A sign you often see outside Amish shops. This one is from the North Carolina Amish community at Union Grove.
Are Plain businesses the only places where “modesty is appreciated” anymore?
Asheville, NC Amish Furniture
Tags: Amish Photos
Do young people know that word?
We are nowhere near a beach but a lot of stores and restaurants here have signs that say “Shoes and shirts required” so apparently people need to be told.
They have that sign anywhere, even here in Michigan.. I believe that is because many people run around with out shoes and a shirt, when they are home or etc and the stores won’t serve anyone unless they have the proper attire… (^_^)
It is appreciated anywhere I am, because I value modesty. I suspect my understanding of modesty would differ from that of an Amish person though. Our culture is often so crude, crass and immodest … if that is even a word, that I am disgusted just being around some people and some situations.
Modesty is never outdated. But alot of the younger generation do not even think of modesty. Today’s fashions do not help at all. Modesty starts in the home and where it should be taught.
I applaud the sign in the Amish store and would like to see more signs like that around. Here in the desert men will walk into a restaurant or store with their shirts unbuttoned showing off their chest. Women are no better running around in bikini tops, wherever they go.
If more businesses put up the signs like that Amish store, maybe people would take notice and start dressing with modesty and speaking more modestly.
Part of the problem now days is that everyone’s definition of modesty is different. There are those who would say they dress modestly, but by who’s definition are they modest? Modesty is one of those words tossed around with no clear description of what constitutes “modest”.
That’s a good point. I’ve worn shorts around Amish friends. I’ve even asked if they are offensive. I definitely don’t do it in all situations, and usually wear long pants, but sometimes working on the farm on a hot day, or going for a jog.
Maybe immodesty is one of those things that you simply know when you see.
Modesty & Church
Fellow believers… I got so disgusted with immodesty in “evangelical” churches that I found a conservative Mennonite fellowship in Squaw Valley, calif. where they put God first and leave the world behind! It is difficult for a man in church, who is trying to focus on the Lord, to have women around him & leading worship who show off shape of their bodies- let alone skin! Many women don’t realize that we men are strongly stimulated sexually by what we see. Many Christian females (teens on up) are presenting us with soft-porn or worse, in many cases. I once saw a young pastor give an alter call, only to have a cute young lady with a short dress parade up to take her place with the worship team behind him! Guess where all the men’s eyes and attention was going? Men are being defrauded right in church! If a godly woman wants to find a godly man, she should dress so that his attention goes to her face and her heart. No wonder divorce and abortion rates are as high or higher in the church as in society around us! The condition of the culture is the report card of the church. So much for being salt & light! God bless the Amish…
How sad that the Amish would have to ASK people to be modest in their place of business. To me, it shows a lack of respect.
Looking at what a lot of folks where in public, many don’t respect themselves.
Like the sign! I agree, modesty seems to have different meanings to different people. And being respectful of others, I always dress appropriately, for the place we visit, so as not to offend others.
We live in Florida, which a lot of our establishments, especially restaurants, have signs up that read, “Shoes and shirts required, no tank tops”—which I like. As my mom used to say, “There’s a time and a place for everything”. As I’ve said before, we could learn (or re-learn) a thing or two from the Plain people!
Orthodox churches, at least the ones where the priest is from the Old World, usually insist on modesty – long skirts, full coverage blouses and headscarves or caps for women, long pants and shirts for men. Many synagogoes insist on the same. I remember when a rabbi came to speak to our student ministry group at the hospital, and when that issue was raised in terms of awareness of modesty for Jewish patients, he cast an eye over the lot of us, and he stated quite bluntly that I was the only one who met his congregation’s standards of modesty! I was in a long black dress, but without a head covering.(His standard also included long hair on women as suitably modest.)I’ve written extensively on modesty at my other blog, http://magdalenaperks.wordpress.com. I think if one needs a rule for universal modesty, it is fairly simple: For men, long, fairly loose trousers and a shirt that covers from neck to belt-line. For women, an outfit with a skirt or a full length dress, covering from collarbone to below the knee, with sleeves, and not form-fitting. Needless to say, fabric should be opaque. When travelling in different cultures, women should have on hand a scarf that can cover the head.
