What I Tell My Daughters About Modesty

I was practically born in a bikini.

Okay, so I was probably wearing less than that.

But I did grow up hearing my mom tell people that I was only 3 weeks old when I took my first trip to the beach. Living close to the sunny Southern California coast, it’s where I spent most of my childhood—at the beach.

And, if you didn’t already know this, beaches and bikinis . . . well, they just kind of go together.

Like mint-chip and ice-cream.

Or something like that.

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My point is that I didn’t exactly grow up in an Amish community and modesty wasn’t the hot topic for those of us immersed in the beach culture.

Even though I attended church, I honestly don’t remember the topic of modesty being brought up there. Not in Sunday School, in sermons, or at youth group. Maybe I just missed it, but it was rarely, if ever, mentioned in our church setting.

So I feel a little funny telling you this, but it wasn’t until I was all grown up – a wife and a mother – that I realized that modesty wasn’t merely a “nice” subject for “nice” girls, but was actually a biblical one. Like, it’s literally found in the Bible and that I should probably try to figure out what modesty really means. (I Timothy 2:9-10)

I said I was a mom, but I should add that I’m a mom to four girls. So not only did I need to come to grips with this whole modesty thing, I now had the responsibility of teaching our daughters about it. And it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.

Do I “lay down the law” and decide what the girls can – and can’t – wear? Or do I ignore the topic altogether and hope they figure it out for themselves?

Neither of these approaches set very well with me.

I’ll admit that I wish it was defined a bit more clearly. You know, what modesty is and what it is not. Seems to me that it would have made things a lot more simple.

But then again, the Bible also says we’re to “love one another fervently” and doesn’t explain the “rules” of how we’re to go about that. Yet it doesn’t keep us from seeking what love might look like. How that might play out.

So modesty doesn’t come with a rule-book either. But I’ve decided I’m willing to wrestle with it. And our daughters are right there with me and we’re working it out together.

Does modesty merely involve wearing more clothes? Ditching the bikini? Never wearing jeans? Always wearing skirts? But never short skirts? And . . . how short is “short” anyway?

I’m sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed if you were hoping that I’d answer these questions.

Except maybe the one about the bikini. That got ditched. A while ago.

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But I do still love mint-chip ice-cream, just so you know . . . and if you wanted to send me some.

What I can tell you is what I tell our teenage daughters. What I believe to be the bare essentials about a woman and modesty.

The Bare Essentials: What I Tell My Daughters About Modesty

Modesty has far more to do with our hearts than it does with our clothing. Anyone getting all caught up in the apparel is probably missing the point.

Our beauty should come from within and not be wrapped up in our bodies. True beauty is found in our hearts and will be evident to anyone around us. Baring our bodies doesn’t make us more beautiful. No matter what the world might tell you.

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God made women with feminine curves and that’s nothing to apologize for. So we don’t need to hide them, just not accentuate them to a point of distraction.

Save sexy for marriage. It’s the best place for it. In fact, it’s a great place for it.

Sometimes it helps to get a second opinion. Does this work? Too little, or too much? This is what friends – or sisters or mothers – are for.

Modesty doesn’t have to mean frumpy. No need to completely abandon style or taste in the process.

If God had wanted modesty to consist of a bunch of rules, He would have listed them out for us. Just remember the point is not to see how much – or how little – we can get away with.

Our definition of modesty might look a bit different than that of others. Some of our friends wear only dresses and some of our friends wear only jeans. As it happens, around here we wear both.

Sometimes modesty means simply dressing appropriately for the occasion. In other words, don’t wear a ball gown to the beach and don’t wear your bathing suit to the dance.

My job as mom is to teach the principle of modesty, but I didn’t sign up to be the Modesty Police. You belong to Christ and I won’t be dictating your clothing choices.

The Holy Spirit will guide if you ask Him for wisdom in this matter of modesty. Look to Him for direction and you will do well.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. ~ I Peter 3:3-4

So, my dear daughters, I hope you always walk in love and forever in beauty.

Imperishable beauty.

Because you are truly precious.

