5. Dress Modestly

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5. Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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This post was updated on .
Dressing modestly is the fifth requirement.  Besides the moral argument for dressing modestly, presented below, dressing modestly helps set you apart by showing that you do not conform to the evil styles of modern culture.


Serious Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all require modesty.  Yet there is virtually no mention of modesty in the Old Testament.  What should we make of this?

One should start by understanding what modesty is.  The Wikipedia article on modesty is quite good.  Dictionary definitions include "freedom from conceit or vanity" and "propriety in dress, speech, or conduct".  But I will use a simple definition: "not showing off".

The tenth commandment is:

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Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
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Exodus 20:17

Now consider this situation.  A poor person and rich person are neighbors.  The rich person isn't modest, he shows off his wealth.  He has fancy picnics outside in plain view of his neighbor who barely has enough to eat.  In this situation, it would take superhuman strength for the poor neighbor not to covet the belongings of the rich neighbor.  Who is to blame, the poor neighbor or the rich neighbor?  You may say, well the tenth commandment lays the blame on the poor neighbor.  But then I would ask why is it that God specifies punishments for all of the other commandments except the tenth commandment?  Why does God condemn people at various times in the Old Testament for violating all of the other commandments except the tenth?  I argue that God includes the tenth commandment because He doesn't want coveting to occur, but God doesn't specify where the blame should fall because who is to blame depends on the situation.  Some people are naturally too jealous of their neighbors, in which case they are to blame.  And some people are too immodest in which case I believe common sense dictates that the immodest people are to blame, not the ones doing the coveting.

Immodesty is inconsiderate.  The immodest person shows off because of vanity, to feed his ego.  And he does this at the expense of others who lack what he has.  Immodesty generally comes in two varieties, economic and sexual.  These are the two things people naturally desire.  So immodesty generally means showing off wealth or showing off sex appeal.  Why wasn't this issue specifically addressed in the Old Testament?  My guess is that it simply wasn't much of an issue at that time.  Society wasn't as well ordered and regulated as now.  Someone who showed off his wealth greatly increased his chances of being robbed.  And a woman who showed off her body greatly increased her chances of being raped.  This provided a natural disincentive to be immodest.  So there was little need for God to give commandments on this issue at that time.  Immodesty typically becomes a serious problem in a well ordered empire.  If one looks at art in history, one can see this pattern where obvious immodesty in art generally occurs after a culture has peaked, when moral discipline is breaking down but law enforcement prevents the "natural disincentive".

I see nothing wrong with wealth or sex appeal as long as these things aren't shown off.  Wealth is an enabler that can allow you to do more, including live more comfortably.  There is nothing wrong with that.  And sex appeal will make your spouse happy.  Keeping your body attractive has the added benefit of encouraging you to be healthy.  But again, neither of these things should be shown off to the public.

We live in selfish inconsiderate times.  The modern attitude is for each person to selfishly do whatever he or she wants without the least consideration for its effect on others.  So unsurprisingly, modesty has gone out of fashion.  But religion is about morality, not fashion.

Here are two example of religion supporting modesty.  First is Some Directives of the Magisterium on Christian Modesty.  And second is a video that shows the Orthodox Jewish view of modesty.



Standards of modesty vary.  Mikraites have less strict standards than Orthodox Judaism.  The Mikraite standard is that one should be covered from the bottom of the collar bone to the top of the knees in loose fitting clothing.  The back and shoulders should also be covered.  One also shouldn't wear extravagant jewelry which shows off wealth.
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Re: Dress Modestly

Hax Templar
I respect the idea of dressing modestly but I'm not sure if I could strictly enforce it upon my kids.  I don't have any actually, although I would like to.  The thing is, if you are trying to "ride the tiger" and live in the city (as I do) you want to dress modestly but you are also competing with people who do not intend to dress modestly.  The dilemma becomes staying modest without getting trashed by people who don't limit themselves at all.  Immodesty is not just inconsiderate, it's also a show of power, potentially challenging and hostile.

