Reflecting Christ Through Our Clothing: A Pendulum Post

This is a touchy subject that can sometimes cause emotions to run high.  Why?  What we wear often communicates to the world who we are.  And we instinctively know that.  We have our reasons for purchasing a certain style of skirt or blouse over a different style.  What we wear is sort of a “signature,” so if someone speaks out in favor or in disfavor of what we are wearing, we take it personally.

Think about it.  Most of us go to our closet in the morning and make a decision about what we will wear that day based on the day’s duties, yes, but also based on what we want to say about ourselves in relation to those duties.  Staying home?  We tend to think “comfortable”.  Going to the grocery store?  We avoid the jeans with the hole in the knee…or the skirt with the stain on the side…and go for something a little more presentable.  (When we don’t, we are destined to run into an old high school acquaintance.) Going to church?  We’ll get dressy.  A night out with our husband?  The sweater we know he loves.

We identify with our clothes.  When we dress like a slob, we tend to FEEL slobby.  When we dress to the hilt, we feel pretty.  We KNOW that what we wear is not really “who we are”.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that the clothes we wear send a message to those around us.  The question is…

What message are we sending?

This is not a profound thought.  It’s pretty basic.  What is the teenager dressed in black saying?  The woman on the street corner at night?  The boy with the purple hair?  The man wearing a dress?  The girl in baggy pants and an over sized sweatshirt?  They are all saying something.  And whether or not they admit it, they all WANT what they are wearing to say it.

Let’s go swinging…

On the one hand, you have Christian women defending their right to go out in public in the equivalent of a bra and panties, something unheard of 100 years ago even among unbelievers.  (Hey, I knew a missionary couple who went naked in another country to reach naked people for Christ.  Yes, this pendulum swings far and high.)  On the other hand, you have Christians arguing the finer points of dressing which include, but are not limited to:

  • Skirts vs. pants?
  • Are pantyhose sinful?
  • Skirt length…below the knee, or below the ankle?
  • Long hair or short hair?
  • Jewelery or no jewelery?
  • Floral prints or plain fabric?

This list could go on, but we’ll stop there.

When we look at any issue, we want to view it from God’s eternal and all -wise perspective, not Wemmicks’ short sighted and often silly perspective.  So let’s look at the issue of clothing from God’s perspective right now.  How do we know what God’s perspective is?  He lovingly lets us know in His written Word to mankind.

First of all, since our clothing communicates something, we’ll look at what God wants our lives to communicate to those around us and see if our clothing is in harmony with those messages.  Secondly, we’ll discuss the two main guidelines God gives to us in His Word regarding clothing and how we can apply those guidelines to 21st century life on earth.  (God does not expect us to don a tunic and sandals, a fur trimmed Burgundian gown, a kimono, a lace collared poet’s blouse, a corset, a petticoat, or a poodle skirt.  He doesn’t have a style preference that is rooted in a certain culture or time in history.)

Picture This

Read the following verses, and while you are reading, picture a white, sandy beach dotted with beautiful babes in all their bare skinned, curvacious glory.  Christian babes, mind you.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  (Colossians 3:17)

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  (Romans 12:9-10)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)

Is it just me, or does anything strike you as odd about that picture while you’re reading Scripture?  Are the half naked sirens (Christian sirens – don’t forget) communicating what God desires them to be communicating with their lives?  Are they loving others in accordance with II Corinthians 13?  Are they honoring their Creator?  Are they honoring others?  Are they conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the shed blood of Christ?  Are they spurring men on toward love and good deeds?  Are their bodies inspiring others toward thoughts of the Risen Savior?  Are they representing the Lord Jesus Christ, our Holy Creator and King?

Recently our family, which includes one man (my husband) and two teen aged sons, sat behind a lovely, slim young thing wearing a mini skirt and fish net pantyhose in church.  She slowly sipped from her water bottle periodically, and I admired her long slender fingers and even longer, blood red fingernails as they beautifully and seductively wrapped themselves around the bottle.   I kept glancing at my men-folk…hoping they weren’t noticing this nymph while her fish net leg swung back and forth like a – well – a  net.

I couldn’t help but feel indignation rising up within me as I contemplated how easy it would be for my husband and sons to be thinking about HER instead of the Savior during our worship service.   And while I’m certain she didn’t dress that morning with the full intention of seducing several men at church…that is what she was doing.  I know I was mesmerized.

