Modesty and attractiveness

Posted By on April 20, 2010

You should not judge a book by its cover. That is true. And if you have time in the library to browse and read the back flap or half a chapter, you will often come home with an amazing book even though the cover didn’t really promise much. But how often do you have time for all that? Between children, household, work, family, hobbies… quite often we run in and out of the library in fifteen minutes and we have to content ourselves with first impressions. After a while you even become very good at this. You know what styles of illustrations probably promise a great read, or what kind of font is often used just to draw attention to a cheap sensationalist piece of non fiction. Now and again we have pleasant or unpleasant surprises, but, in general, we know what we get. After all, a scientific work will not often have a full-colour shot of playing children against the background of a wheat field on it, a family novel will rarely have a shiny black dust jacket with blood drops over the title.

In the same way, people who do not have the time to truly get to know us and be surprised by our personality must judge us by what they see–the woman we pass in the grocery store, the librarian, the people we meet on the street. While it is true that beauty starts on the inside, the way we present ourselves shows that we care about the feelings of others who meet us. We should not explicitly dress to get attention to ourselves, but it is a thoughtful gesture to present ourselves with the beauty with which the Lord has endowed us undimmed by sloppiness or carelessness.

Modesty is very important to me. And yet few people would look at me on the street and immediately have it pop into their mind “Oh my, she dresses modestly.” If we make a feature of our modesty that attracts attention, can we call it modesty? Or does it become a way to show the world how “holy” we are?

Many people cringe when they hear the word modesty, because it is often associated with unattractiveness. And as daughters of the King, we are certainly not called to unattractiveness. He created us as women and wants us to celebrate that beauty and to adorn our temples–just not in a way that they incite lust in others. There often is confusion about the word “attractiveness” Should we dress attractively? My answer is a resounding “yes.”

In Corinthians, it is said that our body is a temple, belonging to God.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (New International Version)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

And in 1 Kings 6, we find a description of how the temple looked. It is clear that it’s not a matter of putting up whatever as long as the structure is sound. The temple is lined with carved cedar wood; the door to the sanctuary is carved and overlaid with gold; even the courtyard is made with dressed stone and trimmed cedar wood. Everything is done to make the temple of the Lord a work that delights the senses.

We, too, are to be a delight to behold, which means that “Well, it’s modest” is no reason for a potato sack of a dress or an oversized sweatshirt. That does not mean that we should frivolously spend hours and hours before the mirror or that we have to spend money that we do not have on designer clothes. Those are rarely modest anyhow. It means that in our appearance as well as in our demeanour, we need to represent the King.

Combining modesty and attractiveness requires some thought and effort. And many of us lead busy lives. We are also not perfect, which means we may fail now and again, or will need to reassess our wardrobes or our routines. The last few months I have realised that a lot of the garments that I wore that were both attractive and modest earlier, are not anymore. How did that happen? Well, pregnancy and breastfeeding changed my body type. Some places are now filled more and others less. This affects both hemlines and cleavage. Some dresses need a little top underneath them now to be modest. Some dresses are a bit too tight and therefore unflattering. And some things have been washed so often that they have become a bit more see-through than they were when I bought them, making them both less modest and less attractive.

But it is not just a matter of clothes. I need to tone up a little bit, to make my body–my temple–strong and healthy. I need to find new routines for my hair and skin care. And, underneath it all, as the foundation, I need to make sure that my spirit is aimed at God, my soul is longing for Him, and my mind is set on Him.
Does it sound overwhelming? It can be. Which is why routines and plans and actions need the occasional adjustment, and attitude often needs some fine-tuning.

Body, mind and soul need to be a unit. It is not a matter of “either/or.” A Father wants the best for his daughter. A King expect a lot of his princesses, or even his ladies in waiting.

Mary, mother of Jesus said of herself: “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord…” Think about it, each day we serve in His presence. Should we not dress the part? If today we were standing before the heavenly throne, would we feel awkward and sloppy?

I am by no means saying that there are not certain times in which practicality needs to have more sway than beauty. Sometimes we need to dig in the yard. Sometimes we need to be on our hands and knees to scrub a floor. Sometimes we need to take care of a whole household of sick people and we spend our days between buckets and toilets and dishes.

But the other busy days in which we need to take care of children, we should not be wearing an outfit that proclaims to the world that we just don’t care. Frumpy blouses, sweatpants, oversized T shirts, and overwashed, ill-fitting jeans have given more than one mom the appearance of having given up.  And when our lives ought to be a living sign of the Hope that is our Lord, giving up is simply not an option.

About The Author

I've been a contributor to LAF through many changes in my life. From Miss Eva B to Mrs Eva H. From living in Europe to living in the USA. From being single, to being courted. From being courted to marriage and further into motherhood. I like to share the realities of life as well as the inspirations, the beauty as well as the work that it takes to honor God in our daily life.


9 Responses to “Modesty and attractiveness”

  1. Eva, this is just a wonderful article. I love, love, love it! I especially liked this line: “If we make a feature of our modesty that attracts attention, can we call it modesty? Or does it become a way to show the world how “holy” we are?” Truly we must find that just-right-balance of modesty and attractiveness… We should be attractive enough to be pleasant to look at, and to express our state of (hopefully!) joyful contentment, while being modest enough so as not to draw excessive or undue attention attention. It is such a wonderful thing to belong to our wonderful God, and hopefully our appearance gives witness to that!

    Many blessings to you, my dear♥

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Mrs. Eva –I really enjoyed reading your perspective, and agree wholeheartedly! This is something I’ll be passing around for others to enjoy!

