Kids Motherhood

Stop Teaching Your Daughter to Be Modest

Stop Teaching Your Daughter to Be Modest www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Bailey Suzio

Modesty. Can we stop using this word constantly? 

My high school experience was at the height of the “Modest is Hottest” campaign and I suffered for it. I am grateful for the mother who had an incredibly balanced approach but walking into church was a struggle. 

Let’s put a bit of perspective on this situation. I was homeschooled. I was incredibly involved in my church. I wanted to wait to date until I was old enough to actually consider marriage. I was a modest young lady. Nevertheless, I felt criticized walking into church.  

The well-meaning ladies, they made glances. Comments were made while shopping with friends. We constantly focused on minimizing our feminine features. Youth leaders would meet with us before retreats and missions trips to remind us to dress appropriately. I struggled getting dressed and was constantly checking to see if my midriff would show or if something was fitting too tightly. It was constantly being drilled into my head that I needed to downplay our femininity and express “inner-beauty” in order to be good, Christian woman. 

It is a fine line. I am not saying that you should not guide your daughter into classy clothing. I’m simply saying, we need to stop body shaming Christian girls for turning into women. 

Middle school is awkward enough. Our bodies are changing and we don’t know exactly what to do. Limbs are growing longer, we are filling out in new places, and we have a lot more to worry about. Adding in an absurd amount of hormone changes doesn’t help either. The last thing you daughter needs is to think that something is sinful about what is happening to her body. 

How can we fix this? I think it starts with our language. My mother always advocated for the precision of language because, as she always said, “Words have meanings.” We need to be more precise when we talk to our daughters about their bodies and the clothing they are choosing to adorn themselves with. Our focus needs to be on what is appropriate to present to the world, not on what we are trying to hide.

Measuring skirt length and tank top straps will not free girls from being objects of lust but it will make them self-conscious. Have open conversations with your daughter. Tell her body is beautiful. Remind her that her feminine features are God-given. He wants her body to be the way it is. Then talk to her about how she wants to present and respect her body. 

One of the women I think of when I think of modesty never let that word pass her lips. In college, our dorm rooms were next to each other and we’d frequently borrow clothes and hop between rooms for fashion advise. She talked about looking professional, about conducting herself in all areas in a respectable manner, and about loving her clothes but never mentioned modesty. To her, her clothing choices were simply a part of decorum. She didn’t use rules, didn’t pass judgement, but she expressed modesty in her behavior as well as her style. 

I’ve seen properly clothed girls cause young men to stumble. Young boys are going through the same hormonally charged changes as women. We do need to make sure we are not intentionally trying to cause them to stumble. But while we walk this path, we need to be equally careful that we are not causing young ladies to stumble as well. Causing them to want to hide their bodies and to blame themselves for another’s sin, that is not honoring the image of God in each and every woman. 

So let’s stop talking about modesty and let’s start focusing on how each and every man and woman on this earth bears the image of an almighty God and was beautifully and wonderfully made. If your daughter understands this, she will walk with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17).

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About the author

Bailey Suzio

Bailey Suzio’s journey started out in Michigan, where she grew up as the oldest of 10 (yes, ten) children, and has led her to Hawaii with her husband and their two dogs. She has greatly enjoyed this opportunity to explore the history and culture of the Hawaiian islands. In addition to her love for the Lord and her family, her great passions are coffee and collecting an exorbitant amount of books. Bailey has spent the last few years teaching and working with a local church. She writes at http://thethinplace.net/ about her life, faith, and infertility journey.

  • I so agree with you! Around here girls as young as 5 are told to wear shorts under skirts at school so the boys won’t see their knickers. Honestly! What kind of message does that teach them? And what does it tell the boys too! It is so wrong in my opinion.

    • sosomom

      I don’t understand what is wrong with this? It is embarrassing for anyone of any gender to see your underwear. Why wouldn’t you want to keep that from happening?

      • Of course! I totally understand and don’t disagree with you at all 🙂 I get girls not wanting to flash their undies and either gender not wanting the embarrassment of seeing them either lol! (These are little kids I was referring to though btw… pre-kindergarten age. But still, at any age I do get your point). That was not my issue. I’m sorry my original comment was not well explained at all!

