I was taught from a very young age that modesty is an outward reflection of what Christ is doing inwardly. It’s figuring out exactly what that “outward reflection” should look like that causes some robust dialogue within church communities. (Shocking, since Christians rarely disagree on anything.)
I grew up in the conservative home school world, where the “chastity button” (top button) on blouses got fastened and swimsuits included oversized t-shirts and long gym shorts. When I was instructed as a kid to run away if anyone tried to touch me in my bathing suit area, I was like, “so basically if any one tries to touch me at all, run.” (To which my dad responded, “yes.”)
I attended my first official modesty talk around age 13, when we started getting our clothes from worldly places like Coldwater Creek and Eddie Bauer. Up to that point, my mom sewed most of our clothes. (Did anyone else’s mom make them a lady bug jumper complete with a lady bug blouse, lady bug buttons, and a lady bug headband special for their piano recital? Just mine? Thought so. That’s why my mom is better.)
Since then I’ve seen numerous approaches to the modesty “issue.” Here are three of the most memorable:
1. The Symposium – A lady in our church community who had four teenage sons hosted a symposium about what girls could do to help boys keep their minds pure. The discussion was revealing. As a general rule, if you can tell they have a body, it’s too tight. Other questionable clothing items include, but are not limited to, the following:
Tank tops: Too much arm.
V-necks: Too easy for guys to imagine what’s down the V.
Blouses: Even with the chastity button done, sometimes the gap between buttons revealed the no-zone.
Burkha: Too much eye. (This isn’t a joke. One exasperated mother finally asked, “What do we have our daughters wear? A burkha so only their eyes are showing?” A dad replied jokingly, “Sometimes all it takes is the eyes.” All heck broke loose.)
2. The “Fashion Show” – This is usually done at camps after the boys and girls are separated for their respective “talks.” (Someday I’m going to cross dress and see what goes on over on the guy’s side.) Girls model a variety of “inappropriate” clothing items while a leader narrates what’s wrong with each of them. It’s typically followed up with an “appropriate hug demonstration” (side hugs all around!), and then they are released back into the wild to make awkward eye contact with the boys.
3. The Fear Mongerer – This is a well-intentioned but extreme approach that often requires some damage control. The speech giver usually starts off with something like, “modesty isn’t just a virtue, it’s a crime deterrent.” They talk about how exposed skin turns decent men into animals. Therefore if we’ll all agree to wear denim rompers, we can help keep prisons clear. A woman once told me that wearing tank tops in public increased my chances of getting raped. (I asked her what study she pulled her statistics from. She said she’d get back to me. It’s been four years so I’m guessing she lost my e-mail.)
These are just a few of many. The modesty talks will continue until Christ or culottes return.
Also, if I ever have a daughter, I probably won’t be quite so strict with her wardrobe. After all, with the way the world is going it won’t matter what she wears. She’s never leaving her tower.
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