Modesty in Sportswear and Athletics

October 03, 2023

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Join host Elizabeth Urbanowicz as she delves into a topic that many Christian parents grapple with: the balance between dressing modestly and participating in sports or activities with specific attire requirements. Drawing on both personal anecdotes and biblical insights, Elizabeth explores the broader concept of modesty, the cultural shifts in clothing over the years, and the importance of approaching the subject with sensitivity, especially for young girls. We'll also touch upon the tension between cultural standards of dress and biblical calls for modesty, and how families can navigate these waters in a positive and constructive manner. Whether you're a parent, a young athlete, or simply someone intrigued by the intersection of faith and fashion, this episode offers valuable insights and food for thought.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "How do Christian parents justify their girls wearing revealing clothes in extracurricular activities such as ballet, cheer, volleyball? I don't find it consistent that Christian families should allow it, and if we shouldn't allow it, how do we go about exposing our girls to these sports without having them reveal their bodies? I don't want to seem legalistic, but it just doesn't seem to be like the Bible justifies dressing like this simply because it's a sport. Please share your opinion." Really interesting question. Actually a few questions in there that we'll dive down deep into answering today.

But before we do that, I would ask that if you have found the content of this podcast to be beneficial that you would like and subscribe to make sure that you never miss a future episode, and also ask that you would invest time writing a review so that more people can discover this content and we can equip as many children as possible to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter.

Now, these questions about modesty in dress and how it applies to sports is a really interesting question to think through in our time and culture. And as I was reading through this question, I thought, just back to a funny example in high school where I had a friend who tried out for the tennis team and she was a real girly girl and did not really like athletics. And I remember asking her, I was like, why did you try out for the tennis team? I didn't really see you as a athletic person or someone who would enjoy tennis. What's going on there? And she was like, "oh my goodness," she was like, "I joined the tennis team just for the short skirts. There's no way my mom would let me wear a skirt this short any other time, but I love these skirts." And so while that wasn't a good excuse, it just kind of made me laugh that she spent an entire semester on the tennis team just so that she could wear a shorter skirt than her mom would allow her to wear in high school.

So as we think through this question in a previous podcast not so long ago, we explored what the Bible says about clothing. And one of the biblical principles that we discussed was modesty, that that is a principle that just is woven throughout scripture and that this applies to both men and women, that we are to dress modestly.

Now, I think in general, our culture has just lost all concepts of modesty and even the clothes that most of us would consider modest if we went back a thousand years or 2000 years or 3000 years, most of us would be stoned for the clothing that we're wearing because even what's considered modest in our culture would've been considered highly immodest in previous cultures. So modesty can just be a really tricky thing to consider because of just culturally how we dress in general. But as I said, biblically modesty applies to men and women, and it not only applies to dress, but it also applies to how we carry ourselves and how we interact with others. And so this can be really tricky because we humans naturally we're prideful. It's part of our sinful fallen nature, and so we want to draw attention to ourselves. So in modesty, in dress and how we carry ourselves and how we interact with others, it's something that we're always going to be fighting against.

And modesty just in general can be really tricky because as I mentioned before, different people have different convictions about modesty. And so first what we're going to do is we're just going to define our terms in that I would define immodest dress as anything that garners undue attention to ourselves, whether that be sexual attention, whether it be personality driven attention, or even if it's attention from being hyper-focused on not drawing sexual attention. I think back to the early days of that TV show, 19 kids and counting, and the way that the duggar women dressed, they would wear these long dresses with pilgrim collars. And while I know they were trying really hard to not draw sexual attention to themselves, I think they were kind of almost drawing more attention to themselves because of how just kind of strange their clothing was for our time and culture.

So again, defining immodesty as anything that garners undue attention to ourselves, whether that be sexual attention, personality driven attention, or even attention from being hyper-focused on not drawing sexual attention. And so then thinking through, okay, how do we help our kids understand this? How do we help our kids make wise choices in their clothing and how they carry themselves and how they interact with others? And so I would recommend first that we focus on a positive theology of the body. That we don't want to just focus on negative, like "oh, we have to make sure that we're not drawing attention to ourselves through how we dress," but we actually want to, what does the Bible say positively about our bodies? Because scripture is clear that God made us, that we are an intimate connection of body and soul, of material and immaterial.

And it's not just that some people say we are souls, we have bodies. I don't think that that is biblically justified at all because what happens? What is it called when body and soul are disconnected? It's called death, that being disembodied is not the natural state of humans. And when Jesus returns, we are going to have resurrected bodies. So we are both body and soul, and so we want to help our kids understand that our bodies are good. In fact, they are so good that they will one day be resurrected. That's how much God cares about our bodies. So we want to help them understand that their bodies are so good.

And then we should help them see that we are to strive to use our bodies to glorify God by doing what he's commanded us to do, loving him, loving others, working hard, enjoying his good gifts of exercise, of food, of all of these things. So we want to focus on the inherent goodness of our bodies and that our bodies should be used to glorify God.

