Dressing to Impress
By Shannon Ethridge and Stephen
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus
Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the
sinful nature. Romans 13:14
You have probably heard gourmet chefs on the cooking channel
say that when it comes to food, presentation is everything. Presentation
is everything, not just with food, but also with your
body. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again
because it is so important: You teach people how to treat you.
Either you teach them to treat you with respect or you teach them
to treat you with disrespect. Whether you intend to or not, the
way you dress—modestly covering the most visually stimulating
parts of your body or immodestly revealing as much of your body
as you can get away with—sends others a message. If you
don’t believe us, perhaps your peers will convince you.
After hearing me speak on the radio about the importance of modesty,
twenty-year-old Christi, wrote the following in a letter:
When I first began working as a Christian summer camp counselor,
I decided that I would refuse to hook up with a guy at camp
so I could focus wholeheartedly on the girls in my cabin. I
wanted so much for them to like me and to think I was cool that
I dressed in the latest young fashions… snug-fitting,
low-rise jeans, short shorts, spaghetti-strap tank tops, or
tops that were short and clingy enough to resemble the popular
crop tops when I was moving around, but long enough that I couldn’t
be accused of dressing inappropriately. I also taught the girls
how to do several of the latest dance moves each night in the
cabin, something we all looked forward to and had a lot of fun
I succeeded in being well liked by the girls at camp, but I
also had the attention and admiration of some of the male camp
counselors. I decided that I could just play it cool and clown
around with these guys. They chased me around with water guns,
gave me piggyback rides to the cafeteria, slipped ice down the
back of my shirt, and fun stuff like that. I kept asking them
to please leave me alone so I could concentrate on my girls,
but they rarely respected my requests, no matter how firm I
I complained to one of the other counselors about how the guys
were distracting me from what I came to do. She put her hand
on mine and sweetly said, “Christi, your actions speak
louder than your words. Even though you don’t intend to
dress to catch guys, they can’t avoid noticing you dressing
the way you do. If you dress like a cute little plaything and
present yourself as a toy, then boys will be boys and try to
play with that toy!”
The following year at camp, I took shorts that weren’t
so short and shirts long enough to be tucked in. Late at night,
I taught the girls some worshipful dances to Christian music,
and we even performed one in the camp talent show. The boys
didn’t mess with me much, so I was really able to pour
a lot into the girls. I left camp that year feeling so much
better about myself than the year before.
Our congratulations to Christi for figuring out that the way
she dressed influenced how others viewed her and for changing
her wardrobe so that others would treat her with respect.
Rose learned the same lesson when, tired of being invisible to
guys, she went to school one day with a bold new look.
You know the saying “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed”?
Well, that was me, only I was eighteen and a senior in high
school wondering, What’s wrong with me? I had
never been on a date or even asked out. Guys never seemed to
notice me, and if they did it was always “only as a friend.”
So I saved up my money and purchased a short black skirt, a
black spaghetti-strap tank top, a black see-through shirt to
go over it, and black knee boots. The next day I fixed my hair
all up and put on my makeup a little heavier, with glitter accents.
At first I felt a little awkward and wore a T-shirt over it,
but it was ruining the effect, so I took it off. People were
whispering behind my back and saying that I looked like a hooker.
I would probably agree with them, but I had their attention
and so I didn’t care.
At the end of the day I was walking down a hallway when a guy
stopped to talk with me and started rubbing his hands up and
down my arms. When I tried to pull away from him and told him
to stop, he said, “What’s the matter? Isn’t
this what you want?” That’s when I realized how
stupid I was being.… No, this was not what I wanted at
all. I wanted to be noticed and respected, not noticed and disrespected.
Once I got away from him I went to get my T-shirt out of my
locker to cover up once again.
Rose and Christi both discovered the hard way that you teach
people how to treat you by what you wear. If you want to teach
people to treat you with the respect you deserve as a daughter
of the King, keep reading.
“Dressing modestly doesn’t mean you have to dress
like a grandma. Sure, your selection may not be as big, but
it’s worth the sacrifice. If stores in your area don’t
carry enough of a variety of modest styles, start a petition
and present it to the store manager. When we presented over
one thousand names on such a petition to our local mall, store
managers formed a committee of teens as fashion consultants
and are listening to us since it means more business for them.”
FROM SOCIETY INTO THE SANCTUARY
I was walking through a mall one day when I came across a huge
display ad, not in Abercrombie & Fitch or Victoria’s
Secret where I would have expected such an inappropriate graphic
display, but in a JCPenney store where I shop with my young children.
The ad showed the rear view of a young woman wearing a halter
top, low-rise jeans, and thong underwear rising far above the
waistline of her pants. I reasoned, Surely this is just their creative attempt at advertising
thongs… Lord knows you can’t show a model in one without
putting some jeans or something over her behind!
Thirty minutes later we were in the food court when a young teenager
walked by our table strutting her stuff in, you guessed it, low-rise
jeans, a high-rise tank top, and thong underwear proudly peeking
out from the back. I thought, So this is the latest trend?
But of course, I never thought it would permeate into the church.
However, just a few Sundays later I was dropping off my children
at a friend’s church, and I couldn’t believe what I saw on one of the girls in
their youth group—the exact get up!
As a matter of fact, youth pastors tell us, “I’m
stunned by how the girls walk into youth group wearing totally
immodest clothes! Don’t they know they’re in church?