        My problem is what the parents/ kids are being told – “girls must wear shorts at school so the boys can’t try to flash their knickers”. That to me is totally the wrong message to give both boys and girls. Girls choosing to wear shorts so they can play and be kids and not accidently flash – ok. Girls being told boys will be boys and can’t control themselves so they have to be responsible for what they wear- not ok.

  • Candice Schenk

    Hmmm, this has given me a lot to think about! I like the phrase, “Words have meaning.” Thank you for sharing!!

  • Candy Kage

    I raised my daughter to be modest but shaming was never a part of her raising. You can be covered and still wear skin tight clothing. Our sons were taught to always respect women and not stare or make rude comments. I will always up hold being modest.

  • Jaime Hampton

    Bailey, I love your honesty! I think like anything else, when we become legalistic about modesty, we miss the point. I also appreciated your example of someone who displayed respect for herself and consideration of how she was presenting herself to the world, without being judgmental. Jesus spoke to the heart, and if we follow his example and teach our daughters what it means to love and respect yourself and others on the inside, I think much of the rest will follow outwardly.

  • I am also very familiar with the modesty trend that swept church culture in the 90s. My parents weren’t nearly as extreme as some, but my mom often commented about bra straps showing. I always felt bad for girls who naturally were more curvy as it’s just hard to cover your natural body shape.

  • Michelle Nietert

    I honestly think there’s a great place for both. I think we can teach our daughters to celebrate their bodies, cover them appropriately – we like this word, and also teach them to respect the choices of others. To me it’s the kind of like the Christian school bikini 👙 – no bikini debate. Every family must make their own choices but I love that you brought the subject up. We had a family friend who became a secular singer because the Christian music industry – even though she was incredibly talented – told her she would never make it because of the size of her chest. That’s just sad.

    I admire your courage and look forward to reading more.

  • Christine Keys

    I absolutely agree with you. If a woman’s walk with God is right, then she will be dressing in a way that is honouring and respectful to both herself and those around her. Just like many things, the modesty issue has in many cases taken on a legalistic approach.
    I wholeheartedly agree that we should be dressing appropriately, but a girl should never be taught that her body is something to be ashamed of or ‘dirty’. Instead, she should be taught that it is a treasure that should be protected. There’s a very big difference between the two.

  • I’m so glad you pointed us in this direction. If we raise our daughters to be Godly, to teach them carefully (and I say carefully for a reason!) about what the world wants, and what God wants, and to present themselves with integrity and honesty; it wouldn’t be necessary to follow them around with a ruler. Great topic. Thoughtfully written! Thanks!

  • Amanda Regas

    This was so good…This paragraph alone….”I’ve seen properly clothed girls cause young men to stumble. Young boys are going through the same hormonally charged changes as women. We do need to make sure we are not intentionally trying to cause them to stumble. But while we walk this path, we need to be equally careful that we are not causing young ladies to stumble as well. Causing them to want to hide their bodies and to blame themselves for another’s sin, that is not honoring the image of God in each and every woman.” I find that what comes with adolescence for young men tends to be very accepted and seen as a time of growth. But I find there is so much shame involved with being a girl…everything is on their shoulders and anything that happens as a result of their changing is treated as a fault. Great article.

  • Thank you sooo much! I also believe dress codes go about this in the wrong way. Fingertip length varies from individual to individual. One wearing Nike running shorts does not make them immodest. I was so self-conscious for the reasons you stated and it’s important to teach our daughters the same.

  • Lisa

    This is a great topic! As a high school teacher, and mom to girls I think about it often but I’ve never heard to from a religious perspective; “Causing them to want to hide their bodies and to blame themselves for another’s sin, that is not honoring the image of God in each and every woman. It’s amazing that women are so sexualized we can’t even wear what we want to wear without “disturbing the peace.”

  • Clarice Mendez

    I wasn’t sure what to think at first, judging by your title. But you’re completely right. I love your distinction about teaching our young ladies what is appropriate to show to the world rather than what they should hide. Subtle but important difference.

  • sierradehmler

    I completely agree with you here – well said! As a fellow homeschooled kid who then attended a very strict Christian high school for awhile, I felt incredibly judged and I was also very “modest” – which is such an antiquated, patriarchal term, I hate it. Teaching girls to feel empowered and confident in their bodies is so vital!

