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Sunday, November 3, 2013

MODESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: What to Wear for Jesus, Part 2

Partially full disclosure: This week I attended a panel discussion which covered the beliefs of four spiritual practices: Coptic Christianity; Mormonism; Sikhism (woman speaker); Judaism (Reform rabbi). When the moderator asked them to talk about the topic of “Modesty” (Yes, Modesty. Not traditions of dress, philosophies toward violence or use of money… but “modesty”) a very valuable and fascinating presentation suddenly turned into a free-for-all* of dissing female sensuality/sexuality.  For good reason, been-there done-that, my body went haywire and I experienced an extremely visceral, physical reaction to the panel's responses.  I’ve decided to channel my righteous and totally reasonable anger at the responses into a long-time-coming Part 2 to the RIGHTEOUS BLING: What to Wear for Jesus : Part One (2009)… which I was working on anyway.  I guess I needed to be pushed over the edge… though being pushed over the edge by institutionalized misogyny and bullshit patriarchal smugness and shaming is never fun.  But the following post was fun to write. Enjoy!

It is so important that Christian women know how to dress in a way that is feminine but doesn’t distract from the work of God in the hearts of men.  This is easier said than done in today’s world where we are inundated by inappropriate attire that sends confusing messages about our walk with Christ.

What kind of wear is appropriate for church, homeschool* and potlucks?

Behold… a dress appropriate for all of the above… and you can make it yourself!

I did.*

In Junior High.

The Dress that all my secular friends coveted... for real.
What we have here is cool calico cotton attire with a nice yoked lace collar, a puffed sleeve, a flattering fitted bodice, a curved princess waist with a delicate gathering of calf-length skirt that hides within its folds deep pockets for both hands. 

Think Little House on the Prairie meets Modern Amish... inspired by the wife of noble character, Proverbs 31:10-31.

For this fashion shoot*, I left my hair down just as I would back in the day. The uncombed bit is an attempt to recreate an old perm.
Arm and Eye placement is Everything!
The front view demonstrates a woman deep in the throes of spiritual renewal. Observe how she is careful to not raise her hands higher than the hips.  Church is not to be a place of competitive worship!

View from those on your Right.
 The side view is representative of the blessing and the curse of gathered skirts on hips created by the Lord for the bearing of children.  Gathers give us freedom of movement and keep wandering eyes from thinking about what lies beneath.  However, we can only go so far in discouraging men of God from not noticing that we are indeed made to be help-meets and mothers.

Time to Talk Pockets!
This fancy pose highlights the Deep Pockets
When dressed to kill… Satan… lol… we women never underestimate the value of Pockets on a sleek skirt, an adorable dress.  Pockets allow our shoulders and hands to be free to burp crying babies, pass out church bulletins, wipe runny noses and whatever else the Lord has called us to do in sensible heels and cute duds.

(Yes! It’s possible to be modest, resourceful AND cute! Check out Modest Apparel USA!)

The pockets on this dress are Deep and Wide… which should be symbolic of our love for Christ.  Nevertheless, we still make choices that will determine whether or not we are living in the Light or living a Lie.

Please observe the scenarios I’ve created in the still lifes below. Remember… though our outward appearance may exude modesty, are we stuffing our pockets with worldly trappings or resources for God’s work?

Are we living Right-eously or holding the Left-Hand of Darkness?

Contents of Left-Hand Pocket of Darkness
Don't Judge...
  • “Personal” Lubrication (Never use this in your eyes.)
  • Condoms (“individually wrapped” will not protect you from heartbreak… or the gutter.)
  • Dice (Sometimes substituted with a pack of cards, dependent upon size of flask.)
  • Matches (Sometimes takes the form of a “lighter”.)
  • Cigarette (Sometimes this is an entire pack, also contingent upon size of flask.)
  • Eye drops (For when the “cigarette” is actually a onie/onesie/onesy/one-hitter*)
  • Dark Lipstick (So unnecessary. Draws attention away from what you’re not saying.)
  • Alcohol (“Twenty Grand” combines Vodka with Cognac. This bottle may look classy, make you feel classy and smells like perfume… but this is not a scent you want to wear… outside of the gutter.)

