Chapter 12 discusses clothing, and Edith brings out many important points to consider. Some consider certain colors or patterns to be wrong, some feel it is more spiritual to dress in styles just before the current times. For some time conservative Christians in my area looked like they stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. How does one discern what is truly pleasing to the Lord in our clothing?
Edith brings out first of all that Jesus said, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Luke 12:27-28). She then spends several paragraphs considering flowers of the field, their variety and beauty, and reasons that the God who designed them must not have intended for His children to be dressed dowdily. He who could have made the world simply utilitarian also made it beautiful and filled it with variety. She points out, too, that the Proverbs 31 woman “maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple,” not burlap or drab attire.
These thoughts helped me as a newly saved young woman years ago when I struggled with some of these questions. I also struggled with whether it was right or wrong or “worldly” to want to be in style. Edith discusses that, too. She points out with a bit of humor that those who dress ten years behind the times to avoid worldliness don’t stop to consider that ten years ago others would have considered that style worldly. There was a time when it was risque to show ankles. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates dressing out of accord with one’s times is more spiritual and less worldly, and practically speaking, dressing in an obvious out-of-style way can cause more negative that positive attention for Christ. All things must be kept in balance, of course, and we have to be careful not to spend too much time, money, and attention on clothing. She is not advocating that we dump our wardrobe for a new one every season, and even if we need to go among those in a higher economic class than ourselves, we can dress tastefully without having to go buy a lot of expensive new items. (On the other hand, of course, sometimes what is in style can be immodest or inappropriate for a Christian. Modesty would be the higher principle here. We shouldn’t run after the latest styles just because they’re the latest styles if there is something wrong with them.)
If I can go off on a side trail here, I agree with her on this, but it has bothered me for a long time that the world in general or sometimes Christians in particular decide that a style is suddenly old and unworthy any more. For instance, some years ago someone called denim jumpers “home school mom’s uniforms,” and then suddenly it was uncool to wear denim jumpers. I loved them for their durability and continued to wear them until I couldn’t find them any more. When I was growing up, a “comb-over” was what we called the hairstyle when a balding man tried to comb a few strands of hair over his bald spot, but for a while it was what some people called it when a man parted his hair on the side, and it was deemed too conservative and straight-laced, We can be silly with some of this kind of thing, and we have to be careful not to judge people unfairly on one side or the other. But yes, I do think that dressing deliberately and obviously out of style and out of touch with the times is not something that in and of itself glorifies God.
Back to Edith’s book: she also discusses appropriateness and how it can vary depending on what country, area of the country, and community one lives in. She touches on modesty briefly, but not as much as I would have thought: she mainly advocates not dressing in a way that would tempt anyone else, and remembering Whom you represent. Those two principles taken seriously and thoughtfully would take care of much of the problem.
She also deals with pants, a big consideration in some conservative Christian circles. The first pastor I had as a Christian taught that Deuteronomy 22:5 (“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”) referred to women wearing pants. Around that time I saw a “Big Valley” episode in which it was scandalous when Audra wore pants, and I thought that sounded reasonable. Then I got to a Christian college, and one of my teachers pointed out that both men and women wore long, loose-fitting robes in those days. Hmm. Okay (though I am not entirely sure about that since the Bible also discusses “breeches“, at least for the priests, but that seems to have been worn under the robe anyway). And then, as Edith describes here, her father went as a missionary to China at a time when women wore trousers and men wore long tunics. Would it have helped or harmed the cause of Christ to cling to an understanding that women weren’t to wear pants in that context, especially when that passage is not talking about pants? The general principle carries over that men should dress obviously as men and women as women, but to distil this verse down just to wearing pants does it a disservice. For the record, I do wear dresses out of preference, and I think they are generally more modest: pants tend to outline everything you’ve got. I’ve seen more than I wanted to and more than I thought was appropriate via some women’s pants, though I admit I have also seen immodest dresses and very modest pants. I’ve worn pants during childbirth classes, and though I’m not a hiking or mountain climbing person, if I were, I’d have no trouble wearing modest pants for those activities or any other when they’d be more modest and appropriate than a dress. But I don’t judge those who are more comfortable wearing modest pants.
Overall I enjoyed this chapter, both the truths that Edith brought out as well as the balance.