Once Upon a Time, I Wore Jean Skirts

9:00 AM

On my post about skinny jeans shopping, Keelyanne over at The Freckled Girl echoed Raquel's request to write about my POV on modesty:

Could you give your personal convictions on items of clothing, like how you went from exclusively wearing skirts (right?) to wearing jeans? What was your line of thought, and how did you match your convictions with Scripture? (Not that there's a specific scripture on skinny jeans and skirt wearing, obviously, but still... :) )
Even though I claimed to write the very last modesty article ever, I haven't stopped thinking about modesty and how much I've changed.

Keelyanne's right. From about eleven to sixteen, I exclusively wore skirts. Vision Forum had me convinced that the Bible forbade women to dress like men and that it was immodest to let men know I had two legs. (My grandmother and aunt tried to convince me that nobody wore pants back in Biblical times, anyways. I didn't know how to respond to that. I think I ran upstairs to my room and religiously read the next chapter of So Much More. No, that was after my family started a living room dance party to music with a beat. Wrong story.)

Unlike many girls who left the conservative women movement, I never felt oppressed by wearing skirts. I did everything in skirts -- cartwheels, horseback riding, gardening, swimming, hiking. Nightgowns and corduroy jumpers actually keep you warmer in the winter. They're so long and thick that they trap your body heat. Nothing beats curling up in the skirt of one's flannel nightgown. I don't care how frumpy that sounds -- I've looked high and low for my cute flannel nightgown that my mom sewed for me. I can't find it anymore. And I've suffered many cold college nights without it. (Of course, sweat pants are also awesome. I'm torn.)

I was in my awkward teen years. I didn't know how to dress differently. Sure, sometimes I wished I could wear a pair of jeans. Sure, finding tops that match with floral skirts is hard. Sure, even I knew that ill-fitting blouses and polos looked bad on my hesitantly womanish form. But I was the kind of girl who wore headbands with her hair parted down the middle at the same time. You think I'd notice?

The next move away from ankle-length denim skirts was mid-calf and below-the-knee skirts. That took several years to warm up to. Want to know a deep, dark secret? The thing that kept me from wearing anything shorter than ankle-length skirts was not conviction. It was because I didn't know how to shave my legs. I was called Sasquatch Legs once. If that doesn't keep a girl in ankle-length skirts, I don't know what will. (Don't worry -- my mom finally pulled me aside and gave me foundation, lipstick, and a disposable razor.)

I think around this point, I started reading blog arguments about what's modest and what isn't. People wear leggings as pants? What? Every girl in my circle of friends dressed modestly by conservative standards. If they didn't exclusively wear ankle-length denim skirts and floral blouses, they wore capris or long shorts, always loose, always khaki. No tank tops, except under v-neck shirts. Modesty was never an issue in my immediate social life. It was all online, in theoretical terms.

I don't remember what changed my mind. I kind of started to care about what I looked like, enough to part my hair to the side. I started wondering what it'd be like to play volleyball in basketball shorts. On especially hot summer months, I wished for tank tops. Yes, there was passive peer pressure -- just that awkward feeling of unintentionally sticking out everywhere because I wore skirts for everything. Or culottes. My mom made us girls really cute culottes so we could volunteer for therapeutic horseback riding. They really were cute...a few centuries ago. (Side note -- I appreciate how my mom honored our desire to dress modestly and participate in the activities we wanted. Those culottes aren't a symbol of oppression to me. They're a reminder of how my mom's a wonderful seamstress and homemaker who loved her daughters.)

And frankly, the silence of Scripture on this subject ultimately caused me to not care about the internet squabbles. It doesn't say that pants, even yoga pants, are immodest. It doesn't say that women should dress modestly to prevent their brothers from lusting after them. It doesn't say any of that. The only modesty it talks about is not flaunting your wealth. The End, modesty debate. The Bible also doesn't say that we need to be fashionable and that we can't wear ankle-length skirts. I got this feeling that the real issues -- some entirely unrelated to modesty -- were being passed over in this overzealous discussion on controlling what women wear. That knocked out modesty reason #1: wearing pants was cross-dressing. It's not. The cross-dressing mentioned in Scripture meant other bad things going on -- likely sexually-charged pagan worship rituals. Also, the battle over whether women should wear pants was fought decades ago. The verdict is out: all women's clothing lines include feminine-style pants. Nobody thinks you're cross-dressing if you wear jeans. A century ago, maybe. Our culture has moved on from that discussion.

