I’m going to step in it big-time and talk about modesty in girls. But I’m not going to give you a prescribed dress code or talk about the length of a skirt. I’m going to talk about raising modest daughters from the time before they are old enough to even know what it means. I’m going to talk about how it starts by Mom’s example. I’m going to talk about how it starts with our hearts.
Why is Modesty Important?
Two reasons, which are both found in the same scripture: Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Both of these are important for good reason.
Man does look on the outward appearance. God created men with a desire for females. It’s a good thing. This desire leads to the creation of families, which is the foundation for healthy society, designed by God long ago. God knew what He was doing!
We cannot pretend that boys or men will not notice our daughters. They will, because they are created to. They will see the outer person.
But what do they see at that first glimpse of the physical? Do they see an attention-seeker? Do they think she would like to show them more?
God does look on the heart. No matter how much we might follow dress codes and measure skirt length, God sees our hearts. He knows whether we are paying lip service to rules about dress, or whether we truly seek to honor Him in our outward appearance.
Nice, Christian girls dress like the world all the time. Many times you would not know the difference just by looking. So we must ask ourselves, what message are we teaching our daughters to send? What kind of character do they portray?
It’s not about rules
There is not a handy list of rules in the Bible for how a woman should dress. Yes, there are some references to head coverings, long hair, wearing men’s clothes, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if God had laid out a “do and don’t” list? But what did He give us? He gave us instructions for how to live a godly life that starts in the heart and is manifest by our actions. Because it is our character that He is concerned with.
I’ve said many times that God isn’t concerned so much with the kind of pants or skirts or tops we wear. He is concerned with our souls. He wants everyone to receive His gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit, and to overflow with the fruits of the Spirit. These are the things that matter.
But…remember, man looks on the outward appearance. So how does our heart affect that?
So let’s talk about the heart. What are we thinking when we dress? What is our goal? This can be a painful self-examination. After all, we are all sinful humans in a fallen world. We are all subject to the temptations and thoughts of the human race. We must ask ourselves (and teach our daughters to ask themselves) who are we dressing for? Who is our audience?
A list of rules means nothing without the reasons behind those rules. Yes, a mother can definitely set guidelines for her own daughters — this skirt, not that one, dresses and not pants — but without sharing with them the beauty of modesty and humility of heart, these are rules that are easily broken and mocked in adulthood. I’ve seen it time and time again.
Teaching daughters modesty
Now we come to the HOW of this subject. How should we teach our daughters modesty?
From the time they are very small, we train our daughters with our purchases, our example, and our words. We cannot expect to ignore this topic until they are 14, and then suddenly act surprised when they want to dress immodestly. Who taught them, or did not teach them? The training began long before the teen years. What that training was, exactly, is the issue.
It starts younger than you think. It starts with the clothes we pick out and dress them in long before they pick their own. It starts with the activities we allow them to join. It starts with little conversations, day in and day out. And nothing is more important or more educational than the example set by a mother.
If we put string bikinis on our 4-year-olds, we are training them to bare their body in public. And if we ourselves wear that bikini, we have sent a very clear message. If we sign them up for a sports activity that requires a tiny costume, we are training them to believe that modesty can be compromised in some situations.
A simple conversation when shopping for new clothes, walking in a mall, or getting dressed for the day can be so simple, and yet provide little bits of training over many years. “God wants us to have beautiful hearts, and that’s what we want people to see.” Or, “We have private body parts for a reason, so we cover them up.” Or, “If we wouldn’t go outside in our bra and panties, why would we swim in public with a swimsuit that is literally the exact same thing?”
Moms, we might have to first examine our own motives and wardrobes to begin this instruction with our daughters. How do we shop? How do we dress? How do we think? Then we can begin to talk these points over with our daughters.
Teaching our daughters modesty is both an inward issue and an outward issue. Man looks on the outward appearance, and God looks at the heart. The training is long-term. It can’t be a sudden explosive argument at the mall when your daughter is 12. It must start with character, and it must start early.
This is not about legalism. It is not about dress codes. It is not about being better than the other Christians. It’s about the heart.
My friend Bambi Moore (Fitly Spoken) wrote a wonderful little eBook called More Than Rules. It’s exactly what’s needed in this conversation. I would encourage all ladies to read this, first for themselves, and secondly for their daughters.
Girl Defined is another great resource for women and mothers. They totally get it.
“Christian girls are never called by God to be seductresses. Never. But they are called to be beautiful women of God.” (Girl Defined)
They had a very thought-provoking post some time back called Why Christian Girl Post Seductive Selfies. It’s well worth reading, along with some other posts:
- Why Christian Girls Should be Beautiful but not Seductive
- Guy Thoughts: Come on Girl, Keep it Modest
- Seduction: Using Feminine Allure the Right Way
One of the best books I have read through with my daughters is Beautiful Girlhood. It was originally written in 1922, and the version below is just slightly revised for language. The topics in it are still 100% relevant today; in fact, it’s easy to spot the holes in our culture’s morality that would have been addressed had all mothers read this classic with their daughters. It addresses modesty, purity, friendships, and so much more. There is a companion guide, too.
But the best resource for training daughters (and sons!) is the Bible itself. Immersion in the scriptures is the one thing that hacks through surface fixes and gets right at the heart, at the character. We don’t need a specific list of approved garments; it’s not that cut-and-dry. We need the constant and complete guidance of the Holy Spirit for living. When we apply this, our outward appearance will reflect it.
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.