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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

What is Modesty?

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

In today’s society there seems to be a lot of confusion to what is “modest” and what is not. The internet is filled with opinions. It may have gotten easier to look-up or search and find an answer to any one of your questions, but now we have to check our source and make sure they are creditable. So how can one know, truly know what modesty is?

In the dictionary you’ll find modesty is the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate on the estimation of one’s abilities. It also states: behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency. This is the definition of modesty we will be focusing on.

Modesty is not just about dressing, it goes deeper than that. -Michaela de Guire

I was raised with modesty being covered skin from collarbone, to elbows, to knees, and nothing in between showing. No tight, body con-clothes. No short, eye-catching hairstyles, little to no make up. Plain or ordinary clothes that never draw attention to you. But what they forget to teach young women (and men too) is it is not just about dressing, modesty goes deeper than that.

Modesty is being the best you can be. It is you becoming the best you there is. It is you learning, implementing, and becoming elegant at every level without broadcasting it to the world.

In the Catholic faith there are two specific required days in which we fast, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. When we are fasting Jesus tells us to wash our face and continue living as we would any other day. This means we are to keep a clean appearance and do the work God has for us for that day, to live on purpose. We are to fast quietly. We are to fast without telling the world we are fasting.

Thus, modesty is doing things, dressing in ways that cover one's body and treat others with dignity without calling to attention all that you are doing. It is doing it for God, not to gain people's attention. Whether you are fit or not. Whether you want to show off your body or not. Whether you want to ignore someone or not. Whether you want to say something rude and off-handed or not. It is in these situations that your dignity for yourself shows through. What you say and how you say it to someone else is how you feel about yourself. If you say something that hurts another, modesty is setting your pride aside and apologizing. An outward example of modesty is your heart posture, how you feel inside, is represented through your clothes, it is dressing with respect for yourself.

Modesty is not a selfish act. It is you doing it for God. God created you to be beautiful inside, and when we dress in a way that is displaying respect for our body on the outside, we are also displaying our beauty on the inside, we put our personality forward. We offer others a chance to get to know us, not our bodies, but us, our personality, everything that makes us dance, sing, and cry.

Modesty is also respect for other people. It is you dressing in such a way that offers them comfort. When a woman is dressed with dignity and respect for herself people are not afraid to look and speak with her. People are more comfortable in her space and therefore creating connections and building her network becomes easy for her.

When a woman respects others, people feel the emotional connection and are interested in sparking a relationship with her because she offers them the respect they deserve. She is interested in them, not in her own affairs.

Why Do We Cover Ourselves?

To be honest with you, while I was writing this particular blog I asked myself this question… “Why do we cover ourselves?” And, would you believe it or not, but the answer to this simple question is complex. To discover the answer we must go back to the beginning of time. Well, maybe not quite the very beginning, but rather close… to Adam and Eve.

Genesis 2:25 says, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” At this point in Adam and Eve’s life they were living life as their ideal selves, as their highest selves, as God created them to live, on purpose. It wasn’t until they ate of the tree of good and evil, the forbidden fruit, that they became ashamed and untrusting toward each other and God. They broke the trusting security that came with their marriage, as all marriages should have. You should never leave God at the altar when you get married, but rather invite Him to be a part of everything with you and your spouse.

It was through their shame and untrustworthiness to one another that they felt as if they had to conceal their bodies, covering what was once seen as beautiful, but is now possibly judged by the other. To cope with all the shame within Adam and Eve, each sought assistance from outside sources, from fig leaves, to conceal their bodies from one another. Their heart posture was shifted, from trust and faith, to shame and guilt. And thus, it was reflected in the fig leaves.

It was through this action that God had seen they were trying to reduce the chasm they had created between who they were (their ideal, highest selves) to who they are now (vulnerable, ashamed, and guilty). They are no longer living on purpose or as their ideal selves. But God recognizes their confession through the fig leaves, and offers them clothes made of animal skins. He gives them these out of mercy, not to shame our flesh or bodies, but to support us and tell us He knows we are not our ideal selves, our best selves. He says through the animal skins, that Adam and Eve are not what they were, nor are they what they should be. But through the animal skin God has revealed that He will one day make us what we ought to be.

The Rebellion

In today's society we see a rebellion against clothes, those who do not cover themselves as the animal skin did Adam and Eve, are not actually returning to the garden, to their innocent self, but rather they are rebelling against God Himself. For God gave the animal skins (clothes) to Adam and Eve out of mercy, for us to witness the glory we have lost.

On the other hand, clothes themselves should never be used to catch someone's attention, display power or prestige. They should not make or imply to others what is beneath them. God says in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “ I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” This means not to focus so much on the clothes themselves, but rather as one should focus on the hands that serve others, the feet that carry God’s word, and the brightness in the face that looks to the glory of the Trinity.

Modern Modesty

So with all being said, what does modern modesty look like?

Modern modesty is keeping the personal, personal. That means hiding undergarment lines, shades, and all. That means covering body parts that are seen as “sexual”, cleavage, buttock, abdomen, etc. Each country may differ in this particular area of what to conceal and what is allowed to be seen by the public. However, in North America it is from above your cleavage to your upper thigh. Although in recent years more abdomen’s have been seen in public, I am not referring to bikinis on the beach and at water parks. I mean girls are wearing more crop tops than ever. Of course the fast fashion industry has not been helping, as there are numerous tops without the length they once had.

Modesty in regards to fashion and style refers to dressing in such a manner of less body conning and skin revealing clothes. Many may think it is for religious beliefs that one dresses in such a manner. However, I believe each woman has a personal preference to dress modestly, because internally she has a deep yearning to be respected, loved, and cherished as herself, not as her body alone. I believe deep inside each woman wants to dress with respect, wants respect and deserves respect. And thus, work towards dressing in such a manner.

Dressing with respect for your own body is not for weirdos, it is most likely because you find you are more respected when you dress in the way of modesty and you treat others with the same respect. It is for women who know and understand their values, their deepest desires and emotions. It is for women who are ready to take charge of their life.

Modesty is dressing in a way that reflects your deepest values, it is a reflection of God. God is good, and thus, deep inside each one of us is good. For each of us were created in the image and likeness of God. Each human being no matter their age, ethnicity, hair color, etc. are created in the image and likeness of God, each has a soul. And thus, each of us, deep inside, are good and seek to display this subtly to the world.

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