I have observed a tendency among some Christians to equate “Christian” and “biblical” with “old-fashioned.” I once attended a very conservative Christian conference that had such an extreme view of modesty that many young women dressed like characters in a Jane Austen novel. In their homemade empire-waist Regency dresses, they were all quite modestly attired by today's standards. But the irony was not lost on me: to the young men of the Regency period, those dresses were hardly quaint and certainly not without the ability to inspire desire and lust.
Because while principles of modesty may be unchanging, practically speaking, what behavior and attire titillate is quite culturally relative. Compared to the stiff, structured dresses of the previous generation, the free-flowing dresses of the Regency period were alluring because they clung to a woman’s form. When a woman moved in one of those dresses, there was much to attract the eye of a man. In fact, women of this period dampened their dresses before a night out so that their clothes clung to their forms even more alluringly. That’s right. Those prim and proper heroines of the Austen era were just as capable of pushing the limits of modesty as any modern girl.
But there has never been a time when women did not want to attract the attention of men. And there has never been a time when there wasn’t conversation about where the line of propriety lies. There was no golden age of history when everyone agreed on what constituted appropriate, modest behavior and dress. Even an old fashioned dress can be alluring and inspire lust in the right circumstances.
Modesty is an issue of the heart, which is not to say that it is not also an issue of the eyes, hips, and shoulders. But if we fail to get to the heart of the matter, we will forever be arguing with Scarlet O’Hara about the appropriate placement of sleeves before noon. And we will get nowhere. (Read more.)Share