Modesty on Spring Break

Just for fun—and as a point of research for this article—I Googled “Modesty on Spring Break.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to be redirected to: ‘No results found for “Modesty on Spring Break.”’ In other words, according to Google, it doesn’t exist.

Very soon, many College and High school students will be packing their carry-ons with little more than bikinis and sunscreen. After all, this is the world we live in.  So for Christians, how does that jive with Rom 12:2a “Do not be conformed to this world…”?

Is it possible for Christian spring-breakers to pack a dose of modesty into their suitcases? Absolutely. And unlike Google’s assessment, not only is it possible, it’s easier than one might think.

Why am I so confident? As a Christian professional model working in the high-end world of fashion, I’ve been able to navigate and thrive in this “skin-is-in” industry—without sacrificing my standards. And I’m convinced my Christian sisters can do the same, on (and off) the beach.

When I came to the Lord as a professional model in New York City many years ago, I had to learn that my choices reflected my heart. This included the clothes I wore and how my wardrobe spoke volumes of where I stood in my relationship to Christ.

First Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” This passage used to bring me comfort whenever I felt others were judging me. I would smile inwardly and quote the verse to myself in a self-righteous tone. It wasn’t until much later that God revealed my true motives and everything that was in my heart. My pride, selfishness, and entitlement became more obvious to me the closer I walked with the Lord. This especially included my wardrobe choices. I struggled with it—I really did. We’re so often taught not to worry about what others think about us. And I didn’t. If I liked it, I wore it…get over it. Then, as I thought of this verse, and as God opened my eyes, something strange happened. I was terrified that God saw my heart. The verse no longer brought me comfort but shame. I knew what lurked deep down, and it wasn’t pretty. Even though others might not have known, God knew. This is when God pierced my heart about specifically about modesty.

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety (a regard for spiritual things)” (1 Timothy 2:9). The verse jumped off the page at me. I looked again to see if my name prefaced the statement. It did not. But it was just as personal.

It seemed hard at first. No, impossible. How could this fashionista decipher what is modest and what is not? What is acceptable in the 21st century and what are just old-fashioned rules? How can one be fashionable yet modest? Enter the male opinion.

We’ve all heard how men and women think differently. But I was amazed they had such strong opinions on what women wore. I interviewed a few bold young men. Interested in what they had to say?

“The world says ‘If you have it, flaunt it. We’re saying if you have it, protect it.’” –Seth, Age 20, California

“Certain lures are used to attract certain types of fish. In the same way, how you dress and act will attract certain types of guys.” –Tyler, Age 16, North Carolina

“When a girl dresses immodestly, not only is she a stumbling block—an opportunity that could lead someone into sin—but also she is presenting herself as insecure.”  –Chase, Age 21, Alaska

“I can tell you from experience that the way a girl dresses can definitely help or hinder a guy’s spiritual walk. So if you dress immodestly, you are truly ‘dressed to kill.’” –Tommy, Age 19, New York

These were only a few. But over and over again, every guy was saying the same thing. And they wish we’d just understand.

On Spring Break there will be plenty of guys gawking at the abundance of flesh peeking through string bikinis and mini skirts. But they are not the kinds of guys any girl I know would be interested in impressing.

Clothing speaks. It gives indications of our motivations, how we feel about ourselves, and the depth of our faith. The question we need to ask ourselves is “What kind of message are we sending?”

Modesty is important. We find its mandate in God’s Word, and negative implications abound without it. LZ Granderson wrote about girls and immodesty in a CNN article. “In 2007, the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There’s nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don’t know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.”

Eating disorders, low self esteem and depression stemming from early sexualization related to immodest dress? You bet. I’ve seen the results, I’ve counseled the girls, and I’ve written the book.

My plea to parents: As a mom, I know there are some fights worth fighting, and others that aren’t. But this is a hill to die on. We must educate ourselves and our daughters about immodesty’s consequences, while providing some creative strategies on dressing modestly fashionable.

Maybe this time next year, when I Google “Modesty on Spring Break,” there will be resources, photos and tips instead of a suggestion to change my search.

Enjoy the break, and show off your best side…your inside!

Resources and footnotes:
1) Fashioned By Faith, Rachel Lee Carter (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
2) Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, Mary Kassian (Moody, 2010)
3) LZ Granderson, weekly columnest for CNN.com and ESPN.com
http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/04/19/granderson.children.dress/index.html
4) http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Connecticut-cheerleaders-want-uniforms-with-more?urn=highschool-274505
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8 Responses to Modesty on Spring Break

  1. Rachel, thank you so much for this article. I am planning to send it to all the girls in my youth group as well as their parents. I just wish they could all understand the implications of the things they choose to wear. Thanks for being a leader in this important field.

