Dressing in a Modest and Attractive Way
FROM the time that Adam and Eve made coverings of fig leaves for themselves in the Garden of Eden, women have been concerned with clothes. A wise woman knows that clothes are an extension of herself and also a means of expression. By her clothing, she can enhance her appearance or she can call undue attention to herself, as if saying: “Hey, look at me!” Yes, a woman’s clothes can speak for her before she ever opens her mouth. Now, what do your clothes say about you?
Money is not the determining factor. When the fit is good, the lines simple and the style suits her particular figure, a woman can be well dressed. A wealthy woman spending a very large amount for a dress may not be as smartly clothed as a woman who makes her own dress for much, much less. An outfit may be expensive, but if it is the wrong color for a woman’s skin and hair, it can detract from rather than enhance her looks. If it emphasizes her bad features, figure-wise, it, too, will not be to her advantage.
These days, with many households feeling the economic pinch, the type of material is also very important. If the item must be dry-cleaned, in contrast with washable materials, the original cost will be multiplied in the several years of wearing. That is why many women have rejected a desirable outfit upon noticing the label “Dry Clean Only.”
Styles Around the World Differ
There can be no universal standard for women’s clothes. What would be appropriate in the South Pacific might raise eyebrows in England. What might be worn on a New York city street may be unacceptable in India. But the attitude of the woman in her choice of clothing does not have to vary according to location. If she wants to dress modestly, she can do so whether she is wearing a beautiful sari of India, the many-skirted apparel of the South Americans, the cheong-sam (slit above the knee) of China, the long robes of the Yugoslavs, or the traditional kimono of Japan. Of course, a woman can be covered from head to toe, but if she walks in a provocative way, she would cease to be modest.
Many countries around the world are copying the Western attire and following its trends, some for the sake of style and others because of necessity. In Iran, for instance, it is not unusual to see Iranian business women smartly dressed in Western outfits. In Honduras, the styles in the larger cities are almost similar to those in the United States. There, pantsuits have become quite popular. But in the smaller towns of Honduras, where the people are poorer and the economic factor predominates, the miniskirt is most popular, simply because it requires less material to make. Of course, some women may like the idea of exposing a good part of their bodies to get male attention. Such a thing would be unacceptable to a woman who desires to dress modestly.
Fads and Their Effect
Styles appear to be ever changing. In reality, however, they remain the same, the styles apparently shifting in twenty-to thirty-year cycles. The “latest” style may be an old style revived with minor changes to catch the unwary. Have you been caught up in the fashion squeeze? Do you find yourself buying and then not wearing many outfits because of quickly tiring of them even though they were the rage at one time? Then you were probably a victim of the fashion squeeze. What can you do to reverse this situation?
Resolve to buy only what you really need or what really fits your taste, your figure, your personality and your pocketbook. Do not fall for the latest fad just because it is new. For example, last summer in the south of France, as well as in Paris, wrinkled paper jumpsuits were sold for $4.50 in a department store. Although they were said to be washable, you can just imagine how expensive such outfits could prove to be in the long run.
Women who refuse to allow themselves to become pawns in the hands of fashion designers who know nothing of their personal needs are not afraid to be different. They choose clothes they like and clothes that serve their purposes. You can do the same. How?
For one thing, analyze your figure realistically. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and be honest in noting your good points and, especially, your bad ones. Then you can determine what you can do to divert attention from the bad points and highlight the good ones. For example, if your hips are particularly noticeable, avoid pleated skirts, which make hips appear larger. If your neck is short, wear square, cowl or V-neck collars instead of the high, round ones. Vertical stripes are more flattering than horizontal ones if you are short or on the heavy side.
The same would hold true if you decide to make your own dresses. As one mother remarked: “I have tried to help my daughter to evaluate her figure honestly and to work accordingly. From the time she started to sew, I helped her to see the difference in our figures and then see what we could do to make up for the bad features and highlight the good ones. I would avoid too much emphasis on the bosom area and she would do the same in the hip area. We can use the same pattern but make different adjustments to fit our individual needs and it works out very well.”
Dress for the Occasion
Another factor to keep in mind is to dress for the occasion. What one would wear for working in the garden would hardly be appropriate for a business meeting. Similarly, leotards or jumpsuits (for indoor exercise) would raise many eyebrows if worn outdoors. The occasion should dictate the outfit, be it in Iceland or Africa, New Zealand or Italy.
A moral woman would not expose her body on the street, but at the beach, a bathing suit would be appropriate. An evening gown would be worn in good taste at a formal affair, but the very same outfit at the seaside would be ridiculous.
Certain styles have recently changed so drastically that clothes being worn now would have been socially and religiously unacceptable but a decade ago. In the past the wearing of pants by women in public was generally considered in the Western world to be masculine and aggressive and was frowned upon. Today the same outfit is part of an acceptable wardrobe in many larger cities of the United States, although still criticized in some circles.
In the business world, for instance, there is a certain reluctance to accept too drastic a change in women’s styles. In the opinion of John T. Molloy, New York clothing designer, business women who ignore the traditional business environment in their choice of clothing actually dress “for failure.” He favors a business uniform for women, being made up of a skirt and matching jacket. “The skirted suit,” he says, “is the most effective main item of apparel in the wardrobe of any woman executive, with the dress and matching jacket following closely behind.”
Many do not take such a stringent view but do advocate a swinging back to the center of the line in styles, since many young women now seeking jobs appear for interviews in blue jeans, halters and other casual wear, to the dismay of many hiring executives.
For many women the pantsuit is quite practical and comfortable when shopping or for informal wear. But in some areas people would view it as unacceptable when, for example, attending religious meetings. A Christian woman is, therefore, wise to take into consideration the attitudes existing in the community where she lives. Thereby she can, to borrow the Bible phrase, ‘recommend herself to every human conscience.’—2 Cor. 4:2.
Besides encouraging that others be taken into consideration, the Bible counsels Christian women “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, . . . in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) When a Christian woman’s apparel causes others to question whether she is true to her religious professions, her clothing obviously is no longer modest. The determining factor in this is not whether the item is a dress, skirt or a pair of slacks but what is expected in that locality of one who ‘professes to reverence God.’
Certain clothing, such as slacks, may be worn by both men and women. When that is the case, care has to be exercised not to wear a style that would make it difficult to distinguish a man from a woman. This would be in line with the spirit the law recorded at Deuteronomy 22:5: “No garb of an able-bodied man should be put upon a woman.”
So, many things determine a woman’s dressing modestly. Important are her attitude, her taste, her choice of material and her dressing to suit the occasion. She should know what is right for her and should stick to that no matter what current style or fad governs. Last, but not least, her quiet, mild, modest manner should shine through to others and her clothes should be a reflection of such modesty.