The discussion that the culture -- at least the conservative Christian culture -- still holds is about modesty reason #2: guys will stumble if I dress immodestly. Tomorrow, I'll talk about how my beliefs about that subject influenced my wardrobe. And then I'll lay out the fashion/modesty beliefs I dress by.

And by the way...I still wear my old jean skirt, just to ruffle my liberated college coeds. :) What? If this thing is on the 2015 spring runway....

See here if you thought denim jumpers were bad.
....I think I can still pull off a cute jean skirt, thank you very much.

p.s. Still got a denim skirt lying around? Join me and all the other cool 2015 peeps in the rebellion. Don't got a denim skirt? No prob. You can buy a $220 distressed jean skirt just like this one. Orrrr you can buy a $1900 pair of culottes just in time for spring. Hey, I knew what I was doing as an awkward teen. I was way ahead of the fashion game.

What's your opinion on jean skirts, culottes, and what the Bible teaches about modesty?


p,s, Abby wrote an excellent article that presents a skirts-only conviction without guilt or legalism. I highly recommend it if you're curious about why women choose to wear skirts exclusively!

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27 impressions

  1. Ohh kay, that makes sense to me. I know it's a desire to honor God with how we dress, but sometimes I see some in the church or authors bash these people because they are 'legalistic'. It hurts my heart to see them made fun of, but I've never really known how to relate. How to find the Scripture they use to justify exclusive-skirt-wearing and be able to say, "I get you. Wearing skirts exclusively makes sense." And it never has before.

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    1. I love your heart, Keely! In my personal experience, it's true that many people who wear (and especially TEACH) about wearing skirts only are legalistic...but that's certainly not true of every woman who does so. It's important to understand where people are coming from, even those who don't have glamorous, progressive views. :) I wish more people would be as understanding as you!

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  2. I never went through a phase where I was only wearing skirts....I was far away enough from *any* kind of society that I was never influenced by anything other than my immediate circle (another long life story). I did however, have definite opinions on modesty, that were rooted in pride and "holiness" (more long life stories). I dressed like a 60 year old woman from the ages of eleven to nineteen. My views on modesty have changed so much in the past couple years, that it basically boils down to this - do what Jesus is calling you to do. Who am I to say that I know what you should wear? Because obviously I have the final words of God on this subject. Hah. No.

    Love Jesus. Follow hard after Him. He will show you what you need to be doing. And maybe that's different than what I do or think or understand. And that's ok. Just love Jesus.

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    1. You dressed like a 60-year-old woman?! You made me laugh. I totally did that too! (I think my boyfriend still thinks I do, sometimes. :P) I'm totally with you on not judging other people's stance on modesty -- for me, modesty is something very much about personal conviction. Loving Jesus is so much more important than dress. And if you truly love Jesus, people will notice that above what you wear.

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    2. I did indeed dress like a 60 year old woman....I wore more clothes out of my Mom and Grandma's closet than I dare admit (although there are pictures to prove all this).

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    3. Well, at least you were borrowing clothes out of older women's closets instead of purposefully choosing them from Goodwill. ;)

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  3. Your story in this area is so much like mine! I wore skirts for several years (and thought I was much more spiritual than the women around me wearing pants). Then I started to realize that the Bible doesn't actually say that women can't wear pants. I also realized that looking decent and fashionable isn't actually a sin . . . not saying that I dress super fashionably now, but we'll just say things have improved since Jr. High. ;) Thanks for sharing your story! I've been following your blog for awhile and have been encouraged by the things that you share!

