Formal Wear: Part One

Chloe Parks (right)With warm weather approaching, many of us begin to think about formal wear. Whether we’re going to graduate, be a bridesmaid, or attend a formal event, we will probably want to purchase a new dress. Some of you may be planning on attending a school formal dance, but before you decide whether or not to do so, please read our article about dances.

Later we’ll talk about shopping basics, but today we’ll cover a few things about modesty (these also apply to normal clothes, not just formal wear).

God’s take on modesty

We are instructed in 1 Timothy 2:9 to dress modestly and discreetly. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and that we are to glorify God with our bodies.

Exodus 20:14 and Matthew 5:27 tell us that committing adultery is a sin. Lust (an intense sexual desire toward someone we’re not married to) is also sinful. We know lust is a sin because we’re told in Matthew 5:28 that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Since adultery is a sin, and since, in God’s eyes, lust is equivalent to committing adultery, that means lust is also a sin.

I know that lust sounds like the guys’ problem, not ours, right? Well, 1 Corinthians 8 (especially verses 9 and 12) talks about how sinful it is to be a stumbling block to others. We’re told not to do anything that can cause someone else to sin. If wearing an immodest dress causes a guy to lust over us, then, yes, he is guilty of the sin of lust, but we’re also guilty of the sin of being a stumbling block. When we dress in enticing clothes, the lusting guys aren’t the only ones sinning. We’re also sinning by not dressing modestly (1 Timothy 2:9), and by being a stumbling block to the guys around us (1 Corinthians 8:9-12).

www.modestbydesign.comWhile it can be tempting to want to be the best (or least) dressed girl at an event in order to attract attention, it’s not worth it. Care enough about the souls of the guys there, and enough about your own soul, to find a dress that doesn’t tempt them to sin because of you. If you don’t care about their souls enough, pray for your own heart, and ask God to help you start to care. If you’ve sinned in this area in the past, make the decision to stop sinning, ask God for His forgiveness, and choose to begin wearing only modest clothes, including formal wear, from now on (1 John 1:9).

Now that your heart is (hopefully) open to modesty suggestions, read on!

Modesty basics

Avoid strapless. While a strapless dress might look pretty (although generally too revealing and suggestive) in the dressing room, spending hours at an event tugging on the neckline just isn’t attractive. Not tugging at the neckline could be worse though, which brings us to our next point.

Cleavage should never show. If the dress shows any cleavage whatsoever, even just when you bend down, find a different dress. Cleavage tempts guys to lust. There are thousands of great, stylish dresses that don’t show cleavage.

Skip dresses that accentuate the bust. Even if there’s no cleavage in sight, but the dress has beading, ribbon, or anything else that outlines the bust line, skip it, because that means your chest will be the first thing guys will notice, and not in a godly way.

Wear a bra. If the dress is too low, too strapless, too backless, or too anything else to wear a bra, then it’s too revealing. Period. Guys will definitely notice the lack of a bra, and this can be even more tempting than a little bit of cleavage showing.

Don’t wear a backless dress. Having a few criss-cross straps on the back of the dress doesn’t make it modest. The dress needs to have a real, solid back. This is a problem area for guys, too, especially if it’s the lower back, and we need to help them out!

Skin tight = too tight. While formal-wear dresses can fit in a flattering way, they should not look like they’ve been painted onto our skin. Find a dress that flows nicely away from the body once it reaches the hips to allow for more modesty and comfort.

www.modestbydesign.comTo the knee is a must; below the knee is better. Short dresses are also tempting for guys, so the shortest part of the dress needs to be knee-length or longer. If you prefer a shorter formal-wear dress, opt for one that hits right below the knee so you’ll stay covered even if you’re moving around during your event (and especially if you’re a bridesmaid on some sort of platform).

If you know it’s immodest, don’t try it on. If you see a dress on the rack that’s just way too cute, but strapless, or backless, or low cut, or too short, or too something, put it back immediately. Don’t let yourself think about how great you’d look in it! If you try the dress on, you may be even more tempted to purchase it, so don’t allow yourself to do so. Put the dress back on the rack and move on to a more modest section.

Move around in the dressing room. Bend over in front of the mirror – if cleavage or underwear shows, try on a different dress. Twist your body, raise your arms––just move! If the dress doesn’t stay in place for the five minutes you have it on in the store, it’s not going to stay in place for the entire afternoon or evening you’re wearing it.

Coming up

Tomorrow we’ll discuss shopping basics, as well as include a few links to places that sell modest formal wear. For now, print this list of modesty basics, and share it with your mom (or whoever is going to take you dress shopping) so you can decide and agree upon modesty standards before hitting the stores.

By Davonne Parks


  1. Very good advice! The dresses that are shown are so pretty and very modest. A Christian woman should not think in terms of her style as being sexy, but instead think, classy. Think elegant. Those two words alone describe the beauty that God would want from us. To be elegant and classy exhibits the look of a virtuous Christian woman. It allows God’s light to shine through us. Beauty starts from within us. Great article!!

  2. I want to pass on a note to all the gals out there who may think that in order to compete with the skimpily-clad “beauties”, they have to look seductive. My husband, and many others, feel “turned-off” by girls who choose to dress immodestly. He says my modest dress was one of the things that attracted me to him. He asserts that men can find beauty within a girl’s personality, her hands, her hair, her smile, her eyes. ANYONE can attract a male by using seduction. You are worth so much more than your body. Ask God to help you show the real you. Believe me, after 20 years, my husband and I are still attracted to each other!

  3. Elizabeth says

    Thanks for the article, it was very good.

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