Biblical Modesty for Women

by Rachel Calahan


It is not often that believers publicly consider what the Bible teaches about feminine modesty. When I speak of modesty, I am not simply talking about dress because your dress is bottom line evidence of your heart attitude. Modesty, even by its definition, implies a heart attitude of humility. We know that God hates pride and the opposite of pride, of course, is humility and humility is possible only when the Holy Spirit does a transforming work in us. My goal here is not only to consider God’s standards for dress, but we want to consider the condition of our heart when this subject is raised.

Many churches are rightly concerned about avoiding the legalism of laying down man-made rules as opposed to biblical injunctions. I once heard a pastor say “I wouldn’t touch the subject of modesty with a ten-foot pole.” But the response of my heart was, “If the word of God addresses it, if the word of God teaches it, we have a responsibility before God to understand it and to teach it.” In the New Testament women are taught their behavior should be chaste and that impacts dress. 1 Peter 3:1-7.

We do not want to make a list of rules. To make decisions about dress for yourself, you need to understand certain principles from the Bible. Don’t ask me, “How many inches from the floor should my hemline be?” We’re just going to address what the word of God has to say and then I’m going to share with you what your Christian brothers would like you to know as to how your dress impacts them. What is it about feminine dress that constitutes major stumbling blocks for men?

I have found a lot of agreement among men on this subject. When a young man is 18 years old, certain things about women’s dress are going to hit him one way. Then when he’s 80, it might not resonate with him to the same degree. You can go from one Christian husband to another and say, “Is this okay? Is this a problem?” They might answer you a little differently, but you will find a lot of agreement.