Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We interrupt this series on prayer to discuss CLOTHES

My sister-in-law went to see the movie "Confessions of a Shopaholic" the other night, but said she couldn’t hear half the movie because the high school girls seated next to her were too busy whispering: “I want those shoes!” “Yeah, me too, and that purse to go with them.” “Oooh, I looove her scarf.” “Me too, let’s be on the look out for one.” “Eww, her outfit is sooo ugly.” “Yeah, totally unflattering.”

I don't think they quite caught the whole message of the movie.

My sister-in-law, a gorgeous gal in her late 20s who works standing on her feet all day and therefore wears high-quality comfy clogs, had come straight from work to this movie. She said she noticed the girls looking judgmentally at her clogs. It bothered her. She wanted to say 1) that she does own and wear cute shoes, but had just been at work and so… and 2) I don’t really have to explain or defend my shoe choices to you!

Isn’t it interesting how we can feel both those responses simultaneously when feeling judged for how we're dressed? OK, my next request may just make you feel that way.

If you’ve been reading here lately, you know I’m working with my pastor (and my husband and a team of other guys that work at my church) on an upcoming series at our church on lust called The Grass is Greener (recognize that, Angie?). Now my pastor wants me to join him on stage for one of the weeks’ messages to offer a woman’s perspective. (Note: I'm feeling this would be a really good time to pray for me!) Today in a meeting we were discussing what topics to cover that week and the subject of women and clothing came up.

The guys were curious why women – including Christian women and including happily married women – dress somewhat evocatively (this was their opinion of how many women often look) ... even to go to work, or church, or bowling. By evocatively they seemed to mean with very fitted clothing, or shorter skirts and heels, or v-neck tops that show cleavage, or anything that says (or even whispers), I'm sexy.

So gals, let me hear from you on this topic. Why do you dress the way that you do? What governs your fashion choices?

Do you feel pressure from anyone to look a certain way? Do you think we should cover up to avoid tempting men to lust? Share your thoughts!

Oh, and as I said before, feel free to post anonymously because I could use some real life stories and honest input here. Don't worry if you found this post weeks after it was written - I still want to hear your feelings on how women dress. Thanks!


  1. Good question,
    I wouldn't consider myself to dress lewdly but I do wear tight turtle neck tops and tight pants. I feel attractive at times and enjoy being noticed. I enjoy when a head turns to give me a second once over and don't feel pretty if no one notices. I believe that I have allowed part of my self worth and identity to be tied up in the attention that I receive from not only men but women as well. I am in my 50's so this isn't an adolescent speaking but a somewhat (I hope) mature woman.
    I will be interested to hear from others.

  2. Great input! I think you have hit upon something about our desire to be noticed and to feel attractive.

    Thank you for honestly sharing ~ Rachel

  3. My first thought is, what do the guys want. . .for women to dress frumpy and in baggy clothes all the time? I understand there are some women who do go a bit overboard and probably should put on another layer of clothing. But when I am getting dressed I try to look my best...and fitted clothing tends to look nicer. Men are more visual than women and may take that to mean a woman is trying to attract a man, but it may not mean that at all.

    Best wishes with your talk...sounds like it's going to be interesting!

  4. I dress for the people at work, so that I'm taken seriously. If I dressed for men (which I guess I do sometimes) I would look like a floozy! And for myself, well - then I'd be in yoga pants and funny t-shirts all the time!

  5. Very interesting discussion, Rachel. Honestly, I love to look good in my clothes because it makes me feel good and gives me energy. I'm not a size 6 and I don't turn heads, but when I look in the mirror and feel stylish (I shop at Target and outlet malls) I just feel better about myself all day. It's sort of like that good feeling you get from making your bed in the morning and knowing all day that your bedroom looks nice because you took the time to take care of it. I don't have any cleavage to speak of and I can't get away with tight clothing, so I don't know anything about that! I'm interested to see what others have to say.

  6. I think I do feel some pressure to look good with my clothes. Not sure that I know exactly where that pressure is comes from. Maybe from seeing fashion magazines and celebrities. Or maybe just from seeing other women around me looking good. Proably a mixture of things. It'll be interesting to see what others say here.

    i guess I do wish to be thought of as attractive (in men and women's eyes) and current (tho my clothes are never really cutting edge since I shop at typical mall stores).