Now, when we're specifically talking about sexual modesty in dress, that is a big thing and that is an important thing. But I would say we want to be really careful not to focus too much negative attention on sexual modesty in dress, especially when we're talking to girls, because even though sexual modesty applies both to men and women in the Christian community, we tend to focus more on women. Now, scripture does talk a little bit more about modesty with women, but it's not so much talking about sexual modesty as modesty, as in not being extravagant or ostentatious and the type of braiding of the hair, the type of jewelry that is worn. And so we want to be careful that we're not putting undue attention on our girls, causing them to think that there is something inherently wrong with their bodies. Because while we as brothers and sisters in Christ do have a responsibility to dress modestly so that we're honoring others, when we look at the teaching of Jesus and the teaching that he taught about sexual immorality and lust, the responsibility that Jesus always places is on the person doing the lusting where we can focus a negative attention and just make our girls think that their bodies are inherently evil or that there's something wrong with their bodies because their bodies have the potential of drawing sexual attention.

Where Jesus places really the impetus on the person who's doing the lusting. When he said, I tell you, anyone who has looked at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He doesn't say therefore the woman that she is a prostitute and she should be stoned. He says, no, the impetus is on the person who is doing the lusting. We want to make sure that we're not giving our girls this idea that their bodies are inherently evil.

I remember, not that I thought that my body was evil, but I just remember this one particular instance that made me feel very uncomfortable about my body and made me think that there was something inherently wrong with it, that when I was growing up, I sang a good amount in church that they would have a special music during the time of the offering. And so I would frequently sing a solo during that time. And I remember probably when I was 11 or 12, I was at practice on Saturday at the church to sing that solo. And the woman who was in charge of the music after she ran through the music with me once, the next thing she did is she said, last time you sang, the dress that you wore was way too short. And all of the men in our church are just going to be staring at your legs. So next time you need to wear a longer skirt. Now, mind you, my parents did have pretty strict rules about what I could and couldn't wear. So I was not wearing super short skirts or anything, but I just remember her comment just made me feel like there was something inherently wrong with my body where if she had approached this and said, "you know what, Elizabeth, God has given you such a gift in your voice, and I'm so happy that you're using this gift to honor him. And so whenever someone is up on stage, we want to make sure that all of the attention is focused on giving glory to God. And so that involves how we dress. And so we want to just make sure that in our dress that people aren't going to be staring at our bodies. They're actually going to be focusing on how good God is because of the gifts that he's given us. So just in general, when you're thinking about what you want to wear," maybe giving me some guidelines there. And so we just want to make sure that we're not phrasing things in a way that are going to make our girls think that there's something wrong with their bodies. We want to instead focus on the inherent goodness of the body and how we are called to honor God with that body.

Now, this specific question talked about sports and the clothing that is required in athletics, which it is interesting in that there's kind of a double standard in our culture in that whenever you look at athletic wear for men and for women, it's so different for men than it is for women. You don't see yoga pants advertised for men. And I think we'd kind of be weirded out if men were walked around wearing yoga pants. And when you think about even athletic tops for men, yeah, maybe sometimes there's a muscle shirt with no sleeves on it, but in general, men are usually wearing t-shirts where it's women that most of the clothing is sleeveless and low cut.

And so there is kind of this double standard where there is an emphasis placed on showcasing a woman's body where there is not so much that emphasis in athletics for men, even just thinking about the difference between what men and women wear for tennis. So we do in our homes, we do need to have some standard of dress for our kids in our homes, and that includes what they're allowed to wear when they're participating in athletic events.

And so I think that the wisest way to approach this is to have, if you're raising kids with a spouse, to talk with your spouse and just set what are these standards that we're going to set? How are we going to present them in a way to help our kids see the inherent goodness of their bodies? And then how are we going to explain to them why we've set these standards? And then we actually need to go and explain these standards to our kids, and then we can explain to them, "you know what? These are the rules for our house because when mommy and daddy have thought through this and prayed through this, this is what we think we need to do in our house to honor God with our bodies. Now, God has called us to be modest, but for different people, they have different convictions about this. And so when you grow up and you're no longer in our home, you might have a different conviction about this. So you might decide to change what you wear. And when you grow up and you're out of our house and you're still seeking God and you have different convictions, that's okay, but while you're in our house, God has put me and your dad or me and your mom in the authority role over you. So these are the rules that we're going to follow."

And then that standard is going to apply to athletics as well. This may cause some friction between you and your kids. It may cause some embarrassment for them, but asking for exceptions in sports uniforms, it is possible that two of my dear friends, they're part of a Christian denomination where women actually are only allowed to wear skirts. And now while I don't agree with that, I support my friends in that. And I've watched them as they have walked this road. And then as they have had children, how they've walked this road and their kids go to a Christian school and they have just asked for exceptions to the athletic uniforms that the girls were wearing shorts and t-shirts and their athletic uniforms at the school. And they've just said, our girls are required to wear skirts, and so can we please have our girls wear athletic skirts? And the school made the exception for that.

If you are of that conviction, actually, one of my friends, she owns a skirt, an athletic skirt company for women that's called Mod Sportswear (now MOD Lifewear). So if you just Google Mod Sportswear, they have a lot of great athletic skirts that can enable women to actually move in the way that they need to move for the sport while also wearing a skirt.

So I just think that in conclusion, we need to have standards that we set in our family, and we need to make sure that these standards are focused on the inherent goodness of God's design for us. That modesty is not something that's a drudgery. Modesty is a gift that God has given us as we seek to glorify him with the kind of attention that we draw to ourselves, that we are always bringing that attention and that focus back to God because he is the only one worthy of worship and praise.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview Podcast, you can submit that by going to As we leave this time together, my prayer for you as always is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of his son. I'll see you next time.

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