Fig Leaves, Fashions and Figures—From a Woman’s Wardrobe
Women the world over have long sought to present a pleasing appearance through clothing. Some of the customs and ways this is accomplished are as different as the people themselves and come in such a delightful array of colors and styles to behold—the feminine kimonos of Japan, the beautiful saris of India, the splashes of color in African dress, the bright Indian blankets and the interesting bowler hats of Bolivia, to name just a few. However, in some parts of the world, just having sufficient clothing is a major concern for women—regardless of what it looks like. In other parts of the globe, clothing is more abundant, but then so are the styles to choose from, causing confusion for many and possibly a materialistic approach.
The following article offers some suggestions that will perhaps appeal more to the women in Western countries, whereas the principles given for modest dress touch women from the remotest villages of Africa and the towns of Chile all the way to the large cities of the developed nations. While dress codes differ according to climate and/or local custom, whatever clothing is chosen should always be appropriate and worn with the dignity due the honored position of being a woman.
DO NOT judge a book by its cover—a familiar statement warning against the perils of passing judgment based on mere outward appearance. The fact is, however, people do form opinions based on what they initially see. And whether or not the book ever gets read may well depend on how inviting the cover is.
And so it goes with people. First impressions may not be correct, or even fair, but they often are the factor determining success or failure, credibility or lack of it. As one researcher on the effect of clothing said: “What people see—not what they hear—has a far greater impact.”
But if such judgment is not always fair, does it matter how a woman dresses? How can she determine if certain clothing is modest or appropriate for a particular occasion? How can she tell the difference between fads and styles that are truly attractive on her? Let us examine these questions—and then our closets!
The fact that a particular look or style is the thing to wear does not mean that we need to accept it readily without further scrutiny. Why, then, do many of us find ourselves so gullibly donning whatever the fashionmongers and designers dictate?
Acceptability. It is natural to want to be liked and accepted by others. And the fashion industry, particularly in developed countries, has promoted this desire by creating a false and fickle standard of what is beautiful. Each season new fads are pushed on the public in an attempt to establish what will make you “acceptable,” in vogue—whether you look good in it or not. But a woman should ask herself, ‘Does this style really suit me?’ And even when a certain garment does look attractive on you, there is something else to consider.
Accountability. While the fashion world may promote the anything-goes philosophy, much of the business world does have a dress code. For instance, regarding Western countries, notice the hefty list of don’ts from magazines and books on proper dress for a job interview: Don’t wear slacks or too much makeup. Don’t be flamboyant (wild hairdo, long red nails). Don’t wear a low-cut dress or blouse. Never reveal bare shoulders or bare back. Don’t wear too short a skirt, below the knee is best. Don’t wear hose with runs. Don’t wear noisy, jangly jewelry. Don’t wear party clothes. Don’t wear anything faddish, extreme. And if such suggestions are useful to the businesswoman, they could also benefit a Christian woman in her preaching activities. Every time she engages in her career as a minister, she is being interviewed. If actions speak louder than words, then clothing has a powerful pair of lungs.
Adaptability. Just as excessively faddish clothing will detract from us and any message we present to others, so, too, will a very old-fashioned, outdated appearance. But adaptability—taking attractive, modest styles and fitting them to our figure and life-style—will create a radiant, confident woman who is happy with herself. But how do you do that?
Fig Leaves and Figure Flaws
Fig leaves? They were first on the fashion scene and inappropriate from the start. (Genesis 3:7, 21) Fig leaves were immodest. But many women want to enhance their appearance, and yet to do that so many have to deal with those nasty little things called figure flaws!
Balance is the key word. By using proportion, color and style, you can balance out the discrepancies, thus creating an illusion.
Proportion: You are trying to average out your overall figure through clothing. Do not concentrate on one particular flaw at the expense of putting everything else out of proportion. Decide what you need to make you appear larger or smaller, then fit your clothing so as to compensate.
Color: Proper use of color can also fool the eye. Some colors pick up your complexion, while others make it look washed out. The eye will be attracted to a complimentary skin/color combination rather than to figure flaws.
Style: Here we must first see which styles fall within the principles of modest dress and thereby rule out the ‘fig leaves.’ Of course, keep in mind that styles and customs vary from country to country, so review these principles in the light of your local community. One of these is: ‘Recommend yourself to every human conscience.’ (2 Corinthians 4:2) Would a particular style “recommend” us in our community as tasteful, modest, Christian ministers? Or what about the Bible’s reference to “the garment of a prostitute”? (Proverbs 7:10) Labeling some styles “fashion” does not change the image they project. “Well-arranged dress, with . . . soundness of mind” is advised. (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) Does the style suggest “soundness of mind” for our age and/or the occasion?
To test a style for modesty, stand in front of a full-length mirror, if possible, viewing yourself from all angles. Bend forward. Sit down. Cross your legs. In each position, did the garment remain modest? Would you wear it to a job interview or before prominent officials? Next stand before the mirror (or a friend) with a bright light behind you. If the material is thin or slightly sheer, do your undergarments keep it modest when the light hits you (as would sunlight or other strong light)? Or are they just as thin or sheer, thereby rendering the garment immodest? Do you feel comfortable in it? When in doubt, do without.
For overall balance some general guidelines are:
● Dark colors slim and elongate
● Bright colors tend to enlarge, attract the eye
● All one color gives unbroken line that is long and lean
● Tight clothes accentuate both underweight and overweight bodies. Fabric should skim the body to flow gracefully. Skirts and the like should fit smoothly to middle of buttocks, then flow down, not hugging, touching or cupping. For best looks and comfort, no matter what size you are, clothing should be worn slightly loose.
● Skirt length appropriate to leg if just skims back of leg where calf begins to curve in. (About one to two inches below the knee.) However, many women are more comfortable with a lower hemline. Hemlines too high cut legs short and may be ‘fig leaves’ if immodestly high. And consider, too, that in countries such as Burma or India a hemline revealing the ankles may qualify as a ‘fig leaf.’
Now add the finishing touches with accessories. These should be uncluttered—better understated than overdone.
One magazine showed a basic, classic suit from which five completely different, but stunning, outfits were made by simply changing the accessories. And that is the key to dressing on a shoestring budget. Start with basic, classic styles, even if you own only one dress, streamlined to your shape and coloring, and then dress it up or down with jewelry, scarves, shawls, belts, handbags, jackets, stockings, shoes, and so forth. One does not need to own all these accessories; just one simple ribbon can create a new outfit and a happy mood!
Like clothing, accessories should receive proper attention and fit the occasion. Scuffed, unpolished shoes would be fine for gardening but not for business appointments or dressy events. Check that there are no runs in your stockings. What about handbags? Are they tattered, torn and overstuffed, with straps taped together, or are they clean and comfortably filled? Broken, chipped fingernails with peeling nail polish will ruin the nicest outfit. And the loveliest of appearances can be lost if hair, hats or wigs are not clean, neat and appropriate. Otherwise, you may find that people remember the sore spot rather than you or anything you said.
One accessory not to be overlooked is good posture. Your clothes will look better if your posture does.
Head for the Closet Before the Store
With all this information you should run straight out to the store, right? Wrong. March straight to your closet. We are going to empty it, sort through what you have and learn how to combine new outfits from existing clothes. Did you know that from 12 articles of clothing you can create 48 different outfits?
But all of that in the next issue of this magazine, so do not empty your closet yet! See you in two weeks.