As Christians, I feel like it is easy to ask ourselves, “why even bother dressing nice at all?” After all, doesn’t God tell us that we shouldn’t care about “the riches of this world?” As Christians, we know that having nice things doesn’t equal happiness and that attachment to material things can even be sinful. Isn’t it wrong to care about how we look? Isn’t vanity, in itself, immodest?
While this thinking is correct, it neglects to identify an important point — we as humans are visual creatures.
Have you ever watched a movie, and you could tell just by looking at someone what kind of character they were going to be? Or read a book, where the author pays painful attention to describing a new character’s appearance? Examples like this show a fact that all story tellers intuitively know–appearance is an extraordinarily important part of character development.
As humans, we get a lot of visual cues from the world around us. There’s a reason why people tend to judge each other off of looks alone–it’s part of our nature. In real life, things aren’t quite as black and white as they are in the movies. Most people know they shouldn’t judge others off of looks. The tendency remains, however.
This tendency can be a powerful tool. Fashion is a way in which we can reflect our inner selves to the world around us.
I’ve gone through a lot of “phases.” When I first started to focus on dressing modestly — near the beginning of my second year in college — I also made the decision to dress as plainly as possible. I wore old t-shirts, baggy jeans, and tennis shoes. This became my eternal daily wardrobe.
In my mind, I was dressing in such a fashion as a way of self-mortification. I wanted to become more detached from worldly goods and, in doing so, become closer to my God.
First, let me emphasize that there is nothing wrong with thinking this way. In fact, I would even say that such a mindset is beautiful. I think, however, that it misses out on two important points.
Women are Beautiful
When God created women, he gave them a very special gift — beauty. We as women are the most beautiful things in the created universe. We are the peak of God’s masterpiece. The crown of creation. It is not wrong to want to express that beauty in an external way. By adorning ourselves in beautiful things, we are reminding the people around us — and ourselves — of the inherent dignity and beauty that we carry inside.
Fashion is Communication
I’m not trying to argue that judging a person by their looks is right, or good. It isn’t. Whether it is or not, however, doesn’t change the fact that it happens.
We can use fashion as a tool to communicate to others who we are, and what we think about ourselves. When we choose to dress in a way that is modest, but frumpy, we unintentionally communicate that we simply don’t care enough about ourselves to make the effort. We also don’t inspire others into considering modesty.
If we could choose to dress in a way that communicates our values and our dignity, why wouldn’t we? If we had the power to communicate with a single glance who we are as christians and women of God, wouldn’t we want to use it?
I’ve always thought it would be a fun exercise to make a character sketch of myself, as if I were a character in a book. In doing so, I would think, who am I? What makes me unique? What pieces of myself would I want to convey to an audience reading about my life? How would I do so?
A Word of Caution
It is easy to make a god out of clothes. I think it is extremely important to think about our intentions when we wake up and get dressed in the morning — or when we buy a new article of clothing.
Clothing shouldn’t be used as a crutch to feel better about ourselves, nor should it become a source of pride. It also shouldn’t become something we need to be happy.
We also should be discerning of how we spend our money. There’s nothing wrong with buying a cute new blouse, or skirt, or whatever. Whenever we buy a new piece of clothing, however, we should ask ourselves a few basic questions. For example: “Is this the best use of my money? Do I need this to fill a gap in my wardrobe, or to replace something old? Can I honestly afford it?” and finally, “Why do I want to purchase this?”
By asking ourselves such questions, and by being mindful about our intentions, we can help ourselves to better walk the line between making an idol out of clothing, and using it as an art-form and a tool.
What do you think? Do you think clothing can be helpful, or is it purely frivolous How do you use clothes to express yourself? Let me know in the comment section below!