I liked your anecdote, Magdalena, and found this recipe for modest dress interesting.
Men’s shirts: okay if lower arms exposed? Does it matter if the man is especially muscular?
To be honest, I’ve always had trouble seeing what is immodest about wearing long shorts that go to the knee revealing the calves, but sleeved shirts and dresses which expose the lower arm (and sometimes part of the upper arm) are okay (and as Amish themselves wear).
Maybe the lower leg is considered to be more sexual in nature than the arms in general.
In our church (Conservative Mennonite) Generally men’s shirts are worn to the elbow or below, but if it runs a little above, I doubt much would be said.
People who believe that homo sapiens are an offshoot of apes would generally see no reason to not dress like the apes do. Hey, we’re just a bunch of smart monkeys anyways; live and lust like the monkeys do. I certainly find going into Walmart on a hot summer day to be somewhere close to disgusting. Of course it is not Walmart’s fault. But I decided it was worth the extra money to shop in the Plain stores (who cannot compete with Walmart in a lot of items) and support people who hold to at least some standard of decency. Mike
I Love This Comment!
You make a very good point-everyone had good points but this cracked me up while making such a parallel to evolution.
We live in an area full of Amish and Mennonite folk.We frequent their stores and we have friends in the Mennonite community.I’m usually a below the knee dress wearer whatever the season.I check my clothes when visiting or going to the farm store to make sure I don’t offend.If I have a tank dress on I always have a jacket in the car to cover myself with. When I read this article I was thinking about the ‘People of Walmart’ emails I get.I see alot of things living near a college town.It is amazing what people will wear out in public.
I drive a school bus. If I thought the school corporation would permit such a sigh , I would love to post such a sign on my bus. I often feel sorry for the guys that seriously want to pay attention to the teacher but are distracted by too much revealing flesh, Inside myself, I just shake my head when some of my middle school age girls enter in the morning. I think, ‘where was your mother when you walked out the door?’ . In another direction, one morning I was taken aback by the vulgar words and picture printed on a boys tee shirt. Thinking I would have the edge on him, I asked, “Does your mother know you are wearing that?” He replied, “Yeah, she bought it for me.” I just sank in my seat. I was pleased at the end of the day to see he had been made to wear it inside out when the school saw it. In this day, I think it’s mainly only the Amish that still blush.
Modesty is beautiful
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely switched towards a more modest dress. Actually, a friend of mine recently said to me, “You know Christina, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in pants!” (I think she has, she just doesn’t remember…lol) I’m not against pants on women, I just prefer long skirts and dresses and I’m comfortable in them.
Our definition of modesty and what is and is not acceptable in public has gone downhill in America. It is unfortunate. Now, if a woman (I can only speak from my experience) decides to dress in a modest fashion, it is automatically assumed that she’s part of a certain denomination and it’s baffling to the average American why someone would just want to dress that way if their church didn’t say they had to (another thing people don’t understand–it’s not the church, it’s God). I’m just a woman who loves God and respects my body enough to not want the world to see my cleavage or my underwear when I bend over to pick something up. I KNOW my husband appreciates that I don’t show those things to the world!
I think the sign is great:-)
I am Apostolic. We have a good bit in common with the plain people. We do not wear make-up, jewlery or anything thing shiney. No braided hair or jewled hair. We do not cut our hair.(woman) Our sleeves are below the elbow. No see throughs.Under shirts and slips are often needed. Men wear pants and not tight. No shorts at all. Woman wear dresses or skirts about half way below the knee and ankle or preferrably to the top of foot. No splits in dresses. We do not wear shorts under our skirts because we feel that God say’s it is an abomination to wear anything pertaining to a man, Well, he can see it even when other’s can not.I can do anything in a dress.I am often asked how I work in a dress. Well, I do. I guess you just have to watch because I don’t think much of it. My work can be very strenuous( I am an artist often on ladders, my work is work.)I also live close to a beach and body surf alot. I work-out at home about 5 day’s a week. I live in a very hot climate and still remain modestly dressed. I am not alone.I have been living for Jesus now about 9 years. I am 44. I just thought I would share.
