Saturday, January 31, 2009

Modesty vs. Femininity

Now don't get huffed at the title yet. Let me explain first.

On a message forum that I frequent, the issue of modesty came up. One of the comments got me thinking. Many women were detailing the thoughts behind being modesty (Our thoughts need to be right before our outsides will be right) and describing skirt length and shirt heighth, etc.

One of the members commented about how they wouldn't be considered as modest because they wore mostly pants.

The comments struck me funny, but I couldn't place what was wrong. Then it hit me (not too painfully though :-). There is a difference between being modest and being feminine.

Modesty includes having a right attitude about your clothes and how you appear. There a certain "musts" for modesty, such as not showing too much skin, not wearing too much makeup, etc. But a lot of it is your attitude. Are you wearing that skirt/shirt with the right mindset. Will those who see you be uplifted or will they need to turn their eyes away? (And I'm not just talking about young men here.) Also, are you seeking to praise the Lord's name with your dress?

Femininity refers more to what you are wearing. A dress is feminine. A skirt is feminine. A blouse is feminine. Feminine clothing makes you feel like a woman. When you wear feminine clothing, no one could mistake you for a man. On the reverse side, dressing feminine doesn't mean dressing modestly. You can be wearing feminine blouses, skirts, shoes and be very immodest, as we all know.

I think this is wear the "wearing pants" issue comes in. I don't think pants are feminine. I know I've probably lost half of the readers, but those that are left, please hear me out. I think some pants can be perfectly modest. I'm not looking down on those who wear pants. If I owned any, I would wear them if needed. But I don't think they are feminine.

So back to the original post at the message board...I feel bad for those young ladies who thought that others would think they weren't modest because they wear pants. You can be modest and wear pants. You can be lovely and wear pants. You can have the right heart attitude and wear pants. I think the issue they were addressing (and others in the thread un knowingly just by their responses) was the femininity issue.



  1. I didn't take a look at that thread (I'm assuming on S&S), but I think you have a point. I, personally, have always felt more feminine in skirts, but have noticed outfits on friends of mine, when they were wearing pants, that I thought were very feminine. I wonder if it might also have something to do with their demeanor? But I look at the salwar kameez, the cheongsam, and the ao dai, and I think they are so beautiful and so feminine. I love wearing pants (generally capris) with a long tunic-type shirt, and I do feel feminine while doing so. So what is the difference? This is something I've been wondering about for a long time! Is it just our Western culture, which considers skirts to be feminine, while in some Eastern cultures, women have traditionally worn pants, at least for certain activities? See, your post was so insightful, I'm giving you more to ponder, in hopes that you'll finally figure it out for me!

  2. There is definitely a difference between modesty and femininity. Some modesty is carried so far it is entirely unattractive and unfeminine.

    I must admit, though, that I consider pants to be feminine, if done well. Their femininity has an extremely fine line, though. If one wears baggy, masculine pants, one cannot say they are feminine, but if one wears something very stylish, but lovely and sweet, a pant with a gentle look, I think it can be very feminine.

    Thanks for sharing!! I'm glad to know what other people think on the subject, and you tell your side so well.


  3. I agree with you about the modesty issue. If trousers are immodest for women, then surely they are immodest for men too!

    However, I do have to respectfully disagree with you about the femininity issue :-) I think some trousers that are designed for women are either immodest (i.e. too tight) or rather masculine looking. However, some trousers do seem to be designed to look feminine. If a man wore the trousers I have in my wardrobe, they would look very effeminate. And many women in trousers could simply not be mistaken for men.

    I notice Serena has mentioned shalwar kameez, which are technically trousers, but so so feminine and also very modest. So, I guess my point is, it depends on how you wear clothes and the specific style of the garment that makes me think "feminine" or "masculine", rather then the label of skirt, dress or trousers. What about Anglican and Catholic priests who are sort of technically wearing, well...dresses! But I guess they don't look feminine. (Sorry, I still can't get used to calling trousers "pants" ;-) )

  4. Oh, and that last comment was from me, but I'm not sure if I was signed into the right account! Sorry! xxxx

  5. You haven't lost this new blog reader. =) Very well said, Tiffany!

  6. It's been very encouraging to read everyone's polite comments. I have to admit to posting this in some fear and trepidation.

    Rachel-I live in England for 3 1/2 years when I was younger and still sometimes have a hard time with saying pants/trousers. :-)


  7. Yes, I agree that preserving femininity is so important. I have been thinking about this a lot recently when I have noticed women looking decidedly unfeminine and then realized that if I wear jeans then really I contribute to this same problem.

  8. I'm sorry that I wasn't more clear with my post on the S&S boards regarding modesty. I most certainly was not trying to sound as if I believed that I was immodest because I wore pants, only that I have met so many, many Christian women, men, and young ladies who have treated me as such because of that fact.

    I think you have stated some very well thought out facts and opinions and I have so enjoyed reading them. I, too, (obviously ☺) believe that you can be modest wearing pants...but I do disagree with you on one point: in my opinion, you can be just as lovely and feminine wearing them as you can be in dresses.

    Yes, it can be harder. You more often see a girl working in the garden or going out for a jog in a set of pants rather than a frilly dress, but I believe that if you are truly modest and feminine in your heart, that extra intangible "something" will show through in whatever you wear. To be a true lady--heart and spirit--you shouldn't need a dress to be seen as feminine.

    I always love to read your thoughts!
    God Bless,