November 6, 2006


I came across this article (Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes ( while on a business trip to Washington DC. It's almost a year old, but was an interesting read nonetheless. While reading it, I was struck by several things. First of all the willingness of society to acknowledge that the clothes we choose to wear makes a statement about our values and intentions. Second, that there is a difference in how men and women are perceived in their dress. Now all of this in and of its self is not startling, however when we juxtapose that with attitudes within the church - that try to deny this and say our clothing is driven by culture and not anything internal, I find it terrible curious. Why do we try to deny what the world understands to be true, and what, I believe Biblically to be true as well. God addresses modesty not because our outward appearance is of utmost importance, but because it is a reflection of that which is within us.

Our clothing does indeed make a statement about our values and intentions. We make decisions everyday on what we will wear based on how we feel and what our purposes are. This makes me think of my days at Auburn University (War Eagle!). When I was going to football games and it was simply me and my pals, we wore jeans and Orange T-shirts, our hair in pony tails and wearing tennis shoes or sandals. In otherwords, we dressed for comfort; we dressed for a football game. But usually a few rows in front of me were guys dressed in suits and the girls decked out in dresses with heels. They dressed to impress; they were dressed for a date. I can already hear the guys in my life telling me they don't do this, and that's fine. Take it from me - girls do. So why do we try to pretend that there is no correlation between our clothes and our heart (attitudes, thoughts, intentions). I recognize that our motives in selecting outfits are at times subconcious, but when we boil them down do they not perhaps give us insight into our inner most thoughts?

One particular statement grabbed my attention as something to ponder and consider in my own choices of what to wear and what not to wear - that was this - "When the designer Yves Saint Laurent first encouraged women to wear trousers more than 30 years ago, his reasons were not simply because pants are comfortable or practical. He knew that the sight of a woman draped in the accouterments of a man is sexually provacative. A woman was embracing something forbidden."

A friend, Valerie, was recently telling me about a book (I don't remember the name of it) that discussed how being "marked" affects us. When you look at a group of men at say a business meeting all of them are wearing formal business suits - maybe varying shades of gray, black and blue, with various colors of button-down shirts and ties, they still look relatively the same. Throw in a gentleman in khakis and a polo shirt and all of a sudden he becomes "marked". There is a difference, we notice him more. This becomes an almost instant bias (whether for or against may depend upon the situation although the tendency is against). Why? Because that person stands out from everyone else in the crowd. That person is identified by their difference and the stereotypes that go along with those differences. This is something that is incredible hard to overcome.

With women, we are all "marked". If you lined up 5 women in the EXACT same outfit, each of them would be marked in some way. Either by hair color, height, build, shape, or posture. The funny thing is we "mark" each other as often (perhaps more often) than men "mark" us. So again, why do we try to pretend this doesn't happen? I think it is because we often don't want to think about the ramifications of our clothing choices as believers - especially if that is going to make us have to change something.

If nothing else this is one more reason that I, as a woman, but even more importantly as a believer in Jesus Christ, need to consider each outfit I put on (and buy) and what it says about me to the world.

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