I truly do not mean to offend with my comments, but I absolutely cannot remain silent on this issue. I have attended several Apostolic churches in Ohio and it is the same at all of them. Most of the women wear shiny, sparkly clothes. Blouses with gold thread running through the material or just very shiny, bright colored silk materials. Shoes are often gold, bright champagne, or silver with clip-on toe adornments with pearls, sequins, fake diamonds(cubic zirconias), etc. Hair is often very elaborately styled. Many ladies will wear hair accessories with the above mentioned adornments on them too. And yes, they do braid their hair, as well as do every other kind of arrangement to make themselves attractive or whatever. Now, on to the skirts. Many wear way too form-fitting skirts. More recently, they are getting shorter and shorter with most just barely touching the top of the knee. Many are even slightly above the knee, with slits in the back, which show at least 1/4 of the upper legs. I just recently watched a video made by a pentecostal holiness lady who was addressing these very issues. This even caused her to switch from Apostolic to a more conservative holiness church.
one more point about the hair. Whenever I would attempt to use the restroom before church started, I would be unable to do so due to all the young ladies in the restroom, doing their hair and using inordinate amounts of hairspray. Very often, an older lady of the church would have to come into the restroom and make them quit fussing with their hair and come out because church would be started.
Please don’t compare Apostolic to Amish. My many experiences with several churches says no in no way, shape, or form. I feel that most Amish would agree if they were so inclined to comment. I do realize that there are some Apostolic churches that are more consistent with modesty standards and such, but I am speaking of generalities. Sorry about going on and again, I am not intending to offend, just comment on my experiences and observations.
On the topic of Apostolic Modesty: We have some Apostolic friends who do dress very simply, plainly, and modestly, but we’ve also seen some very “fancy” dress that made us cringe. I work where we get a lot of tourist traffic and we are sometimes asked “Who are those ladies with the really elaborate hairdos?” Recently I answered that they are Apostolic and the man was surprised — he’d assumed they were polygamous Mormons. But you make a good point that there ARE groups who dress more plainly. As an Amish father I can tell you there are Amish girls who need to be reminded that beauty comes from within. That impulse to make yourself be “seen & noticed” is in our churches, too. It might not be to the extent in more liberal groups or maybe we just notice it more — but it’s here. Pride can rear its ugly head anywhere. A reminder to us all, I suppose.
Mark, Your comment about some Amish girls, and I presume guys also, needing to be reminded about inward beauty, reminded me of a time when my husband and I were working in the vending business. We were stocking vending machines at a rest area and a group of Amish came in. Ordinarily, when Amish would stop in, they would rarely come into the vending building. Maybe one or two of the men would come in to get a coffee, but not much more than that. I always assumed that this was due to their frugal nature. Vending machine prices can be a bit steep, although we tried very hard to keep them as low as possible. (I have gotten a bit off topic, haven’t I?) 🙂 Anyway, this one time, several teenagers came in and one of the girls had a purse with lots of key rings and things attached. I smiled as I thought “Amish bling” 🙂 I have read that many Amish young men like to fancy up their buggies when they go through rumspringa. I understand the desire for sparkly things, but I just get too convicted when I purchase something that has no earthly value other than to look pretty. I’m talking mostly about jewelry and cosmetics. Well, I will stop rambling on. I think I hear some snoring. (Oh, that’s my dog.:) LOL!)
Loads of key-chains & fancy buggies. Hmmm… You could be describing our children. 🙂 It reminds me of when I was going through that stage. Now I wouldn’t have the patience for cleaning and arranging all the “fancy stuff” I used to think made my buggy look “cool.”
Modesty in Dress
Personally, I’ve always thought what is NOT shown is more attractive than what’s hanging out everywhere.