  2. Leanne says:

    Thanks for this and for your website. I grew up with a mother who would die on said hill.:) At times I didn’t appreciate it but those were when my father would step in and as a male, I listened to his advice more. My parents were firm and loving and made it clear that they wanted me to feel pretty but not at the expense of losing myself to the world of fashion. Now, as a mother of one daughter, soon to be two and a son I see how clearly my choices in modesty will affect them and am so grateful for my upbringing on this. Your words are inspiring me to think again, to check my motives still and work towards having daughters who honor the King, not society. Thanks!

  3. bbbbarry says:

    I’ve been enjoying reading your thoughts, and indeed we need a voice of reason and rationality in today’s mad world. I’m glad that Christian girls (and guys) can look to you as an example.

    Though I generally admire your perceptions, there’s one consistent problem throughout your site: the fact is that, though Scripture tells us to dress modestly, it’s always framed as a matter of one’s own vanity, not as a matter of “causing” someone else’s sinful thoughts. Jesus spoke plainly on the topic: He didn’t tell girls how to dress, He told guys how to think. And He did so in terms that His audience immediately recognized as evoking a death-penalty crime.

    It’s true that men should dress modestly. Your aim here is great. But it’s a Scriptural truth that men are responsible, as we all are, for our own spiritual condition.

    Ladies, if *anyone* ever tells you that *your* choices in appearance are responsible for someone *else’s* sinful thoughts, that person is leading you astray.

    For centuries, women had to bear the unfair burden of a paternalistic and very anti-Christian culture that said they were responsible for sexual purity and men were animals who couldn’t be trusted to be Spirit-led stewards of their own thoughts and minds. Fortunately, we’re getting beyond that now. Let’s hold ourselves accountable to be modest in all ways, for the RIGHT reasons.

    Thanks again for this site.

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      I absolutely agree that a mans actions are just that-HIS actions. However, we are taught not to cause a brother to stumble. You’re right, not in the text of clothing necessarily, but as a lifestyle. But that shouldn’t EXCLUDE clothing. You wrote, “Jesus spoke plainly on the topic: He didn’t tell girls how to dress, He told guys how to think.” He did both actually. The apostle Paul under the authority of the Holy Spirit said “I want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety (1 Tim. 2:9). The prostitute in Proverbs chapter 7 was dressed, well, like a prostitute. Solomon urges men to avoid her. You wrote “Ladies, if *anyone* ever tells you that *your* choices in appearance are responsible for someone *else’s* sinful thoughts, that person is leading you astray.” I defiantly disagree with you. (1 Corinthians 8:13) “Therefore, if what I eat [or anything controversial I do] causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” It says CAUSE HIM TO FALL. I.e., Cause another to sin. We do have that responsibility. That is why Rebecca “covered herself with her veil” upon meeting Isaac. Thanks for your input.

  4. Evelyne says:

    Thank you Rachel for your inspiration. I am an image consultant with an aim to help every woman to feel beautiful. I often meet woman that have taken modesty in such an extreme way that they are not making efforts to take care of themselves. Their clothing have no personality and their self esteem image is suffering. God made us beautiful. I strongly believe we can celebrate life and still be modest. I admire the work you do, you are an inspiration. We need more people like you in this world. Thank you for sharing. Evelyne W. – WA

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Thank you, Evelyn! And I admire the work you do. You help people with their integrity and self-confidene–all in an outfit :) I agree with you. And when women get to that extreme, they can become very judgmental of others not dressing like them. (I’ve gotten that kind of mail too). You said it best: “God made us beautiful. I strongly believe we can celebrate life and still be modest.” Thanks for the encouragement! :)

  5. Raffee says:

    This is a great article. I’m an 18-year-old girl and I can’t agree more with what you have written. With all the modern trend and fashion today, it’s sometimes hard to dress modestly and fashionable at the same time. For me, I like layering clothes to make myself more modest, but people often ask me ‘Why are you wearing too many clothes?’ or ‘Doesn’t it feel (literally) hot wearing clothes like that?’

    Whenever I begin feeling awkward about the way I dress because of what people think of me, I tell myself that I should dress for myself and God, not for other people. I don’t care if people tell me that I’m covering too much skin. I don’t want to cause temptations to the men around me (even though my body is flat like a little kid’s, haha). I believe being classy and elegant is much better than being sexy and too revealing.

    Thank you for writing this article! You are amazing! It’s not everyday you get to see a model writing about modesty in clothing.

  6. Jason says:

    Difficult to find women like you. Nearly impossible in Vegas. God bless you!

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