    Covering up to stop men from lusting, well I'm not sure that would stop them (hee hee).

  7. I'll tell you one thing...I believe I haven't received freedom from my fat because the Good Lord only knows what I would wear out in public if I was thin! Seriously, I think that society is a big issue here...we all want to feel like we "look good", or live up to all the crazy standards around us...even when we despise the standards and judgements. As a woman, I want to feel good about myself, and my outward appearance is a big part of that. I like to be complimented, and I even kind of like knowing that I caused a little stir with the opposite sex (again, being fat keeps me much more modest:)...maybe one day I'll grow up...I am pushing 30!

  8. Rachel,
    This is a question that we have discussed quite a bit as a group of leaders in our student ministry. We know that teens want to fit in with their peers at school and church. You would think that grown women would be past that, but unfortunately they are influenced by the world too. It seems that everywhere you look is a celebrity or model in a revealing outfit. The media has us convinced that to be fashionable we need to dress the same way. Many women know those outfits are over the line but assume that if something isn't as revealing as the model's outfit that they are okay.

    I also think that women in general want to be noticed and the world has told them that to receive attention you have to dress "sexy" and that means revealing. But because I don't wear revealing things, I can tell them that this is not necessarily the case. When I wear tailored pants and jackets that fit well (not tight) that are in flattering colors, my friends and husband tell me how good I look. So you can look good and feel attractive without resorting to the "sexy" outfits.

    My advice for others is to figure out by trying on clothes which colors complement your own coloring and make you feel good. When you have on clothes that you are not contantly adjusting because they fit well, and you are not worrying about what people will see if you bend over, you will have more confidence and people will notice that instead of your clothes.

    The other issue is that men do feel tempted as they view women in revealing clothes. Even the most godly man is challenged by this. I have heard so many women respond to this by saying, "Well that's there problem. They should be more disciplined. Why is it my fault?" But as Christian women we should love our brothers in Christ enough to shield them from that temptation. It might not remove it completely, but making a conscious effort to aid them this way is the sign of a heart that loves her fellow believers and wants the best for them.

    Sorry this has been so long, but this is such a complex issue to address with a body of believers. I applaud your team for taking it on. I pray that you will be able to handle it all with great wisdom, discernment and in such a way that challenges people to make a change not take offense.

  9. Let's see....
    In my teens, I dressed for my peers - to fit in.

    In my early 20s, I dressed for guys - to attract.

    In my late 20s, I dressed for comfort - because babies were spitting up all over me and nothing fit anyway.

    In my mid-30s, I started dressing for my most fashionable friends - because they looked so great and I was tired of being a schlump!

    In my 40s, I'm finally dressing for myself.

  10. I dress for myself, my mom (she has excellent style), my boyfriend, and critical people (lol).

    I love experimenting with clothes, accessories, makeup, hair, looks, and color.

  11. I like to feel good. I am very self conscious though. I work hard at staying a size 4 or 6 but I don't like to be noticed. I like shopping and having cute clothes but don't want people to look at me either. I just want to feel good about myself, not for others.

  12. I was never really a "sexy" dresser as far as showing cleavage or really high mini skits. Every once in a while when I was in the world I would try but I never felt comfortable. Now, you can barely buy anything without it having a low dip so I have cross pins that I wear when the neck line is too low to pin the shirt together. Our Elder told us to do the bend over test and if you can see your chest then its too low cut. Our Pastor has made what he refers to as the Summer sermon where he tells the ladies not to get over excited about the hot weather in the way they dress. He is not much for holding his tongue. I have to catch myself not thinking "I can't believe she walked up in here with that on", that's judgemental and I know its wrong and I have also came to realize that sometimes its "new" Christians that haven't learned the "dress code" yet. I'm not saying dresses to the ankles or shirts to the chin but come on we know whats appropriate!
    Columbus, OH

  13. I dress for myself. I have over the years developed my own style, and it is very different from the style that is fashionable. I like (longish, ankle length) floral flowing skirts in the summer with peasant style tops, I like turtlenecks in the winter and tailored slacks. On the weekend I love my jeans and t's with sneakers... In all cases I like unique jewlery pieces! (I am in my late 40s). One of my aquaintences dubbed my style "upscale hippy". I tend to buy my clothes in a variety of places and I buy them because they strike me and are sometimes unique.

