About this time of year, I begin getting letters from moms “disgusted” that their daughters cannot wear their bikinis to the youth group pool party, or that there are “no shorts” allowed on the summer missions trip. Recently, a mom emailed me and told me that she was not going to attend the church anymore because of these “dumb rules.” Is she justified?

I really wish that today’s church would have more loving guidelines for women and our teen daughters as far as dress. That’s pretty clear in the ministry that I present. But let me play the devil’s advocate a bit in taking a look at how we should respond to such guidelines.

It’s vital that these standards not be based on legalism. I really find the issue of asking women to wear only dresses and to wear their hair up quite legalistic if the church is presenting those as God’s standards. Those are not God’s standards — it is the preference of their leaders, just as girls wearing one-piece bathing suits might be a preference of youth leaders when they take their teens to summer camp. If they present it as a preference, I really don’t see a problem. (I happen to have the same “preference” in my own home.) When I’m speaking at a church with such a preference, I honor it. Many times I’ve worn a dress when I speak, even though my closet has a lot more pants than skirts. An attender of a church that strongly encourages or requires women to wear skirts to church — or one-pieces to pool parties — must realize that she is placing herself under the authority of that church’s leadership and must be obedient. In choosing to attend that church, she is choosing to obey their standards of dress. (This should be done without complaining! Period.)

If you choose not to attend a church — or an event — based on this single issue, it is possible that you’re more concerned about fashion (and your comfort) than spiritual meat. First Peter 3:3–4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (NIV). The original Greek actually did not include the word “fine” before “clothes.” And certainly the point is not that we should walk around naked. So, this verse is not saying that we cannot adorn ourselves beautifully. Rather, it is pointing to the fact that our emphasis should be on our internal beauty and not our external beauty. I like to put it this way each day: “Did I spend more time in God’s word today adorning my heart than I did in front of the mirror in my bathroom?”

While there are some churches that get really legalistic — and make it sound like it is God’s will for women to wear hats or skirts — most churches today are just trying to plant some good solid truth into the hearts of a fashion-vulnerable society! So, go buy a stinkin’ one-piece for your daughter, help her learn to be grateful for a youth pastor who cares about her spiritual growth — and about the guys in the youth group who could be tempted by too much skin — and help her learn the lesson of submission and obedience.

Secret Keeper
The Delicate Power of Modesty

Since the original release ten years ago, Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty, has sold over 165,000 copies! Why? Exactly! Because Secret Keeper answers the ever-present “why”s about modesty. Why can’t I wear what I want? Why can’t I keep up with every fashion trend? Why do my parents care so much about what I wear? Why is it my fault if a boy stares or is tempted?

In this 2011 updated edition, Dannah adds current fashion language and icons, brand new photos in the new and improved “Truth or Bare” Fashion Tests, as well as a brand new chapter on the progression of fashion. Order now to discover the life changing power of modesty.

Shaunti Feldhahn on Modesty

In this week’s video Tracey and Shaunti talk about modesty and the importance of teaching this virtue to our children.