Young People Ask . . .
What’s the Secret of Choosing the Right Clothes?
MIKE knows how to pick quality garments—and how to get them at a good price. At times his family members even ask him to shop for them! On one shopping trip, he picked out dresses for his mother, married sister, and eight-year-old niece—the right sizes and the styles that they wanted! While he was at it, he picked up a new bathrobe for himself at one fourth its regular price. For Mike, this was no ordeal but a real pleasure.
Maybe you don’t have Mike’s zest for shopping. But like most young people, you probably want to look your best at school, work, and play. The problem is, the mere fact that a certain style is considered fashionable among youths does not mean it is the right thing to wear, nor is purchasing the “in thing” necessarily the best use of your money. So, assuming that your parents allow you the freedom to select your own clothes, here are a few tips on how to select and purchase the right clothes.
Choosing the Right “Costume”
First, let’s dispose of the idea that anything goes when it comes to clothing. You are getting older, and the prospects of making a living and perhaps supporting a family loom ahead of you. How you dress will affect not only your employment prospects but also the way you will be viewed and treated by others. More important, we Christians are “not to be pleasing ourselves,” but we should be concerned about how what we do—or wear—affects others.—Romans 15:1.
Proverbs 25:20 speaks of one “removing a garment on a cold day.” How inappropriate! It is equally inappropriate to wear a stylish garment that simply does not fit the occasion. An actor in a stage play carefully selects a costume to fit his role. And in real life, the roles we play often require different “costumes.” For example, are you going on a job interview? Then a business suit may be the appropriate attire. Are you going to school? Then the look you want may be casual but neat nonetheless.
Millie, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, attended a school where violence was prevalent. Dressing as if headed for a Christian meeting would have made her overly conspicuous. So she wore a modest pair of jeans during school hours, as that was accepted at her school. But since she engaged in Bible educational work after classes, she took along a dress. Change of role, change of attire.
Youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses give particular thought to what they wear at Christian meetings and in their public preaching work. For example, jeans and sneakers, which may serve quite well at school, are out of place during formal worship; they detract from one’s claim to being a minister of God.—Compare 2 Corinthians 6:3.
The Value of Dressing Conservatively
Young Rudy’s philosophy on clothing may surprise you. Says he: “I like the kind of clothing people have been wearing for the past 50 years.” Hopelessly old-fashioned? Not at all. Rudy has learned that though ‘the scene of the world is changing,’ basic styles rarely change. (1 Corinthians 7:31) His rule is: Wear nothing so in that it soon becomes out! “This way, you’re always in style,” advises Rudy.
Experts agree. Consultant Amelia Fatt, for example, says that conservative cuts are a “better investment.” They are not readily outdated because the look isn’t so specific. As a bonus, it is usually easier to coordinate conservative styles with other items in your wardrobe.
Some modern styles are inappropriate for Christians. Others are in good taste. Assuming that your parents approve, if you find that a stylish item not only looks good on you but goes well with other items in your wardrobe, you may want to consider wearing it. But beware of being a slave of fashion! Fashion consultant Carole Jackson observes: “If you follow fashion trends to be ‘in,’ even when the current trend does not suit you, you are cheating yourself.”
There are other advantages to being conservative in dress. Some young women find that this discourages sexual harassment in school and at the workplace. Furthermore, a youth who sticks to traditional styles will more than likely be viewed by others as mature, stable, not as one who is tossed around by every wind of fad and fashion.
Tammy, for example, is a young woman serving as a full-time evangelizer. Although high hemlines are quite the rage where she lives, she says, “For me, slightly below the knee is a comfortable length.” This accords with Christian modesty. (1 Timothy 2:9) Of course, standards of modesty vary throughout the world. And if you’re in doubt as to whether a certain style is appropriate or not, talk it over with a parent or an older friend.
“By skillful direction carry on your war,” advises the Bible at Proverbs 20:18. Skillful direction is required even in matters as mundane as shopping. For example, do you have difficulty finding clothes that flatter you? You can get skillful direction simply by making a trip to a public library and doing some research! There are books and articles that can help you to use different cuts, colors, and styles of clothing to compensate for problems in facial shape, neck length, figure, and so forth.
What about the quality of the garments you purchase? Though Jesus Christ was quite poor materially when on earth, he evidently wore a garment of such high quality that his executioners cast lots over who would confiscate it! (John 19:23, 24) Similarly, you should endeavor to stick to quality garments, even if your funds are limited and you have to save up before buying. In the long run, a costlier quality garment that gives you years of use may be cheaper than a short-lived “bargain.”
How can you develop an eye for quality? Try browsing in the more expensive stores that specialize in quality garments. Get to know the look and feel of good clothes. Says the book Elegance: “Do not be taken in by a name; the clothing must stand on its own feet . . . Poor quality, regardless of the imprimature, is no bargain.” Feel the material. Inspect the collar, lining, and button holes. Look for reinforced stitching.
Mike (mentioned at the outset) has developed an eye for quality. Thus, he recognized that the bargain bathrobe was a true bargain! However, “don’t be seduced by ‘bargains,’” warns Amelia Fatt. One full-price sweater that can be worn with several items in your wardrobe may give you more service than a “bargain” sweater that matches nothing. Proverbs 21:5 says: “Everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” Avoid buying when you’re in a hurry. Shop when the stores aren’t crowded. Know in advance what you are looking for. The more you have in mind the fabric, style, color, and price you want, the less likely you are to be sidetracked into buying something you don’t really need.
Store clerks can be of great help if you state your specific needs. (Indeed, it was with the help of a saleslady that Mike was able to purchase clothes for the female members of his family.) But do not let salespeople flatter you into going against your better judgment. “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.”—Proverbs 14:15.
Be appropriately dressed and groomed when you shop. How can you tell if a suit jacket looks good if you try it on over a T-shirt? Or how can you decide if a gown or a dress is flattering if you’re wearing sneakers? One writer even alleges that when you are sloppily dressed, salespeople tend to “assume that you are a person with limited taste and/or no money to spend,” and they will concentrate on other customers.
Finally, you may find that oftentimes “two are better than one” when shopping. (Ecclesiastes 4:9) A friend or a parent can tell you how a garment looks from behind, whether it is too loose, too tight, or in some other way immodest.
The More Important Things
At Philippians 1:10, Christians are exhorted to “make sure of the more important things.” The truly important things in life center on having a knowledge of God—not clothing. Sad to say, some youths may be impeccably dressed but slovenly in their ability to make public declaration of their faith.
So while it’s good to be a smart shopper and to look as presentable as your finances allow, concentrate on becoming a mature Christian. Learn to live that role, and dressing for it will come naturally.
[Picture on page 10]
Trendy clothes go out of style quickly. Conservative styles for various functions tend to last