I’ve never found any mystery in tank tops, muscle shirts, halter tops, bikini tops, torn jeans, short shorts, etc.
I am NOT particularly conservative in most ways, but I do appreciate seeing clean cut, well-groomed young people who dress appropriately.
I even find TV/Movie stars who show up for interviews in shabby, wrinkled clothing and partially shaved to be disgusting. They look unclean and unkempt. I want to scream, “You are the role models of today’s youth. For heaven’s sakes take the responsibility seriously and show some respect for yourselves as well as others. I believe their management should insist on this.
Modesty and law
I have worked in several California restaurants. In California, the signs that say “No shirt, no shoes, no service” are not a request for modesty, they refer to a state law enforced by the local health departments. I have been in some financial and legal establishments where a certain measure of modesty in dress was expected among clients. There were no signs but I overheard a client being admonished for impropriety. I think people who are visiting Amish communities should remember the old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I am not suggesting that we should wear Amish clothing. I think the Amish can accept that we have our own standards, and are probably not offended by seeing an “English” woman in tastefully fitted long pants. But out of simple respect for another’s beliefs, no one should have to ask us to refrain from visiting their community with bare legs or otherwise exposing large amounts of skin.
I totally agree with Marjorie King!! “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do” or when in Plain Country, be more respectful of their culture and ways.
"health department" statement is incorrect
There are requirements for employees and staff in restaurants. There are none for customers. I.e., technically, the customers can all be buck-naked and it would not violate any health codes.
One of my Amish friends and business associates just called me. I told him about this discussion. He says that they have not had the problem of immodest dress in their Lancaster County business or community, and he is not offended when he sees English women wearing pants.
I remember stopping at an Amish stand one day and the man tending it, as people started clearing away, said, “Thank you for your modesty.”
I think that the Amish feel authentic “shock” by some of the things that the English wear. It is a truly uncomfortable feeling for them.
It’s sad that society has become desensitized to near nudity. Just as a test, ask yourself if you can relate:
Maybe it’s the first time in any given summer you’ve gone to the public pool or beach. Remember how AWARE you were of all the exposed skin? By the end of the summer it probably took something outstanding (in one way or another) to get your attention, right?
We become immune to immodesty, and other unpleasant things (like bad language). We have to guard our souls, guys. That’s what the Amish are trying to do…
Women think they are being modest when they wear skin tight jeans. Its true they are covered, but the jeans they are wearing, are showing every part of their shape and form. For me modesty means to be covered with loose fitting clothing to conceal a persons shape. Women in long flowing dresses and skirts, blouses that button up higher than her chest area. Men in loose fitting trousers and shirts. No tight jeans for them either and shirts that show off their muscles. As Christians we have a responsibility to dress modest, and not be like the world.
Is modesty important? Well, I find it very distasteful to see women in bikinitops and shorts and men with bare chests in summer. More modesty than that I do not demand of others although I myself dress more modestly. However, I am not as strict regarding this as some here. I find bare arms OK and I wear shorts that go just below the knee when I go to the beach. I mostly wear long skirts and long sleeved shirts and I cover but I have realized that previously I made modesty into a too big thing when it should be something to help my faith it became a burden.
It really is a disgrace how some of the younger generation dress….why do the girls always want the low neck tops ?????Who wants to look at your nakedness anyways ??? You’re not impressing me and all the males do is talk about you……and to the parents who let their kids wear clothes like that, what are you thinking ?????Not much is left to the imagination any more…..they put it out for everyone to see…..I find it so disgusting and thank God for those signs that the Amish put up…..if you’re offended…you should be……put some decent clothes on…….
You're replies are so encouraging
When I first saw this topic, I was afraid I’d get discouraged again. I’ve been a part of a discussion forum on an Amish ministry website & when the topic of modesty came up, I was so discouraged by the Christian women who had no problem with immodesty and have more of a problem with Amish dress! I have to say I was really surprised and disappointed. So to read how you all feel about it, I am so blessed & encouraged to hear people feeling the way, I have to believe, the Lord sees it too. After all, for thousands of years women & men were pretty covered-the last century is the only one getting progressively indecent & immodest. Some call it “culture”-well the “culture” is all about “me” and “how do I look?” It’s sad. I appreciate the examples of the Anabaptists & I too have changed my dress seeing their example lining up with scripture.
