UPDATE: This week, Christian blogger Veronica Partridge’s post on why she has decided against wearing yoga pants and leggings in public went viral. She subsequently gave interviews to People and Good Morning America defending her stance on “lust-inspiring” garments. In the following republished feature, R29 goes deep into the Christian subculture that spawned the anti-yoga pants movement.
Every year, the evangelical Christian blogging world — of which I am a part — seems to pick a new article of female clothing to ban. Two years ago, the target was bikinis. This year, it was yoga pants. The attention turned towards yoga pants didn’t come out of nowhere: Sales of jeans fell 6% in the past year in favor of more comfortable and versatile athletic wear. Yoga pants are a definite trend, and that brings them under the gaze of the Modesty Police.
In evangelical, conservative subcultures within the Christian church in America, women’s modesty is a central issue. There are several different justifications given for this, depending on whom you ask; typically, it boils down to the idea that an immodest woman is an object of temptation for the men around her and could unknowingly lead them astray. Modesty means you are not a stumbling block. The idea is that you, as a woman, must cover up so that your brothers in Christ don’t lust after your form and therefore sin.
I didn’t wear a V-neck T-shirt until I was 24 years old. I bought the tee because I liked the color, not realizing it was actually a V-neck. But, I didn’t have anything else to wear that day — so I shrugged and put the shirt on. Looking in the mirror, I was taken aback: I looked good. The V hit just below my collarbone and allowed me to breathe without feeling choked. It also flattered me, emphasizing all the lines in my figure. But, it didn’t have the scandalous, skin-baring effect I had feared.
Until that moment, my evangelical, conservative upbringing had been dictating what I could and could not wear. Anything deemed immodest, anything that could cause lust in a Christian brother (blood relative or otherwise) was to be avoided. But, with one V-neck T-shirt, I realized that most of what I’d learned about modesty was wrong. That shirt may have been “immodest” by my Christian standards, but no one came running after me in lust. I began to see that modesty rules were a barrier to understanding myself; I had neglected to learn about my own body because I had been so afraid of what might flatter it. So many things had been “banned” in my life — tank tops, spaghetti straps, V-necks, low-rise jeans, and, yes, yoga pants.