Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Left and Right of Feminine Style/Dress/Modesty

InStyle. What Not To Wear. Ann Taylor Loft. The Devil Wears Prada. The Bible.
Most women would recognize the first four as beacons for the world of fashion. What about the last? Shouldn't the Bible be our first place to go for answers on what we can wear and how we should dress as Christian women?
Many years ago now I was given a sermon by my then pastor's wife on "The Soul of Modesty" by Sovereign Grace pastor CJ Mahaney. I always thought I dressed modestly - but before I pulled out of the church parking lot, the Spirit used that sermon to convict of so much more than hems and necklines. That day started a work in my heart that God is continuing even till today - more than 5 years later.
This post isn't so much about lists of what we can and should not wear. It is more about our heart and seeing some of the ways the culture and its bent toward feminism has altered our view on modesty. Recently, I attended a women's conference. There were women dressed in skirts and tees - there were also woman dressed in dockers and plain shirts. Some had their hair done and makeup on and matching purses and some didn't have any makeup on and wore worn-out tennis shoes. Trust me, I love days when I don't have to put on makeup and I can stay at home in exercise clothes - but that does nothing for my sense of femininity and I rarely go out in public like this (anymore).
So, here is where the title of this blog post comes in. I had a brief chat with a wise woman about this topic and my concerns. The first thing she pointed me to was Isaiah 30 where God whispers to His children "this is the way, walk in it". The Lord is chastising His unfaithful children who live their lives without consulting Him or His laws, how they make plans without seeking His face, how they longed to stay in slavery to self and worthless idols. Then, He offers hope - that if they would just return to Him, to His Word, to His Commands, they would know his directions. With every step - whether to the left or the right - they would know his direction.
Scripture gives us Biblical guidelines for our daily lives. We don't need to wonder about anything - we have everything we need in order to live Biblical lives. This goes for fashion and our wardrobe too. There is a left and right (extremes) in this due to the sin in our hearts. Let us strive to live "this is the way, walk in it".
Here are two of the extremes:
1. Not wanting to dress/present ourselves as femininely. Women blame this on place of residence (in the country), personality, lack of money or interest. In reading Carolyn McCulley's newest book Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, I came across this excerpt from The Goddess Within by Woolger and Woolger:
"Despite her strength, brilliance, and independence, there is a paradox contained in the traditional image of a maid clad in armor. It seems to us that the more energy the Athena woman puts into developing her successful, worldly, armored self, the more she hides her maidenly vulnerability. So, with her androgyny, Athena conceals a conflict, an unresolved tension between her tough outer self and her hidden, unexpressed self that can be a source of great insecurity with regard to her finding an integral feminine identity. We call it Athena's wound."
This may be one of our culture's problems. We want to be so equal to men that we are unwilling to dress femininely. God didn't create us to be androgynous. He created us FEMALE! Live in it - accept it - love it. Its hard for me to even wear business suits to work because they look very manly - even if I wear a pink shirt and heels with it.
We are given a great, godly example of this in Scripture - Queen Esther. She spent 7 days in preparation - a full week at a spa! Makeup, dress, oils, lotions. Now, I'm not suggesting we spend hours on our look every day - but 30 minutes to get dressed, do our hair (in front of a mirror), put on makeup (not while driving) isn't bad.
2. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the woman who cares too much about what she wears. Recently, I was loaned a copy of the latest issue of InStyle magazine. I enjoyed looking at all the latest styles, but I don't have $300 to spend on a purse of $900 on a pair of shoes. Some of sin by going into debt to buy these things or by attaching ourselves unhealthily to things of this world. Maybe we spend more time looking in the mirror getting ready for our day than we spend in the Word of God. Or we tend to get judgmental of others - basing our thoughts of them solely on what they are wearing. Are we too proud to shop at thrift and discount stores or clearance racks? One word of caution in Scripture comes from the preacher in Ecclesiastes chapter 2. He learns after all his striving that "all was vanity and a striving after wind".
So, if we are "to walk in this way" - according to Scripture. What does it say on this topic?
1. Proverbs 31.30. A profound verse. Our hopes are not in what we look like - they are only found in God. We may think this and "believe it" but until this comes out in our actions and in our hearts - it is just lip service.
2. 1 Peter 3.3-4. Again, emphasis on the heart. But this admonishment from the Apostle doesn't say "do not pay attention" to the outer - he warns not to get them out of order - the heart is first.
3. Titus 2.4-5. Teaching others about purity - especially "older women". This doesn't mean we have to wear pants and turtlenecks year round - but we do need to watch our necklines. Women - train those around you. Model biblical femininity. They look to you. Be fashionable - but be modest. Especially if you are in front of a lot of women, or on a platform. I remember the rule for singing in Southeastern's chapel was to wear skirts below the knee, preferred to the ankle. Is this necessary - no. But, the standard is higher for those in leadership.
4. 1 Timothy 2.9. We must adorn ourselves with modesty and self-control. If some woman has 300 pairs of shoes - or even 30 - that may not be a problem with modesty but with self-control.
I think these guidelines are very important. The Bible doesn't give us a list because its not about lists (last legalism) - it is about Christian liberty, grace, protecting others, being feminine, living pure, conduct becoming to Christ, running hard after God.
I was in Goodwill recently. Found a great gray skirt by Banana Republic - expensive. The Goodwill price was only 3$. I knew it looked short on the hanger, but of course it wouldn't be that short in the dressing room. However, it was. I thought it about it - looked at it in the mirror from many different angles, sat down in it. I finally had to take it off and say no. Sometimes I wish I didn't know anything about God's commands when it comes to my clothing, my heart, and the protection of men around me. But, I do. And I am thankful because they are life-giving.
My prayer for you is this:
1. Dress modestly. If there is a question about it - you probably shouldn't wear it.
2. Love God more than your wardrobe.
3. Don't judge others because of what they wear or don't wear.
4. Dads (if any are reading)- set the bar high - go shopping with your wife or daughter and give your input into their wardrobe.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

This is excellent! Thank you for sharing what Christ has been teaching you. I've shared it with a mom of 5 young girls who is aiming at training up her daughters with these values.