By the way Erik-Where I’m from in So. Calif, originally, all the women loved to go to this restaurant by the beach where the waiters wore shorts!
Arm skin v. Leg skin
Glad you found the comments encouraging Valerie, and knowing readers here, I’m not surprised.
You mentioned shorts here, I guess I have let my analytical brain kick in again on this one, to wonder why many people find exposed skin on one set of limbs (arms) acceptable but on another set of limbs (legs) not. Does anyone have an answer?
Amish of both sexes regularly expose arm skin, though not leg skin.
I’m not sure it’s not more than custom, though I bet there’s a better answer.
Legs vs arms
Erik, I have to go all the way back to 8th grade in early 70’s to guess at why the difference. In those days, mini-skirts were in. And this so. calif. girl was no different then the others for wearing them. Some boys in class started calling me “legs”. I said, “what is it with you guys & legs?” I cannot even tell you their answer to me, as a Christian, on public forum-BUT-it gave me a clue, maybe you can pick up on.
Well, how does the Lord look at it? As I read the attire in the book of Revelation, in the Bible-regarding Heavenly attire, I get the impression it will be back to being covered! How naked would we feel in the presence of the saints that have gone on before us in these days we live, and continually profess “BUT GOD LOOKS AT THE INSIDE”. Yes He does-and I believe He expects what’s going on INSIDE, to want to be a witness on the OUTSIDE! I appreciate what I’ve learned from the Plain people, and am sorry for possibly stumbling so many brothers in the Lord or any men, for that matter.
Thanks Valerie, yes, that is sort of what I was getting at in my first time addressing this ? at the top–humans are wired to find legs physically attractive, more so than arms anyway.
Was just wondering if there were any justifications deeper than the biological urge. Either way it seems many Amish don’t find much indecent about partially revealing arms (though I wouldn’t necessarily say all Amish).
I attempted to research this question. The only thing I could find is that historically only toddlers and young boys wore shorter length pants (probably convenience and savings on material). In the nineteenth century lads would wear shorts until they reached near-puberty. For many many years older boys and men refused to wear shorts because they didn’t want to look like a boy (pants were the manly attire). Women were not given shorts as an option due to social mores (they were immodest).
Valerie, I guess you have figured out by now that some of those ex-Amish “ministries” are run and supported by folks who have reacted against their past, or simply dumped Anabaptist convictions and swallowed modern Evangelical theology. I have gone the other way … feeling more and more identified with Anabaptist type theology and practice. So … there are quite a number of us who feel a good “Ministries to Ex-Amish” would be in place, to rescue people who have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. Mike
Are you by any chance Mike from Heartbeat of the Remnant? I love that publication-I believe you are right in your observation. What can happen is a blindness of another kind can develop. I’m praying for them because it isn’t obvious how it comes across & the belief is when you disagree with their approach, then they’re being persecuted for truth & representing Jesus-that is not true persecution, and there is counterfit Jesus being preached at times. We could all claim to be persecuted because people don’t agree with our perspective or interpretations.
Persecution should be in lifting up the name of Jesus & the life He’s called us to, not for putting down others-
Yes, you made the connection between The Heartbeat of the Remnant and me. 🙂
Heartbeat of the Remant Blog
How do I get to the Link? Heartbeat of the Remant? Can’t locate it. Thanks Loads JUne Hofer
Heartbeat of the Remnant
June, the Remnant is a monthly publication, not a blog. You can find it here: http://www.charityministries.org/theremnant/2011/09/index.a5w
Modesty is Appreciated
I think respect is another word that people of different generations to use anymore or care about it. It’s amazing to me when I run into someone my age who doesn’t have respect for anyone or anything. Different definitions I guess.
I meant to say they don’t use not to use. Sorry! Typing too fast.
