Women are incredible creatures. By being able to bring human life into the world, women participate in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity more intimately than men could ever do. In short, women are sacred tabernacles of the Most High God, cooperating with the creator in populating His heaven for all eternity. What a tremendous gift are women!
Because of the woman’s dignified status among God’s creatures, women have grave responsibilities. Through their roles as wives and mothers, women help bring about the perfection of the human race in Christ. To that end, one can even say that women dictate the moral conscience of society. When moral standards among women falter, society falters as well. This is painfully evident in our society today. The “women’s liberation movement,” which has made contraception, abortion and same sex unions matters of “choice,” has brought our civilization to the brink of judgment and hell.
The importance of woman’s dress cannot be overemphasized. For the last 2,000 years, the popes have repeatedly implored women to dress modestly, emphasizing that immodest dress can be a proximate occasion of sin. Dressing immodestly can allure men into committing sins of unchastity. Women have a moral obligation to avoid enticing men with immodest apparel. When a woman deliberately dresses immodestly (that is, dressing “to attract” instead of dressing “attractively”), she is committing sin and separating herself from God. The sin may be venial or mortal, depending on the degree of her immodesty, as well as other circumstances.
Women often complain about how men treat them (without respect, as objects, etc.). But women must remember that men are very visual creatures, and a woman’s body language usually dictates how a man will treat her. If a woman dresses with dignity and carries herself with grace, most men will approach that woman with respect and honor. On the other hand, if a woman dresses like a man (pants, short hair, etc.), a man will treat her like “one of the guys.” If a woman dresses immodestly (short skirt, tight jeans, cut-off shirts), a man will often view her as a sexual object and no more. Let’s look at some of the Scriptures which address this very important issue of modesty in dress.
Gen. 3:7 – after Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Sin created a disorder in their wills. They were now under the influence of their disordered passions (here, sexual passions), and were ashamed. From this point forward, immodest dress aroused the passions which were now governed by a fallen human nature.
Gen. 3:21 – notice that God is not satisfied with the garments that Adam and Eve made for each other after the original sin. The fig leaves that Adam and Eve made would have only covered them partially. They would have been immodestly dressed. Thus, God made new garments for them out of animal skins and clothed them entirely, or modestly. Because the human condition was now afflicted with sin and concupiscence, God clearly reveals that He desires us to dress modestly, to avoid tempting ourselves and others. (This is also where God most likely taught Adam how to sacrifice animals to Him.)
Lev. 28:42 – “You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their naked flesh; from the loins to the thighs they shall reach.” God gives another instruction about modest dress for His holy people. God wants the flesh to be covered so that temptations will be mitigated and sin avoided.
1 Tim. 2:9-10 – women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. The Holy Ghost, through St. Paul, emphasizes modesty in dress. Note that “modesty” (from the Greek kosmios) means “orderly, well-arranged, decent” (see Eccl. 12:9). Kosmios is from kosmos which means “order, regular disposition, ornament, adorning.” (See 1 Peter 3:3; when referring to “order,” God is referring to the order that He had in place before the original sin.)
1 Peter 3:2-4 – Peter commands women to reverent and chaste behavior, which includes modest dress. Peter warns against the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. This same Peter practiced modesty before the Lord, for he “put on his clothes” before he jumped into the dirty sea to meet Jesus (see John 21:7).
Deut. 22:5 – “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” While we are no longer under the legal canons of the Old Covenant, the New Covenant incorporates their holy principles. To that end, women should think twice about wearing pants, trousers and other articles of clothing that “pertains to a man.” Such clothing obscures her feminine identity and plays to a wicked society that wants women to usurp the authority of men.
Lev. 18:17 – “You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness.” When women dress immodestly (showing their legs, stomachs, and even more), they are uncovering their nakedness to a fallen world and leading people into serious sin. To the extent women intend to sexually excite others by their immodest dress, they are guilty of mortal sin.
