The days of the short skirt are not over. Thousands of women are defying the fashion experts, and are determined to continue exposing their bodies and showing their legs. Immodest dress includes any type of clothing which tends to expose the nakedness of the body—transparent fabrics, plunging necklines, sweaters and blouses that emphasize the bustline, and skirts that are not long enough to modestly cover the knees even when sitting.
The word “modesty” implies that clothing must provide enough covering for the body so that others are not embarrassed or tempted. Jesus clearly condemned the lustful glance—and while men are admonished to “flee youthful lusts”—there is no question but that the revealing clothing worn by women today contributes to the depravity of our time. The word “modesty” also implies dressing with restraint, avoiding dress that is designed to call attention to oneself, whether it be attention-getting because of its color, its styling, or its nudity. Superfluous clothing indicates an inner carnality that is not pleasing to God.
That God expects people to wear sufficient clothes is clear from Genesis 3:21. When Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness, “They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” But God took coats of skins and made them clothes to cover their bodies. It is helpful to note that the Hebrew word for “coats” (in Genesis 3) means literally “a covering robe.” The clothes that God made for Adam and Eve were not primarily for adornment, nor even for keeping warm. Their chief object was to cover the nakedness of the body. God clothed the first pair in the Garden—and it seems like the devil has been trying ever since to get men and women to unclothe.
The Scriptures always condemn nakedness and commend modesty. When Moses had been away in the Mountain for many days, and he came back to the camp, and found the people dancing around a golden calf in nudity (Exodus 32:25-28)—God severely punished Israel because of her idolatry and nakedness. In the New Testament, it was the demon-possessed man who wore no clothes (Luke 8:27). The Christian woman is to wear “modest apparel with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:9). Nakedness is a calamity to be avoided. Immodesty is a sin which God hates!
Modern fashions are designed to catch the attention of the male, and to concentrate that attention on the female body. In fact, one of the major intents of the short skirt is to accentuate sexuality. The short skirt suggests nakedness. It conveys the impression of full exposure of the body, without actually quite completely exposing it. Thus it is even more provocative than total nakedness. There are hazards that accompany the wearing of revealing attire.
1. The Woman Who Wears It Is Uncomfortable
Nothing seems too ridiculous for many to put on the body. The kinds of clothing that many women are wearing today are outrageous beyond words. The clothes are usually tight and uncomfortable and immodest and inadequate. Women seem to be constantly tugging and stretching and pulling and changing positions—uncertain of what is visible. The person wearing a short skirt often cannot relax. Some finally give up their efforts to cover their knees, and simply expose their legs as freely as their face.
Girls that wear immodest clothes (shorts, short dresses, see-through blouses, low-cut dresses) are somewhat embarrassed at first. But as they grow older, their blush is gone, their modesty is gone, and in some cases their virtue is gone too. Many young girls who wear various types of scanty clothing, don’t completely realize the effect that abbreviated clothing has on the opposite sex. The young girl may not be aware of the temptation she presents to a man by revealing her body with scanty or too-tight fitting clothes. But her father surely knows, and he should have enough moral character to insist that his daughters cover themselves. This is one of his responsibilities as a husband and father in the home. In fact, modesty should be taught from earliest childhood. Even little children should not be left to play in “sun-suits” (and other improper clothing), or they may grow up without the modesty of heart which God intends. The Bible declares that we should “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6)—not in the way the world goes.
In light of the teaching in 1 Timothy 2:9 (“In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety”)—those who love God surely will not wear shorts, short skirts, clothes that fit so tightly as to become revealing, nor will they wear transparent fabrics that do not give satisfactory coverage. 1 Peter 3:2 speaks of women who lived chaste lives, and says that a pure life was demonstrated by modest and becoming apparel. If Elijah or Paul or John the Baptist would preach in many of our nation’s churches today, surely they would call those that expose their flesh, “a generation of public whores” who are inviting trouble for themselves.
2. The Man Who Observes It Is Tempted
Granted that a man should not look with lust upon a woman (Matthew 5:28)—still it is wrong for women to dress in such a way as to cause that temptation in a man.
The sex-drive in men is very strong. It can be ignited into flame by the mere sense of sight. God created the man in such a way that when he sees the exposed body of an attractive girl or woman (or when he sees a woman dressed so that every line of her figure is seen in bold relief)—there’s an immediate automatic charge set off in his body that stimulates sinful thought and action. Men are built that way. Any man who denies it is either dishonest or abnormal.
A woman often does not have the same strong sexual urge that a man has. The woman’s drive toward marriage is just as strong as the man’s, but the urge that a woman craves, is the love and attention of a man. A woman is different from a man in that she may look on the body of a man without lusting. Whereas when a man looks at the partially exposed body of a woman, he becomes sexually stirred. This is what happened to King David the night he stood on a rooftop, and gazed upon a woman taking her bath (2 Samuel 11:2-4). The woman’s form, left uncovered for the gaze of men, leads to inflamed sex desire, and eventually to adultery. And the woman who dresses in scanty clothing, and thus causing a man to lust after her, is a party to the adulterous act.
Why do we speak about modesty, and about the matter of women conducting themselves in a decent manner? The answer is because of the heart of man. When women and girls expose themselves, and accentuate certain elements of their bodies (and men see them)—the evil nature within, immediately seeks to express itself. Time and time again, God-fearing men and boys have stated that one of their sorest temptations is the sight of improperly dressed women.