Contents of Right-Hand Pocket On God's Good Side
Again... Don't Judge...
  • Hand Lotion (unscented!)
  • Smiley-Face Button (We women need all the reminders we can get to smile :) We look so much prettier when we smile! Let your Sunny Disposition shine!)
  • Loose Change for Offering (If author had not spent her last $5 on “Twenty Grand” there would be more money for this still life and more for Jesus’ work.)
  • Safety Pins- Assorted Sizes (For when you need to help a Sister in Christ make their V-Neck a little more respectable.)
  • Wet-wipes (Individually wrapped. For when you need to clean a child’s sticky fingers.  Men of God love to see you demonstrate your child-caring skills!)
  • American Flag Pin (One Nation Under GOD!)
  • Tissues (For wiping a child’s runny nose or the tears of child who just got saved from hell. Some godly man is going to see your natural kindness toward children, snatch you up and make you his bride! Flaunt it!)
  • Clear lip-balm (Non-distracting: won’t draw attention to your already fat lips.)
  • Cough Drop (For when your throat tickles during sermons… non-addictive!)
  • Pocket-Sized New Testament (This of course is in addition to your regular Bible, but always good to have a slightly different translation of the Gospels on hand! Includes Psalms and Proverbs!)
There is so much emphasis on a woman’s “right” to choose these days.  Free Will is a gift bestowed on both men AND women.  (#JesusFeminist).

In the Left-Hand Pocket of Darkness, we have items that show a young woman on the verge of hardening her heart and possibly losing her salvation. 

In the Right-Hand Pocket of Righteousness we have items that demonstrate a strong faith, and a desire to serve others while keeping fresh-faced, reflecting the purity within.

I trust that you will not only order a carbon copy of this dress for $200, but will also choose to fill your new deep pockets with Righteousness!
Sloppy Footnotes:
*(with exceptions… Sikh woman panelist and Reform Jewish rabbi gave fairly reasonable, historical context responses)
*(I attended public schools, though some of my siblings chose a homeschool-style of private Baptist schooling. I NEVER wore a dress to public school after a boy lifted my skirt on the first day of kindergarten.)
*(Home-made with the guidance and abundant help of my mother)
*(Pardon the American Apparel-esque lighting filter on some of these photos.)

*(Second one hitter I’ve received as a gift.  What are my friends trying to tell me??!!)


Infidel753 said...

What, no vampire-hunter giant cross? Seriously, in Saudi Arabia even this dress would get you arrested for public indecency. That discussion of modesty would have been even more infuriating if they'd included a Wahhabi speaker.

I don't really object to the Amish look -- people should be able to wear what they want -- the trouble is that the religious nutters don't want to extend the same right to people with other tastes.

Christine Vyrnon said...

The discussion was just one in a series of panel discussion regarding religious diversity... so previous panels apparently covered similar topic of "modesty" with different religious practices being represented.

O... I have nothing against the Pioneer/Amish look either. I used to romanticize the entire genre as a girl. And I loved that dress... and loves that it still fits. It is most infuriating that church-wear for women is so tightly regulated, to keep men, who are sometimes separated by an aisle, from being distracted by the female figure. ARGHH.

In the discussion, NO mention was made of making sure a man's masculinity wasn't seen as threat to women's concentration on the scriptures... or stirring up impure thoughts. However, Sikh speaker did spend as much time on the reasons for traditional dress on men as she did on traditions of dress for the women. A lot of what the Sikh panelist said was very well presented, thoughtful and ... yes new to me. Very grateful for her presence and voice.

Infidel753 said...

and loves that it still fits

I noticed. :)

NO mention was made of making sure a man's masculinity wasn't seen as threat to women's concentration on the scriptures... or stirring up impure thoughts.

In Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography, she describes how she once asked a Muslim preacher about this after he had been lecturing about the importance of female modesty -- that looking at men sometimes makes women have sexual thoughts, so shouldn't they be subject to equal standards of modesty? He got very flustered and eventually said "That subject is not mentioned in the Koran, therefore it is not important." I doubt the average US fundie preacher would have a better answer.

Christine Vyrnon said...

I really appreciated that autobiography... for Many reasons... though how Christian/American conservative bigots have latched onto her message (& vice versa?) is a bit disconcerting.

Random atheist in the Deep South. said...

Love it!!! :) I love your blog so much! Just stopping by to say hi. I still have you on my list of recommended blogs. :)

Lori A.

Christine Vyrnon said...

And Thank You again, Lori!

Lithophyte said...

I too had dresses like that. And a perm. And I was told in so many ways the "fall of Adam" was totally my fault. Pastors running off with other people's wives, youth pastors running off with my friends on their 18th birthdays...woman's fault. I like to think I'm over it now, but I still get that anger sometimes too - nice to see I have company in that.


Christine Vyrnon said...

Libby... I'm glad to know I have company, too. It is okay to get angry. The misogynistic, double-standard hypocrisy was/is stunning at times and worthy of anger. We all get over it to some degree, but the ability to recognize this and other far greater injustices is not something we need to get over. I'm glad to know I'm not alone! Thank you for your comment!