I came home from a free seminar in my community on Tuesday night and I saw a man in the bus slip out of his shoes – to become barefoot. Out of the corner of my eye I watched in disgust, he didn’t change into a different pair. I admit his bare feet didn’t touch the bus floor, he used a shopping parcel as a stool, but it just seemed wrong to do that where he did.
Maybe he didn’t practice immodesty, but it wasn’t a pleasant thing to witness.
teaching modesty to my girls...
My views of modesty are different than most of the posts already shared…but I still consider myself modest. I wear blue jeans (or shorts that come to the knees)–I really can not stand to wear dresses (even to Church, and I’m the Pastor’s wife!)! Tops must be loose fitting and come at least to my hips, if not longer. Truthfully, I have no regards to hair within the issue of modesty. I’ve had hair to my waist (and suffered horrible headaches as a result), and I’ve had it ultra short.
The rule in my house–which pertains to the adults as well as the children–is if your hands are stretched all the way up and the shirt doesn’t cover your waistband, then it’s to short. Jeans/shorts must be loose in the seat/hips/and legs.
I find it very difficult to buy clothing for my daughters that is appropriate. My girls (9, 7, and 3) can walk thru the clothing section of stores and find more clothes that are inappropriate (for our family’s standards) than appropriate. Which is frustrating.
I appreciate those faith’s that stress modesty (Amish, Mennonite, Apostolic, some Southern Baptist, etc.). I too, like many others, find modesty in today’s society lacking, and wish that parents and TV personalities would reevaluate the message they’re sending to our young people.
I’m sure my “modest” definition is far left of Amish definition of “modest.”
What I do see — and sometimes it includes me — is that most people don’t even put any effort into the image they present.
I saw a woman in Border’s Books one day, and I really wish I had the overcome shyness long enough to tell her the compliment I wanted. It’s not that her outfit was expensive, or took a long time to prepare — it was just obvious she actually put a few minutes of care into putting together a very nice looking outfit and one that if not up to Amish standards of modesty wouldn’t have caused shock.
So it wasn’t just a compliment for really nice looking outfit, but a thank you for having taken the time — I wanted to waive my hand and say look, there’s no one else we can see from here who did. At least two women were wearing sweat pants.
And no, spending a few minutes making sure you’re going along to look like everyone else is NOT the same as taking a few minutes to put together a nice outfit.
I’ll admit I am casting a few stones in glass houses here, I am known to “clean up well” and I can go from pretty meh clothes to putting on a nice suit or a very sharp “business casual” shirt and chinos…much to the surprise of folks who had known me not too long but long enough that they thought they knew how I always dressed.
Out in PJs
Matt your mention of sweats made me recall days on my college campus and seeing the frequent sight–of young ladies especially–out and about, often coming/going to class, in sweats or even pajama bottoms and a T-shirt.
Having lived on both sides of the pond I think as a culture we are particularly casual about how we dress in America. Not that everyone dresses modestly in Poland, but there seems to be more stock placed in looking presentable.
I have found that the Union Grove community is pretty close to some major urban centers in NC, and seems to be a popular biking destination in the Spring-Fall. Some of the younger folks seem to fail to realize that it might be just a tad offensive to come in in those little biking shorts and tights. But then, I think we are living in an increasingly “me oriented” society that has no qualms about being disrespectful to others.
Hmm…I’m very active, and it’s really not practical always to dress super modestly. I do some cycling, and people don’t wear the tight shorts for shock value…it’s a necessity when you’re doing centuries and need to be as aerodynamic as possible.
I think I’d probably make a few on this post clutch their pearls with what I wear when I’m out running (especially in the summer0 but modestly is not dead! In the professional world it’s still alive and well, especially in finance. I know this is especially true in New York, where there are certain standards with how one dresses – jackets for men, and if a woman is wearing a skirt panty hose are a must (no casual Fridays either!) Where I work is somewhat more lax, but generally it’s seen as very unprofessional to wear skirts shorter than mid-thigh and low cut is not accepted. Men have to wear nice pants, but jackets aren’t necessary.
