Thursday, February 25, 2010

dress to impress?

I want to preface this by saying I love to dress up, love to dress down, love to dress cute (though I am often too frugal to make this an actuality). This morning as i was dressing, I felt a frustration, a deep longing to be more than I am. Jeans wouldn't button (don't worry, I did what any classy girl would do...rubberbanded them), hair was shaggy, face was pale, shoes were worn. I felt as I feel many a morning...a ragamuffin trying to be more than she is.

Thankfully Beth Moore had much to say to me (and a roomful of others) about our true identity & worth in God's kingdom, which thankfully, has nothing to do with the reflection in the mirror. Though God loves that reflection - every last laugh line & freckle.

So this evening I stumbled on an article about our motives in dressing...and I wanted to share it with you. I believe it is wonderful to put on a great pair of jeans and that perfect sweater and feel like a million long as our motives are pure. So that being said...check out the article. It gives great perspective for every woman to consider as we seek to honor Christ.

Recently I read an article addressing choice of dress among Christian women. It was written by a man, so I was particularly interested to hear how he would approach a topic of such delicacy from a male perspective. What I read was a sensitive, well-presented plea for Christian women to consider the weaknesses of their spiritual brothers when choosing their clothes. Though many discussions of dress focus on “how short is too short” or “how low is too low”, this one avoided these legalistic pitfalls and took aim for the heart: what is your motive for choosing the clothes you choose?

The plea to bear with our Christian brothers by covering ourselves is an important one for us to hear. Dressing modestly is one of the simplest ways a believer can distinguish herself from the world around her and keep herself free from sin. But any female over the age of eleven can tell you that modesty is not the biggest hurdle to overcome in aligning our fashion with our faith.

The way we dress is a reflection of the extent to which we have embraced the Great Command to love others as we love ourselves. This is a preferential love: a love that places the needs of others above the needs of self at every possible opportunity. What is the perceived need a woman seeks to meet when she chooses her outfit each day? A woman who chooses immodest clothing is clearly craving the attention of men. Or is she?

Consider the following incident related to me by my thirteen-year-old son: With summer approaching, the band at his middle school planned a party at a local water park. Several moms went along as chaperones. One of the mothers, a woman presumably in her forty’s, chose to spend the day in a very small bikini that showcased her enhanced assets. As she snoozed in the sun, she became the topic of lively and inappropriate discussion among her son’s classmates.

Wait a minute – didn’t I say modesty wasn’t the biggest struggle for women in choosing their dress? How can Malibu Mommy possibly support my claim? I have to ask myself: Did this woman wake up the morning of the trip and ask “What can I wear today to excite lust among my son’s peer group?” No, the question she more likely asked was “What can I wear today to impress my own peer group?” – a group in this case, composed not of both genders but of one: other women.

While dressing for the attention of men is problematic, dressing for the attention of other women is epidemic. The question “How do I look?” implies the answering inquiry “Relative to whom?” The prideful among us may choose clothing to stand out, while the insecure among us may choose clothing to blend in. Pride and insecurity, the two-headed hydra of self-absorption.

Bikini Mom wanted to be the hottest 40-something woman at the pool. She probably doesn’t love Jesus, so I am going to have to let her off the hook. But what about me? How do I compete with other women by the way I dress? Do I dress to be the trendiest? The wealthiest? The thinnest? The fittest? The quirkiest? What about the purest? In certain circles, even modest dress can be a venue for self-promotion. There is nothing inherently righteous about a denim jumper or culottes. Nor is there anything inherently sinful about platform peep-toe stilettos. The problem, then, is not any particular outfit, but my craving for the superlative, the “-est” of any wardrobe choice – a craving rooted in the desire to elevate myself above others.

Godly women do not seek to elevate themselves above others – not by immodest dress, and not by competitive dress. They seek to provoke neither the lust of men nor the envy of women. They love preferentially by keeping the focus off of themselves. Clothed inwardly with the righteousness of Christ, their outward clothing becomes a matter for sober consideration: How can I best worship God through my wardrobe choices? May we, as daughters of the Living God, be measured not by our hemlines but by our humility.

-Jen Wilkin

much love

1 comment:

j said...

Oh are such a woman and I can oh so relate! I have my handful of ragamuffin days (disgusted with my body, displeased with my skin, frustrated with my hair, tired and bored with my wardrobe). This is so where satan wants to keep us...feeling down in the dumps like an ol' ragamuffin! We struggle enough as women living in a world that bombards us with messages that we are never good enough, thin enough, young enough or pretty enough...a world where image is everything. I usually find that my "down" moments are found standing in the (semi) aloneness of my bathroom, bedroom closet, or full-length mirror. It's then that those negative self images and critical thoughts creep in and make me feel alone or isolated (or filled with the desire to hibernate somwhere alone and to self-isolate). Again, exactly where the enemy wants me. But then I usually find that once I am out of the house and fellowshipping with others, my mood lifts and I stop focusing on "me" and my faults, flaws, and inner and outer ugliness. In the company of others I become more self-forgiving and am reminded again where my focus in life should be. That's why I love my sistas! We need to spur on and encourage each other regularly. The world is against us...there's too much telling us we are not enough. Anyways...what you see in the mirror is not always what others see. When I first saw you Thursday morn I thought you looked lovely...fresh, glowing...You are already a beautiful woman, but you have a beautiful inner spirit that spills out and just makes your outer beauty more radiant (truly). We all have our ugly duckling-ragamuffin days. As you know, you have a husband who thinks you are beautiful and loves you...friends who think you are gorgeous and adore you...and a God who is enthralled by your beauty. You are royalty sista!

And thank you for posting that article...great perspective (shockingly coming from a man). It gave me much to ponder. (Especially after spending the day at the mall and admiring all of the new fresh spring clothes i desperately would have loved to have purchased for myself but (slightly) heavy-heartedly didn't)

Press on beautiful one.