Modesty Rules

I am the mother of three daughters (four if you count the one in the oven).  Clothing is a major issue in our house.  One of the first signs of the Transitional Two’s to me has always been when they want to start picking out their own outfits.

As my oldest daughter has gotten older, modesty has become more and more of an issue when we go shopping.  It’s amazing to me the outfits that are designed to emphasize body parts that young female children haven’t even developed yet.  And when I go shopping for myself it is a struggle as I try to find modest, age-appropriate, and correctly sized items between the womens and juniors departments.  I dread trying to navigate it with my grown daughters.

Now, I understand that modesty can mean different things to different cultures and religions.  Within conservative Christian circles there are endless debates about if girls and women should be confined to wearing “skirts only” .  Then there are issues of sleeve length and head coverings.  Swim suits are an absolute mine field.

I have always thought of myself as a fairly modest person.  Yes, in my younger days I was known to wear an extremely short skirt or dress from time to time, but usually with bicycle shorts underneath.  I tended to eschew anything low cut, especially during high school when I didn’t have anything to show off to begin with.  But most days of my life, I’ve been a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal.

I started setting general guidelines when Bailey was about five.  That may have been when she loudly demanded to be allowed to buy a bra, and I realized that she would always try to push the limits to try to dress older than she is.  She desperately wants to be a teenager thanks to the skewed impressions she received from various television shows before we ditched our cable.  I figured it would be easier to start teaching and enforcing modesty rules then rather than when she actually has body parts to flaunt.

Of course my modestly guidelines for my own daughters are more conservative that what I had for myself, but I still think they are fairly moderate.

1.  Shirts must cover the belly completely when arms are down and mostly when arms are lifted over head.

2.  All shirts must be able to be worn with a regular bra (not a strapless) and no bra straps showing.  This allows tank tops, but not spaghetti straps.

3.  All shirts must be form fitting enough to prevent others from seeing down the collars when bending over.

*The only exception to rules two or three is when another shirt that fits the guidelines is worn underneath.

4.  No short-shorts.  While I do not have a set length in mind, in general no one should be able to see your underwear at any time between the shirt and pants combination and you should be able to sit down without getting a wedgie.

5.  No super-short skirts, with a possible exception if leggings are worn underneath.  Skorts and leggings are our friends.

6.  Swim suits should cover the belly and all private areas.  They should not have ties to hold them together or plastic rings that leave gaps of skin.  I may eventually buckle down and require board shorts or swim skirts as a part of swim attire.

7.  Bathing-suit style leotards (as opposed to unitards) should be worn with shorts or sweatpants during practice but will be allowed on their own during competition, if we get to that level.

8.  All clothes should be machine washable and not require ironing.

OK, this last rule isn’t about modesty.  I just don’t do dry clean, hand-washing, or ironing.  Eventually, as my daughters begin to develop more womanly bodies I’ll probably have to initiate rules about tightness and tops being too low-cut.  Hopefully, I have some time before that becomes an issue, though.

Of course, purchasing the appropriate clothes is only part of the battle at these ages.  All it takes is one good growth spurt for modest shorts to turn into short-shorts.  (I am thankful that bermudas have come back in style as they give me more breathing room.)  Then there is shrinkage in the wash which often turns lots of good shirts into belly tops.  (I tend to look towards Old Navy because the childrens clothes are cut bigger than other store brands and have less shrinkage issues).  And the worst is when the kids are between sizes where the size down and the size up become immodest for different reasons.

Modesty is about more than just clothing choices, though; it also encompasses thought and behavior.  Of course, these areas can be a little more gray and harder to regulate.  I also have to sometimes deal with an over-abundance of modesty.  Since all of our girls will be sharing rooms, they are going to have to be willing and able to change clothes in front of each other.  I don’t have time for them to be locking each other out of the room while they get dressed, especially when they get easily distracted from the task at hand.

As you can tell, I don’t expect my girls to dress like nuns, but I don’t want them dressed like hoochies either.  As they grow into young women, I hope they will learn to discern between clothing items that accentuate their natural beauty without putting all of their wares on display for the general public.  I want them to be comfortable in their clothing and with their bodies, but show the world that they have more to offer the world than just a nice “orchestra” or “balcony”.  Their clothing should be an outward extension of their inner confidence, beauty, and self-respect.

Explore posts in the same categories: Parenting

3 Comments on “Modesty Rules”

  1. Kelly Says:

    This is a really great post! This is pretty much what we do as well. I got a swim skit that goes over any suit for myself a few years back and I wear it all the time. Before, I often wore shorts over my suit. Being a parent, I’m just more comfortable chasing people around the pool or beach when I’m not worrying about my suit riding up.

    • barboo77 Says:

      Right now I have two swim bottoms with swim skirts attached (one for pregnancy and one for non-pregnant times). But they kind of float up in the water. I’m considering trying some swim/board shorts down the road.

  2. sarah ziegler Says:


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