Modesty or Frumpiness?

Until the past few years, most of my life I’ve worn frumpy clothes. There’s a reason for this. I grew up in a Latin American country where men whistled at me even when I was a child. I felt hatred and a slight bit sick to my stomach. When worse things happened to me as an adult, there was no way I wanted a man to ever look at me. Hence the big, baggy shirts that didn’t fit properly. And in my justified prudishness, I never even considered what my husband thought about the way I dressed.

A few years ago, two of my sisters went shopping for clothes with me at a resale shop. They told me my jeans were way too big. When I tried on jeans that actually fit me, they said, “Wow.” They had me try on shirts that were my size instead of an extra large. The shirts felt too clingy. But my body was completely covered.

“How do you justify showing off your shape to the world?” I asked my sisters in an effort to obey God by submitting to my husband’s reasonable request to wear clothes that fit me.

“The way I see it is this,” answered one of my sisters. “If God had intended me to look like a man, He would have made me a man. It’s not a sin to have bumps.” In fact, by looking like a man, I’m disobeying Scripture that says that a woman should not look like a man.

In this country, men don’t even look at you. And if they do, who cares? I realized that there are different ways that a man looks at a woman. Let me give you an example.

When I wear a dress, I turn heads. Why? I have no idea. My hair and make-up look identical, and I don’t turn heads when I’m not wearing a dress (even with form-fitting clothes). What is it about a dress that’s appealing to men? It’s the shape of the body, the hourglass shape. But my husband taught me the difference between appreciation and lust. When I’m in a dress (completely covered), men look at me with happiness and NOT lust. I know the difference now. I don’t feel yucky when a man looks at me. There’s a difference between “That woman looks pretty” (similar to “That sunset looks pretty”), and “I want to sleep with that woman.” In one instance the man is not sinning, and I feel fine; in the other instance, I feel disgusting.

I also realized that a dress shows vulnerability and femininity. I’m furious about showing vulnerability. I would like to be seen as a person who could knock someone out. But when it comes to my husband, for heaven’s sake, I want to be pretty and feminine and vulnerable, because when I am, we are more connected as a couple. And that’s pleasing to God.

So if your husband wants you to wear something that is not frumpy, and you’re justifying your rebellion on some modesty speech you heard at a homeschool conference, that modesty speech doesn’t apply to you. Guess what? With form-fitting clothes, nobody looks at me. I look pretty for my husband instead of looking ugly.

Older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands (Titus 2). It wasn’t until I entered my 40’s that I gained some perspective on life. I’m telling you, doing this one thing makes your marriage sweet, and you will feel peace from God after you’ve gotten over your prudishness. The bottom line is to ask your husband how he would like you to dress, and then ask God to help you to submit.

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8 Responses to “Modesty or Frumpiness?”

  1. Brooke Siglin says:

    Susan,

    I love this blog.

    You are a beautiful, wise woman.

    I miss you.

    Brooke

  2. What a great post! I love that difference between appreciation and lust. I often find this a really difficult thing with women, because so many Christian women seem to try to elevate frumpiness as godliness, and I think that makes us, as Christians, look silly and turns off our witness.

    We need modesty, but not frumpiness, and it sounds like you’ve found the great balance. You must really love your sisters!

    I wrote a controversial post about how Modesty Should Not Mean Dowdy myself.

    Nice to find you on Twitter!

  3. Amy says:

    Susan,
    I really appreciate this. I’ve tried to teach my daughters how to dress in a modest, yet an attractive way. I don’t think we have to look frumpy to be modest! Thanks for putting it into words in such a nice way.

    • Susan says:

      You’re welcome. It’s still something I have to be aware of, since I’ll automatically dress frumpy because it’s more comfortable. I have to remember to change clothes before my husband comes home so that he’s even more happy to see me!

  4. Holly says:

    Love! Thanks for this …. I loved your line about “it’s not a sin to have bumps!” amen sister!! I mean we shouldn’t be signing “if you got it flaunt it” to anyone but hubby but that doesn’t equate to not looking nice or looking shapeless at all. So many posts equate having a figure to leading men to sin with no accountability to the men! Thanks for this!

    • Susan says:

      If it hadn’t been for my conversation with my sisters, I would probably still be dressing frumpy. I wish Christian women didn’t have to be so extreme with modesty to the dismay of their husbands. I’ve also seen Christian women look with venom and contorted faces at other godly women who happen to show slightly more skin, as if venom is righteous.

      • Holly says:

        Yes I’ve been around both — sweet women who hold to their convictions and don’t pressure others and women who are definitely holier than thou about the subject. I so appreciate your and Sheila’s posts because they are balanced and relevant and real.

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