  3. Renee Stam says:

    Great post, I wrote a similar one about modesty during pregnancy and wedding, because I keep seeing the tendency of women to let go of their standard in those 2 season of life!

    Modesty is a matter of the heart, when your heart is fill with the Lord you want to dress to reflect it! And most time dressing immodest reflect your heart too!!!! (selfishness, I want to dress this way, to be pretty to be comfortable etc… it’s all about me me me that is a heart issue)

    I do agree that we should wear nice and clean clothes that fit properly! But also ask our husband’s opinion!!! They are men after all and know what a men’s struggles with what they see!!!!

    So I never go out of our home without having the Ok from my husband regarding what I’m wearing,

    Seams a bit demanding or not natural, well I want to make sure that what I wear will not be making any of my brother’s fall, or my sisters envious (better to be trown to the sea with a millstone around my neck then make any of of His little one sin)

    And I also want to be a testimony for my husband, I am call to submit to his authority and dressing in a way that would not please him would show my unsubmtited spirit and therefore make him look like a bad husband and that is not what I want to do!!!!

    Do we have different type of clothing that I would wear inside our home when I work and for behind our bedroom door, of course!!! And I always dress to please Him and my husband. (I had some clothes given to me for free and taught they wouldn’t fit in what my husband would like me to wear in public so I taught would be fine work clothes) I was wrong, he didn’t like the style (even if it was modest) so I had to get rid of it! I didn’t see anything wrong with it at all, just wanted to please him!

    Sorry about the long reply!

    Thanks for sharing this post with us!


  4. Well, seeing as I just ate a couple of mini reese cups and downed a handful of potato chips and then sat down to read your post in my t shirt and sweats, I feel a bit out of place commenting on this post……..but here I go!!! 🙂 It’s wonderful to be reminded of such a great responsibility to share the HOPE we have in Christ and encouraged to do so. It is very true that we may not intend for our appearance to tell others who we are…..but needless to say…it is our billboard for ourself. It’s the first way we typically tell others who we are. Now, today, I arose and showered, fixed my hair and make up, & I am working around my home cleaning – but there are many other days I’m tempted to dress the same way because it is easy or because I haven’t been diligent with my time and thought and haven’t prepared to look nice for my day. I just spoke with my husband about this a week ago, I kid you not, so it’s great to come here and read this post as a reminder of my goal. I must take care of my body and not just become complacent where I am at because of my lack of discipline! I am content with the stretch marks, the wrinkles, the gray hair because they are all signs of beauty in who I have become by bearing children and working hard and aging (although I’m still young – I do have gray & wrinkles). It’s the fact that I’m not building up strength in the one and only temple I have to cary Christ to my home and the world around me and for His hope to be displayed through to others. May I become more disciplined in my health/exercise routine and more purposeful in what I put on to clothe this temple of God! God may I bring you glory…..may your strengths shine through my weaknesses…….to bring you honor and glory and to share with others the hope I have in you! Thank you for this post and this wonderful reminder! God Bless!

  5. In one of the purity classes my church offered for the young folks, the lady talking to us said something that I’ve remembered ever since:
    “There’s a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract.”

    On another note, on my college campus, being modest at all really made you stand out. I’m skirts-only, and try to be very aware of tightness and neck-lines, but I always tried to be attractive rather than frumpy or sloppy, knowing that my appearance is honoring both my husband and my Lord. On my campus, immodesty and sloppiness were both “in,” and so I stood out quite a bit.
    All that to say, while I agree with you that we shouldn’t dress piously in an attempt to draw attention to our piousness, in some cases, being modest and feminine at all is going to draw attention to your appearance even if that’s not your intent.

  6. It takes the same amount of physical effort to put on a pretty piece of clothing as it is to put on something sloppy–now something modest and pretty may take extra thought, but that’s no excuse to not do it!

    And I agree with Stephanie who commented before me–just being feminine kind of sticks out in a culture of women clad in sloppy outfits and acting like brash men. However, it may not always be negative attention–I think people, especially men appreciate women wearing feminine clothes and behaving in a feminine manner. It’s unique and a relief from the usual styles.

  7. Tess Bomac says:

    A great book on this topic is “A Return to Modesty” by Wendy Shalit, a Jewish scholar. Her other book, “Girls Gone Mild” is excellent as well.

    I by nature love sweats, jeans, t-shirts. So, in order to help me stop dressing like a man, I purged my closet of anything that looked sloppy on me. I still have jeans and sweats, but it helped to get rid of all the shirts that weren’t doing me any favors, the pants that would always look sloppy, the skirts that seemed very dated after I had a child (something about being a mother made all sorts of items seem silly).

    It’s a good idea because when you are standing in front of your closet, having a bunch of things that don’t fit, look wrong, need mending, aren’t appropriate, etc. adds a lot of time and mental frustration to getting dressed. By taking out all of my hobo clothes, and committing myself to never leaving the house in sweat pants again, I have found that it’s easier for me to dress appropriately and not feel put out about it.

    I’m still working on it, but removing my temptingly comfortable but ugly items was a big help.

  8. Great post. I also greatly appreciated the line “If we make a feature of our modesty that attracts attention, can we call it modesty? Or does it become a way to show the world how “holy” we are?”
    That was something for me to think on.

  9. Kings Maiden says:

    Thanks for the post, it is so encouraging!
    I’ll admit, I sometimes got frustuated with how I had to wear things that I thought looked “frumpy” or “unattractive.” It’s nice to relize that being modest, dosn’t have to be ugly, but not being reveiling or trying to attract attention at the same time. Thanks again!!

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