A survey conducted among policemen and other law enforcement officers (from thirty-seven states) included these questions:
(1) Is a girl more likely to be a victim of crime if she dresses immodestly, especially if she wears short skirts?
(2) Do boys and men generally consider short skirts an invitation to sex-oriented attentions?
Nearly all the officers answered these questions with an unqualified “Yes.” Women simply cannot parade about, exposing their bodies to the opposite sex—without inviting abuse.
A man can be provoked into thinking what he doesn’t want to think. One cannot dangle raw meat in front of a hungry lion and not expect him to attack. And just so, to tantalize young men with displays of the female body, is downright cruel. It isn’t honest to expose a man to the aroma of steak and apple pie, and then accuse him of being a glutton because he licks his lips. That’s why a young girl came home in anger one day and told her parents that a man had spoken to her in a disrespectful way and had insulted her. The girl’s father (who in some ways must have been a sensible man) reminded her that her scanty immodest dress made her as much to blame as the man who uttered the insults. Girls who want to be respected and who seek a happy life should not dress in a way that displays all the charms of the figure, and then go about their duties in society expecting to come home safely and without being the victims of abuse.
It must be stated clearly however, that men will answer to God also for their preoccupation with evil glances and smutty remarks and immoral conduct. Those miserable lust-buzzards who eye every woman they meet and gush over silly females walking down the street—are headed for the pit of damnation, unless there’s some real repentance and turning toward God.
Men too, should avoid tendencies toward nakedness. When men strut around wearing only the briefest of shorts, this is far from modesty. When at picnic tables or at their places of work, they appear stripped to the waist, it is hard to believe that such an appearance represents an attire that “becometh saints.”
3. The Lord Who Judges It Is Displeased
Modesty and decency and purity may be old fashioned, but so is the Bible. Keeping the body modestly covered may not win a first prize in a style show, but it will surely honor God. Clothing is related to morality, and one who is serious about his relationship with God, will want to be sure to take a good look at his clothes. “Modest apparel” rules out shorts, tight sweaters, low necklines, swim suits, dresses not long enough and cut full enough to cover the knees when standing and sitting—and anything else that glorifies the figure or exposes the flesh. Remember too that most slacks are less modest and more revealing than proper skirts. Most women do not wear slacks for modesty, because the same ones who wear slacks and pantsuits also often wear dresses that are too short. Slacks and pantsuits are a concession to worldly style and are totally unnecessary. The farm-woman who says she wears slacks for warmth would be even warmer if she wore a dress over them. When we stand before God, we are going to be judged by His Word (John 12:48), and there are going to be some pretty serious dress-accounts to settle in that day!
The last step in the degradation of a nation is immodesty. The wearing of suggestive dress leads to the ruin of a people. A CBS news commentator recently described the past ten years as “The decade when the hemlines went up and the morals went down.” Those who expose much of their bodies (both men and women) are debauching the nation, damning manhood, polluting society, and breaking up the foundations of the home.
Many African countries today forbid the short skirts. The International Travel Guide (a publication about passports, visas, and other travel documents required by various countries), says, “Miniskirts are strictly forbidden in the territory of Madagascar . . . a half knee-length is the extreme limit admitted. This decision applies to every female passenger over ten years of age, and concerns passengers of all nationalities. Trespassers of this stipulation can be sentenced up to ten days in jail.” Another national magazine recently reported that Malawi outlawed the miniskirt, saying, “Proper dress is necessary for the moral health of the nation.” It is good to see that some nations are stressing standards on a level above those standards currently being observed in pagan America.
Sometimes men are told, “It’s your evil mind that sees harm. To the pure-minded there is no harm in scanty attire.” It is true that Titus 1:15 says “To the pure, all things are pure.” But in its setting, the verse is speaking about Jewish legalists who teach the commandments of men, and say that certain foods are unclean. Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:5 that “every creature of God” (everything created by God for consumption as food) is to be received (if one will partake of it with thanksgiving). Romans 14:20 says, “For meat (for the sake of food) destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure . . . it is good neither to eat meat nor to drink wine. . .” Those whose hearts and minds have been purified by the blood of Christ (that is, those who are pure) find that Paul’s admonition about foods in Romans 14:20 is true. To glibly quote Titus 1:15 out of its setting is a dangerous evil. Those who knowingly ignore the Bible teaching on modest apparel, have a wicked heart of rebellion and defiance against what God commands—and they have no right to carelessly quote a Scripture out of its setting to justify disobedience on their part.
We want to salute those women who have not bowed their knees to Baal, nor bared their knees to Jezebel. A properly attired woman is a witness to God and is an aid to man in conquering temptation. It is understandable that the unsaved will follow the immodest fashions. But Christians follow the guidelines given in the New Testament, and every day seek God’s face, saying “Lord what will you have me to do?” In Exodus 32 we read, “And when Moses saw that the people were naked . . . (he) stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side?” One who tramps around in semi-nude clothing can hardly say he is on the Lord’s side! We urge that each of us turns his back on the immodest styles of this age, lifts up the flag of purity, and dedicates his life to Jesus Christ anew—and steps out on the Lord’s side.
Lord, forever at Thy side
Let my place and portion be!
Strip me of the robe of pride,
Clothe me with humility.
Meekly may my soul receive
All Thy Spirit hath revealed.
Thou hast spoken; I believe,
Though the prophecy were sealed,
Saints, rejoicing evermore,
In the Lord Jehovah trust:
Him in all His ways adore,
Wise, and wonderful, and just.
James Montgomery 1819