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Every Young Woman's Battle

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Red Alert! Prepare for Battle!

More teen articles in's Youth section


Dressing to Impress

By Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn 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 with.

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 was.

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.” —MARIE


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.


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.” —BETH

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 added)

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.


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 the day.

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 your head)?
• 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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