I have these thoughts running through my head, and I've posted this question on my personal blog too. Here's the post from my page:
"Perhaps you, or someone you know, can point me toward some scripture or studies on the idea of setting ourselves apart from the world visually. They will know we are Christians by our love, of course - what a stunning difference we can make by loving our enemies, and putting others above ourselves! My humble question is: are there physical things which will also set us apart - and should there be?
"I'm thinking about the Amish and Mennonite women (and the Muslim and Jewish women too in a way), who go ahead and dress and live differently from the world around them; seemingly first because they feel that God wants them to do these things which are different, but also to to honour their husband's position as given by God and to be modest, and as a by-product, others can see who is a Christian (or Muslim or Jewish) lady outwardly. I am thinking that men must also consider these things in his outward show of faith (long hair, style of dress, jewellery, etc.).
"Now it goes without saying that SOME women or men wear or do something just to be different, and they are not being modest in the full understanding of the word - they're being just as proud and immodest as the worldly, IMHO. Or maybe SOME are removing themselves from the world a bit early, in a way. What are your thoughts? Or do you know someone else who's had these thoughts that you could direct me to?"
I had some interesting and good comments - then more thoughts:
One part of my question is indeed about modesty in general - the covering up that everyone normally thinks of. Young women whom I've talked to think that if they dress modestly it means that they will be standing out in a crowd, and that would be "drawing attention" in another way. I have a hard time convincing them that they don't actually "stand out" or draw attention when dressing nicely and modestly among their barely dressed friends. I've gotten the old "do you want me to wear a long fur coat to the beach?" type comment several times til I just want to scream: "There are more types of clothing than just the two extremes of Brittany and Burka (the full muslim coverup)!!"
I also wanted to try to bring up the concept of "headcovering". According to Paul in 1 Cor. 11, it's more than just a show of submission during worship, but also in the general relationship to men and for modesty's sake (if you read the whole passage). If my heart is right and I am trying to please my God whom I love, and to be His girl before others whom I love, then I'm not going to try to "fit in" with my culture nearly as much as I'm going to try to "fit in" with His will, even if I have to be a little different. And I do think it's only a little different.
Here's one thought: If we see a lady wearing a certain kind of headcovering, the average person can say, "Oh, she's a Mennonite" (though there are many women who wear headcoverings who aren't Mennonite), or, "she's a Muslim" (I pick these because their unique headcovering styles seem very linked to these religious undestandings, but only in the strictest sects does the rest of their clothing necessary stand out as extremely different and attention-grabbing). In many parts of the world and in our countries, Jewish women also cover their hair in honour of God's will and due to modesty, without radically standing out in the rest of their modest dress. Now: Why? Do they do it "just to attract attention" as some might guess? Do they cover their heads "just to appear pious"? Perhaps some do. Do they cover their heads because it's what you do to prove that they are Amish, Mennonite, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc...? Maybe some do. Do they wear a head covering just to make everyone else look bad? I doubt it, but let's just say that someone who is going out of their way to look different and draw criticism to themselves is only doing it to be mean to everyone else - I find that unlikely, but it's possible.
But what if they are covering their heads because after study and prayer and thought, and talking with their husband or elder believers whom they respect, they decide that it is proper to cover their heads - to show submission to God and men, for modesty's sake, to remind them of their own place in God's design? It may look like it is for one of those other reasons I listed above - but we can't know their hearts. We judge someone for dressing a little more modestly, for laying off of the makeup and jewelery, for wearing a headcovering - and looking very different from all the other ladies around them - and say that they're just drawing attention to themselves and I'm not so I'm okay.
But maybe I'm not okay. Maybe I'm living in a time just like Paul and Timothy were writing in, where women were forgetting their position with their dress styles and showing off their hair and body like the world around them, and forgetting their humility before God and others with their gold and braided hair and fine clothes. So many of us realize that modesty is important and that it's loving one another that really matters. So what does modesty and loving others really mean? And if I am to reflect Christ's light in every aspect of life, the physical reflecting the spiritual, then the way I dress everyday is a part of that.