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    1. You're so encouraging, Mandy! Yep, our stories sound super similar. And oh, my goodness. I thought for a split second, "Hey, maybe I should upload some of my jr. high/high school photos to demonstrate my homeschool fashion." And then I said, "NOT ON YOUR LIFE, BAILEY." It was that bad. ;)

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    2. Ha ha! Yeah, there are some pictures of me that make me cringe when I look at them. ;)

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  4. Oh Bailey your posts about modesty ALWAYS make me laugh. So hard. Like, everything you say, I have lived. We grew up exactly the same and I have "evolved" so to speak....I still am 100% for women dressing modestly but believe much differently now about how that should be played out than I did as a stay-at-home So Much More visionary daughter teenager. lol things have changed and I am more pumped about the gospel and how Jesus changes lives rather than petty squabbles about denim jumpers vs. skirts (I struggled my way through the one-piece vs. two-piece modesty thing too). And yup, did the whole " warming up" thing to knee length skirts too - I remember feeling like everyone at church prob thought I was a harlot or something. :-/

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    1. You're adorable, Rachel!! Haha! Wait, there was a controversy between JUMPERS VS. SKIRTS?? I feel left out -- I never heard about that one!! I just wore both. ;) I don't remember the first time I wore a shorter skirt to church, but the thought of wearing them originally felt so scandalous and liberal. ;)

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    2. lol yup sure was!! (for me anyways). we listened to alot of mennonite and / or very very conservative messages for a few years, and they applauded the cape dress thing because a two piece is more form fitting / revealing (apparently).

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  5. I never heard the sasquatch leg story.
    What even?
    :)

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  6. Hey :) I grew up wearing pants or shorts or skirts, but always long skirts. The day my mom picked out a shorter (still longer than knee length) skirt for me, I felt like it was immodest. Then I felt daring to wear it. Now I wear knee length skirts, or pants, or shorts. But I always wonder - if it is ok for me to wear shorts that come to a couple inches above my knee, and have bare legs below that, why is it not ok to wear a skirt that comes to only 1/2 an inch above my knees, especially if I have leggings or tights on? Any thoughts on why skirts need to be longer than shorts? Or is that just my family?

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    1. Great question, Justine! I'll tell you what I think. :) The kind of official rule in my family is no skirts above the knee, and I abide by that when I'm at home (unless I forget and wear a skirt that comes right above the knees...I just don't notice anymore!). I think it's definitely a common rule in a lot of households!

      The problem with shorter skirts is that eyes can peek up the skirt, the skirt can fly up, and skirts naturally become shorter when you sit down. It just doesn't keep your private parts covered in the same way shorts do, even if it ends up showing the same amount of bare leg. ;) I think my shortest skirt is mid-thigh, and I prefer to wear it with tights just for comfort's sake (though I'm fine wearing it without tights, too). Personally, I think there gets a point where a super short skirt looks skanky instead of classy, regardless of how much skin it's showing. How short a skirt can go before it looks un-classy really depends on the skirt itself and the girl wearing it, though!

      I think a 1/2 inch-couple inches above the knee is a really classy, professional skirt length. But that's my personal opinion. If your family thinks otherwise, just keep wearing those cute knee-length skirts!! :)

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    2. Yes, that is true about how skirts can show more than shorts. And I don't wear short shorts because I am not that comfortable with a lot of skin showing. It just bugs me that something (shorter skirts with leggings) is considered immodest that shows less skin and is less form-fitting then something else (shorts) that isn't considered immodest. :P Also a question about wearing only skirts - was that something your parents required? Like what is their (or any adult's) justification for little girls only wearing skirts? I always think about that when at a playground, because anyone walking under the playground is able to look straight up a little girl's skirt. In this case I think pants or shorts are much more modest.

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    3. Yeah, I hear you. I feel like this is a great example of actually thinking through why and what we wear -- it's not at all logical to wear shorts but forbid a skirt an inch above the knee!

      I actually started the skirts-only trend in my family. :P My mom originally told me that it's okay to wear pants for certain activities, but I shot back, "If you can't do it in a skirt, you shouldn't do it at all." I think my dad was always fine with his girls wearing modest capris and pants but respected our convictions about wearing skirts. It later became a family rule for girls to wear skirts and dresses only....and then I again reintroduced pants and everything else new to my family. My sisters now wear a tasteful mix of stylish pants and skirts, so I feel we're at a good place with this issue! :)

      You know, I honestly think the skirts-only advocates are concerned more with the cross-dressing issue than with the modesty issue. You're right -- it's totally more modest to wear pants than skirts for many activities -- especially for little girls! It really comes down to the belief that wearing pants is wrong for a woman because pants are men's clothes. I once believed that it was WRONG WRONG WRONG for a woman to wear pants, even in her home when nobody was watching, because I honestly thought wearing pants was cross-dressing and condemned in Scripture. For others, it's the same kind of illogic you pointed out with the short skirts vs. shorts issue -- some women only wear skirts just because they've been told skirts are more modest, without thinking that in certain situations pants are way more modest!