In His grace,

Lisa Jacobson

This post by our friend Lisa Jacobson of Club 31 Women originally appeared on her blog here. Check it out for more encouragement. 

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8 thoughts on “What I Tell My Daughters About Modesty”

  1. I am the mom of three young men. My heart aches when I see most of the girls I follow Ig feed and see the latest swimsuit “cheekies”
    I don’t even know what to tell my guys. I just feel a line has been crossed and I am so sad young women are fine wearing these. They are ALL wearing them to the lake, swim parties & all over social media. I agree with the other comment “ we know what sexy looks like”
    I think this is a new low – I just cannot imagine what is next.

  2. I know that God looks at the insight but men look at the outside that is what points them to Christ. Does your dress ladies point to Christ? Would you wear what you are wearing in Front of Christ? Yes men look at the outside that is why the Bible sages let your light shine! It’s not just your heart it is allll of you. Insight and outsight.

  3. I love this! This is what I say to my daughter who loves fashion and we live at the beach in the summer…and often times she will ask me, “mom is this ok?” and sometimes I have to say no maybe change the top, or the shorts, etc. but it’s her heart that I am more concerned about. You see, she loves Jesus, so it is him with whom she wants to attract, not the attention of guys. She wears a modest bikini unless she is surfing ;)

  4. When my two daughters were going up, their dad had to approve the bathing suit and prom dress. Because we as girls would say, “yeah that looks great,” but from a man’s (dad’s) eyes he knew what other men would be thinking.

  5. Trudi harper hill

    THANK YOU!!! I love the subject of modesty because in this misogynistic American culture, our girls and women are being led down the road of destruction, and making it very difficult for men to overcome this huge issue of lust. I mean how sexy do we need to be? I was raised in a culture that taught us to be a lady on the streets and a freak in the sheets (for our husbands). Lust is one of the primary causes of divorce, as it is a gateway to pornography and extramarital affairs. I have an ongoing dialogue of real conversations with my male relatives, and they all have struggled with this issue of lust. Pornography is one of the top multi-billion dollar industries in the world, due to supply and demand. So, the issue, yes, starts with the condition of our hearts, but not being sexy to the point that other men can see is key. When I see females dressed provocatively, I think, wow, their poor fathers, brothers, sons, uncles… they’re still men, I feel like they have to concentrate extra hard not to look upon their own relatives as sex objects, when females are working overtime to be sexy. Our bodies are beautiful, in all of our many shapes and sizes, and as the Bible teaches, our bodies are for our husbands. So, we do need to cover up, they have many styles that we can improvise for the sake of modesty, and still look like the bomb!!! So, if females would cover their cleavages, to the top line of where the cleavage begins, if we will stop accentuating our derriere’s with form fitting pants, without covering a portion of it with some type of blouse or sweater, and stop showing so much thigh, a nice bermuda short will do, about mid way down the thighs, without looking like we have on our brother’s shorts, then men have a greater chance to stay faithful, mentally and sexually. Also, all of the hair tossing, provocative looks in the eyes, heavily glossed lips…, we as women know what sexy looks like, on the large and small scale, so, let us not get tempted to keep up with the status quo. If we focus on our inner beauty like Ms. Jacobson said, and stop trying to keep up with celebrity images, then, I STRONGLY FEEL MEN COULD RISE ABOVE THEIR BASIC NATURE, AND THERE WOULD BE MORE QUALITY MEN OUT THERE. But, as long as the issue of immodesty permeates our culture, then females are going to continue to be heavy hearted and feeling unsatisfied with their relationships with boyfriends and husbands who have roving eyes, and struggle sexually. End of story!!!

  6. Dr. John Adams

    As a pastor and a father with a 20 year-old daughter who has learned from her mother who to be beautiful and modest: Well said! When your appearance the the only thing people notice, then they have not seen you.

    Thank you for going deeper than a list of guidelines and speaking to the heart.

    1. “When your appearance the the only thing people notice, then they have not seen you.”

      Dr. John – I love this so much!
      Thank you for sharing that pearl of wisdom

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