On Tank Tops and Cleavage

Tank Tops and Cleavage

We went out of town on a family vacation last weekend. I grabbed just enough clothes to wear and no extra, so I didn’t have many options for the few days we were gone. I wore a low cut shirt with just the Undercover Mama nursing tank underneath. Normally I layer it with the half shell. However this weekend I decided that it surely wouldn’t hurt to have my tank a little lower than normal, right?

All weekend long I battled that tank. I actually wore the same outfit two days in a row to cut down on clothes to pack, so it turned out to be twice the trouble. My thoughts during these two days went something like this:

“Everyone does it. Why can’t I do it?”

“I’m showing just a tiny bit of cleavage. This is nothing compared to the strapless dresses I keep seeing.”

“Grrr, I’m getting a little tired of tugging this tank up all the time.”

“Ok, this is ridiculous. I shouldn’t be drawing this much attention to myself by tugging up this tank every 10 minutes.”

“Whew, I’m so glad to have a different shirt on finally. It’s so much easier to just wear a modest layering shell underneath so I don’t have to worry about anything.”

Because my Mom went through a time period in her life where she did not know much about the Lord and His ways, she became well acquainted with the ways of the world. She was well aware of what men thought and what they were attracted to. On account of this, when we were growing up, our collarbone was the lowest a shirt or dress was supposed to be on us. She told me several times that she knew some men were attracted to low cut shirts, and to your cleavage *almost* being revealed. It has stuck with me, and while I sometimes wear things a little lower than my collarbone I have found it an excellent guide to go by. When I stray too far from it, I tend to experience frustration like this past weekend.


At the St. Louis Arch. Not a terribly good family photo but it shows what I wore for the day. 

We are not called to be popular. We are not called to “fit in.” Likewise, we are also not called to cast our appearance in the world’s faces to show them how strange and different we can dress. Balance in all things, moderation in all things. Just like the phrase “think before you speak”, the same could be applied to clothes. “Think before you dress.”

As women I know the urge is there to want to look good. We also know that we look good when we show a little {or a lot of} skin. The time to show that skin is in the bedroom for our husband. The time to cover up is when we step out of our home and we are a shining light for the Lord. Let’s not distract our brothers in Christ by making it hard to have them look us in the face. The desire should not be there to glance a little lower than our face, we should make it easy for them to stay focused on us, not our cleavage.

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6″31

I don’t think that many ladies would willingly give another woman permission to dress in such as a way as to tempt her husband. Let us treat other men as if they were someone else’s husband and dress accordingly.

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  1. This is so good Caroline. I totally did the same thing the other day because my undershirt was in the wash and I REALLY wanted to wear that shirt. Before the day was out I had safety pinned the shirt to my bra straps so that it would stay put. I kept thinking “Never again! What was I thinking!?”

  2. I appreciate this post so much. I was not raised to think cleavage was inappropriate, because neither was my mother. And even after I gave my life to the Lord it was still a process, wasn’t truly until after I got married and pregnant that I was really convicted with this. Now I teach about modesty to our youth at church where my husband is the youth Pastor. It is a blessing to be an example to our students. I have also had the same experience recently tough, wearing a dress to a wedding rehearsal dinner and was constantly fighting with it feeling awkward. Thanks for this post to know I am not alone.

  3. Thank you for this post. You are so right but I had never thought of the collar bone as the lowest a shirt should go. Thank you for that idea, I think it is totally appropriate.

  4. Oh I so understand the thoughts on this one. It is very challenging when you are a little more endowed up top. The tanks that lay just right on other friends are too low for my body. I just tried the tank tops that have the adjustable straps and was fighting with it all day.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I appreciate you sharing how you struggled! I went through this just yesterday. I had no clean shells to wear so I wore a tank top instead and wrestled all day with wondering if I was too exposed! Finally I just turned the tank around and wore it backwards! Thanks again!

  6. Well said! I have been wearing my tanks backwards because lately even they are too low if worn properly. It’s so frustrating to layer shirts, in the summer when it’s hot, and still have to fight with a too low tank.

  7. Thank you for blessing me with your blog it just cements everything I already thought! I have to layer things too and yes feeling to naked is frustrating .I like wearing dresses but I try to pick modest womenly things that are simple I agree I want to be seen for me as a person not my cleavage it sends a very clear message when you set the bar with how you walk out the doorI loved your whole blog and agreed with your feelings and your mom was right God bless her for sharing wisdom that made you pleasing in Gods eyes.

  8. Caroline, I love your blog so much and posts like this one are a great part of the reason why. It is truly women like yourself who challenge me, teach me and help me grow. I was convicted of the way I dress a few years ago shortly after becoming a Christian. I pretty much skip tank tops altogether but I have some friends and church members who don’t and who also wear short shorts, summer time seems to be the excuse and it’s sad. I’m a woman and when someone is showing a lot of skin it is distracting to me in a way, so I can only imagine what it is doing to men!

