Painting by Sir John Lavery
(I like the way this dress is showing blowing in the wind, which is a perfect compliment to the ocean's waves.)
The subject of modesty seems to be an especially sensitive one, these days.
Proponents of immodesty force their bareness on everyone around them, even when it offends others or makes them uncomfortable. There is an element of rudeness and selfishness involved in the parading of bareness around us.
In Bible classes dealing with the subject of modesty, some women secretly sneer or hotly debate the issue, rather than opening their hearts to the teaching of the Holy Spirit from the word of God.(1st Timothy 2:9) Others may be genuinely unaware of their immodesty, perhaps from being so used to the culture of immodesty.
A Rest By the Pool
by Frederick Hiddeman
(This painting of a girl with a fishing pole is a favorite of mine)
If you would love modesty, look at the old paintings of the previous centuries, which record a time when clothing worn in public covered more of the body. Modesty and beauty are closely connected. In response to a modesty lesson, some girls might react in an exaggerated way by heaping loads of sloppy clothing on them to illustrate their understanding of modesty. But modesty does not mean that you have to look like your clothes were thrown on with a pitch fork.
An older woman reported that she once taught a lesson in modesty to some young women, who then wore fancy prom dresses to church, in exaggerated mockery of her lessons. The meaning of "adorn themselves in modest apparel" (Ist Timothy 2:9) is to cover up in well-arranged adorning of appropriate long clothing. If a person really wants to please the Lord, their clothing should reflect the beauty of His creation, and His glory, and look like an appropriate adornment. This means that it should not be exaggeratedly dull or showy, but dignified and respectful.
For mothers, older women, and teachers, here are a few points you might consider, when approaching the delicate and volatile subject of modest clothing. I have left comments beneath some of the pictures about the clothing.
by Daniel Ridgeway Knight
(Though this garment is rather dark and dull, some of the clothing sold to us today is no better. At least this skirt and cape is feminine and modest.)
Go into the Past for Illustration. I've chosen these 19th century paintings to illustrate modest, beautiful clothing, because they depict women outdoors in God's glorious creation, with all its texture, color and weather. Sportswear does not have to mean "bare wear." It is just as easy to be outdoors in modest clothing as in immodest clothing.
You can see from old photographs and paintings that women did not think their dresses hindered their enjoyment of the great outdoors. An added advantage to modest clothing is that it gives a woman a feminine look and the appearance of graceful movements. It also protects the woman from the embarrassment of immodesty.
Did you know that it was only a few years ago that a woman would have been embarrassed if her slip was showing, and blushingly ashamed if any part of her underwear, including straps, was apparent? Did you know that women used to respect other people enough to dress modestly?
Girl With Goats at a Fjord
The Dahl's have got to be my favorite northern artists, and it is always difficult to tell which painting is by the grandfather, the father or the son. I love the happy, healthy glowing faces of the girls they painted near the fjords, and the bright skirts and vests, with the feminine white blouses And notice how there does not seem to be a discordant note between the subject and the surrounding nature: it is all beautiful.)
Inspire Modest Dressing by showing them beautiful fabrics and patterns, or using catalogs that sell appropriate and lovely clothing. Go through any publications you can find and circle the ones that are modest and beautiful at the same time. While claiming to be liberal about clothing, with phrases like, "No one should judge people by their clothing," many people make fun of long dresses or historically-based clothing, which shows their bias in favor of modern bare-wear.
by Daniel Ridgeway Knight
(The jacket and blouse look like something worn today, and the skirt could easily be made, even without a pattern. I like the way many of these paintings show the women's clothing to match their surroundings, such as a rose-print blouse and the nearby rose bush.)
Wear attractive garments yourself as an influence. The easiest way to teach beautiful modesty is to wear it. Wear cheerful clothing at home and in any public situation. It gives others courage to wear long skirts when they see someone else doing it. You might be surprised at how your persistence can cause a change in the modesty at church or in your own town.
In a Garden
by Henry John Yeend King
Try Wearing Beautiful, Modest Clothing just one day each week, to church, to show honor and respect. Buy or make something special, that is not formal, yet a little more dressy, just for church. Older women, even if they are not teachers, can teach by example by the way they dress.
A Game of Tennis
by Leopold Kowalski
(Interesting how ladies could still play a rigorous game of tennis in the longish tennis costume of the day.)
Show how you can find alternatives to the world's wacky fashions. If you are really looking for beautiful, modest clothes, you can find them, but it will take more effort. There is a prevailing belief that we should not be concerned about clothing or what it looks like on us, because it is vanity or it is materialistic, but that is a faulty way of thinking, for it shows that you do not care to be polite to others and do not care what kind of view you give them. When you begin to care what others have to see, you can set about to find clothing that is more modest.
The Old Mill
by Henry John Yeend King
Emphasize how beautiful modesty builds a good reputation for yourself, your family, the church and the nation. It is popular for foreigners to hate the Western countries because the common belief is that they are "immodest, decadent, immoral and greedy," but you can do your part to nullify that claim by embracing modest beauty in your choice of clothing.
Boreas by John William Waterhouse
(In the wind, this shawl takes on a graceful look, and the print on the blue dress looks quite modern. This outfit could easily be imitated in contemporary clothing.)
19th Century Ladies Golf
In the Meado
by Henri Pierre Hippolyte Duboise
(Through the prejudiced eyes of moderns, the Victorians were a stiff society, consumed with propriety and silly customs, but the ladies in the painting look casual and don't seem to be too horrified about sitting on the ground. Their clothing was appropriate for all occasions, both indoor and out. They had their troubles with immodesty too, in those days, but the clothes in general seem to be suitable for all kinds of activities.)
by Henry John Yeend King
(The aprons of these Victorian paints interest me. I see some of them are rolled up and buttoned, and others are rolled at an angle. Aprons were used for many different things.)
Teach that the eye of the beholder should be drawn to the face, but if the body is not well-covered, it will draw attention away from the most important part, with is the real you--your personality and the expressions you use to minister to others. Your eyes and your smile and your voice should not have to compete with immodest clothing.
There are other meanings of the word modesty, and one of them is the lack of boastfulness. Wearing immodest clothing is like showing off, which is the opposite of modest behavior. A person who does not want to boast, does not reveal everything about herself. A woman should cover body in a beautiful and modest way, not because she ashamed of her body, but because she needs to hide her privacy from others.
Finally, teach that modesty is commanded in scripture: "...that women adorn themselves in modest apparel..." 1st Timothy 2:9-10 In the Koine Greek, which was the original language of the New Testament, the word adorn means to arrange or put in order. One definition is to drape or decorate. The word modest means orderly, decent, harmonious arrangement. Apparel means a long garment.
One can conclude from these word definitions, that God does not just expect modesty, but beautifully arranged clothing in good design and orderly, which is beautiful modesty. A good teacher should illustrate by her own clothing that she is in love with life and is enthusiastic about beautiful clothing. Her example and happy attitude will reach the eyes of the most reluctant learners, and those who will not hear, will remember the vision of loveliness of someone they saw, adorned in modest apparel.
The Thinking Housewife also has a post about modesty today.
Andrea has a post on modesty also.
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