Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

3.05.2010

For the Love of a Swirly Dress

This article is in long response to the suggestions of many of you that we write something on modesty, beauty, and style! Enjoy!

I must have been around ten years old when I bought my coloring book of Civil War Fashions. It was full of pen and ink drawings of huge dresses taken straight from the fashion books of the day, and it was a treasure trove to me. As I intricately and painstakingly colored in each dress, I vowed to myself that when I was a grown woman I would wear these sorts of dresses every day. I don’t. I have a closet very full of decidedly modern jean skirts and tops, but I’ve still found unexpected allies in my love for beautiful dresses along the way. There was the girl, dressed in a very trendy outfit, who shocked me by declaring that she wished we could all just wear hoop skirts and huge fluffy dresses. There was the middle-aged woman, never before seen in a dress, who wore a new one to a concert and declared that she just has to give a dress the “swirl” test before she can buy it. And who can forget Anne of Green Gables, a classic tomboy in her own right, who pined for a dress with puffed sleeves and nearly cried over it when Matthew gave it to her. Just what did God put in us girls that makes us giggle with delight to put on a beautiful dress? I don’t know how He did it, but He gave each and every one of us the love of beauty.

Sadly, although my “allies” in the love of beauty are prevalent, so is the twisting of that beauty. In fact, this perversion of beauty is not a new thing, for even several hundred years ago one can find dresses with twenty yards of fabric for the skirt and practically none for the top. This is downright sin and does little more than peddle a woman's body for all to gawk at. God created women to love how He made us and to love beauty (for He is the epitome of beauty!), but beautiful above all pretty dresses is a modest one: feminine, “swirly”, but covering. This is truly beautiful! John Piper addresses the purpose and Garden-of-Eden-origin of clothes poignantly in his article "The Rebellion of Nudity and the Meaning of Clothing":
“Our clothes are a witness both to our past and present failure and to our future glory. They testify to the chasm between what we are and what we should be. And they testify to God’s merciful intention to bridge that chasm through Jesus Christ and his death for our sins.”

If our clothes are a witness and testimony created by God, then my morning clothing choices are way more important than I ever before thought! They can send the message that I recognize mankind’s sin and lost innocence and that I need to be covered both by clothing and Christ’s blood. However, they can also send the opposite message—one of rebellion, sensuality, and cheapness. So how is it even possible to make the right choice of clothing that will both fulfill the tall order God gave it and fulfill the love of beauty God gave us?

I have made many mistakes in clothing choices, but my first and foremost safeguard is to always talk to my father. When I was about fourteen or fifteen, we had some very long and serious discussions on this topic—laying down the ground rules in black and white about what Papa considers modest and wants to see his four daughters wearing. There was a time when it was incredibly hard, when all I could see were all the godly young women around me wearing what I knew I shouldn’t wear. There were times (and still are times!) when I would arrive at an event and instantly start comparing myself to others and feeling out-of-place. My wise mother, however, brought me back to what is important when she asked me to list all the godly young women who do wear modest, yet beautiful clothing. They were my heroes and my example! Now I feel the importance of being that example for those girls who are coming up behind me—what an awesome responsibility we have even in something as simple as our attire!

Talking to my father about modesty is essential because he has the unique insight of a man. I had one particular skirt in my closet that my dad agreed that I could wear, but every time I wore it, he would comment on it. This was, of course, one of my favorite skirts, and to my eyes it was simply feminine and beautiful. To him, however, it appeared as something completely different, because God has wired him differently! So one day, I decided that the skirt simply wasn't worth it, and I just needed to submit. So now the skirt resides in the back of my closet, presumably gathering a good collection of dust. Whenever I’m ordering some clothes online and have the slightest doubt about whether something is appropriate or not, I ask Papa to come in and give his verdict. By now I have a pretty good idea of what he likes and what he doesn’t, and I try to honor that, not because he is some sort of domineering man who wants his children dressed in uniform, but because I know he loves me and wants to protect me.

So modesty is my first criteria in picking out what to wear, but the second is that I love it and feel beautiful and feminine in it! For example, I’m not really a jumper kind of a girl, so, although they’re lovely on other girls, I rarely wear one. However, a jean skirt, cardigan, paisley scarf, and boots is my idea of a beautiful outfit. And I definitely can’t wait to break out my summer skirts, flip-flops and white blouses! So develop your own sense of style and don’t buy something that you aren’t going to love.

Beautiful modesty, unfortunately, is becoming a lost art. We were recently on a hunt for modest dresses, and we searched for hours and hours before we even found candidates! This one was too short, this one too low of a neck, this one too dowdy, this one too expensive….We live in a society where it is fashionable to show skin and desirable for men to stare at you. We live in a culture where women demean themselves in the name of style, flaunting their bodies and becoming objects of sensuality. Sir Cecil Beaton pithily described mini-skirts in one of my favorite quotes: “Never in the history of fashion has so little material been raised so high to reveal so much that needs to be covered so badly.”

So how do I find clothing that meets these high standards God has? I sew a lot, even altering patterns to make the neckline higher or lower the hemline. I tailor a lot, adding panels in the neckline to storebought clothes, putting in a ruffle at the bottom, or even sewing up the side seams to make it fit better. If you don't know how to sew, find an older lady in your area who is willing to give you lessons! That's is a huge part of how I learned! I also frequent sales: JJill (begin rabbit trail--my alltime, absolute favorite clothing store! [matched only by Anthropologie which is way too expensive for me]--end rabbit trail :-), Christopher & Banks, Coldwater Creek, and Eddie Bauer will often have great online sales on modest clothing if you time it right! And, believe it or not, ebay is a great resource for buying these name brand clothes at a huge discount. Know your body measurements and proceed by those, rather than by a nebulous size number. Finally, camisoles are my best friend. (-:

With these things in mind, let us now reject what the world would push on us and be I Timothy 2:9 women: “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” If we settle for anything less, Beneth Peters Jones points out that “we rob God of the fulfillment of His perfect plan, we rob other women of an inspirational, gracious touch and example, we rob the men around us of the opportunity to exercise the protective, gentlemanly considerations native to their masculinity, and we rob ourselves of the beauty possible only in conformity to divine will.[i]

Will you join me as new allies? Let us not rob God and others any longer, but rather bless those around us by our commitment to beauty, style, and modesty. Let us no longer step out in the world looking like the world; let us step out looking like God’s princesses. Let us cast aside the rags of immodesty and adorn ourselves with grace, dignity, and modesty, for we are the temples of the living God.