I’ve heard some women rail on men for being seduced so easily.  Why shouldn’t we be able to prance about with wiggling parts wagging in everyone’s faces in LIBERTY without all these disgusting men looking at us?  Shame on THEM.  I should be able to dangle whatever I want to in front of whomever’s nose I want to…and expect full respect and ignorance at my curvy parts.  Right?

The bottom line is that when we are practically naked in mixed company, there will be immorality taking place.  Jesus said if a man even looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultery with her.  (Matthew 5:28)  What to do?  Does this mean we can’t go half naked in public anymore?  WE CAN NEVER SWIM AGAIN?

I’m not telling you what to do here.  That’s God’s job.  I’m not even going to tell you what WE do.  I’m just trying to present the Truth about this issue, and you’ll have to go to the Lord and work out the details with Him.  It may look different in your family than it does in another family.  But transformation starts with honesty.  Honesty within yourself, and honesty before God.

God’s Word on Clothing

…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.  (I Timothy 2:9-10)

Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  (I Peter 3:3-4)

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.  (Deuteronomy 22:5)

So what is God telling us here?  Some people interpret this to mean that women’s pants are sinful, braids are sinful, jewelery is sinful, and clothing is sinful.  Well, hold on a minute – not the clothing part – but the other parts.  Confusing?  Not if you use some common sense.  Let’s look first at what these passages are obviously saying for sure, and then we’ll talk about the confusing parts.

For sure He is saying that IF WE PROFESS GODLINESS…meaning that IF WE SAY WE ARE REPRESENTING GOD WITH OUR LIVES:

  • We should dress.  That’s right.  We should wear clothes.  No naked evangelistic techniques required.
  • The clothing should be “respectable.”
  • In our selection of clothing, we should exercise “modesty” and “self-control.”
  • We shouldn’t dress like men.
  • Our primary focus should not be on our outward appearance, but on our inward attitudes.  We should be involved in good works done with a gentle and quiet spirit.  Gentle.  Quiet.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Sort of the opposite of the hysterical freaking out we sometimes do when our “rights” to do as we please are being limited.

Which kind of woman do you admire and respect?  I Peter is clear that GOD finds the gentle and quiet one “precious”.  Precious to God.  I long to be that kind of woman.  Gentle, quiet, and precious to God.  Fully surrendered.  What do you want, my Lord?  Yes.  You can have it.  All of it.  All of me.  I’m Yours.  Bought with the blood of Christ.  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Two Confusing Parts:

1.  When God says He doesn’t want women to dress like men, does that mean women can’t wear pants?  I think we’d all agree that by “pants” we mean a clothing item that has a seam that runs between the legs.  This passage in Deuteronomy doesn’t use the word “pants.”  It uses the word “man’s garment.”  I take this at face value to mean clothing that only a man would be associated with wearing in any given culture down through history.  That will look differently depending on the time and place in history that we are talking about.  

If this intrigues you, you can do a study of this with your daughters and perhaps discuss what sorts of clothing God would find appropriate for the women and the men in each of those time periods/cultures.  Since we live in America in the 21st century, we can look at the various clothing styles that are associated with ONLY WOMEN – and select from those options.  My husband wouldn’t sport the pants hanging in my closet if you paid him a million dollars.  Why?  He would tell you – only women would wear those pants.  Or men who were cross dressing.

Now if you have personal convictions between you and the Lord that you must only wear skirts, then you stick to that.  But I don’t think an objective, Biblical case can be made that all pants are off limits to all womenYou COULD make an objective, Biblical case that SOME pants are off limits to Christian women.  What would those be?  Immodest pants.  Pants that show off body parts.  Pants that men would be happy to wear.

But aren’t ALL pants immodest?  No.  Not all pants show off body parts – and I’ve seen women wear pants that are quite flowing and feminine with lovely tunic style tops that cover their derrieres beautifully.  In addition, some very modest women put bloomers on their little girls for the sake of modesty.  Bloomers are pants!  Girls’ pants!  Do you see what kind of conundrums we Wemmicks get into every time we take the Word of God and read into it something that isn’t there?

2. Is God saying we can’t braid our hair or wear jewelry? 

I’d like to quote Kyle Butt, M.A. of Apologetics Press on this topic:

Paul described the converse of “modest” by mentioning three things that many first-century women were using to draw undue attention to themselves: braided hair, gold, and costly clothing.

In the first century, many women were plaiting elaborate hair designs that would take hours to “construct” and weave. One writer, in describing such first-century hair designs, wrote:

Talk about high maintenance! During the late first century, the Flavian style of Julia, daughter of Titus fashioned the court with curls arranged on crescent-shaped wire frames. The back hair was divided into sections, braided, then curled. Sometimes the hair was coiled without braiding (see Roman…, 2002).

