Online Articles

Online Articles

The Emperor's New Clothes on the Street Near You

You are probably familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." A vain emperor is promised he will be made the best suit of clothes ever. However, the tailors are con men who say they are using invisible fabric and anyone who can't see it is unfit as a king or stupid. When the pretend clothing is put on the king by the tailors, everyone—including the emperor—pretends to see the clothing out of fear of being thought stupid. The whole town even pretends to see and appreciate the clothing out of fear until a child blurts out that the king is naked; then everyone is emboldened to say the same. Although this story was written more than 150 years ago, it is happening again today in the areas of clothing, immodesty, and our silence.

So, I will go ahead and say it. I will risk saying what a lot of people probably thought at first but remained silent. It will be unpopular, and I will probably be thought to be stupid. Here we go: leggings aren't pants.

For those of you who aren't up on current fashion or aren't sure exactly what I'm talking about, leggings are the skin-tight spandex that people are wearing as if they were pants. Leggings were designed to wear under clothing or with a skirt, but now they are being worn as though they were pants when, in fact, they are not. They are designed to accentuate every curve and leave little to the imagination. It is as though a person can be acceptable as long as skin isn't showing – that virtually painted-on clothing is enough.

I recognize that the world doesn't care about modesty. I'm not writing this for the world. I'm writing this for women who are Christians so that they'll reconsider this trend. I'm writing to moms and dads who are Christians, asking that you not allow your children to wear skin-tight clothing and that you teach them that this is a way of exposing and drawing attention to their bodies. I'm asking dads to confess to their wives that worldly men like to look at this and consider it sexy; and it draws inappropriate attention that women who are Christians do not want. Husbands and fathers need to be open about this, not because they are lusting, but because they know the mindset of men of the world and need to help females around them understand.

Some may question why leggings and other skin-tight clothing are immodest. This is a question that wouldn't have been asked at any point in human history up until just the past few decades. That walking around in one's underwear (or pantyhose) is supposed to be acceptable says something about our culture, and what it says isn't good. But ask yourself (even if you wear leggings), wasn't it a little shocking when you first saw them on someone on the street? Didn't you wonder if they forgot to put on something else, perhaps a skirt? Didn't you notice that they were almost naked from the waist down? Wasn't your sense of modesty even slightly offended?

Women (and men) are to dress modestly: "…that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel…which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Leggings and tight clothes that are hardly different from the naked body are immodest. Clothing covers nakedness both by a layer of fabric and by covering form. Anyone who wants to dispute this can consider immodest genital exposure—we want fabric and want it not to be form fitting! The same should be true of all other parts of the body which are immodest to expose.

I'm certainly aware of the attempts that are made to defend immodest clothing, but our thinking process as Christians needs to be re-examined. Are we teaching our children that "I like it" or "it's comfortable" or "it's the style" is the standard for Christians when it comes to modesty (or anything else for that matter)? Do articles like this cause a feeling to rise up in us that says, "You can't tell me how to…"? Do we make the excuse that we can't control others' thoughts or lust? And, isn't modesty about the heart?

While it is true that modesty involves our hearts, it will be reflected in our wardrobes. Christians are more than just their bodies, just their desires, and just the styles of their culture. We are reflections of Jesus Christ: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…" (Rom. 8:29). Our bodies, and what we do with them (including how we clothe them) are to reflect Jesus, not the world. Our thoughts and desires (which are also shown in our clothing) are to reflect that we are thinking like Jesus, not the world. We have to ask whether we can participate in the styles of our culture and still reflect Jesus. This can be difficult because we are immersed in our culture, and its influence on us is strong. This is why we have to be immersed in our Lord Jesus Christ and work to allow His influence over us to be strongest.

I am not saying that leggings under modest clothing are wrong. I am saying that wearing paper-thin spandex doesn't make someone modest. I don't hear people gasping and condemning this virtual nudity. I know that's not acceptable to do in our culture today. So, they parade themselves about like the emperor—while everyone is afraid to say something—but are still just as (virtually) naked.