Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Every culture has different kinds and styles of clothing. I find it really fascinating and it arouses such questions as: Why do they dress that way? What caused them to come to the conclusion of what is the right/wrong way to dress? How do they make them? Why all the details? How did they find time to make their clothes so exquisitely decorated long ago when they didn't have all the conveniences that we have today? And on and on...
Yesterday when I wrote out my research on the head covering and I mentioned that I haven't even started on clothing yet, I thought I'd also do one on that as some may find it interesting...
As Old Order Mennonites the women wore dresses and the men wore shirts and pants. Here's a few of my baby pictures(photo taking was actually not allowed yet most people did it anyway):
In 1989 I was born a preemie at 1 lb. 9.5 oz. and 12.25" long. In the first picture is me on the day I came home from the hospital. Someone had crocheted the sweater set and I think one of my grandmas made the dress if I'm correct. I still have the set, but I had to raid the toy box to find it...
The next 2 pictures are from when I was near a year old. And the last one was probably in 2001-2004 or somewhere in that time frame. The pictures aren't totally clear but hopefully you can see the style. Here's others I found online:
The women wore shawls to church functions such as services, funerals and weddings as you see in the bottom middle picture. The ones in the picture are heavy woolen ones used for winter. When the weather was warmer the summer shawl was used which was a much thinner fabric and of course the black bonnet was worn. In winter when it was under freezing and we had to bike the 5 miles to church we would tie a thin bandanna(black of course) on before putting the bonnet on over top plus wrap our heads with thick black scarves...all in the name of tradition and keeping the standards. I still remember thawing painfully cold toes when I finally got home from church.
Of course things have changed since I left 4 years ago, but in my time you were supposed to wear black jackets, sweaters, bonnets, bandannas, boots, shoes, and any outerwear was to be black. The ones for every day use had to be darker muted colors. No jewelry was allowed, you had to wear watches under the cape for women and men in the pockets as they were seen as a source of pride. Since jewelry was forbidden, other ways were found to be decorative. Some people had really fancy houses or parlors where they sat when they had a date night. Others would find ways to decorate the buggies on the inside and the horse's harness. Still others would use fancy stitches on their clothes or have extra pretty things like fancy pens. I still remember being in school and one of the younger girls brought a fancy pen to school that had a ball of fuzzy feathers or something like that on it and the teacher told her to take it home again, I guess because she thought it would cause jealousy or something. I felt sorry for the girl because well, most girls just like to have pretty things...
Usually girls would wear simple dresses until 10 -11 then they would start wearing a belt with their dresses to go away and for church, wich was made out of maybe 2" wide belting stuff and covered with the same fabric as the dress. Around 14-15 as they started maturing they would start wearing a cape which was basically a few pieces of fabric sewn together that had a hole for the head and was fastened to the belt in the back and in the front in the name of modesty.(In the one picture of me above you can see the belt I'm wearing. )
Also when a lady joined the church she was expected to wear an apron on her black dress and after she got married then her Sunday dresses also needed to have an apron on. The apron was a piece of fabric that was the same color as the dress, fastened at the waist, hanging loose, and covered the front half of the skirt and was as long as the skirt. It was considered necessary for modesty is what my mom told me. Also another thing I forgot to mention that one of my friends reminded me of yesterday was that we were required to have two layers of fabric over the chest for modesty, which was either a cape or an apron. The pictures I found below are plain compared to some. Often there would be lace, ruffles, ribbon or buttons on the top part and on the pockets. Some would have ruffles along bottom. The bottom picture of a half apron was a kind that was not allowed because it didn't cover the chest. White aprons were only worn by table waiters at weddings and often they were fancier than the ones used every day.
The fabrics were not supposed to be bright or have a big print on it as you can see in the pictures. There were people who said the print needs to be smaller than a dime or quarter otherwise the print is too big. I personally liked to have the hem of my dress down to my ankles because I felt covered and modest. But then towards the end of my time in that church the people were saying dresses that are too long look like "worldly" gowns and that the length should be halfway between the ankle and the knees. I even had one couple I was boarding with about 6 years ago that the lady told me on the way home after the subject was touched at the preparatory service(the Saturday before Communion) in a round about way she tried to tell me that my dresses are too long.
The verses focused on for these regulations were:
The verses focused on for these regulations were:
1 Timothy 2:9
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
1 John 2:16
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
These were the main verses used for all the things I mentioned in the paragraphs above.
