While I don't mean to be unkind, my childhood was definitely outside the norm in North America. I grew up really conservative, where everything was seen as a sin that did not deal directly with Jesus and the afterlife. (Maybe that was just my frustrated view that resulted from some of the excesses.) I’m tired of this view and have since moderated and rethought things.
Modesty is very important... in fact, it is what separates good women who send the message that they value themselves from those who [appear as though they] don't care about the next minute. Obviously I don't mean to offend the more liberal women, only to point out that clothing sends a message. If you dress in such a way as you know will make guys stare, likely they will get ideas in their heads to that effect. Remember also, that first impressions, as dishonest as they may be, do have a way of sticking about. However, what I find, is that in order to combat this, a so-called, 'modesty movement' has popped up. This movement includes all sorts of unbelievable ideas on measurements (I once drew up a very legalistic guide to measurements when I was around the age of 17, because of growing up in this environment) and a whole fixation on virginity and not having sex (I've probably read almost every book by Eric Ludy, some by Joshua Harris, and plenty of others) or looking attractive to the opposite sex. While it has stemmed from a good and right desire to combat the excesses of our present-day culture to make everything into an object for lust, it has also forgotten that one of the principle ideas of the Created world is beauty.
What I believe now, is that the bigger crisis confronting young men and women today is respectability and for women in particular, what it means to be a lady of worth. In the ‘Christian’ and ‘homeschool’ movements, the emphasis has been on covering up, not in being womanly (yes, there is an emphasis on focusing on the inward heart, etc. which is certainly good in its own merit). God made women to be attractive to men… I believe there is nothing wrong in that. Those who say otherwise make what God made well into something not to be valued for its own sake anymore. I feel that is showing little respect to the truth of things. That said, throughout the ages, it has been considered ok to show some parts of the body but not others. A short skirt, in my opinion (or shorts that look more like underwear) suggests as it were (pardon the term), ‘easy access’. A lady should never suggest that she is available for untoward purposes all day. At the same time, a little decolletage is certainly enjoyable and beautiful to look at... provided the rest of the outfit is modest AND (most importantly) feminine. Wearing a big t-shirt to cover up is not how I see God making his creation… God made women beautiful, and to some extent they should take advantage of that and show that glory. But it must be focused in a way that says, “I’m beautiful”… not “I’d like to bed you”. There’s a huge difference… and one that I think should be the real issue at hand, not how many inches of this or that is showing or not covered up properly. A young lady who dresses attractively, with respect for her femininity and fails to cover up to the letter of the law, may indeed be sending a more positive message than a girl wearing a huge t-shirt and mom-jeans.
When the scripture says not to be consumed with outward adornment but to let one’s beauty come from within, I do not take that to suggest that we should make that on the outside unappealing in order to prevent others from sinning. That is ridiculous. Let’s focus on the heart and let beauty reign in everything. That which is beautiful will not wish to present itself in a way that does not do itself justice if beauty indeed is the object. God will bring the men, but don’t give up on the outward because you feel it makes you more holy. To the contrary, neglect of the outward does no such thing.
Let’s discard the culture of rules and regulations for a culture of the beautiful and lovely. Let’s have everything point to the glory and beauty of what it is to be human and made in God’s image. Let’s not succumb to the least respectful attire we can get away with, but rather dress with elegance and grace so that both men and women may show they care about adorning the frame God has given them to live in while on this earth. We must end the pedestrian and aim for the noble… we must end simplicity of following trends and instead stand out not for a shocking lack of taste, but with improved grace and refinement that show that we’re not shallow. Dressing with taste is the outward expression of inward depth. Dressing like a girl on a table surrounded by guys hurling abuse and dollar bills is the clear evidence of a shallow heart willing to sacrifice the future for the present. Dressing blandly is in effect, as I see it, a lack of creativity and depth in fighting against that which is sinful in society. A girl who dresses to show her true beauty will always be attractive to a guy who is looking for a girl who is beautiful and not just a sex object.
Caring about how we look on this earth is neither wrong nor sinful, IMHO. Shunning elegance or luxury may even bring about pride just as following those objects can also in the same way bring pride to the wearer. Let us balance everything and not be lopsided and counterproductive.
Lastly, I don’t mean to be disrespectful to girls (and guys) who are trying to do the right thing. I only intend to point out that style matters… it’s more than just cloth–more than just not being naked or ‘immodest’. I’ve seen many girls who get it at least much of the time, and I hope to see more of it in the future.
P.S.: My goal is not to offend anyone on any end of the spectrum. In effect, my desire is to encourage the good and to ask everyone to rethink that which perhaps is less than good or needs improvement. I also encourage girls to write about this, because I don't want to appear to be a guy telling all the girls how to dress... which isn't not right at all. My intent is to do my part in encouraging women to appreciate what God has given them and to be as beautiful in the process of trying to do what is right. Anything less than that and I would feel very judgmental and out of line.
P.P.S.: like I said at the beginning, I'm going to do a post on how guys should (in my perfect world) dress. And I'm sure I'll get flack for it too, but that's ok.
P.P.P.S.: The truth about dress, is this is only my opinion. Only God will judge the true intent of your heart, etc. I can only offer my views as I see them at the moment. I may change them later, but they are strictly my opinion. Don't worry about me pontificating, I'm harmless even if I am opinionated. :)