First, read this post. Right now. Go read it. Shoo!
Okay, if you already read Jay's post about "A New Kind of Modesty" you don't actually have to read it again. *Looks at Rebeka*
But if you haven't, please do. It's a great article, and will also make this post make sense. :)
Lately I've been thinking about the subject of modesty, clothes, and communication a lot, and offered to write a sort of follow up, girl's perspective type thingie/comment. And so of course Jay made me do it. Just kidding, I wanted to. :) Anyway, I thought I'd post it here, too, for those who don't constantly check the comments on Jay's blog...
The first time I read this, I got very excited about the concept of clothes being a part of language. Thankfully my family is patient and not only listened in an interested fashion to my excited rant on the topic, but also joined in with their own ideas. It was a very fun discussion. :)
And, for your especial benefit, here is the "rant". (In part, and probably with some new things...)
It is so important that people grasp the fact that, whether you like it or not, your clothes are saying something. Your job is to honestly assess the message you are saying with them, and ask yourself whether or not that is what you intend to say. And if the message that you would like to get across is a God honoring one, for that matter…
Now, of course, a few people may misread your message, no matter how carefully you present it-- in exactly the same way few people will misread/misinterpret this post, and.... anything else anyone says or writes. Misinterpretation– It’s part of language.
However, anyone who thinks openly about this for a little while will soon see that clothes do, in fact, say things. And the vast majority of people will understand the message in nearly the same way.
Speaking as a girl who wears long denim skirts, button up shirts buttoned all the way up (horror of horrors, apparently) and such (Hehe, I read that earlier today and couldn’t help using it... It is such a funny and true (sort of…) description of us…except she mentioned wearing tennis shoes. I can't say I wear those often. Had she said bare feet, she would have described me exactly. :D) I can attest to the fact that people think we’re rather weird.
However. I can also say that I have never been approached by a guy in a sexually threatening way. I have not had to feel ashamed of myself and how I dress. (Except for a few times, when I was a younger teen and wore things I knew were too tight…) My sisters and mother and I have noticed that we are treated like ladies FAR more often than most women around. We have also, many many times, been labeled as Christians automatically because of the way we dress. (Hannah told me a kind of funny story to me that illustrates this perfectly: She was walking in Walmart and noticed some teenage boys. The way they were dressed made her think that they might be the gangster type. As she walked past, she heard one of them say to the other, "That's a Christian girl." He said it just as a matter of fact, not in an insulting way at all. :))
I have made the choice to dress the way I do knowingly and freely. I love wearing long, swirly skirts!
I have, in fact, worn pants before. (about 5 times… :P ) And I really don’t like them. They are harder to move in, and not near as fun. (Seriously, try beating walking down stairs in a long flowing skirt. Or spinning in a full, twirly skirt. Ain't happening.) I don't think pants are evil, or that they are always immodest. I just like skirts. And yes, I know full well that skirts can be just as bad, or worse than pants. :)
So, I dress the way I do for a few reasons:
One, I just like dressing like this!
Two, I feel that this is, as Jay has kindly shown here, a blessing to my brothers in Christ.
Three, I feel that it is a good way to immediately be recognized as a woman–and one that rejoices in her femininity!
Four, I know that my parents, especially my Papa, appreciate me dressing like this. (At this point some folks will pounce and say, "Aha!! Your parents make you dress like that!!! You poor, dear, oppressed girl!!" Um, no. Actually, not. My parents put me in cute little dresses when I was young, yes. [I am glad of that; I especially hate seeing little girls in immodest, teenager clothes. Bleah.] But, as I got older, they never made any rules about dress. They never said we couldn't wear pants or that we must wear dresses. They encouraged us in our pursuit of modesty, yes. They let us know when our clothes weren't so modest. But they definitely, assuredly, do not force us to dress like this.)
Five, and most importantly, I feel that it is a testimony to my God. It shows right away that I am set apart from the world, that there is something different about me.
Yes, yes, I know. There are girls who dress like I do because they have to. They are not joyful, nor do they really glorify God in their forced sort of modesty. They are still wanting attention for themselves–only in the opposite sort of way– “Look at me, I’m so godly and modest and sober”
That is not the point, people!! This is supposed to be an outward reflection of an inner attitude.
My sister Hannah and I have been thinking about this a lot. We like to think of it in three “layers”:
1. Your clothes, hair, countenance, etc. What people see instantly.
2. Your actions, words, etc. What people see after being around you for a little while.
3. Your character/heart. Who you really are. What people see after really getting to know you. (and your family, haha.)
They are ALL extremely important. And, say your outward appearance is saying that you are pure and a good Christian girl– but after being around you for a little while, we learn, by your actions, tones, words, etc. that you are, in fact, a flirty and self-centered girl. The first message (one of purity and goodness) was a miscommunication. Your actions negated the message your clothes were saying.
Now, obviously, the opposite is also true. One could be dressed in a more “worldly” manner, and then, by her actions and attitude, prove that she actually had a gentle spirit.
There is a problem here, though. Not everyone is going to have the time to get to really know you. Yes, yes. You’re a splendid Christian girl. Under all the worldly layers.
But when you’re walking around, what are you saying? What is the main message of your dress? Are you pointing to Christ, to purity– or are you pointing to yourself? Or more specifically… your body? And is it “just fashion” (And therefore okay, somehow… :P ) when you wear something that you know will cause your brothers to stumble?? (In case you hadn’t noticed, this mindset greatly upsets me. I have brothers!!!) Please don’t play dumb. You know what I mean.
Anyway. All three “layers” need to match. Now, I’ve heard so many times, “Well, you know, God looks at the heart. So that’s what’s most important.” Yes of course!!
But. They somehow miss the first part: Man looks at the outward appearance! People are still reading your message. You are still saying something– Whether your heart is right or not. Make sure that what you are saying is what you intend to say! Don’t be one of those people that just say, “Oh, well, it’s just fashion. I just want to look cute.”
Ahem. That is not the message the guys get when they see tight and low cut clothes!
Please seriously and honestly consider this important point: clothes are a part of language. And then think about what message you want to be getting across, and figure out how best to say it.:)