      These are awesome questions, Justine! I hope you always feel welcome to ask whatever you like!

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  7. Pretty much I felt like this was the story of my life. Minus jean skirts specifically, but all the questions on modesty, the dedication to 'So Much More', etc. I love reading about someone who went through something so similar to my experience.

    Thank you!

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    1. That's awesome, Natalie! Thank YOU for reading and commenting. I'd love to hear your story about you changed your mind about all of this. Feel free to comment or shoot me an email if you'd like to share!

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  8. I love that you're posting everyday! It makes me so happy to see new posts here in the morning...and perhaps gives me a reason to push that calc assignment aside for another few minutes...
    I have a pair of polka dot culottes currently languishing in my closet. I feel an obligation to wear them at least once since they were a gift. So I tell myself that I'll alter them, turn them into cute shorts--but haha, that has not happened yet. Anyway, this reminded me of them. And denim-on-denim is totally back in style (but still hideous). XD

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    1. That's so good to hear, Anna! Polka dot culottes actually sound super cute. I'm sure you could throw together a vintage-inspired outfit, with red lipstick and a sophisticated hairstyle and sunglasses. Or something like that. ;) #pinterest I HATE DENIM ON DENIM. Thank you for agreeing. :D

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  9. Hi Bailey,
    Great post! I found it real interesting to read your perspective. Your posts are always so detailed and thought out :) Anyway, I have actually written a post from a bit of a different perspective (I wear skirts pretty much full time) and I would be honored if you would take a look at it, if you have time: http://tofurtherhiskingdom.blogspot.com/2014/01/why-i-wear-skirts.html
    If you don't get a chance to check it out, here are the basic reasons why I wear skirts over pants:
    1. They are comfortable. I looove maxi skirts so much :)
    2. This is a conviction God has led me to over the years (i.e. this is not something my family or even really my friend group has done. And I hated So Much More. I felt condemned and judged whenever I read it, so it now sits on the top shelf happily collecting dust with my math textbooks.
    3. I get a lot of witnessing opportunities. This is something that God has been so good to bless me with. For example, one of my coworkers last week asked why I wear skirts and I shared with him the convictions that God placed on my heart. Turns out he is a spiritual seeker who is trying to learn more about God. He mentioned that he's been going to church but doesn't have a Bible and I was able to give him one of mine and start a sort of mentorship almost, so that was an incredible opportunity that wouldn't have happened except for the way I dress. Sorry for the fairly incoherent ramble there :)
    Thanks for the post and I look forward to what you have to say in the days to come!
    -Abby

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your blog post, Abby! I left you comment on your blog, but I thought I'd respond here too!

      I love maxi skirts too!! They are ridiculously comfy and classy. The only downside is they're usually long, and I'm always short. :P They're totally worth tripping over, though!

      When I wore skirts all the time, I think I got a couple comments about it, and one led to a super interesting conversation with my driving instructor about religion. It's amazing how God can use individual differences to further His kingdom, as you are doing with the way you dress. That's awesome! Keep it up!

      I especially love your genuine attitude about this issue: this isn't something you're doing for appearance or out of guilt, but out of real conviction to direct people's attention to Christ. When I wore skirts, I don't think I had that genuineness. It made me uncomfortable that people assumed I was super religious or "just like the Duggar family" because I was homeschooled, had long hair, and wore long skirts all the time. For me, I felt like wearing skirts detracted from my witness by directing people to a conservative Christian stereotype (which is not the case for you because of your heart for God in this issue). While I'm not going to go back to wearing skirts exclusively, I'm encouraged by how you've made a unique decision to glorify God and use that as an opportunity to witness to others. I need to make sure my clothing decisions also glorify and point to God, and your example is a great reminder of that!

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    2. P.S. I linked your article in this post to present an alternative perspective to my viewpoint. I hope you don't mind!!

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    3. That's totally fine! I appreciate your thoughtful response. This is a great discussion you have started here!

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  10. I like your story dear and appreciate you. jean skirts & modest skirts

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)