I personally like “dressing for success” as they say, but everything has it’s time and place.
One question, if someone can answer me this one…why in some groups is it frowned upon for women to wear pants? Wouldn’t it be more tempting for men to have certain thoughts wearing a skirt rather than pants?
Hi Eric, In answering your leg vs. arm question….with tops, you can only go so far…and with shorts, seems some people don’t know where to stop…..when your cheeks are hanging out, you’ve gone too far…..and when the top is running over with more skin than is on your entire body….then you’ve gone way too far…..keep it clean, keep it covered….leave something to the imagination…..we all have the same thing…..we don’t want to see all your fat…..most of it is just fat anyways…..don’t you look in the mirror before you leave the house ???? Maybe you should…..and parents who let their kids dress that way…..oh well….this would take up another page…..who is boss in your household anyways and who buys the clothes ????? Just saying………….
Modesty and Culture
I think what we define as “modesty” can vary greatly depending on the locale and the cultural environment. At the one hand, an Amish congregation might define modesty down to a specific length of hat brim, a distinction meaningful to that group but one few outsiders would make or even notice.
On the other hand, has anyone here ever lived in a hot, steamy tropical port ? I have. Wearing shorts, T shirts and sandals there (sometimes no sandals) is the norm. It would be very hard to do any work – especially fishing work — in any other clothes.
So I think that it is very difficult to define “modesty” by a specific set or type of clothes. Perhaps modesty is more about an “attitude”. I like the idea of being “presentable”, defined as wearing clothes that are clean and unwrinkled in public. I also think of modesty as not drawing undue attention to yourself — for example, in most American contexts, a T shirt in a solid color and free of advertising writing seems much more modest to me than one advertising a beer or whatever.
Since I recognize that modesty is culturally and situationally defined, I don’t get too worked up about what other people are wearing. Like most others here, though, I do cringe when I hear about people dressing their little girls in revealing “adult” clothing. Precisely because the definition of modesty can be so fluid, I feel it is essential to teach and model modesty to our young.
Modesty Required Sign
This is my opinion, based on growing up in Amish country: Generally shirt and shoes required for all. Tops and pants: not skintight. For women/girls: wear a bra if you’re a B cup or larger;no cleavage showing or hint of cleavage in the top. Makeup should look natural. Shorts: of a length so that when your arm is to your side, the fabric extends past your longest fingertip. Dresses/skirts: Three inches above the knee is too short. Men: Short sleeves are Ok, no lewd/alcohol T shirt messages.No bicycle shorts. If you are in doubt, don’t wear it.
to be modest
What does it mean to be “modest”? To me, it has always meant “don’t be garish”. And don’t be “too proud”… or some such. But most importantly, don’t hide who you truly are. For example, for those reasons, my wife does not wear makeup at all. Not a bit. I never wear shirts with advertisements for random companies nor with funny sayings. Etc. But I do wear things that I think are “attractive”. In that respect, I suppose I am “immodest”.
But… covering up? Bah. This is where I end up shaking my head and and admitting defeat in understanding any cultural communities’ standard for head-to-toe covering themselves. The human body simply “is”. It is not something shameful, nor is it something inherently bad, naughty, whatever. We wear clothes to protect us from the elements. We have done it for so long, as a species, that we are uncomfortable around each other in our natural state. I.e., that’s a psychological issue codified into cultural taboo.
I have always found the Amish intriguing, but there are elements of their culture that I will never understand (and they are the same elements that I find incomprehensible in many cultures). This is one of them. I see it as an ideal gone awry.