  • Amanda | Maple Alps

    Loved this post! It’s always such a hard topic to navigate with young girls without making them feel bad about their bodies and I’ve seen parents who do a good job and parents who do…not as good of a job at helping their daughters with this. I loved the story you shared about your friend! Keeping this tucked away for future use 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Liz

    I’m really not familiar with any of the sentiments you’re describing with the encouragement of modesty. We were taught a modesty by example that accompanied common sense and reason. I have never felt modesty was a “burden” from my community or a guilt-driven endeavor.

    I honestly have a hard time believing that this mindset could be widespread or that there could be much of a need for such advice today.

    • M Bunker

      It is widespread in the circles I grew up in. I know many churches all over the country with this interpretation. Be thankful it is not your experience and pray for those who have not been taught a grace-filled perspective. God calls all his creation good – even our bodies.

    • Jennifer Rebekah Billis-Gehrke

      Love this comment!

    • Court

      Lol. Very widespread. Or maybe it depends on how you define “widespread”. My “circle” goes from Colorado to Louisiana, and these are huge sentiments. But the ideas come from up North in places like Indiana and such. And not only geographically, but the degree to which these sentiments are taught and accepted – it’s definitely widespread among IFB churches.

  • Janine Burke

    I Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with
    shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls,
    or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

    • Kate Cousino

      I always find it interesting that biblical modesty refers to…not showing off wealth. Not sex, not guessing whether men will be turned on by your outfit. Just moderation so as not to flaunt prosperity before others.

      • Jennifer Rebekah Billis-Gehrke

        To some degree that is not always going to be possible. I don’t think that we can be expected to anticipate every single thing that might turn a man on but we can take reasonable steps to not make it more difficult. And I don’t agree that this is only a reference to wealth but even if it is, there is also a principle found in 1 Corinthians about not being the cause of someone stumbling.

        “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

        32

        Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—

        33

        even as I try to please everyone in
        every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so
        that they may be saved.)” I Corinthians 10:31-33

        The end of the first sentence and line is the point. “…do it for the glory of God.” and “…not seeking my (our) own good but the good of many so they may be saved.

        Spiritual maturity responds by asking “What is good for my brother.” Spiritual immaturity ask, “What can I get away with?”

        And last but not least, all one has to do is read the Scripture to know that God desires us to be sexually modest. It’s all through the Scripture. God treasures women and all for the right reasons. It’s not unthinkable that he would not want men to do the same. Just food for thought.

      • Smoky LaMar

        No, actually, Paul was using specific examples of the way prostitutes presented themselves in that culture.

  • gracie

    These days, its much more difficult to teach girls even some form of modesty like how to sit or how to get in and out of a car wearing a mini dress or skirt without flashing everybody. The irreverence shown in Church by wearing dresses so short that they look llike a top minus the bottom is both irreverent and distracting. There is plenty of time for our daughters and granddaughters to make their own decisions about wearing styles they choose when they get older. While young, they need guidance. Modesty should be encouraged as a form of respect in some situations.

  • momzilla76

    Excellent distinction. There is nothing wrong in having a female form or a full figured female form. One can not be a stumbling block without layers upon layers of rules that make girls evil for being female.

  • Jennifer Rebekah Billis-Gehrke

    It sounds to me like you went to a very strict Church. Granted, we should not be shaming girls because they develop and become beautiful or try to obscure that beauty at all. A woman’s beauty is God given and for that matter, so is attraction but I reject the notion completely that it is legalistic or damaging to teach a young woman to be modest. From my experience most girls seem unaware of the struggle that young men face to keep their thought life pure. Wearing some of the outfits that I see young girls wearing to church is not even nice to these young guys. More than some perceived slight to young women for teaching them modesty our young men, old men and everyone in between shouldn’t have to sit in Church confessing guilt because they had a thought that they are now wrestling with through the Church service to get their thoughts on track and be able to listen to and focus on a sermon because some pretty girl with sprayed on hip huggers and a low cut top breezed past them. Having said all that, I will say that men are responsible for what they do and these are lessons that they will have to learn but Christian women shouldn’t be the ones to make it more difficult for them. Church should be a safe place for everyone to be edified spiritually. I heard a young pastor once say that he told his daughter, “Keep the 3 B’s covered!” I like it and I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

  • Smoky LaMar

    Just because some people do it wrong does not mean that teaching girls to dress modestly is wrong or cannot be done well. …and the Bible instructs using the word modesty.

  • Amy Kindell Behrens

    There is so much rape culture in some of these comments it’s disgusting.

    Girls are not responsible for boys’ actions. Ever.