  9. I had a guy friend once say that they hated springtime in our college town, because the girls started running to class in their underwear again. It’s true!

    I have struggled with what God wanted for me in the area of clothing all my life. To the point I said, “If this is what Christianity is all about, I don’t want it.” What a SINFUL attitude on my part. I have since repented of this attitude and have come to realize that clothing became an idol (and I don’t even buy $250 dresses or jeans)…how silly to make such a big deal over things that will one day burn. Cover up, ladies, and serve Jesus!

  10. Thank you so very much for this post. I have been blessed by it!! I too was never raised to consider modesty in dress and certainly didn’t mind showing cleavage. Nearly 2 years ago the Lord grabbed ahold of my heart and showed me how immodest my heart truly was! I disgraced my Lord, my husband and my desire for a good image by dressing inappropriately. I struggle with the fleshly desire to dress the way others dress in the summer and have spent times angry at the Lord that He would call me to dress differently because I have struggled to find modest clothing that would allow me to piece together outfits that are more appealing than a potato sack!
    Through it all I have learned that God’s grace truly is sufficient for me! He has convicted me in a way that has drawn me closer to Himself and I thank Him for that. These earthly struggles are meant to make us holier and I do believe that my struggles with immodesty in the past have made me more passionate about remaining modest now pleasing my God, my husband and myself!
    Oh and by the way, I too just layer my tank tops and turn the bottom one around so I am wearing it backwards. It does provide some extra coverage!

  11. I totally agree. It was very well said. Just a tidbit–not having a lot of money to spend on clothing, I learned years ago that a tank top can be turned around backward and be totally modest. We were actually at a Women’s Conference last year and while in the restroom a young lady came in quite upset as she had spilled red sauce on her shirt. I suggested she just turn it around, which, in fact, worked quite well.

  12. I find myself doing a similar tug of war when I wear things that end up a little lower than I like. I agree that you need to be aware of this and setting an early standard in our girls lives will help them live by these rules throughout life. Thank you for the reminder.

  13. I’ve been convicted of this lately also. I have begun wearing a tank top backwards under low cut t-shirts and dresses. It’s so much more comfortable to be able to move around without hauling your shirt up or closing it together and not wondering what you just showed to the whole world 🙂
    Great post!

  14. I agree, I also accidently wore a low cut shirt last night. And even though I’m 27 my mother indicated at one point, that I should pull it up : )

  15. A timely post since Spring is here and warm weather is here to stay for awhile. I visited FL recently and I was appalled at the fashion that I saw. But yet, it is the fashion of the world. Are we to embrace it? No – I don’t particularly think so. We need to follow what Our Lord shows us and be content with this.

    I always have to remind myself that I am not of this world at all.

    Great post as always ~ thank you so much for sharing 😀


  16. I can so relate! Just this last week, my husband and I were going over to his parents’ house. I wore shorts that were way above my knee (my limit). They were ones I wear around the house and sleep in. I wore them thinking, “Eh, it’s just family.” I was uncomfortable the whole time! I kept pulling them lower and was embarassed that I wore them in front of my husband’s father and brother.

    Needless to say, I won’t be doing that again. Thank you for your honesty in this post. Modesty is definitely a day-to-day decision we make. 🙂

  17. Thank you for sharing this, I was confronted by a friend as a new believer years ago about my low-cut shirt. Ever since then, I’ve been cautiously aware on the days my shirt slips to the “gray-area” of modesty. It really does take our minds off of what’s important, because we’re constantly distracted by our clothing. Better to take extra precautions then to be sorry 🙂 Thank you for your ministry, I am thankful for the Lord’s work in your example to other women!

  18. I see that everyone seams to really relate to this post, and here I am to add my two cents! 😛 Thanks you so much for writing this post! I need all the support I can get to encouraging me to keep it modest on the top. I too know I look a lot better with a bit (okay, more than a bit) of skin showing on top, and I don’t want to look frumpy, so I end up buying shirts and tops that are just a *bit* too low and I tell myself that I just won’t bend over in them….. which is a lie! I do bend over, my shirt does work it’s way down in front when I am sitting, life does happen, and when it does, I tell myself I’m never going to wear that shirt again, or that I will wear my modest shell with it next time. But when the next time comes, I try to work my way out of it again. “This shirt with the crochet lace around the neckline will look silly with a shirt underneath it,” I tell myself. But I need to be modest, we ALL need to be modest. And so I will either throw out the shirt or wear a undershirt with it.

  19. What about your husband? Did he have any advice on wearing the lowcut top? Did he suggest not wearing that low in the future? Just wondering:)

    1. Abby,

      My husband always reads through my posts before I hit the publish button. 🙂 He totally agreed with this post, and when I asked him if I was having problems being modest in that top he said yes. He actually couldn’t stand how the shirt looked on me, and since a child had a bloody nose later that day which got on my shirt it’s going in the trash now. 🙂 He does not like me wearing shirts that are lower cut.

  20. I posted on this exact thing today…it’s sad what our world is coming to. I’m teaching my daughter at an early age what is acceptable. If I don’t do it now, I can’t expect her to embrace it later.
    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  21. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I am learning to carry safety pins with me for this purpose. I actually feel naked if I don’t have a half shell on!!!! I always think a shirt will be fine then I put it on and sure enough it isn’t. Hence safety pins save me time and time again in closing up my GAPS!

    You have a beautiful family. Looks like everyone was having a lovely time!

  22. One problem I have run into is now that I’m nursing tops that were more modest when I was smaller up top…are not so much anymore. I’m also guilty of running into Target or Kohls and just grabbing a t-shirt without trying it on…then when I get home I find out instead of a regular t-shirt neckline, I bought the scoop neck. (Sigh!) So much for saving time by not trying things on…now I just have to go back to the store.

  23. It’s such a blessing to read about younger women caring enough about the Lord to do the right thing. I only pray that one day my married 25 year old will choose Christ over the things of this world as well.

  24. I was listening to the Dave Ramsey radio show, this morning. He was talking about this topic. He said, when his two daughters were younger, they struggled with dressing appropriately when leaving the house. His daughters wanted to dress like everybody else. He wouldn’t let them leave until they were covered up. He said, a guy should be drawn to your eyes, not….well, you know what.

  25. The collar bone neckline is the most comfortable for me. Although I do have some shirts similar to t-shirts that, if I am bending over or leaning too far forward, “show it all”. I love the shirts with top buttons at the collar or close to it. They make me feel secure. 😀

  26. Being a male, I’m going to have to disagree. I see what you’re wearing in the photo, and can say that any man who saw you would think that you were pretty, cute, attractive, or… Pick a nice adjective. But there’s no way that that outfit would cause a man to lust unless he was really a heathen, and if so, the shirt was not to blame. Just because a man finds you to be attractive, even if it’s partly because he can see a tiny bit of your chest, doesn’t mean he’s lusting. I think we need to quit acting like men are that subject to lustful thinking, and quit teaching our sons that they are that naturally depraved.

    Trying not to sound rude here, really. I understand where you’re coming from, as it’s what you’ve always been taught. I just really think we’ve created an unrealistic picture of mens’ supposed problem as far as lust is concerned. YMMV

    1. Paul,

      Just looking at that picture alone will not show what I really went through. As a mom to young children I’m constantly bending down picking up children, my children are tugging on me, ect. My husband also noticed that I was having problems staying covered up and modest. In todays world nobody probably even noticed, but I certainly did as well as my husband. I recognize that men struggle with this issue to varying degrees and there may be a few that do not have this struggle. I’ve heard that lust and pornography is the #1 addiction for men, so I don’t want to contribute to that even in a small way.

  27. Thanks for taking a stand and being willing to explore what that means. I dread summertime because women shed too many layers. I’m often making discreet signals to my girls to pull up their tank tops. I try to explain that if they wore higher shirts they wouldn’t have to worry about making sure their shirt is adjusted right.

  28. Great post. And something to add that I’ve noticed as a mom. Even when I don’t think a top is low cut it some how becomes so when I’m carrying my son around. The weight of holding him pulls the top down some how. There are times when I think I should wear turtle necks because I constantly have to watch to make sure I’m not showing anything. That is why layers are great.

  29. Thank you for this post. Growing up, my parents were more concerned with my Daisy Dukes than with cleavage. Thankfully now, I have learned some of the very points you articulate in this article. We wear mid-calf or lower skirts (more like… to the ankle skirts) and our shirts are to the collar bone. I tried some lower shirts before ones that didn’t even SHOW ANY cleavage, and yet- I felt undressed and worried the entire time. I understand your thoughts and appreciate your sharing with others. 🙂 Good for you for trashing the shirt. 🙂 I really appreciate your posts even though I don’t often comment. Keep up the good work in sharing the truth with love and gentleness.

  30. I use to wear tank tops that showed a little cleavage, ok sometime a little to much. I can remember one day last summer I was at my parents house and I had a tank top on and my mom keep telling me to pull it up. I dont think at the time I was showing to much cleavages but looking back on that day I was. I only started to dress modest, now I not feel right if I wear a low cut top.

  31. I wanted to share something else, its not about tops,but about a skirt beening to short. I was at the graduation today at my daughter’s school, the one senior she did a preform, but all I keep thinking was her skirt was way to short and I was worried that she was going to show her underwear. Sorry to say. I know it was not right but I keep thinking how could her mom let her out of the house wearing that. I know we cannt say what other people wear but, it was hard not to.

