Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 15, 1971
NUMBER 48, PAGE 10-11

How Should Godly Women Dress?

Irvin Himmel

It is with a degree of reluctance that I write on this subject. Not being an authority on the topic of clothing, not fully understanding what makes styles come and go, and having observed that some who talk the most about this matter go to extremes that produce more antagonism that improvement, I approach the dress question with fear and trembling.

The Bible states plainly that women are to "adorn themselves in modest apparel." (1 Tim. 2:9). This much is certain: (1) Women need apparel. (2) It is right that women be adorned. (3) The apparel is to be modest.

Nudism and semi-nudism are becoming common in contemporary society. Sunbathing associations are increasing in popularity in the United States. We are told that these sunbathers are simply lovers of nature. Lovers of art insist that nudism has a place on the stage and in pictures. A true Christian gives priority to the "art" of right living and is a partaker of divine "nature." (2 Pet. 1:4). And sometimes these apologists for nudism will quote the Bible, reminding us that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed in the garden. They overlook the fact that after man sinned, ashamedness motivated the making of coverings for the body. (Gen. 3:7). And they never mention that God made skins and clothed Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:22). The wearing of apparel is God-ordained. Since sin came into the world, only those who put aside a sense of shame lay aside their garments to expose their bodies to the gaze of others. Women (and men) should put on apparel.

The word "adorn" used in 1 Tim. 2:9 means to arrange, make ready, prepare, or ornament. A woman should always make herself ready by putting on apparel before receiving guests into her home, or going shopping, or going out for a picnic. It is not wrong to garnish or decorate the body with garments. The passage we are considering teaches women to adorn or embellish themselves with apparel.

"Modest" is the word used to describe the apparel worn by godly women. This term, as commonly used by English-speaking people, denotes chaste, decent, unassuming, or moderate. (Webster.) The Greek word (KOSMIOS) goes further. It means "well-arranged seemly. . ." (Thayer.) It is closely related to KOSMOS which means an orderly arrangement, the world or universe. In 1 Tim. 3:2, the word for "modest" applies to a well-ordered life and is translated "of good behaviour."

In essence, "modest apparel" means sensible, suitable, seemly clothing. Not all apparel is proper and befitting of women professing godliness. Here are a few examples:

1. THAT WHICH EXPOSES. The miniskirt has become popular because it attracts carnal-minded males. Tight fitting dresses are popular because they reveal lines and curves. Low necklines on dresses allow more bodily exposure. Godly women dress to be chaste rather than chased! Modest apparel is well-arranged so as to conceal that which a righteous woman does not wish to reveal. While preaching I have noticed a few sisters who constantly tug at their skirts. They just do not have enough skirt for what needs covering. I find it hard to be convinced that they are comfortable. Some need shawls for their knees.

2. THAT WHICH IS GAUDY. In some cases the clothing may be adequate to conceal, yet the arrangement is neither modest nor in good taste. If the apparel is ostentatiously gay or showy, dazzling and offensively bright or flashy, the impression is left that the wearer is attempting to direct attention to herself. MacKnight observes that 1 Tim. 2:9 forbids "that gaudiness of dress which proceeds from vanity, and nourishes vanity."

3. THAT WHICH IS COSTLY. The passage which we are studying forbids "costly array." In one sense, all garments are costly today, but this verse is referring to excessive spending. Barnes says, 'Costly array' includes that which can be ill afforded, and that which is inconsistent with the feeling that the principal ornament is that of the heart." It is not becoming of godly women to be extravagant in dress.

4. THAT WHICH IS SLOPPY. Since "modest" means "well-arranged" and "well-ordered," it is just as wrong for a woman to be sloven in her appearance as it is to be gaudy. "There is no religion in a negligent mode of apparel, or in inattention to personal appearance — any more than there is in wearing gold and pearls; and a female may as truly violate the precepts of her religion by neglecting her personal appearance as by excessive attention to it." (Barnes.)

5. THAT WHICH IS CONSPICUOUS. A dress may provide ample coverage, it may not be gaudy, and it may be neither costly nor sloppy, yet it may be so completely out of style that it makes the wearer striking to everyone around. Styles and customs are not our standard, but to disregard suitable modes of dress is to make one's self conspicuous without reason. If a sister came into our assembly dressed like a woman who lived in Bible times, her mere style would draw undue attention. Dressing like grandma may not be the modest thing to do at all. Decorous and becoming apparel does not make the wearer stand out like some kind of clown. "Modest" means a lot more that merely covering what ought to be hidden.

How should godly women dress? They should adorn themselves in such a manner as befits pure, holy living. Their outward appearance should reflect a well-ordered life. A style that is suitable for one person may not be appropriate for others. One's apparel needs to be neat, suitable for her age, becoming for one of high standards, unassuming, and sensible.

Older women and younger women need to give prayerful thought to the subject of dress. God sees our hearts; our fellow humans see us from the viewpoint of outward appearance. Good sisters, adorn yourselves with proper clothing.

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