[i] Jones, Beneth Peters. In the Best Possible Light. Page 20.

Picture Credit

13 comments:

  1. I so agree with everything!! If you don't love it and its not modest and you don't feel beautiful in it don't wear it!! Its really hard sometimes when you are younger to figure out a modest and yet still feminine style that you like, but now I have it down. I just love twirling in my flowing skirts and I also love jean skirts too! I also love to wear regency and 1950's inspired shirt dresses. I love so many styles! I am so glad someone else sees it the same way I do. Glorify the Lord in your dress!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved this! Thank you for sharing! I couldn't agree more! Modesty is SO important!
    I adore that quote you gave, and agree with it 100%! =D

    ReplyDelete
  3. AMEN!! Thank you very much Lauren- this is great! I totally agree, and it is so nice to read things I am in agreement with. It is so relaxing to know that I'm not the only one. ;cD

    Smiles
    Keilah

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was excellent, Lauren! I so agree with you on all points!
    Sometimes it is hard to find skirts that are long enough (I'm tall), modest, and inexpensive, but God has never yet let me go naked! :D He has been faithful to provide every need and most wants too.
    My favorite stores are thrift stores! I agree totally with the quote "Garage sales and thrift stores are a major avenue for God's provision on this earth!" :)
    I loved all the quotes you used in this article! Especially Sir Cecil's!

    I have had quite a few strangers over the years come up to me and thank me for looking like a lady/wearing skirts. People do notice, and it does make a statement when we dress thoughtfully and femininely.
    We ARE going to stand out, that's just the way it is. "We are in the world but not of the world" "...a friend of the world is an enemy of God." I've learned to enjoy the fact that people aren't staring at me because I'm dressed provacatively, but because I'm not. :)

    Allied with you, sisters!
    <3, Kelsey :o)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Knowing that you girls agree is such an encouragement and blessing to me!
    "SinginginHisName"--I love 1950s things too! They are just so adorable--especially the circle skirts!
    Hopeful Romantic--I know, isn't that quote the best? I have no idea who the guy is, but I love the quote! (-:
    Keilah, thank you so much for your encouragement! It is especially a blessing to know you, a fellow believer in modesty,since our state seems like such a dark place!
    Kelsey--I feel for you being tall, because I am short and know I can get away with some skirts that would be too short on taller girls (like my sisters! :-) I love thrift stores and garage sales too--I'd never heard that quote before, but I'll have to add it to my list! Thanks for your alliance!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can so totally relate to what you are talking about! Especially going somewhere and suddenly the outfit you're wearing doesn't feel cute or "in". It's so hard to fight against that longing to look like the others. Thank you so much for writing this...this is a topic that's been on my mind for some time.
    I highly recommend reading Leslie Ludy's book "Set-Apart Femininity" if you haven't so good! :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a very encouraging post Lauren,
    thank you!

    ~Abigail~

    ReplyDelete
  8. I completely agree on the desire to dress in all of the outdated fashions. When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to sweep around the house in hoopskirts. When someone gave me a hoopskirt, I was thrilled and wore it all the time. I did, however, discover that modern homes, especially doorways and kitchens, weren't designed women with 4 or 5 ft. worth of skirts. :-) I did, however, make myself a regency dress and I wear it every chance I get. In fact, I would love to make several and wear them everywhere. I guess that is one advantage of living in a society where everything goes. If girls can prance around in atrocious short shorts and tube tops, then I guess we can't be faulted for choosing another era and dressing accordingly. Your points on modesty were very good and encouraging. Thank you so much for your faithfulness.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Katie--I'll have to read Leslie Ludy's book-this topic is one on which I love to gather all the wisdom possible! Thanks for the suggestion, and I'm glad we can be set apart from others together!
    You're welcome Abby- great to hear from you!
    Charae--you actually owned a hoop skirt? Lucky girl! We sewed regency dresses a few years ago, and I *love* them! You put them on and are instantly transformed, so I know exactly what you are saying!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lauren, thank you for another great post. It was very good and thought-provoking. : ) I recently bought what will likely become a favorite dress of mine. There are tailors galore in Jinja, so Amanda and I found fabric we liked, designed our dresses and then had a Christian tailor make them. And, I love my dress! : ) It was so fun being able to design it.
    Because of the culture, I wear skirts pretty much every day. When I did put "trousers" (capris) on, I felt naked - it was so weird.
    Thanks again for the post! : )

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for posting on this, Lauren! It was such a blessing to read.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ruthie--that sounds like so much fun to be able to design a dress! You'll have to post a picture of it!
    You're welcome Shelbi--I'm glad it encouraged you!

    ReplyDelete
  13. AHH! every time I try to comment on your blog I have to type my comment twice. I need to learn to sign in before I submit my comment. :-) lol

    I think I said something like this:

    Yes, what IS IT that makes us want to wear a beautiful dress?

    Every time I read your blog I wonder where you find the time to write so much so well.

    ReplyDelete

We love comments like we love sunshine and chocolate and chubby babies!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin