and why it matters
There is no fashion LookBook for the Christian. We can’t open a magazine and say “This is the Christian way”, because there is no such thing as “Christian Fashion”, nor should there be, for if it were it would be no more than a woeful set of legalistic rules and morals imposed upon innocent pieces of fabric. Fashion is a fluid, ever-changing industry and expressive art and the determining factor for whether or not it does glorify God is not simply based on cut, color, and fit, but the motive and heart behind it.
But there is a fear-based message, often perpetrated by men and older women to young women, that insinuates the young woman’s responsibility for the young man’s purity by her choice of clothing.
It’s a claim that has kept many young women mentally bound, in some ways even stunting their growth into adulthood. So it needs to be stated plainly, not assumed, for the woman who maybe haven’t heard it elsewhere that each man is responsible for his own mind, heart and body. No woman can take that kind of responsibility upon herself and any man that makes you feel less-than or speaks to you with accusations, “If you hadn’t worn that or done that, I wouldn’t have sinned.” is casting blame instead of taking the weight of his own guilt. We each are responsible for our actions and motives.
That doesn’t mean we swing to the other side of the pendulum and join the ranks of women baring their naked bodies to the world while demanding invincibility over sexual advances. No, we have to use wisdom, and we do have a responsibility, but hear this: our responsibility is not first to men, but to God. Men should not be the reason we dress modestly.
First, let’s take a look at what modesty actually is, because it’s not simply wearing skirts below the knee or turtlenecks that leave us gasping. Wear a potato sack till kingdom come; it won’t make you modest. One synonym of modesty is “humility”. I’m not going to sit here righteously and say that I have the answers or try to ascertain what items of clothing are modest and which are not, but humility of the heart is a good place for us all to start.
Because modesty has very little to do with clothes. It stems from the inside out; that’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote in the letter to the Philippians that for women the adorning (to make something more beautiful or attractive) of clothes and jewels is not what will ultimately make a woman beautiful. What will make a woman beautiful whether she be in rags or the latest line of Dolce & Gabbana is her spirit, a gentle spirit, a quiet spirit, which can also be understood as a “still” spirit. A spirit that listens, rests in peace, is humble.
We dress and live modestly, as in everything else, because we love God. It’s not, ultimately, to protect men, though sometimes it’s to wisely protect ourselves, but it’s always to keep our hearts aligned with Christ.
Where we can begin is to understand that whether we think we engage in fashion or not (Meryl knows you do) , the clothes we wear say something about who we are and who we want to be. There is a psychology behind fashion that most women overlook when they get dressed, and rightfully so...it’s not like we need to make that process any longer than it already is. But if we can take the time to simply ask ourselves, “What am I saying with this outfit? What is it reflective of?” we might be surprised by our answer.
There is no prescription for how women should dress, if your daughter (or you) should wear that crop top or those yoga pants (gasp!), whether or not a bikini is appropriate at the beach, or if the cut of the dress you chose for your cousin's wedding is too scandalous. Like clothes, there is no One Size Fits All, but we can start with checking our hearts, and our motives, asking God to humble us and show us the balance.