Last Monday our Family Home Evening was on Modesty. I choose this topic because I had a young family member visiting who I had overheard sharing wardrobe choices for school, like short-skirts. I realized this was an opportunity to discuss all the important avenues of choosing to dress modestly.... self-respect, not attracting unrighteous young men, not making righteous young men uncomfortable, and respecting our Temple to name a few. We also discussed what exactly is modest and what isn't. The lesson was color coded to share equally the reading between all involved, and we discussed a lot as we went through it. When the lesson was finished I gave them a copy of the New Era Poster "Don't Be A Dummy" from the July 2001 New Era.
This is not a comprehensive lesson as I wanted to have a primary focus. This could easily be more in depth.
Here is the Lesson... (Sorry, I didn't keep track of my sources. I'm sure a search on LDS.org would quickly find all the sources.)
(Family Home Evening)
Imagine you are in a courtroom. All of the attorneys and officials are dressed in their finest clothing. Then the judge enters wearing a T-shirt and shorts!
You certainly are more likely to take the judge seriously when he dresses to fit the occasion. The way the judge is dressed says a lot about the climate of his courtroom and about the type of behavior expected there. Similarly, the way you dress may say a lot about you.
The way an individual dresses reveals a lot about attitudes and priorities. We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to form an opinion of a woman who always wears plunging necklines and short skirts, or a man who goes out in public wearing nothing more than a pair of skintight biker shorts. That’s why Church leaders counsel us to dress modestly. According to the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, published by the First Presidency of the Church, modesty is one way we can show our respect for Heavenly Father—and for ourselves.
“Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. However, if you wear an immodest bathing suit because it’s ‘the style,’ it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important.” (For the Strength of Youth, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1990, p. 8.)
The problem for us, then, is how to determine what is modest and what isn’t. Modesty is, after all, fairly subjective. One person may consider a sleeveless dress too immodest for a young Latter-day Saint woman to wear, while another could look at the same dress, note the modest length and design, and find nothing wrong with it.
Our own confusion is sometimes fueled by the constantly shifting public standards of modesty, which can be hard to keep up with. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when it was considered indecent to expose an ankle or a knee—even on the beach. When I was in high school, the raging debate was the question of whether or not it was appropriate for girls to wear jeans to school. Today, my children have to contend with school standards so liberal that nearly anything goes except wearing your underwear outside your clothes. And these days, who can tell?
It is a great blessing that we have a definition of appropriate Latter-day Saint dress standards: “Immodest clothing includes short shorts, tight pants, and other revealing attire. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low-cut, or revealing clothes…. All should avoid tight fitting or revealing clothes and extremes in clothing and appearance.” (For the Strength of Youth, p. 8.)
Many people think immodest dress relates only to an insufficiently covered body. But a tight fit is also immodest, even when the body is fully covered. This applies to men as well as women. Many do not realize that tight clothing draws attention to the anatomy, which distracts from the purpose of education, business, leadership, or worship. Adequate ease in the fit of our clothes allows the viewer’s attention to go to the other person’s face for more effective communication.
Even within that definition, however, there is room for interpretation. Exactly where on the thigh do shorts become “short shorts”? How tight do pants have to be before they are “revealing”? And does “low-cut” mean anything other than turtlenecks?
Clearly, For the Strength of Youth teaches the correct principles and leaves us to govern ourselves. And that’s the way it should be. Heavenly Father has given us the freedom to choose, and we can’t grow or receive blessings from obedience if all the decisions have been made for us.
If we are unsure about whether our dress or grooming is modest, we should ask ourselves, "Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord's presence?" We might ask ourselves a similar question about our language and behavior: "Would I say these words or participate in these activities if the Lord were present?" Our honest answers to these questions may lead us to make important changes in our lives. Prophets have always counseled us to dress modestly. This counsel is founded on the truth that the human body is God's sacred creation. We must respect our bodies as a gift from God. Through our dress and appearance, we can show the Lord that we know how precious our bodies are.
An event some years ago changed my attitude toward modesty. As I got ready to go to a Mutual activity, I put on some short shorts; it never occurred to me that they were inappropriate. The activities planned for that Tuesday included having the missionaries give us some practical advice about missionary work. One of the last empty seats was next to me. For a brief moment the elders began to argue, as discreetly as they could, over who had to sit next to me. Though they never said so specifically, I understood they were uneasy because of the way I was dressed.
At that moment, notwithstanding my embarrassment, I began to understand what it meant to be modest. I realized that I was making virtuous young men feel uncomfortable—and that I could also be making unvirtuous men feel too comfortable. I began to better understand what type of person I wanted to be with and, more important, what type of person I wanted to be. From that moment on, I was not only prepared for the changes I was about to make, but I looked forward to making them.
Make it a matter of prayer. (READ 1 Nephi 3:7) After a discouraging day of prom-dress shopping with two of my daughters, we returned home in weary tears. We had not found one modest dress. I encouraged my daughters to take their desires to the Lord in prayer. They looked at me quizzically, not at all certain that a wardrobe concern was prayer-worthy. I promised them that Nephi’s conviction applies to the mundane as well as the monumental, My daughters agreed to pray about the problem, and within a week we found beautiful dresses in unexpected places that we could alter to be perfectly appropriate. We continue to make modesty a matter of prayer.
Our clothing expresses who we are. It sends messages about us, and it influences the way we and others act. When we are well groomed and modestly dressed, we can invite the companionship of the Spirit and exercise a good influence on those around us.
Dress and Appearance
36550, For the Strength of Youth, Dress and Appearance, 14
Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.
Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient.
Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner… All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”
Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings.
Show respect for the Lord and for yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week. If you are not sure what is appropriate, ask your parents or leaders for help.