Anyway… great blog. Keep it up!
why do amish men get to wear tank tops in the summer playing volleyball on the farm, but the women have to wear full garb?? Why can men roll their shirts up to 3/4 arm length on a hot day but women are still in full garb?? Oh that right because its always the woman, a woman asked for the head of John the baptist, Eve tempted Adam, i still think the rules and guilt applied to women in most religions is unfair. Im an agnostic and feel that following the philosophies and teachings of Jesus are more important than following strict dress codes and strict gender roles. I do feel that respecting others feelings and values is human and with information so readily available about other cultures that anyone who says “oh i didn’t realize my daisy dukes would offend someone at church” is just silly. if you want to wear a skull adn crossbones shirt or a spaghetti strap sundress do it at a club or the beach. I think as a society we need to reintroduce Ps & Qs. Its lost amongst most of this genration
...because "modesty" is utterly relative
Modesty is utterly culturally relative. What is “modest” for you is not modest for another and vice-versa. Some (most) cultures have no qualms about men going shirtless and women wearing a bikini-ish top. Some cultures, to include most of the oldest cultures, have no aversion to even women going topless. And it also depends on the venue for all of these cultures.
Today’s western cultures give men significantly more leeway than women in dress. Middle eastern cultures even more so — Think what burka-wearing cultures think of Amish “plain” clothing, for example.
So, there you go. It is culturally dictated. There is no inherent “rule”, nor divine judgement associated with dress. Dress is by convention… nothing more and nothing less.
Some interesting points. Though I’m Amish and a man, I’ve never worn a tank top anywhere but as sleepware. I wear long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts depending on weather or where I am, but my wife & daughters sleeves both short & long are shorter than mine. 3/4 sleeves are women’s dress-up sleeves but mine go to the wrist. I guess I always thought modesty is important for men & women both, but it seems men are more likely to notice an immodestly dressed woman than women notice men, or based on conversations here at work, anyhow. I like the reminder that some cultures would still find our way of dressing immodest. Where I work we do see some women dressed in the “Arab” way, sometimes with all covered up faces except the eyes and even the modern looking ones have more hair covered than Amish women, so it really is all relative. I would never think of putting up a sign asking people to dress a certain way, but it is sometimes embarrassing how some people will dress to come in to our business. I try and remind myself we all have different opinions. A side note: we’ve met “Arab” women with only the eyes visible and it was interesting to see how much make-up some had to decorate the eyes. That human impulse to be “attractive”? 🙂 Those few we met could make their eyes show a lot of expression.
Just a couple of thoughts on the Arab form of modesty. First,anything can be taken to extremes and that is certainly one of them. I cannot start to imagine being covered up like that in such hot climates, or even in cooler climates. I for one would just have to be killed because I cannot stand to have anything over my mouth and nose. Also, some of the wealthier Arabs will spend money like it is going out of style, purchasing multiples of an individual item, apparently just because they can. Also, and this is the most important point of all. Amish, and even most other ethnicities and religions do not bomb people or kill in the name of their god. I really do not mean any disrespect as I have known several Arab/Muslim people who did not seem to be radical in any way, shape, or form. However, many of the people who have committed these heinous atrocities were described this way too. The 9/11 suicide bombers were all described by neighbors as polite, and nice. No one would have thought they were capable of such acts. Even Satan can appear as an angel of light.
My concern about modesty is that it seems in our modern day society, many people don’t use common sense.
Skin tight, low cut tops on women are fine …. at home/at the beach Guys with no shirt or a sleeveless shirt are fine….at home/at the beach
Skin tight pants are fine …. At home
Variations of the above may be fine most anywhere, just use common sense. Walking into an Amish store with 80% of your body exposed is rude and disrespectful.
Pants with no belt down to your knees is never fine, that’s disgusting.
Just my thoughts on something that affects all of us, not only the Amish or other conservative groups.
Myself I do not see anything wrong with skin tight pants as long as your top is long enough to cover up your assets !!!!!know what I mean ?:) Some low tops to me are ok, not the ones where half the breast is hanging out…..no one really wants to see that……I’ve seen women at church hanging out at the top more than some I have seen at the beach !!!! At least show some respect in church……even short shorts are ok as long as you keep your assets in…..I think you get the point of what I am trying to say…..!!!! you don’t have to show it all, leave something to people’s imagination……don’t you people look in the mirror before you leave the house ????? And some people absolutely should NEVER wear tight fitting pants EVER !!!!!just sayin…………..
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