Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

A Little of a Coquette

(Modesty, Dancing & Behavior)


When I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving, as a high school assignment, I was struck by a short passage which I have remembered since as the “ankle passage.” At the time, I was struck with how times had changed, regarding the morals of the day. Recently, I read the short story again, and came across the passage. It is a description of a young woman, (a bit of a flirt), who was the object of Ichabod Crane’s attention. Here is an excerpt:

“She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set off her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time; and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country around.”

Truly, if a “provokingly short petticoat” is defined as one that displayed the “foot and ankle”, times have changed. I ask that you consider two things in regard to this quote.

First compare the attempts of the “coquette”, (defined as – a usually unscrupulous woman who seduces or exploits men), with the description of the godly woman of 1 Peter:

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (3:3-4).

Second, simply compare the dress of the coquette of Irving’s book with the fashions of our day. The intent of much of what young women wear, and some older, is to provoke and arouse. The world can see it. The Bible obviously condemns it. Why is it that so many of God’s children seek to defend it?


What about the dance? I recently came across a quote from a composer named Arbeau. He composed a number of pieces designed with specific, very “modest” dance steps in mind. The four dances were the “Basse Danse, Pavane, Galliard, and Allemande.” He desired to preserve the steps, as he stated in his manual of 1589, “In the hope that such honourable dances are reinstated and replace the lascivious, shameless ones introduced in their stead to the regret of wise lords and ladies and matrons of sound and chaste judgment.” (The supplier of the quote, in an editorial comment following this passage stated, “It seems that, even in 1589, the times they were a-changin”).

Once again, think of the form the dance has taken in our day, and compare it to the tame dances of the 1580’s. Dances which, at that time were recognized, and condemned as lascivious and shameless, and which do not even compare to the sensuous, damnable movements of the modern dance.

Young people, I implore you not to waste breath attempting to defend the immoral dress and dance of our day. You convince no one, least of all the Almighty. As Paul stated in Ephesians 3:15, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Be wise, and serve your Lord with modesty and devotion.