At one of my jobs my boss asked me on time if I'm going to the fair that was being held that week in a nearby town. I said no we don't do that. Of course he followed up with more questions which I couldn't answer. Around that time he also asked me why the Mennonites and Amish hire drivers to take them places but don't own vehicles themselves. Imagine the ludicrousity of trying to explain to this man of how our church sees owning a vehicle as being a part of the world or worldly. It was yet another thing that didn't equal up in my mind. The church considered it as more convenient to get into sin and going bad places but when you really stop and think about it; if you really wanted to buy liquor or go to the theater you were just as able to get there by bike or horse and buggy if you were determined enough. Another thing was the cellphone; the internet was not allowed but it was still possible to get the latest news update or listen to music, etc...and 2+3 is supposed to equal 4, right?
Anyway, I've always had questions that I hardly dared to ask anyone because I usually got the answer "That's how we've always done" or "because that's what 1 Timothy 2:9 means...eventually I got connected with someone who helped me know how to study things out a bit better and I began to realize that skirts and blouses can be just as much if not more modest than a cape dress. After I had studied alot of my questions out in the Bible against the things I was taught with prayer I realized that with what God had showed me I could no longer stay in that church. It boiled down to do I please my parents and stay or do I obey God and leave? We know the Bible does say:
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The people I was looking up to were from a church that also had standards and I fit in for the most part for where I was in my beliefs. After several years I began to see things that reminded me a lot of the culture I grew up in and it was starting to turn me off. It took a while to make the final break which I have written in another article on this blog.
But what really is modesty? What is really meant by it? Below I will share some research articles I found and will share both sides of the fence with you. I'm not saying one way is right and the rest are wrong. It's just not true. Anyway enjoy the content below...
I'm sure I've got a long enough list for you to see both sides of the coin and there's much more out there. I personally don't believe that pants are wrong providing they don't show every line of your body or arouse your flesh to want to show off your body. Most of us are privileged in that we have plenty of clothes and there's nothing wrong with that. We have been blessed. The main point though in all this is to point out that not necessarily is it just the outside that matters but the heart. I have seen way too many people who wear skirts and dresses to gossip and tear each other up over the smallest thing, the pride, the considering of themselves as though they are more enlightened and spiritual than those who dress different than them. Down at the root of it is pride and control. It is taking over the work of the Holy Spirit.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
The Holy Spirit is the One that draws us to God. Because of our deceitfully wicked heart(Jeremiah 17:9-10)
By making regulations that are extra biblical we teach people our standards of holiness and christianity whereas if we allow God to deal with us through His Word we will become the holy Christians He wants us to be.
I believe Christianity today is so messed up and so many churches and people more concerned about the physical, earthly side rather than the spiritual. The Mennonite group I grew up in did no kind of evangelism or outreach. Witnessing was not done and curious outsiders' questions were answered with hesitant and vague answers for the answers they themselves had been given have been handed down for generations until the original reason was forgotten.
Now I'm not trying to say anything or anybody is wrong, I'm just saying that there is plenty of room for us all to grow as the Body of Christ, but way too many churches and denominations have their own culture that excludes outsiders and especially have their focus on mostly the wrong things. (Such as a church where they will tell you as a visitor to move because you're in someone else's pew.) I'm sure there are sincere people in every one of the religious groups scattered across the world but no matter how sincere we are, it is of no avail if we do not make sure we line up with God's Word rather than considering men's traditions and regulations as a fence to keep us in the right confines in order to make it to heaven. We are all made different but all in God's image. We all have a unique way in which we are created to live for God and by taking Scripture and making regulations and thereby "putting people in a box " by controlling what they do, eat or wear, etc. and hindering the work God wants to do in their lives and then we end up "putting God in a box of our own making" rather than seeing Him as He really is like has happened so many times throughout history by making idols. We tend to bring Him down to our level to try to understand Him and His commands and thereby hindering His work in our lives and yet the Bible says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We are all sinners in need of grace. There is none higher than an other. In fact, we are told to esteem others higher than ourselves. Jesus died for all, not just a certain group or denomination. Why are we spending so much time bickering and trying to be in control? What kind of Christians are we if we try to just be different from the world but do not care about those who are spiritually lost? What about the lonely, the hungry, the sick, those in prison? The naked? Or are we more concerned about dressing a certain way and having a good paying job so we can live in comfort rather than to do what we can to help those around us? Maybe we do care about those around us but only in our own church. There's nothing wrong with that but we are called to so much more...