As spring unfolds and as summer draws nearer, families around the nation are turning their thoughts to sunnier days, warmer temperatures and spending more time outdoors. For some values-minded parents however, generally parents of tweens and teens and particularly of girls, a sense of uneasiness is taking hold as they consider the types of clothing they will allow their kids to wear this summer that actually fit their description of modesty. Anticipation of arguments to come can lead these parents to a full-blown sense of anxiety.

But, psssst… let me whisper so that your kids won’t hear… modesty has made a comeback in our culture and this year it’s likely to make a parent’s job at least a bit easier.

The Modesty Dilemma

Finding common ground with kids regarding modesty has never been easy for parents who believe that living a life that honors God includes the realm of fashion. For generations, moms and dads who strive to pass their values along to their children have struggled and argued over modesty in clothing. And, it’s likely that today’s toddlers and their parents will wrestle with the same issues in years to come.

Fashion trends over recent years have made choosing modesty more difficult for parents. Clothing for tween and teen girls grew skimpier with low-cut jeans, and skin-tight, bare-bellied shirts becoming everyday fare. Retailers stocked the shelves with these items and modesty-conscious moms were throwing up their hands in frustration, simply trying to find clothing they deemed acceptable.

Defining Modesty

Defining specifics of modesty is rather subjective and complicates the process. We each draw our own lines. As the editor of a monthly parent newsletter, I’ve encountered disputes with subscribers about our graphics over the necklines of women’s clothes. So, I have no doubt that some Christians would call my definition of modesty too conservative while others would see it quite the opposite.

While what is accepted in culture and what is considered modest differs significantly much of the time, the plain truth is that there has never been, nor is it likely there will ever be, a uniform standard of Christian understanding that clearly defines modesty when it comes to specific items of clothing.

Some families find it helpful to align themselves with a group that lives by a set standard for modesty which provides a supportive community of likeminded people.

I know a family who regularly attended a church where there was an announcement in the bulletin one Sunday reminding congregants that wearing underwear in church was required. Say what? Okay, I agree that wearing underwear to church would be considered modest behavior. But, I’m slightly curious as how it was concluded that people needed the reminder.

On second thought, I don’t want to know. Still, this church had a clearly defined standard of modest behavior, and most of the congregation took the underwear admonishment in stride.

But, such clearly defined standards for modesty in clothing runs counter to the life experience of most Christians. In fact, many see a lot of gray-area when it comes to determining whether an item of clothing is modest or immodest (although I think we can all agree that wearing underwear to church is the first step in wearing a modest outfit!) For most families, parents must simply set their own standard of modesty, based upon their understanding of Biblical principles and the values they wish to pass along to their children.

When Culture and Values Meet

So, why has the commitment to modesty just gotten a little easier for parents? A shift toward more modest clothing has been underway in pockets of our culture over the past few years. Efforts made by individuals and organizations such as Pure Fashion have been trying to spread the word that modesty in dress doesn’t have to mean plain, dull or frumpy. Some have lobbied fashion designers and clothing retailers to provide more modest options for tweens and teens and have achieved a level of success.