So how do we "clothe ourselves with humility", as Peter asks of young people (which we "elders" both male and female ought to model)?
On the one hand, we have freedom to dress as befitting daughters of the King. Beauty is a biblical value. I do not believe God calls me to be ugly for Jesus, or reserve my beauty only for my husband's eyes, as I have heard some plain-dressing advocates claim.
On the other hand, we are not to go overboard in bringing undue attention to ourselves. This is the essense of humility. "Let your adornment be...the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a quiet and gentle spirit". Our clothing choices should reflect this heart attitude. I Timothy 2:9-10 says,
9Likewise, I want (A)women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. NASB (italicized words added by translators)
Here Timothy is in agreement with Peter, that a woman's clothing reflects the inner heart attitude of modesty, discretion, and godliness.
I love Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary. Here is his definition of modesty:
"MOD'ESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.
2. Modesty, as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty.
3. Moderation; decency.
4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor." (emphasis mine) (taken from http://1828.mshaffer.com/, which has a word search of the 1828 Webster's)
I can hardly hope to treat the topic any better than Webster has already done here ! I feel my spirit elevated and nourished by his words. Don't you?
In Part III, I will take us women further into how we can apply this to our own lives.