    My husband doesn't even seem to notice what I wear any more. He is happy wearing the same thing (white shirt, dark pants) every day. I don't dress for anyone else, but I, like so many others that have posted, like to feel good with what I wear. My daughters want to set their own style too and not conform to the norm. I think that is a good thing for them to do.

  14. I'm so glad we are talking about this. I've always been into fashion and I still struggle with what is "appropriate". It seems as if there are so many mixed messages about it - even amongst Christians.

    I do want to look my best. I do want to be hip. I do want to wear clothes that flatter my figure. I do want people to think I'm attractive. Plus - I feel better, have more energy - and even joy, when I feel like I look nice.

    But I REALLY struggle with all this. Should I dress to cover up my figure instead? Should I wear clothes that will totally keep men from lusting? I deal with these kinds of thoughts a lot.

    What a great topic, Rachel.

  15. I like to look attractive. Since I'm older than 50, I don't want to look like I'm trying to look really young though. I tend to gravitate towards classic looks; styles that don't go out of style. I think before I began to grow closer to the Lord, I may have dressed a bit more provacatively (not much) but now I'm more aware of the messages I'm giving to others. I'm a married woman and really don't need the attention from dressing sexy. I just want to look nice and appropriate and did I mention ...I really do love clothes!

  16. I think Allyson hit it on the head in many ways. I think women can dress nicely in flattering clothes but not be immodest. I think we can fall into seeing issues in black and white and I really feel this may be more of a gray area. On one extreme, women get caught up in trendy clothes that show off all that work done with diet and exercise. On the other extreme, you have women being forced (in some cases) to wear burqas and veils. Should men try to captivate their thoughts, yes! But we need not to flaunt ourselves - we are told not to be a stumbling block (Romans 14:13, and 1Cor 8:9). As for me personally, I dress for the life I lead - 4 children under the age of 9. I get spit, spilled and snotted on daily and those are the good days- LOL. One day I will buy a new wardrobe when I am past this season, and have hopefully lost all the "baby weight" but will tend towards clothes that are flattering and still modest. Thanks Rachel and other ladies for the discussion, it is great to see where others stand on this topic.

  17. I think clothing needs to look tailored to look good but I have cringed and the choices lately in the stores. The clothes seem to be more provocative than ever.

    What a great discussion you are in.

    Blessings! Nancy J

  18. I'm having one thought constantly running through my head these days thanks to a sweet friend named Shari Bradeal! =) I'm always like, "Ok would Shari approve of this or not??!!" She's a great person to gain insight from on this. But, I however think that many women dress sexy for attention and that comes from something deep within their souls. But girl, I even think that some women just DON'T GET IT!! And that's where our friend Shari comes in!! =) She's great at tellin it like it is.

    I do want to be noticed in how I look, but would never want to allow myself to become someone I'm not. You know what I'm saying?

    Ok, well, just my two cents! And please let us know how things go!! I will be praying for you! And what you will wear that day!! he hee! =)

  19. Opps.....Shari Braendel, didn't mean to spell her name wrong! =)

  20. It's an interesting topic...I'm waiting to see what happens with my daughter. She's nearly five but at the moment is extremely modest. She will not wear anything that shows her shoulders (and we live in a tropical climate) and worries about t-shirts showing her tummy if she lifts her arms up. If she sees me wearing anything with spaghetti straps she will say "shame shame"! The question is whether she will change once she gets older and starts trying to fit in with her friends.

    As for me, I think that like most women I like to look good and, if I'm honest, it is nice to be noticed every once in a while. For work I dress to be taken seriously and when I'm out with my husband I try to dress in a way that will make him proud to have me at his side.

  21. The first question on this subject is to accept scientific facts: men are aroused sexually by what they see. Once you know this you have to examine your dress choices knowing what power you possess. That is not popular and I'm 65 and I know that young, healthy, trim ladies resent such statements. It's just facts, mam.

    As Christian women God lays out principles of a virtuous woman that cannot be denied. Fashion forecasters and retail marketing experts should not have the power to over-ride God's call to a beautiful godly woman's image in public.