For example, I'm a man and I want a woman with a good waist to hip ratio.  If everyone hides their waist then that's fine but if some girls are walking around showing it off entirely, is it smart for a girl to not show her waist at all? In doing that she can give off the impression that she is not as physically attractive as those other girls.  Which may not even be true.  A middle ground might be those waist-hugging shirts that are sold.

Similarly, I own a tailored suit.  I almost never wear it.  But I wear it sometimes when it's appropriate to do so.  If I show up to an event where people are wearing their best suits and I wear a bad one, it is suggesting that those other guys have more power than I do.  I know it's shallow and stupid but I am surrounded by such people all the time =/ So I don't feel like being consistently modest is a real option.
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Re: Dress Modestly

Peter
Mr. Templar, welcome to the forum. I think in today's society dressing modestly is almost on par with wearing Tzitzit for the Jews or wearing the white cap + arabic robes for Muslims. Its a statement to the decadent majority that we are not the same and we do not intend to assimilate.

Inmodesty is increasing common, as piercings and tattoos are almost the norm. When the mayan and aztec society was decaying, thats also the case.  

Also, for a woman to hide her physical asset is important, thats how she can avoid rapists and players.
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Re: Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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In reply to this post by Hax Templar
I agree with Peter that dressing very modestly sets one apart like tzitzit does.  But the requirement here, being one of the basic requirements of Biblic Judaism, doesn't go that far.

Obviously you would draw the line with your kids somewhere.  You wouldn't let them go out naked.  So the question is where to draw the line.  Our requirement here is not so strict as to set one apart.  I have a teenage daughter who likes fashion and wears all kinds of outrageous things that I don't like, but she still manages to follow the basic rules.  As long as a girl hasn't had sex and become a slut, she mainly dresses for other girls, not for men.  And this means she can be fashionable without showing off her body.

Dressing up for business is perfectly reasonable.  We are more concerned with principles than rules.  If you wear a fancy suit to make money, that's fine, but wearing it in public just to show off is not.  I would say the same applies to women.  If a woman has a good business reason to dress immodestly, I think it is okay.
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Re: Dress Modestly

Drealm
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I'm in a mental conundrum. My issue is similar to Hax Templar. The reality is that we're not a self reproducing community at this point. So unmarried members need to enter and compete with other men or women in a dating environment that belongs to the world. In this world that we don't belong to, it's advantageous to dress immodestly. How does someone who wants to maintain modesty compete in an environment where people do not abide by these rules? The Amish, Hasidics, Muslims, etc all have a level playing field where no one has an unfair advantage.
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Re: Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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I don't see the issue.  For women, the problem isn't attracting men, the problem is find men who aren't worthless.  Dressing immodestly doesn't help women solve this problem, it just makes this worse since worthless men are more likely to waste their time.  For men, one has to dress pretty extravagantly to really be immodest.  Dressing well is not a problem and is enough to attract women.  Wearing an expensive suit is just going to attract worthless women (gold diggers).  And wearing very fashionable clothes will also just attract bad women.
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Re: Dress Modestly

Drealm
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I think the question I'm going towards is does increasing sex appeal equate to being immodest.

Not all women are born equally attractive. So when you say women don't have a problem attracting men, I agree but it has the catch that not all women attract the same number or quality of men. For example if a woman is born with a small chest and uses a push up bra to enhance her cup size is this being immodest or is it just fair game?

I don't think women know whether a suit is expensive or not. I think they just see a suit or no suit. A suit does to a man what a push up bra does to a woman. It drastically increases shoulder width. Would it be immodest for a narrow shouldered man to wear suit to make his upper body silhouette wider? Also white as a color exaggerates the size of someone (just as black slims people down). So a white suit would increase a person's upper body mass.

It's unclear to me where to draw the line between increasing sex appeal and being outright immodest.
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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In reply to this post by fschmidt
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If we make a cursory investigation into the styles of dress from about the 1960s, going back all the way to the fourth century, the time when St. John Chrysostom lived, we observe some external changes in the manner people clothed themselves, but what remained fundamentally the same was that they were actually clothed; that is to say, very little of their skin showed at any time. This held true for both men and women, both the wealthy and the poor. The intent was directed towards modesty and a clear distinction between male and female garments.

