“I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes. I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.”
— Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones, “Paint It Black,” 1966
During the same decade in which Mick Jagger wrote the above lyrics, the following was said by Mary Quant, one of the creators of the mini-skirt:
“People call things ‘vulgar’ when they are new to them. When they have become old, they become ‘good taste.'”
“I love vulgarity. Good taste is death. Vulgarity is life.”
“All this decoration (talking about the mini-skirts she designed) is put on in order to seduce a man to bed, so what’s the sense of taking it all off?”
“Am I the only woman who has ever wanted to go to bed with a man in the afternoon? Any law-abiding female, it used to be thought, waits until dark. Well, there are lots of girls who do not want to wait. Mini-clothes are symbolic of them.”
“If the clothes don’t make you noticed, then I think they’re a waste of money.”
“(I want to) dress women so men would feel like tearing the wrapping off.”
Here’s what the Bible says:
1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)
9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
Matthew 18:7 (ESV)
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Take a look at 1 Timothy 2:9 again. The Greek terms used in that verse which are translated in the ESV as “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” have as their definitions the following concepts:
“Decorous: – of good behavior, modest” (Strong’s Greek Lexicon)
“Bashfulness, i.e. (towards men) modesty or (towards God) awe” (Strong)
“Soundness of mind, i.e. (literally) sanity or (figuratively) self-control” (Strong)
Some look at 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and think the point God is making is to not dress to flaunt wealth, to not wear expensive items with the goal of drawing attention to oneself. While that is certainly part of the point, the concepts behind the definitions of these Greek terms bring forth more than just avoiding flashy, expensive outfits.
“Decorous” means “in keeping with good taste and propriety; polite and restrained” (Oxford). The average modern swimwear for women cannot be said to be “in keeping with good taste and propriety.” It certainly is not “modest.” I remember from my youth a movie in which a girl tried to seduce a boy by basically changing clothes right in front of him, wearing nothing but her underwear, and saying when he looked uncomfortable, “What? This is practically what I wear when I go swimming.” There is no sense of “bashfulness” when one wants everyone at the pool or on the beach to see their cleavage, their thighs, and their rear ends. It certainly does not promote self-control when it comes to sexual desires in primarily men but also in women when one dresses like this.
These scriptural precepts apply not only to women, but to men also. God dressed both Adam and Eve in this way, and “every word of God is tested” (Prov. 30:5). In other words, he put that in the Old Testament for a reason and made sure New Testament Christians knew that what they read in the Old Testament was meant to teach them and be an example to them. We have God’s standards for modesty for both men and women, universally, for all time, considering that he set this standard at the very beginning of time and made sure it was in the very first book of the Bible which was written.
It’s summer weather. Christian ladies and gentlemen, let’s be modest, respectable, and wear clothing appropriate for those professing to follow Christ. That clothing IS out there, people. With some effort, one can finds shorts that go to the knee and shirts that don’t show one’s cleavage or midriff. It’s worth the effort.
Yet some would say that women shouldn’t be “obsessed” with feeling like their choices may cause males to sin. (I’ve had that said to me before whenever I’ve spoken on this topic in the past.) I would respond by saying that obsessed is a strong word which carries with it negative connotations, and thus is counterproductive to the goal of getting women to be more modest as a whole. It leads women to say, “Yeah! That’s right! I’m not going to obsess over this! Men, you have the problem, not me!” This mindset only adds to the problem.
“Mindful” is a better word than “obsessed.” The reason I choose to wear a t-shirt whenever I go swimming and do my best to find times when my family can have the pool to ourselves is not because I obsess over being modest, but because I’m mindful of being modest. We all should be mindful of this. There’s no reason to stay up all night thinking about it.
Plus, let’s be honest. It’s true that women are sexually aroused by sight to a degree, but men are the ones who are primarily sexually aroused by sight. We all know this. As Christians, we also know that God specifically told us not to place stumbling blocks in the paths of others and to consider the interests of others as more important than ourselves (Matt. 18:7ff; Phil. 2:3-4). So women — and men — should be…not obsessed, but mindful…that what we wear has an effect on others. Women should be mindful that what they wear has an effect on men. That doesn’t take away the responsibility of men to make the conscious choice to decide to not lust and do what they can to not lust, like turn their heads or walk away should a woman in a bikini cross their path. (I go out of my way to avoid the Victoria’s Secret store in the mall for that reason. I won’t even walk past it if possible.) Yet in addition to what men should do, women also have the God-given responsibility to do what they can to avoid putting that temptation in the paths of men. Men must also do what they can to avoid putting a similar temptation in women’s paths.
Let’s have as a top priority the spiritual best interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as their wives or girlfriends and husbands or boyfriends who would appreciate it if we didn’t place a temptation to lust in their path. Let’s set the proper example to non-believers also. Let’s glorify God with what we wear.