    Recently a beautiful young woman was signing for our deaf members. She had on a strapless top and as she moved her arms and hands I actually saw some male members trying to avoid looking at her.

    I wrote her a note (I don't know her personally but she seemed to be a kind not flirtatious woman). I spoke of the positive virtues I picked up on watching her from Sunday to Sunday. I told her that I felt she was not aware of what I was seeing and I suggested she borrow a jacket or sweater.

    She read the note and looked shocked. She handed the note to her overseer. This woman nodded in agreement with the note. She put on a sweater and every Sunday since I have not seen any inappropriate exposure.

    If we see something that could be dangerous I believe if we do point it out we must be very careful to do so with encouragement and kindness.

    I saw some things in church last summer that I actually wept over without a word to anyone. I prayed for weeks and seems to me there is a new concern for most of our women to dress responsiblyin our church.

  22. The way a woman dresses may have something to do with what is hidden in her heart. Maybe there is insecurity and she wants to draw attention from men, or dresses provocatively because she wants to show other women that she looks good. Women sometimes fail to understand that a woman can dress modestly, stylishly and attractively without dressing in a provocative manner. Women need to think of the possible consequences, what if she becomes the temptation to some man-that destroys his marriage and tears apart his family? When she chooses to dress provocatively, she chooses to put herself out there to be looked at provocatively. What needs to be understood is that in the end, it is a womans character that makes her attractive. Prov 31:30"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

  23. Hey All - This is such a great discussion! I'm going to wait a couple more days before I post what is bouncing around in my head on this topic.

    Besides, I just had breakfast with six of my girlfriends and told them that have to come read this post. We were celebrating some birthdays and I gave Holly one of those musicial cards that plays "Pretty Woman." It said we'd still be friends when we're 88, and that we'd still be complimenting each other on our cute orthopedic shoes!

    I also plan to ask my friend who is a professional image consultant if she'll do a guest post for us on this in the coming week. Can't wait to hear what Shari has to say.

    Oh, and, who ever told us her fat keeps her modest ... well, you crack me up and I've got a special place in my heart for you, girlfriend.

    Keep talkin' girls, it's helping me think this thing through (so I can explain it to the guys).

    Smiles ~ R

  24. Hmmmm I dress normally--jeans a shirt, or dress pants and a top...nothing is ever too tight that i remember.

    However, I chose to comment because I always hear of the male population discussing how women dress; yet, it's rare that we hear how MEN dress. And yes, the way they dress CAN cause our eyes to do a "double-take". Guys who go around without their shirts on is the biggest one I see. WHY do they have to do that? It's fine in your own home with your wife, but seriously....
    I always felt uncomfortable around my guy friends in college IF they would take off their shirt.

    I think that that should be mentioned as well. Guys need to look out for their sisters in Christ! Leave the shirts on :)

    Okay, rant over ;)

  25. This topice of clothing is HUGE for me...I have always struggled with what is "appropriate".

    Having been blessed with a "curvy" body, I have always been self-conscious of walking into a room and people looking right at my chest. For so many years I wore bigger, looser clothes to cover up myself. I felt frumpy, and not good about myself. After loosing some weight after having children I went shopping and "experimenting" with different styles. I was tired of feeling bad about myself. I am still consious of my cleavage and how tight things are and there are still times I feel as if people look immediately at my chest BUT I feel better about myself and I personally can not be responsible for other peoples "lustful" problem can I???

  26. I used to enjoy wearing resonable clothing as a teen, jeans, t's. I was definately a tom boy and looked it. I never thought myself sexy though, I really didn't care. I hated to shop for clothes and still do. After a gang rape, I dress to cover up. I found that I didn't want to attract anyone. After I became a Christian, I found that occassionally that I wanted to dress just to look nice but was afraid of attracting the opposite sex.

    One day I met a man that liked me even though I was wearing overalls, and boots. (I like trucks and everything to do with machinery) He told me that he fell in love with my eyes. We have been married for 28 years now and even after 5 babies, he still says he loves my eyes.

    I have asked him if he ever thought of the way I wear clothes and he told me that he enjoyed me if I was comfortable, because he wasn't concerned with what I wore but wheather I laughed and had a good time with him.

    Now that I am over 50, I find that when I go out somewhere with him, I want to look nice for him, (nothing tight) he doesn't like that anyway. I don't care what others see as long as I please him and God.