In our modern era, the dramatic changes in dress began to occur as we entered the 1960s and 70s and continue until our own time. The general trend has been less and less clothing, or clothing that accentuates a person's bodily features. These changes were inseparable from the social and political movements that characterize our times. Modern man has been taught to think and believe that our current generation is the most advanced, the most compassionate, the most intelligent, etc. The reality however is that no civilization in the history of the world can compare with the barbarity of our modern culture. A society that turns a blind eye to every form of sexual deviancy is morally dead.
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http://www.trueorthodoxy.info/con_orthodox_dress.shtml
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

Drealm
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The practical question is how to attract a mate in a society that favors immodest dress. If you dress modestly you will attract less people. Now a days for man to just be "average" he needs to show significant muscular development, which is immodest. A scrawny weakling that displays no muscular definition will be evolutionarily unsuccesful.
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

qwerty
To respond to Drealm's point, I think that the most important things is not to base your choices of clothing on what will attract you a mate. If you find a good romantic partner, he or she will choose you because of your personal qualities and not just because you look attractive in a revealing piece of clothing. This is true for both men and women. If you have trouble finding someone who will be attracted to you if you dress modestly, that means that you need to look in different places, even if that means looking in a different country. Besides, wearing clothing that covers the arms could actually help unathletic men, as it makes it more difficult for others to determine that one is not muscular.

Also, what levels of exemption are allowed for people in hot climates or people who are exercising? Are shorts and T-shirts allowed as long as they cover the knees and the collarbone? Also, what levels of exemption are allowed at the beach? One must admit that the swimsuits from the early 20th century are quite impractical. Is it okay for men to be shirtless, and would women's bikinis be allowed?
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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qwerty wrote
Also, what levels of exemption are allowed for people in hot climates or people who are exercising? Are shorts and T-shirts allowed as long as they cover the knees and the collarbone?
Yes

Also, what levels of exemption are allowed at the beach? One must admit that the swimsuits from the early 20th century are quite impractical. Is it okay for men to be shirtless, and would women's bikinis be allowed?
The ideal solution would be to have sex-separated beaches as well as mixed beaches so that people can choose, as is done in Israel.  However in most of the world, we just have to exempt beaches from our rule.
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

Drealm
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In reply to this post by qwerty
qwerty wrote
To respond to Drealm's point, I think that the most important things is not to base your choices of clothing on what will attract you a mate. If you find a good romantic partner, he or she will choose you because of your personal qualities and not just because you look attractive in a revealing piece of clothing.
In theory yes, but in reality you cannot judge personal qualities if you have no history with them. When someone is a stranger the only thing they can judge you on is what's on the surface. Based on this they'll receive you positively or they won't. This is especially true in the case of trying to meet someone online or cold approaching strangers. This is relevant to men on this forum since most here do not have an extended family/friend network in some country outside north America/western Europe where you can be introduced to people.

qwerty wrote
Besides, wearing clothing that covers the arms could actually help unathletic men, as it makes it more difficult for others to determine that one is not muscular.
Or it can be an admission that he's a weakling who's afraid to show anything.
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

Allen
I have been finally getting back to the gym. Would wearing a tank top in the gym constitute dressing immodestly for Mikraite purposes?
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Re: 2. Dress Modestly

fschmidt
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Allen wrote
I have been finally getting back to the gym. Would wearing a tank top in the gym constitute dressing immodestly for Mikraite purposes?
A more obvious case would be a mixed-sex beach.  I think this is fine since immodesty is expected there and you aren't forcing your immodesty on anyone.  Immodesty isn't acceptable in general public places where most people have to go.  There are single-sex gyms, I think.  And one can just work out at home, as I do.  So I think a mixed-sex gym is like a beach, immodesty expected and the place is avoidable.
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