Young People Ask . . .
Do My Clothes Reveal the Real Me?
“A LOT of us have had sex and done drugs,” wrote a 14-year-old to a newspaper columnist. “But you have no right to think that all teenagers do,” he continued. “A lot of teenagers don’t.”
You, too, may resent the notion that all teenagers are pot smokers and promiscuous. Maybe you’ve seen the effects drugs and illicit sex have had on your friends and want a better way of life for yourself. Tired of being judged as a “teenager,” you may want to be viewed as an individual. And as an individual you may feel you have the right to decide what you’ll wear.
What appearance do you give to others? Some, by their choice of clothing, unwittingly give others the wrong impression. “The way we dress,” says researcher John T. Molloy, “has a remarkable impact on the people we meet and greatly affects how they treat us.”
People do “look at things according to their face value.” (2 Corinthians 10:7) It would be unwise to ignore this basic fact of human nature. So do you reveal the “real you” by the way you dress? What guides your selection of clothes?
“In” Today—Obsolete Tomorrow
The winds of change are very temperamental when it comes to styles and fashion. What is “in” today is often obsolete tomorrow. Over the past few years, in some countries love beads have given way to neck chains, granny glasses to contact lenses, miniskirts to slit skirts, wide lapels to narrow lapels and tapered slacks to straight-legged slacks. The Bible well describes how life is, saying: “The scene of this world is changing.”—1 Corinthians 7:31.
‘But is it wrong to be in style?’ you might ask. People who look to the Bible for guidance would answer: ‘Not necessarily.’ Servants of God in Bible times attired themselves according to local tastes. For example, the Bible says that Tamar wore a striped robe, “for that was the way the daughters of the king, the virgins, used to dress” in those days.—2 Samuel 13:18.
However, some become enslaved to style, becoming frustrated if they cannot wear certain styles or brand names. As one young girl lamented: “You see in a store a great pair of pants that everybody else has and you say, ‘Mom, get me those pants,’ and she says, ‘No, I can make them at home.’ I say, ‘But you don’t understand. I want these pants.’”
The recent designer-jean fad illustrates how easily people are manipulated. Jeans suddenly became high fashion. A baffling array of blue jeans sporting the names of designers such as Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt came on the scene. People were, and still are, willing to pay extravagant prices for pants that, in effect, turned them into walking billboards.
Why? “People want a name,” says Eli Kaplan, quoted in Newsweek magazine. He is president of the company manufacturing “Sergio Valente” jeans. Who, then, is this Mr. Valente, whose prestigious name is so conspicuously sewn on jean pockets? “He doesn’t exist,” reports Newsweek. “Who was going to buy Eli Kaplan jeans?” asks Mr. Kaplan.
Succumbing to every whim of fashion designers can strip you of your individuality, obscure the real you. So don’t let yourself be controlled by provocative ads and slogans. Instead, consider carefully the counsel found in the Bible at Romans 12:2: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
What is the ‘acceptable will of God’ when it comes to your choice of clothing? Does the Bible give guidelines?
‘Modest and Well Arranged’
Christians today are not bound by stringent dress codes. First Timothy 2:9, however, encourages Christians to “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.”
“Well-arranged dress” would naturally be neat and clean. “Modesty” takes into consideration circumstances and the feelings of others. A well-tailored suit may be appropriate for your job, though out of place at the beach. Conversely, swim wear would hardly be considered modest in an office.
Some lack consideration for the feelings of others and consider only how they personally feel. But the Bible reminds us: “‘Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:29) If you’re not sure a certain outfit is appropriate, don’t be afraid to ask your parents for advice. You want to be sure your clothing reveals the real you!
Appropriate dress can also help to impress others favorably. For example, the Bible tells of Queen Esther’s needing to appear before her husband, the king. Such an unbidden appearance was a capital offense! Esther thus fasted and no doubt fervently prayed for God’s help. She also gave attention to her appearance by “dressing up royally.” And “as soon as the king saw Esther the queen standing in the courtyard, she gained favor in his eyes.”—Esther 5:1, 2.
Your being dressed in an appropriate manner might thus help you make a good impression at a job interview. But what is appropriate? Vicki L. Baum, director of a Career Development Center, observes: “Some women get confused when they go for an interview. They think it’s like going on a date, and they look seductive.” The results? “It takes away from your professionalism.” She therefore recommends: “Forget about the slits in your dresses, your sweater dresses, things that are tight or suggestive or sexy in any way.”
Young men, too, should strive to wear well-arranged clothing when job hunting. Writer John T. Molloy says that successful businessmen, whom you likely will encounter, “have their hair combed and their shoes shined. And they expect the same of other men.”
Immodest attire can damage your relationships with others. Psychology Today refers to a survey taken among adolescents that showed “a lowcut top, shorts, tight jeans, or no bra” would likely be interpreted by males as a sexual come-on. As one young man confessed: “I personally find it rather hard to think only pure thoughts about younger women when I see the way they dress.” Following the Bible’s counsel to dress modestly allows people to appreciate your inner qualities. Wouldn’t you rather be attractive to others because of the way you are inside, rather than merely because of how you look?
Of course, there may be times when being physically attractive seems to go a long way. Yet, you need not be preoccupied with your outward appearance. Remember, it’s the inner person that is important. The apostle Peter thus encouraged Christians to let their adornment be “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God”—yes, and in the eyes of others!—1 Peter 3:4.
Do your clothes, therefore, reveal the real you? Or are you sending out the wrong message? Do you let people see your inner beauty? One who is inwardly beautiful will be attractive to others—even if the clothes are not of the latest style or are “tattooed” with silly, even phony, designer labels.
Who knows what fad will next send youths stampeding into the stores? You, however, can be different, no longer enslaved to the thinking of others. Your holding to high standards of dress and conduct will gradually gain for you the respect of others. Best of all, you will be developing a personality that is pleasing in the eyes of God. And, after all, that’s what really counts, isn’t it?
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“Mom, I have to have these pants”
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Modest attire can cause others to treat you with greater respect