Prov. 11:22 – “Like a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” That is, a woman’s true beauty is her inner beauty, the sacred and mysterious creature that God has made. When she dresses without discretion, she mars her true beauty, and becomes a swine.
Rom. 12:1-2 – Paul commands us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our spiritual worship. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost which we offer to God through prayer, fasting and other self-mortifications, which include dressing modestly and living chastely.
Gal. 5:16,23 – Paul says “walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But the fruit of the Spirit is…chastity.” Those who wish to invoke the desires of the flesh by their immodest dress are opposed to the Holy Spirit. They commit grave sin against God and their neighbor.
1 John 2:16 – “Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as servants of God.” Woman cannot use their beautiful bodies as a pretext for evil (that is, to sexually tempt men) without committing serious sin. Such women are not “servants of God,” but “servants of Satan.”
Rom. 6:13 – “Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.” Again, Paul teaches that the body can be used for good or evil. Women must cover themselves so that their bodies are not instruments of wickedness, leading weak men into sin.
1 Cor. 11:14-15 – “Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” Throughout Scripture, that which is sacred is “veiled.” Thus, as sacred vessels of life, women are to be veiled in modest dress, as well as when praying or prophesying (see 1 Cor. 11:4-16).
1 Cor. 6:9-10 – Paul says that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. These include those practice immorality, which includes immodest dress. Immodesty in dress shocks the honest man and offends Almighty God. See also Eph. 5:5
1 Cor. 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” See also 1 Cor. 3:16-17. Women who dress like harlots are glorifying the devil, not God, in their bodies. Paul says that we must do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Matt. 5:28 – Jesus says “everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” But this is a two-way street. If women dress modestly, this temptation is mitigated. If not, this temptation is enhanced. Both the woman who dresses to attract lust, and the man who gives into the lust, are culpable before God.
Matt. 5:29 – Jesus follows His teaching on committing adultery in the heart by saying “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Again, Jesus clearly teaches that we can sin mortally with our eyes, and this often happens when men lust after immodestly-dressed women. Men are responsible for having “custody of the eyes,” but women are responsible for helping them maintain that custody.
Job 31:1 – “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?” Men must resolve to not look lustfully upon women, and women must not dress in a way that will arouse these temptations in men.
Titus 2:12 – Paul admonishes us to train ourselves to renounce worldly passions and to live soberly. Women can help men to renounce their passions by dressing modestly. Women can change the world by how they dress and conduct themselves.
1 Peter 2:11 – Peter says “Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul.” When a woman dresses immodestly, she is waging war on the souls of men. If the man ultimately loses the battle, he perishes in hell for all eternity. The man has the responsibility to surrender his disordered passions to Christ, but the woman has the responsibility to not invoke these passions with immodest dress.
2 Sam. 11:2-5 – This is the story about David’s adultery with Bathsheba. When David saw Bathsheba bathing, he gave in to his passions and had illicit relations with her. This demonstrates how powerful a woman’s presence can be to a man. A woman must guard against revealing herself so as to sexually excite a man, lest they both fall into sin.
Rom. 14:13,21; 1 John 2:10 – Paul and John say to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. When women dress like prostitutes, they are causing weak and fallen men to stumble. What message are they communicating to the world? That they are available for immoral, sexual activity. Such a stumbling block can hinder both a woman’s and a man’s salvation. As many have commented, prostitutes of 50 years ago dressed more modestly than many women dress today.
Isaiah 3:16-17– “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing as they go, tinkling with their feet, the Lord will smite with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.” God reveals that exposing a woman’s private parts to the world is a punishment unto her. By smiting with a scab their heads, God also reveals that uncovering a woman’s head (not just her private parts) is also a punishment (see vv. 23-24 where the Lord will take away the women’s “veil” and make her “bald”; this emphasizes the necessity of a women to cover her head in humility before the Lord; see also Isaiah 47:2).
