Friday, October 3, 2014

Presentation is the Key

Today on the way to school we saw a high school girl wearing a medium cropped top and sweat pants. As you get closer to the HS one can see all manner of dress and undress.

I am not the modesty police or a fashion cop - but as I think back to HS I wonder, was I so influenced by everything other than what was in my household that it changed the way I dressed? To a certain degree, yes. I read magazines, and all sorts of books. I've always had a strong personality and a strong sense of self. I went through a phase where I wore long t-shirts with booty shorts for two reasons: I liked my legs and knew they looked good; and I wanted you to think I was walking around with only a t-shirt on, though if you knew me you knew that couldn't be true. I was trying to make a statement and I don't know how much I succeeded - keep that in mind when you see high schoolers walking around in questionable outfits; they may be testing the boundaries.

I grew up in the Bahamas and Brooklyn. We were never given strict guidelines of what we could and could not wear, but we were taught to take pride in our appearance. My mother was a seamstress so I think we inherited a sense of fashion and its choices from her. My mom did not wear pants in the Bahamas but once she moved to NY and went through one winter, pants became a practical choice.

I grew up in the church and the girls and guys hung out together. At church picnics we were in the pool together. Most girls wore a one piece and guys wore trunks. Either sex had a great view of the other but babies were not being made in the pool! (BTW as humans it is inevitable that we will notice each other). We didn't have any rules about hemlines and cleavage. We wore shorts during the summer, arm holed shirts or camis as they are now called, t-shirts, shorts. Clothing choices were dictated by climate and practicality. But then there was also an unwritten line. To be sure I don't think crop tops were the rage in the Bahamas (but I could be wrong). We were taught about sex, but there was never a direct teaching about what we wore affecting our sexual actions.

Sunday Best!!
Once we moved to NY, I developed a sense of style of fashion. I was never ashamed of my body and teachings at home or at church did not cause shame. Quite frankly, some how I had a healthy sense of self. Sunday was when we wore our new outfits to church. I experimented with various colors, shapes and styles; back then everyone did. I do appreciate seeing a well dressed male or female and being well dressed. As I grew older, I took the subway and bus to get around. In NY you can be the recipient of cat calls whether you dress provocatively or not. As an obviously pregnant married woman, I was hit on. I found it amusing. Every female in NY knows this and comes up with strategies for dealing with it and it's not always changing your outfit.

All of this comes full circle as I think of my Little One who attends a private christian school that has all of these crazy rules about how each gender should dress. Kindergartners can't wear pants on the playground; every female wears skirts that have to be a certain length; they are prescribed haircuts for men and women. None of these rules allow for cultural differences; and sometimes I wonder what the point of all of this is. It's not as if dressing a certain way makes us better Christians. I think there is a fear that our clothes will make us act in a way that is unbecoming, particularly as it relates to sex.

As a society, we have sexualized everything - they really are people who just want to wear certain things "just because" and their minds aren't geared to fleshly thoughts. And then they are those who want to create a reaction. Either way they're making a choice and with choices come rewards or consequences.

As you become an adult, as a female, you begin to realize the power you possess in your sartorial choices. And just as women can look good in certain outfits so can men; this lusting is not a one way street. We are each responsible for our choices. Clothes do not make a person or change a person's heart. Clothes may reveal a person's motive but that may be giving too much power to apparel. The burden is not only on the female to watch how she dresses but it is also on the male, after all what would happen if men walked around in their Speedos in public? You begin to understand what's appropriate and what's not. You learn to work with your body - accentuating positives and camouflaging negatives. You recognize that beauty and attraction varies. You recognize that sometimes no matter what you wear you always attract attention. Or you wish someone would notice you, so maybe a particular outfit will make that happen. But these are all thoughts and choices.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,  for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body 
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. Psalms 139: 13-14 NLT

Do clothes make the man or woman? No, but they surely influence how you are perceived, and as much as you can control that you should. Presentation is the key.

As a teenager, did you struggle with clothing choices? Do you think about your impact on others or do you dress for you? Can you dress for you and curtail unwanted attention?

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