Femininity & Modesty
One day my husband and I were talking about women's clothing. I asked him what he likes and does not like about the way conservative women dress. His answer shocked me.
He said that women dressed in denim skirts and jumpers all the time reminded him of Fidel Castro. What!?! What could Christian homeschooling moms concerned with modesty have to do with an evil communist dictator from Cuba? My brain was doing gymnastics trying to see how this fit.
He went on to explain. Castro and his minions wore army fatigues all the time; it was their uniform. They did not look happy, they did not look pleasant; they looked angry and militant. He thought it was the same with many "jumper moms."
I thought about this and realized he was right. Often our jumper-wearing is just a slightly feminized version of wearing sweatpants around the house. Our jumpers are often unattractive and do not make us more beautiful. Sometimes they are stained or faded and would be better used cut up as rags.
Once upon a time denim was considered a fabric for work clothes. Cowboys, miners, and railroad workers wore denim jeans. I do not recall seeing pictures of people wearing denim in everyday life until the 1950's. (I was not born then, I have seen pictures)
I confess that I wear denim skirts and jumpers a lot. My mom made me my very first one when I was pregnant with my oldest child 21 years ago! I like them; they are comfortable. I can put layers of warm things under them in the winter. They go with every color of blouse. I can clean the kitchen in them and not worry about ruining my clothes. There is a lot to be said for this kind of clothing.
What we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we dressing to glorify God, to please our husbands, and to make the world a more beautiful place; or are we trying to make a political statement with our clothing? Is there anything wrong with making a statement with our clothing?
The answer, I believe, is no, in moderation. Our outward appearance is part of our testimony. When we appear in public wearing beautiful, yet modest clothing that is, of course, within our budget and in keeping with who we are as Christians, we tell people that being a feminine woman is good. When we add a joyful countenance and a sense of humor, it looks even better. We are saleswomen promoting God's order of things.
Some of us unfortunately have sold the wrong information. When a woman appears in public wearing soiled or wrinkled clothing, looking stressed and harried, she is promoting the wrongheaded idea that staying home with children is bondage to be avoided. Is it better to appear so before our husbands? What message would we be telling him?
A few years ago, I met an older woman. She wore beautiful, modest clothing. Her son and daughter-in-law and their children lived with her. I loved to watch their family. Soon after our meeting she began only wearing denim and neutral colors. The same dress code applied for the rest of their family. They got stricter and stricter until they began to look more like Arab women than Christians. They got involved in a fringe political movement. Their joy went out the proverbial window. This is where my husband got his Fidel Castro illustration.
There were many things wrong in this situation. It was extreme. What can we learn from it? I think there are a few things. God's plan is not for women to be or to look like drudges or military extremists. He intends for us to express our femininity in creative, fun ways in keeping with His guidelines. If we are unable to do that for some reason, possibly we have been spending too much time in the kitchen or worrying about many things and not enough time at Jesus' feet!
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with all the things we have to do. It seems like just another "thing to do" to spend energy wearing lovely clothes. I have news for you. Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light. No yoke or burden that we have can possibly be harder! I have also noticed that on a hard, tiring day when I feel exhausted and stressed out in the afternoon, taking a quick shower and changing out of my work clothes into something pretty rejuvinates me and puts a new face on the rest of the day.
Many of us have noticed that having one income does not leave us large amounts of money for clothes shopping. I am no different. I have actually been much happier, on the whole, with my thrift store acquisitions than with things for which I have paid full price.
It is fun and exciting to be a feminine Christian woman. It does not stop being fun and exciting just because we are 40 years old and have a lot of children and things to do. I think some of us have fallen into a trap of being resigned rather than joyful!
Think of all the things we have to be joyful about:
- We are created in God's image--His image-bearers!
- We are blessed with husbands, children, and homes to care for.
- We get to wear things that no office-working woman could ever get away with. It is like playing dress-up with our daughters. True, some days I have to be Cinderella at her chimney corner, but that is part of the story. Other days I get to be a pioneer woman trying to make the land livable, or a missionary teaching people in India about Jesus. Sometimes I even get to be a queen. If you are a woman who works outside the home, I'm sure there are ways to make your work clothes more feminine.
Someone once said, "Preach the gospel everywhere you go. When necessary, use words." The picture we paint with our appearance is worth at least a thousand words. It may not seem fair that we have to live our lives on stage in such a way, but it is real. Let us play our parts in a way that brings honor to the most important Person in the audience.
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