    My work setting is with young people and I wear stuff that is comfortable but still covers up. I don't need 15 year old boys gapping at me. that would feel inappropriate. And I still hate to shop for clothes even though my three daughters enjoy shopping and looking nice.

  27. It's been my experience that every one seems to have have a different opinion on how much modesty is necessary. I attend pool parties with my church family; none of the women ever swim out of respect for the men, and the girls, no matter their age or body type are expected to were T-shirts and shorts over their swimsuits. Have you ever swam in your clothes? Yuck! I agree that we do have a responsibility to our brothers in Christ and males in general to not encourage them to sin but there must be a balance. Modest but beautiful swimsuits can be found for us and our daughters. We just have to look a little harder; heavy wet t-shirts are not the answer. Besides, they cling terribly when they are wet. My boys usually wear a shirt in and out of the pool when we are with others because obviously there is no other way for them to be modest.
    Sorry to rant about this, but this is an area that I struggle to know where the balance is.
    I try to wear clothes that are attractive and modest but sometimes that is difficult to find. Quite often I can modify a top to not be so low cut or simply where a tank top or a plain camisole under it. God made us beautiful. I don't think that hiding our bodies under ill fitting clothes or Burka like garments is the answer. We need to find the balance and when we are unsure about something that we or our daughters want to wear, ask our husbands. They know when we are dressing inappropriately.
    For perspective you should know that I am 43, my daughter is 10 and my boys are 23, 11, and 4.
    Rachel, I hope your research will help all of us be able to find the balance between protecting our brothers eyes and feeling beautiful and feminine.

  28. I have mostly dressed for myself over the years keeping in line however with what's trendy and fashionable at the time. I have been said to dress more modestly even in high school and twenties. Conservative. But to me it's classic taste that looks best on me. I love turtle necks. Not because the cover up, but they are classic and look tailored. Not the frumpy over-sized sweaters, but more fitted but not overly tight. I have two very close friends that I've known for over 30 years. They can get away with wearing short shorts, low cut tops very skimpy clothing. It is to me overly provocative and not age appropriate. They have knock out bodies. I have said on more than one occasion if I had a body like that I might run around naked. Kidding of course. And man do they turn heads when we're out together. It's not always in a good way. They have suggested to me that I should wear something more "appealing", more flirty and fun. I have tried it and just find it makes me uncomfortable showing off all my assets. I like the way I dress. I LOVE CLOTHES. I am drawn to the tailed look. Classic. But enjoy dressing flirty when out with my husband. I dress flirty by choosing a color he loves, and find softer fabrics. Layering is your friend. Wearing clothes that fit are the most flattering. Flirty doesn't mean neck line down to your navel. It means color choice, fabric, texture...etc. No one feels good out and about with frumpy clothes. Well fitting, modest outfits will be in style. I make no apologies for dressing well. I like being noticed as a fashionable well dressed woman. But not because I am dressed "sexy". I am bothered by the younger generation showing too much too soon. Flimsy fabric, too short...and too tight for the size of person. Low cut jeans and flimsy fabric to me just looks cheap. And I'm really not a fan of tattoos on women. Mainstream has gone Extreme in my view. Down to my own daughter. She is 20, very slender, tall and looks great in anything just about. She is somewhat a modest dresser within the trendy side of things. But I think it's because she is seen that way due to her thin body. Not curvy. If you put the same outfit on a curvy body it would look overtly provocative. But since she is slight in build it looks nice, not too tight. She is a beauty for sure. It's her eyes that draw people in not her outfits. Great discussion.

  29. Hey Rachel.

    I responded to your email, but I wasn't sure if you got it. I didn't know if it ended up as "junk" again.