Isaiah 47:2-3 – “put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your shale shall be seen.” This is another Scripture which teaches that nakedness, which often is revealed through immodest dress, is a sign of shame. Yet women in today’s culture view their nakedness as a sign of pride and power. Women who dress this way “have exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25).
Titus 2:15 – “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.” Women cannot exonerate themselves from the sin they cause by dressing immodestly. Men, like women, are fallen creatures, and are often driven to view a woman’s body for immoral purposes (and women know this). When women dress immodestly before unbelievers, they increase the temptations and bring about spiritual ruin for the unbelievers and themselves.
Prov. 7:10,22-23 – “And lo, a woman meets him, dressed as a harlot, wily of heart. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its entrails; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” Such a woman is a danger to man, for they can lead his soul into hell. Just as men cannot lord over women their physical strength, women cannot use the sexual aspects of their physical bodies to dominate a man.
Prov. 5:3 – “For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol.” This is another warning from God about how easily men can be seduced by loose and immoral women.
Matt. 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29 – this is another example of how an immodestly dressed and loose woman can manipulate man and lead him into serious sin. Herodias’ daughter Salome performed a vulgar dance for Herod, and Herod was moved by her feminine charms. As we all know, this led to the decapitation of St. John the Baptist, whose head was served to Herodias and Salome on a platter.
Zeph. 1:8; Jer. 52:33; 2 Sam. 10:4-5; Isaiah 50:3 – these are Scriptures where clothing reveals something about the person’s lifestyle. Clothing is a powerful means of communicating a message about the one wearing the attire. What is a woman saying when she dresses in skin-tight, low cut jeans, or mini-skirts and half-shirts? What about women who artificially inflate their lips and breasts with medical procedures? Or who pierce their navels, tongues and other sacred parts? This is the devil’s work, for it mocks God’s creation, which is the temple of the Spirit.
2 Sam. 3:31 – David said “Rend your clothes, and gird on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.” Here is an example where clothing reveals sorrow. See also Ezekiel 26:16. What does immodest dress reveal?
Lev. 19:28 – “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you; I am the Lord.” While the Mosaic law has been abolished, its Godly principles, including its prohibition against tattoos, have been incorporated into the New Covenant. Since Christ has now made our bodies Temples of the Holy Ghost, God’s prohibition on tattooing the body is even more severe (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
1 Sam. 16:7 – God tells Samuel, “do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” See also Mark 12:38-40. God reveals that we must not base are relationships with others on the external appearance. When women dress immodestly, they are inviting this disorder into their relationships with others.
Ezek. 23:40,42-43 – “For them you bathed yourself, painted your eyes, and decked yourself with ornaments…The sound of a carefree multitude was with her, and with men of the common sort drunkards were brought from the wilderness; and they put bracelets upon the hands of the women, and beautiful crowns upon their heads. Then I said, ‘Do not men now commit adultery when they practice harlotry with her? For they have gone into her, as men go into a harlot.” Women who over-indulge in make-up and dress immodestly attract men who will desire only to use them sexually. See also 2 Kings 9:30.
Jer. 4:30 – “And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.” God gives another warning to women who indulge excessively in attractive dress and make-up. Men seek these kinds of women so that they can use them. In so doing, they seek their lives, that is, their eternal souls.
Ex. 28:2 – “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” In this Scripture, God teaches us that clothing can be holy, and holy clothing beautifies the wearer and glorifies God. In fact, clothing can symbolize our holy union with God.
Psalm 44:10; Prov. 31:21, Jer 2:32, Dan 5:29, Ezek. 16:6, Rev. 18:12; 19:14 – here are some more Scriptures that teach that clothing can be positive and holy. However, Jesus teaches us not to overemphasize the importance of clothing (Matt. 6:25). Thus, Paul says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14). As Christians, we must go beyond the material goods of this world, and seek the higher, spiritual goods of God, so that we can be with Jesus forever.
Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”