Father to preach the Gospel to the world, and sometimes the best way to preach is by being a light (Matthew 5:14–16). Let us be lights and show the world through our examples how Christian women should dress.