August 26, 2008

disjointed musings on fashion and looking like the world

Something I was watching on Youtube today got me thinking about what it really means for Christians to not look like the world. If I was to describe to you what I'm currently wearing most of you would probably instantly say "typical conservative." Well, so maybe the slit in the front of my top would be a little low for some of you. Nevertheless I'm pretty sure I'm not walking out the door dressed like a freak. I think I have a little experience with this since I did dress like a freak though much of high school. You should have seen my fashionista friend laugh when I told her the stuff I used to wear. They were all labors of love (I even picked out many of the prints and patterns myself), but golly gee did I ever stick out like a sore thumb. I'd like to go back in time and explain to that young lady a few things about button up shirts covered with parrots in primary colors. There may be good ways for a 14 year old girl to wear that, but I sure didn't know about any. But back then we all dressed funny. Then we sort of started catching up with the times (barely), and I started finding a few things that actually fit and were specifically designed to be worn by a girl my age. My mom started wearing more cute capris and fewer button up denim skirts. Now, in making that transition some people could say that we had started looking for like "the world." Well sure I was wearing more current year clothes from Kohl's junior section and not so many outdated or ill-fitting items from misses-to-old-for-me. I'm certainly not going to say that's bad, and I wonder at what we really think it means to not look like the world. I could dress up like something from Mars. That's not of this world. I don't think Bill Gothard would shake my hand for doing though. It seems like we often mean "weird enough so that no one will suspect than anyone other than a Christian would be willing to look this dorky." Then we end up looking like Mormons and Muslims. Is it better to be mistaken for a Mormon or an atheist? I'm not sure.

Then there's that thing about dressing to frame the face and not the body. Umm, my clothes hang on my body. I could wear clothes so designed that they obliterated every sign that I have a female body, but A. I'm not a muslim, B. some guy would get it into his mind that I must be really hot to take such extreme measures and start lusting anyway, and C. I'm not so sure that fashion gnosticism is all that Biblical. In short, I don't really get it. I understand not dressing so as to display my body in an overtly sexual manner. There's a lot of skin that no one has any right to see except Allen. I really can't help being in some way minimally sexual since I'm a woman and have the kind of body God gave women. I could perhaps obliterate my form with grossly excess poundage and specially selected clothing, but as noted above that won't necessarily stop everyone. Here's my question. Where does it stop? In Song of Solomon the lover didn't cease his description of his beloved's beauty at the neck. There was plenty more to delight his senses above his beloved's collarbone, and yet we sometimes act as though women are only respectable from the neck up. Hmmm. Again, I don't really get this. When I muse like this don't think I'm going to start arguing that we demand noses be covered in public and midriffs bared. God has made it pretty clear that certain areas should be covered. I'm just wondering how much thought has gone into some of these statements we make about how we should act and dress in this world.

All that said...I know that as Christians we should strive to be conformed to the image of Christ and that as we begin to look more and more like Him we will look less and less like the world that hates Him. I hope that the way I dress reflects that. But I don't think someone can say "be ye not conformed to this world" and get after some pastor's wife for wearing capris or a knee-length skirt. The world wears burkas and tie-dye ankle length skirts too. There are certainly lines, but I begin to wonder if any of us really know exactly where they are and what they really mean. I mean, I think I'm pretty right about some things. Sometimes I just wonder if I'm as right as I think I am sometimes. I really don't have any conclusions. This post isn't about conclusions anyway. It's about some of the questions I think maybe need to be asked before we try to pronounce any conclusions.


natalie said...

Interesting. I came across a quote once that I felt well expressed the balance in fashion-
"It is a good rule to follow the fashion in dress just so far that you shall not be marked as singular. But you may rely on it, that a disposition to take the lead in always taken with discerning people as proof of a weak head or a proud heart." - William B. Sprague, Letters on Practical Subjects to a Daughter

Modesty, of course, is another thing. For me I think it boils down to intent, effect, and utility. What is my intent in wearing this? What is the actual effect likely to be? And how is this going to work out when I actually live in it? That last one is the reason I almost always wear pants to milk the cow. :-)

Natalie_S said...

That's a great quote. Thanks for sharing it with me. I agree with what you're saying about modesty too. I suppose that's one reason why I don't see a conflict wearing one of my vacation t-shirt in one circumstance and a moderate scoop neck in another ie hanging out around my brothers in law when I'm going to be bending over and moving around v sitting upright in a restaurant or at a concert.

dancinghobbit said...

"I could dress up like something from Mars. That's not of this world."

Haha, you make me laugh. Nice post.

Han said...

followed your linked name from Femina, and I see we have a friend in common in Natalie B!

This post made me laugh out loud, which, despite the number of lols I use online, is not something I do all that often when reading blogs.

"I could dress up like something from Mars. That's not of this world." in particular made me crack up.

I appreciate this post a good deal, as these are issues I have spent a lot of time thinking about. One thing I've noticed is that the girls in more 'modest' (covering) clothes tend to be less critical of their sisters in more 'revealing' clothes than vice versa. But, then again, this might be because I tend to be more intimate with the people in the 'revealing' camp, so I hear more of *our* talk amongst ourselves. :)