Let me ask the question another way. Have you ever put something on and felt uncomfortable? I'm not talking about the feel of the fabric or other details that can cause discomfort. I mean how you felt, what you thought about yourself as you looked in the mirror. Did your eyes immediately move to a body part you are self-conscious about? Did you mentally resolve to eat better or exercise in order to drop a few pounds? Did you tug and pull at the fabric to try and cover yourself better?
I don't know for sure about you, but I know I've been there, and I'm willing to bet you have too. It's not a good feeling. You definitely don't want anyone to see you in that particular item or outfit. You feel exposed. You certainly don't feel beautiful. The piece of clothing in question doesn't have to be a too-short, too-tight skirt, either. It could just as easily be a lovely wool sweater that's just a bit too tight, or a pair of jeans that don't do your body justice.
There have been numerous attempts to quantify modesty over the years, but I think the above situation offers the best one I can think of: if you don't feel comfortable in it, it's not modest. Again, we aren't talking about physical discomfort (though if your outfit is that tight, it's definitely immodest!). God created us beautifully in His image, so there is nothing inherently wrong with our bodies. There is something wrong, however, with dressing in such a way that we feel overexposed and self-conscious. There’s nothing beautiful or appealing about clothing that barely covers you. The only appeal might be to the men around us, and even that is purely visceral. There is a time and place for that type of appeal, but it’s not at school, work, or while you’re walking down the street.
If you feel as though you can’t walk into just any store and find clothes that you feel comfortable buying and wearing, you’re not alone. Fashion and modesty often seem to be at odds with one another, and it’s tempting to buy and wear things that you feel uncomfortable in just to fit in. Furthermore, if a particular trend doesn’t look right on your body, it’s easy to blame yourself and want to change your body so the clothes look good. I’m pretty sure that’s not what God had in mind when He created us – “perfectly and wonderfully made”, unless we’re talking skinny jeans or halter tops. The same goes for the other extreme – feeling so ashamed of your body that you hide under shapeless layers, telling yourself that this is modesty.
There are plenty of styles that are both flattering and modest. Think about women whose style you admire. They know what looks good on them and they wear it. Almost without exception, they are attractive without being overexposed, and they don’t force themselves into things that don’t fit or flatter their unique shape. They find ways to incorporate trends while still doing their bodies justice. Most of all, they look confident, and that confidence is a beautiful thing – an accessory that never goes out of style. Modesty doesn’t have to hold you back when it comes to looking good and feeling good about how you look; it can be the very thing that leads you to dress attractively. Remember that the next time you look in the mirror.