  30. Wow. This is such a good and needed topic for Christian women. I personally love clothes! I love looking good, feeling fashionable. However, this has always been a point of guilt with me. How much time do I spend on myself? How much time to I spend looking, wishing, coveting clothes? Does God want me spending that time on how I look? What is the happy medium? Also, who am I trying to look good for? Is it just for my husband or am I looking for appreciation from others? Several years ago I lost the final pounds that had accumulated after having three children. I got back into a size 4 and at the time was able to afford to buy a new wardrobe, going from 8/10 down to a 4 my pants weren't fitting! However, I feel my attitude shifted a little too much. I honestly was feeling a little too good. Too attractive in my clothes. I enjoyed the comments of how good I looked. Then I realized, could I be causing some of my friends husbands to sin? Could they be looking at me and thinking impure thoughts? Wishing their sweet wives could lose their weight? This has been hitting me hard ever since. I have changed in some ways, not so tight fitting jeans, no bikinis at the beach, etc. But I still struggle with this all of the time. I think that we as Christian women really, really need to re-think our clothing choices and be accountable for them. How are we presenting ourselves at church, which should be a safe place for our husband and son's eyes to worship. What about our dear daughters who need to be guided at their young and impressionable ages. Thank you for this topic and I hope you post your talk at church. Blessings.

    Clothed in thought

  31. Growing up I had a strong scense of style, and everybody in my family took notice of it pretty early on. So my sisters, aunts, mom, and cousins always asked me my opinion of "what to wear and what NOT to wear".

    As the years have gone by I've noticed that I dress strictly to get flattery from family members! I like it when they complement me on the things I have on. It's a self-esteem boost.

  32. I dress professionally at work (I'm a nurse- love those scrubs!), in jeans/t-shirts for errands, and dresses for church. At home, I do dress for my husbands eyes only. He likes to see some skin and I enjoy flirting with him by showing a bit. Wouldn't answer the door like that ;)! But it is a way to show him that I know what he likes and I'm willing to please him with my dress.
    I'm in my late 30's and not thin, so I'm not tempted to try to attract attention with my body/clothes outside of the house.
    This is a great discussion!

  33. My thoughts on how to dress - very much agree with what Allyson. I discuss clothing with my husband too. We look at the store ads from the Sunday paper and I quiz him on how the clothing affects him, what it "says" to him, what he would think if we had a daughter and she wanted to wear clothing like that. It's always an interesting discussion. I dress in classic styled clothing, it's what I'm comfortable in and what I feel is appropriate for who I represent (Jesus). Not saying everyone who believes they represent Jesus, should be wearing classic styled clothing. I do very strongly believe that we need to think about that though - who are we representing and who are we trying to please? Who should be first in our lives? Jesus, our husband, our friends, other men? And I do believe that praying about what to wear is not a silly thing to do. And yes I do think men need to take responsibility for who/what they are looking at and also, agreeing with Manda, that men need to be aware of how their clothing can affect women too. I don't care for the men in underwear ads in the Sunday paper either. Does seeing perfect bodies in underclothing really help us determine what style to wear? Hmmmm. I'm not a prude, I like to feel good about what I'm wearing and I appreciate comments from my husband, but outside of that - be careful. God's word tells us to Guard Our Hearts. Everything we take in, including what we see, goes to our hearts and affects what comes out. Let's run everything through our Jesus filter, including what we wear. My thoughts! :)

  34. I am 25, married and dress modestly. I have gone through lessons of dressing provocatively and even the Lead Pastor at my church has asked me to dress more modest in my earlier years!! This was more embarassing to me than anything! God has really blessed me with not being concerned about fashion at all whatsoever, so I don't concern myself with the fads and things. It's hard because my in-laws are deal getters and shoppers and I'm just not a shopper at all! But, I think they've come to understand that a Saturday for me would NOT be to go out shopping from dawn until dusk! Anyway, I think that modest is hottest! Being married, I don't want anyone to see what ONLY my husband is meant to see. I think that the world view of this has really done a lot to make the youth think that "appearance is everything". But when it comes down to it and when it comes down to eternity, all that matters is what is on the inside and what God sees. The flesh will pass away and like Solomon writes in Proverbs, we are all like one minute, gone the next.

  35. This is all very interesting. I like the show "What Not To Wear" because I think they have some good points to make, however, from a Christian perspective, it is hard to fit their "rules" sometimes. I find it hard enough to find tops that don't show my chest when I pick up my children without wearing turtlenecks year around. I think we all need some tips on which styles are cute and appropriate - which brands or ideas work the best. I struggle with putting together outfits that are cute without wearing 5 layers of tank tops to cover up, while still wearing a cute shirt that I like. These are all good posts and I would look forward to hearing more about this topic...and hearing from Shari.


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