Apparently, some women were turning the worship assemblies into fashion shows, attempting to “one-up” their contemporaries with flashy, expensive clothes and costly gold jewelry. Instead of this gaudiness, Paul instructed the women to adorn themselves in that “which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”

So there you have it.  What God is basically saying is…don’t be a show off.  Don’t draw attention to YOURSELF.  Bring glory to GOD!  When people look at us, they should see the love of the Lord Jesus Christ radiating from our faces.  Our clothing should not distract them from seeing Christ.  Our clothing and jewelry should not scream, “LOOK AT ME!”  We should blend in (modestly and femininely) when it comes to our outward appearance, and we should stick out when it comes to our love for Christ and our love for others.

The Bottom Line

Sisters, you were created with purpose and meaning.   If you belong to God, then you are a King’s daughter.  You have a destiny.  Your life on earth will be brief, but the way you live it will impact the universe either for the honor and glory of your Father, or in such a way that brings Him dishonor and blasphemes His Word to the world around you.

In the way you dress, live up to your role as a royal ambassador of the King of kings.  Rise to the noble calling on your life.  Hold your feminine, God-honoring head high with godly nobility and courage.  And know that you are precious to God.

Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, You Can Do it Too! 25 Families Share Their Stories, and The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking.

You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program.

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13 thoughts on “Reflecting Christ Through Our Clothing: A Pendulum Post

  1. WOW! I could not have said this better if I had worked on trying for a year! ;) I posted recently about why I wear (mostly, almost only) skirts. My reasoning is not a conviction from the Lord necessarily as I feel the same way you do about scripture in regards to skirt wearing. I think this post depicts beautifully the motive and action behind dressing modestly. I plan to share this on Facebook and thank you so much for taking the time to write it!

    • Thanks Blair! I love skirts on women, and I think the options available have really opened up in recent years for more modern looking, yet modest, beautiful, tasteful skirts. While I don’t wear them all the time, I do feel more like a woman in them…and I admire the loveliness of others who wear them. Like you stated, a Biblical argument can’t me made that we MUST wear them…BUT…they certainly do lend themselves to an air of genteel grace and beauty that can often reflect a gentle heart as well. Therefore, their presence in our closet is certainly something to consider…!!!! ; )

  2. Great job of getting to the heart of the issue. While we should avoid legalism, in our day we should perhaps fear even more failure to hear and do the word of God. Like the foolish man. Doug Wilson says obedience is a good word and a good thing as long as we don’t think we will get credit for it. We do it by God’s grace from start to finish.

    • Jeanenette ,
      I appreciate your statement “While we should avoid legalism, in our day we should perhaps fear even more failure to hear and do the word of God. ”
      It’s interesting, to me, that wearing long modest skirts(because of preference), can be viewed as “legalistic.” I grew up in a non- Christian home with a liberal feminist mother . God saved me as a 29 years old as a wife and Mama of three sons, as I grew in the Lord I have loved and embraced that He created me to be a woman. Personally wearing skirts makes me feel so feminine. :))

  3. This is truly an eloquently written post. It ties in personal experience and Biblical references to remind us why Christians should dress modestly. I also like how you remind us to work out our own convictions by praying and talking to God.

  4. I really liked the gentle way you approached this subject. I myself, only wear skirts out of conviction. When I started I hestitated to wear them because I didn’t want to be seen as a legalist so I would often change the subject when asked why do I only wear skirts. Now I started saying, I wanted to embrace my feminity. I like how one dear sister put it, I’m apart of a resistance movement. Resisting the cultural view of women and embracing God’s design for women.

  5. Thank you for this lovely reminder that we women are truly the King’s Daughters and that very King has designed us to be beautiful as women–without flaunting or parading ourselves. It is so very eye-opening to realize that even the way that we dress as Christian women can be such an impacting way to bring glory to the Savior who died for us.

  6. Thank you for all your wisdom in this post! I read it to our girls (17 & 12) over breakfast & lunch today! It made for a great discussion, answered some questions & confirmed what we already felt as true! :)

    • There is a lot of food for thought in that article. It actually expresses some of what I’ve been thinking about more recently. I’m not sure I have formulated any clear conclusions for myself yet, but I would say for sure that modesty is about who we worship. And it isn’t just for women. A modest person is focused primarily on their Creator, not themselves or other humans. Again, I would agree with getting rid of the gender distinction. Thanks for commenting, Julia.