Don’t they know that boys are visually stimulated? Don’t
they know they give people the wrong impression when they dress
seductively for attention?” Unfortunately, too many young
women don’t realize these things, or if they do,
they are so desperate for attention (even if it’s unhealthy attention)
that they ignore wisdom.
But if you want to be a young woman of sexual integrity, you
will be different. Smarter. You will teach your guy friends how
to treat you with dignity and respect rather than teaching them
that you are eye candy or a toy for their sexual jollies. When
you catch a young man’s eye, it will be because of the way
you carry yourself with confidence and character, not because
of your skimpy attire. The guy whose head you turn with your inward beauty will more than likely be
a godly young man who could possibly make a great husband someday,
not some Joe Schmoe who just wants to use your body for his temporary
pleasure. You will look to God’s Word to determine how you
dress, and be an example of purity and modesty for your generation.
SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES FOR GUIDANCE
While the Bible doesn’t have a specific modesty dress code,
we can always go back to Jesus’ commandment as a guideline
for how we treat others, even when it comes to how we are to dress:
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
Picture this scenario: You know your girlfriend is dieting to
lose ten pounds before her junior prom. You also know that if
she does not lose the weight, her prom dress will be too tight
and she will feel uncomfortable all evening. But you have a raging
sweet tooth, you are thin and never have to worry about gaining
weight, and you love to indulge your cravings in the company of
friends. So you insist whenever you go shopping that you and your
friend get one of those huge cinnamon rolls at Cinnabon. Plus,
you always keep a supply of Krispy Kremes at home, and you bring
her one every morning at school. Are you acting lovingly or selfishly
toward your friend?
Now consider this: You know that young men are visually stimulated
at the sight of a woman’s body, especially a scantily clad
body (and if you still haven’t grasped this truth, we recommend
you read Every Young Man’s Battle!). You may also
know that godly young men are trying desperately to bounce their
eyes away from sexually stimulating images. Are you acting lovingly
or selfishly if you know these things yet insist on wearing clothes
that reveal as much of your sleek curves and tanned skin as possible?
“If you have shirts that are a little too short, try
wearing a longer undershirt underneath. It’s a very cute
style and will keep your midriff covered when you move around.”
As you are getting dressed each morning, try evaluating what
you intend to wear. Ask yourself: Would wearing this outfit be
a loving expression, not causing my brothers to stumble and fall?
While Scripture isn’t specific about how we are to dress,
it does have some specific things to say about the clothing we
should wear. Here are a few examples:
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and
drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in
dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with
the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify
the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:13-14, emphasis
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness
and patience.… And over all these virtues put
on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Colossians 3:12,14, emphasis added)
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward
one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives
grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, emphasis added)
Notice that the Bible says nothing about bare midriffs and thong
underwear! Instead, God tells us to clothe ourselves with Jesus,
humility, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, and love.
Maybe you’re thinking, But I can’t wear those
to school! Oh, but you can! Just not by themselves. You must
also clothe yourself with actual clothes! So, how can you translate
all this scriptural stuff into practical terms? Read on.
CLEANING OUT YOUR CLOSET
In a day and age when showing more skin is in, when underwear
has become outerwear, and Victoria’s Secret lingerie is
no longer worn secretly, perhaps it’s time to rethink your
wardrobe. While only you can ultimately decide whether each article
of clothing is appropriate or inappropriate, we can offer you
help for determining how others are going to be affected by your
attire as you walk, bend, reach, and wiggle around throughout
Use the following list of questions to evaluate each article
of clothing that you own. A yes answer may mean you need to clean
that particular item out of your closet.
Blouses and Tops
• If your blouse buttons up, is it so tight that someone
sitting beside you might get a glimpse through the gaps between
the buttons as you move around?
• If someone is standing over you or if you are bending
over, could that person get an eyeful of cleavage the space between
a woman’s breasts)
• Are any of your tops so sheer that others can see the
lace on your bra?
• Do any of your sleeveless shirts or tank tops reveal your
bra straps or require that you not wear a bra?
• Do your shirts reveal any part of your abdomen or back
if you do the “hallelujah test” (lift your hands above
• Do any of your shirts have sexually suggestive slogans
(such as “sexy” or “flirt”)?
Jeans and Pants
• Are any of your jeans so tight that someone could read
the date on the dime in your pocket?
• Do you have to lie down on the bed and suck in your stomach
to zip up any of your pants?
• Do any of your jeans ride your hips so low that your underwear
can be seen from the back?
• Do you own any pants that have lettering or graphics across
the seat to draw attention to your rear view?
“It’s hard to focus on being like Jesus when I
see a girl wearing really tight shirts and low-rise jeans. I’m
not trying to blame it all on girls because I know we do our
fair share of teasing. But I don’t want a girlfriend who
exposes herself to other guys by dressing immodestly. I want
a girl who I can respect and who will respect the fact that
I want to guard my eyes against lusting after her body before
we are married.” —CURTIS
Skirts and Shorts
• Do your skirts or shorts come above your thumbnail when
your arms are at your side?
• Back up to a full-length mirror and then bend over to
touch your toes. Are your private parts or panties on display
in this position?
• Do any of your skirts ride excessively high above the
knee when you are seated?
Excerpted from Every
Young Woman's Battle. Copyright 2004 by Shannon Ethridge
and Stephen Arterburn. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado
Springs, CO. All rights reserved.
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