  32. Lately (perhaps now that I have a daughter) I have been more concerned with modesty. My sister and I were raised to dress pretty modestly in the first place, but I’m always considering areas that I may be lacking. Lower cut shirts, like you said in an earlier response, get immodest very quickly when you are holding children or having them pulling on your shirt. And this is the one area my husband said I could occasionally work on being more modest. He pulled out one or two shirts that seemed fine pre-babies, but they aren’t covering enough now and they have been removed from my wardrobe. But anything else I asked him, jeans, bermuda shorts, length of skirts, shirt sleeves ect, he said don’t change. His one request was that I not become one of those women who think nothing is modest except long skirts, because he doesn’t find them attractive or think they are the only modest option. Which brings me to my point, I would be really interested in reading a post from you and your husband where you shared more about how submission to our husbands falls into the decision of what is modest. I have seen a lot of blogs lately, where women seem to be on one soap box or another regarding topics like modesty, parenting, or nutrition. I often wonder how these women’s husbands feel about their wives decisions. I DONT think your blog is that way, but modesty certainly comes down to a matter of opinion and culture in many cases. For instance, I nurse my baby in public completely covered, but when we spent time in Belize on a mission trip, women nursed their babies with their breast completely exposed, even in church. So if a group of women online decide to share that only long skirts, high neck shirts, and no tank tops, are the standard for modesty, could that not cause other women to be in rebellion to their husbands who may not want them following that exact standard? Again, I do realize that you are sharing your personal standard for modesty, and I commend you! The reason I’m asking you this, and not some of the other blogs, is because I think you and your husband may have some words of wisdom regarding submission in modesty.

    1. Great thought about the husband and wife communicating about modesty. I want to be attractive for my man, but not distracting for other women’s men. My husband doesn’t like to discuss my clothing, except to sometimes say I look especially nice. I don’t want to end up with that “Mama” look of baggy ankle length jumpers with kittens embroidered on them… My rule is that if my husband makes a comment on an outfit like, “Great legs!” or my son’s eyes pop out at a shirt, then I’m taking it off and donating it. My men are not going to say “Too much leg! Too much skin!”, even if I ask them. Usually I also think that if I need to ask, then I already know the answer. That being said, make sure to put on something really nice for your man in private! Oh, and I found some of those clip on tank top panels, they clip on and are not as hot as a whole tank layered under your shirt.

  33. Caroline, I just wanted to thank you. I’ve been pondering your post since the day you wrote it. The day I read your post I was wearing a v-neck T-shirt with a modest middle nursing tank underneath – which I love, love, love (and a skirt). After reading your post and looking at myself in the mirror I realized that the t-shirt I was wearing was nowhere near my collar bone. Realizing this has caused me to pause and think through the way I dress – yet again. I know that if I were to ask my husband about the shirt I was wearing he would say that it was okay, but I know too that if I were to bend over from the waist in that shirt it would open up and my undershirt would be visible. I realized that I often rationalize this away with the thought that I am modestly dressed since I have an undershirt on and I am small up top – i.e. no guy would care to look at me. Anyway, thank you for causing me to take another look at things. I’ll be in prayer about it. Love the picture. You have a beautiful family.

  34. “Let us treat other men as if they were someone’s husband” what a key phrase there Caroline! Very well put.

    Working Kansas Homemaker (.com)

  35. I can not say enough how much freedom is gained with modesty. I can pick up and play with my kids without thinking that we can see too much of me, and it is the best gift any women can give to herself. By dressing modestly I know I’m always dressed appropriate!

  36. Very well said. Thank you. I have gotten asked about my own style of dressing in the past, always always have 2 shirt layers on (part for no cleavage exposure and part so my bra lines don’t show through.) and I have often replied almost exactly as you stated : “I don’t think that many ladies would willingly give another woman permission to dress in such as a way as to tempt her husband. Let us treat other men as if they were someone else’s husband and dress accordingly.” Found your blog a few weeks ago and love it 🙂

  37. One of my teachers would always say that the girls were running around in denim-underwear, because that’s what there shorts were. Of course I was the one kid wearing long skirts, but that’s another story.
    I really just wanted to mention the fact that guys are taller and what’s fine in out mirror isn’t nessessarily what they see. I imagine that high school in my town, will be just as bad if not worse than middle school.

  38. Are you a Christian I’m just asking cause that would make your blog so much more awesome!
    Me and my family are Baptist missionary’s in Croatia,Europe, and you don;t see good blogs like yours anymore!

  39. Thank you for this post Caroline. I’ve uncomfortably been in that same situation and related to your thoughts on how good it felt to have a shirt on that I didn’t need to worry about anything being revealed. So thankful for layering shells 🙂

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