They're hard to live down.
If you ask someone "what's the first thing you notice when you meet someone new?" chances are they're say it's the eyes. Eyes are well-known as the first thing everyone notices in a face.
But do eyes really deserve their "number one" status? Is there something else people notice first?
Of course there is; something that you notice even when someone is facing away from you. It's spotted from across the room, down the aisle, and behind the counter.
More specifically, outfits. Not just the items you wear, but the way you wear them makes an instant statement about you.
We all know this but we tend to forget it, so it's good to be reminded every once in awhile; outfits speak louder than words. ...At least for the first 2 minutes. Sometimes those 2 minutes are all you've got, though, to show a person who you are.
It's one thing to look through your wardrobe item by item and say "is this modest/pretty/appropriate?" but it's another thing to look at how they all combine to give you your appearance.
Let's look specifically at how this applies to Christian ladies. We must deal with two things;
#1. What kind of image do you want to project?
#2. Are the outfits you're wearing projecting that image?
What do you want people to think when they see you across the room? Or when they speak to you the first time? This is a question that has no single answer, because God has created each of us with a different personality, but there are general boundaries a woman of God ought to keep.
For instance, you are free to chose whether to appear as quiet, bubbly, classy, formal, informal, athletic, or inventive, but all God's ladies are commanded to be modest, meek, kind, and loving.
There are other details, too; the Bible teaches that the calling of wife and mother is a high and precious one, which indicates that a woman shouldn't be ashamed to look like a wife or mother (what does that look like? Future blog post. :)) . The Bible also teaches that age is to be respected and honored, which tells us we shouldn't be endlessly chasing youth or be ashamed of a few wrinkles or more mature clothing tastes. The Bible also says we are Christ's representatives, which means we should give Him a good reputation by the way we dress. We also know from Scripture that God is not impressed with gaudy, wasteful manners of dressing, and that He wants us to dress in a manner that reflects good stewardship of His money.
This is an area defined by personal convictions - but those should come from personal study of the Word of God, not personal opinions. Pray and read, and get a very good picture in your mind of what kind of women you want to look like.
(May I add a bit of advice, from personal experience? Don't try to fit a stereotype. Even if the "look" you're going for is perfectly fine, and the group you want to identify with is a wonderful group, don't look to them for your standards. Any effort to match the standards of another person will bring exhaustion and frustration - even when the standards are good ones. Make the Lord your example, and follow His standards. If you don't believe me, you will have to find out for yourself that even good groups are not the ones to set your standards. It will be painful, but I guarantee you won't soon forget the lesson.)
So, once you know what image you want to project, how do you know if you are projecting it?
By careful unbiased observation. Start paying attention to what you wear. Find people who dress like you, and look at them. Is that the appearance you want? Take pictures of yourself and try to look at them as if looking at a stranger. (Observing myself on video has helped me weed out an item in my closet that I thought was modest until I saw it from the perspective of someone else.)
Don't be afraid to try new things. Once you know what your boundaries are, don't be afraid to expand within those borders. Find out if another style would suit you better, or actually be closer to the image you feel God wants you to project.
Notice how others react to your appearance. I've offended people before I even opened my mouth, because my outfit and hairstyle made them think I was judging them. Admittedly, I can't chose the way someone feels, and I sure don't want to stop the Holy Spirit from convicting someone who needs convicting, but I also want to be careful that it's God doing the convicting, not me trying to be judge and jury. I can't help being different from the world, by virtue of the fact that I am different, but there's such a thing as being ridiculously different on purpose, just for difference's sake, and we don't need to do that
Ask people who have a right to have an opinion. Your close friends and family - especially the men in your life, like your husband or father - know what they think when they see the way you dress. Ask them to tell you. Don't just say, "what do you think of how I dress?" Ask specific questions, like "Would you feel free to approach me if you were ________?" "Does the way I dress ever bother you?" "Do you feel this particular item is modest?" "Do you think I accent or smother the beauty God has given me?" "Do you think I look like I spend too much money on my clothes?"
It's easy to get stuck in a rut in our wardrobes, but when we remember that we are representing Christ to the world, it's worth taking the time to analyze what kind of message we're sending.
Tell me what you think; What are some ways we send accidental messages with our appearance?