Hospitality, Friendship, Encouragement

Monday, September 14, 2009

Modesty and Femininity

This is a subject that I usually stay away from here on my blog. The reason is that it is controversial and can lead to a lot of unkindness, which I am not a fan of.

I have been pondering this subject for many years, asking the Lord to show me how to be modest, ladylike and feminine. He has helped me a lot, and while we have come to wear more skirts and dresses in everyday life, we aren't a dresses only family.

The key word for us is feminine. I want my girls to be lady like and not look like a boy wearing pink colored clothes! Sometimes the work we do around here on our property is more easily accomplished in pants. Also for riding horseback...although I found a pattern for a split skirt for riding that is cute!

I decided to write about this subject today, because this summer my daughter was told that basically there was "modest" and then there was "too modest" and we (gasp) fell into the "too modest" category. We have also heard accusations of being "legalistic" because we hold to certain standards (we require our girls to where dresses or skirts to church on Sundays). Mind you, we have never said to anyone that they should dress a certain way.

I found a blog through a link from my blogging friend Kelly - The Barefoot Mama. It is to a blog by a sweet missionary gal who is a mother of 5. They are missionaries in Indonesia with Mission Aviation Fellowship. Her name is Joy and her blog is called "The Stay-at-Home Missionary." In reading her blog I found some encouraging posts about Modesty and Femininity some of which come from being a missionary in a country that largely Muslim.

This particular post with an audio message from Voddie Baucham and some terrific links was very encouraging to me today. Go here for that post.

A big part of the encouragement for me today was Voddie's point about inward modesty - having a quiet and gentle spirit. So good!

I know for myself that my whole mindset about my work as a wife and mother is impacted by how I feel about myself. How I dress myself says a lot about me and my point of view. If I choose to put a cute outfit on and look feminine it makes me feel attractive and sets the tone for my day.

I also want to have a humble spirit and honor God with my life. I want to live for Him. And just as I don't want my clothes to be a distraction to others, I don't want my "self" to draw attention away from the Lord either.

I think a common misconception about wearing dresses is that it is only for special occasions. My friend has a story about a relative staying at her home, who was sure she must be going somewhere special because she came downstairs dressed for the day in a regular everyday knit dress. You know the comfy, casual kind! The relative was so uncomfortable that she had a dress on, that the relative made her feel uncomfortable and would have changed clothing except she hadn't done laundry for a few days and didn't really have anything else to wear.

I have known women who own no dresses, and a few who had never worn dresses. I might even have gone that route except for a gal named Diana Spencer who became engaged to the Prince of Wales the year I graduated from high school. She wore such cute things - blouses with cute skirts, great shoes, hats. Her early clothing was distinctly feminine. That did it for me! I loved her clothing. It encouraged me to be feminine.

Here are some paintings from that show women in real life work and yet there is a feminine air about them.

Look how cute the ruffles are on the bottom of that work skirt! This gal is working out in the fields.
This is a gal working in a garden.
This painting is called "The Reapers."

This one is called "Woman Reading" - which is what I am going to go do while my little ones have quiet resting time.

Thanks for letting me ramble. I am interested in some discussion, if it can be done kindly and not in an attacking manner.


Beth said...

Dear Mrs. Rabe,
Thank you for your honest and sweet blog today. I too have struggled with the "dresses only" concept. I have one pair of jeans and a few capris but I love to wear dresses and skirts. I just haven't decided what it is that God wants me to wear...should I wear dresses only? I can do a LOT of things in skirts but I do recall a time several years ago when I was first "experimenting" with the whole dresses only thing and I was trying to put in fence posts for our horses wearing a dress. (that is, I was wearing a dress, not the horses! haha) I did it...not necessarily comfortably, but I did it.
I think right now the reason I want to wear dresses MOST of the time is because I feel more feminine in a dress or skirt AND I treat my husband better...I tend to give him his rightful place as the head of our home easier when I'm wearing a dress. Maybe it's only me, but I feel more like a lady, his "lady" wife when I wear a dress. I went out to eat with him the other day and I wore a pair of slacks (I couldn't find my matching skirt for some reason, didn't have hose, and ended up wearing something I hadn't worn for well over a year.) He told me how odd it seemed to have me wearing pants...not something distinctly feminine. I so much prefer dresses but it doesn't always seem possible...but I'm sure it would be if I made it more of an effort.
I have teenage daughters and they just don't want to wear dresses all the time, although they always wear dresses to church.
Thanks again for your comments, it makes me feel less alone...or less wrong? I hate straddling the fence being a "dresses mostly" lady.

Diane said...

While we do not have a "certain" dress code in our family, I can certainly appreciate yours. You should wear what you love and what God has called you and your family to wear. You are being obedient and God will honor that. BTW, love the first picture.... wonder what she is pondering? :O)

Tracy said...

I think this was a wonderful post. Thank you. I've been asked many, many times to address this on my blog, and I fear doing so for the very reason that you mentioned.

My girls and I have worn dresses/skirts only for a few years now-me longer than them. I do still have a few pair of jeans tucked into a drawer, and if I were to go horseback riding, or something else that would be more modest in pants, I would don them for that activity and then change back.

I have always worn skirts/dresses on a regular basis, and several years ago I noticed that each time I did so, my husband would comment on how pretty I looked. That's not to say that he never commented when I wore pants, but he really seemed to enjoy it when I looked more feminine. One Sunday morning, I grabbed a pair of dress slacks, and my husband asked, "Is that what you are wearing today?"

There was no condemnation in his voice,and I asked, "Why?"

He told me that he preferred me in a dress, especially for church. That got me to thinking. If I were wearing dresses to church because I was in God's presence, I should think more about what I wore every day because I'm *always* in God's presence.

I made the transition without saying a word to anyone, and really no one noticed because I had already worn a dress or a skirt 3-5 times a week anyway.

About 6 months later, my husband and I decided that we wanted our girls to look more feminine as well.

I've noticed that when I'm away from my home I'm treated with a much greater respect than I ever was in a pair of pants. Men hold doors for me, and look me in the eye rather than up and down. Women smile readily.

I had an older man stop me in Walmart to hand me a tract, but as he did so, he said, "I bet you already go to church, but here you go."

I feel like my dress is my uniform. My Christian uniform. It tells people who I belong to.

I've often talked to my children, boys and girls, about how the world sees God when they look at us. Does He take care of His children? Of course He does! That's why we need to have our hair combed, teeth brushed, etc. We don't want to look like orphans, but represent our Heavenly father the best we can.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Rabe,

I don't think that anything you could ever say could be taken in an attacking way. :o) Your heart is so good and sweet and encouraging! I loved this post! Joy from SAHMissionary is such an inspiring woman (as are you!) and her writings on modesty are simply awesome and refreshing. It's neat to see it from the viewpoint of someone who's been elsewhere and can compare. I've also been told that I look too dressy, that I'm ridiculous for caring about the length of my daughters' dresses (especially Grace now that she's a little girl and not a baby, sniffle) and not wearing a bikini (who wants to see that?! LOL).

I love dresses, and my Grace loves dresses. She's a dresses-only gal for the sheer love of it, and I think that's awesome! I typically wear dresses and skirts, as well, but I do love my skinny jeans or tights and a tunic. Long live flowy clothing!

Again, GREAT post! I loved this part the most:

" How I dress myself says a lot about me and my point of view."

Amen, dear sister!

~~Deby said...

I too have not addressed this on my story is somewhat like Tracy' has been two years...
to make it brief...
When my brother was having brain surgery, my pastor (who was not yet my pastor) came to the hospital...I had loose fitting pants on, not jeans...but for some reason I felt so someone was seeing my figure (I was THINNER THEN)....and then the work began..
I sought the Lord..I asked HIM to show I would be out..and see a woman and believe me, I have no faces to go with these memories..but..I would see a woman and think "would she look more modest in a skirt"....would...this be less s*xy to a man's eyes...and on and on..and on and truly went on for awhile. I talked to my husband and he admitted that he liked dresses, BUT it was up to me...or skirts...
Deanna, I just didn't want it to be a thing of pride or WORKS, but what I felt was more pleasing to the LORD...I did a study on clothing from here and there and realized that it was a sign of rebellion when woman went to pants..wanting to be like a man...then funny thing was, I would watch our beloved Jane Austen...and Little House on the Prairie, and the Love Comes Softly series and notice CLOTHING...
they did everything in their skirts..everything !!!!...
I do believe today that the enemy wants us as GENDER neutral as possible...oh...the joys of being a woman....I don't want to be like the world.....
I think there is so little PRETTY out there....
and yet...I did have to go have some tests and I have some flannel pants to wear in such a occasion, but it is RARE....
This is not legalistic for me..just my way the Lord spoke to me....and then it came to me also that so often women either look sloppy or sexy in a lot of what they wear to include dresses/skirts.
We are HIS workmanship...I want to be a good reflection of the Lord's love....I don't know if this make sense or meets your criteria...but I am more like Tracy on this one...and too have been treated with much more consideration while I am shopping or such...oh it is a blessing to be a woman...there are many women in blogland who have done the same thing, not because it was harped at to them..but because the Holy Spirit just showed them in that still small voice...
I hope what I have written is okay..I am just getting back to checking on blogs...and dear friend yours was one of the first...
PS...IF ever you want to talk about this..hey I am home all the time right now....
I would gladly give you my number..or I have unlimited long distance.... ((((HUGS)))

Kelly said...

Thank you for this post. I am still struggling with this issue. I enjoy wearing the skirts that I purchased last year, but when the summer arrived, they were too warm and I couldn't find any lighter weight ones in my size anywhere. I do not have a good sewing machine, and although I worked in a sewing factory for years, I have no clue how to sew using a pattern. (In the factory, we didn't use patterns -- everything was precut).
You and your daughters inspire to want to wear skirts and dresses more often, but I struggle with the pantyhose issue -- I hate those things!
God has been speaking to me in many areas over the past year, and I, and my family, have made a lot of changes in our lifestyle -- changes that I am really enjoying. I will continue to work on this one for I really do enjoy wearing the skirts and want to make it a much more regular thing.

It has been interesting to see the reactions of family when I was wearing mostly skirts when the weather was cooler. I was often asked,"why I was wearing skirts during the week?"

I need to really make this a matter of prayer, and I know that if it is the Lord's will for me, he will also provide a way for me to obtain some more skirts suited for other seasons, as well as some more feminine looking blouses.

I hope this doesn't sound like rambling nonsense. I sort of feel like that's what I've done here, and I'm sorry if that's the way it comes across.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Thank you all for the great discussion on this subject.

Many of you were concerned that you were rambling or not being clear but I understood you all.

I think we all have very similar thoughts.

I wear skirts 99% of the time now. Why? I feel feminine in them. I like not having to worry if my pants are too tight or if I have a wedgie! Yes this is a serious consideration! I think skirts are flattering to plus size women.

I like that when I go out, I am making a statement against androgyny - I am female, a lady, a woman. I love it.

Deby said so beautifully "oh it is a blessing to be a woman!" I agree!

I also appreciate that you all have been lead to do this by the Lord, not mankind or following "rules." That is how it happened for me as well.

God is good - I have not had one negative comment at all.

~~Deby said...

this was a great post...and what a sweet spirit in the comments..this is when I just LOVE blogging...


  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We spent Saturday, doing things around the house, and then we swam. Kyle and Sarah left after that...