THE FINE LINE OF FASHION – SENSUOUS OR VIRTUOUS
By Leann Albrecht
We live at a time in history when our liberal society would like to accentuate the “sensuous” (a preoccupation with bodily or sexual pleasures) and annihilate the “virtuous” (general moral excellence; right actions and thinking; goodness; strength and courage with the power to choose right). It is a time when purity has little value and sex sells everything. Our cultural obsession with “sex” preys on our homes and churches to paralyze our minds and harden our hearts. It seeks to steal the real beauty of sex that God intended for it.
As Christians, God has called us to be role models. (one who inspires others to good moral and ethical conduct), We have a responsibility to know what’s hip and what’s not in the “fashion world”. If the latest fashion “rage” is risquÈ, we don’t need to cause an outrage by wearing it. It’s imperative that we know the difference between a creative outfit that is beautiful and one that is creative but suggestive. I have no desire to be the “fashion police”, however, I have gained some wisdom from having lived a “colorful” life of various occupations.
My father was a minister ….and I was the prodigal teenager who lived the whispered gossip. Eventually I moved to New York as a flight attendant, followed by several years of print and runway modeling in the fashion industry. After moving back to St. Louis, Missouri, I worked as a sales representative in the business world of ad specialties. Now years later, I am a worship leader, writer and speaker… and married to the same man, Carl, for 27 years.
Not long ago at a conference, a senior pastor extended his hand to me and said, “I want to tell you how much I appreciate you dressing modestly as a worship leader. I wish everyone who is in leadership could somehow know the importance of that.” The definition of modesty is: Adequately clothed for propriety; the quality of being proper, fitting or suitable.
We live in Nashville, Tennessee which is a melting pot of creative colorful people – you can always pick them out. They are the artistic ones who wear funky clothes, striking hair colors and have multiple parts of their bodies tattooed or pierced. Personally, I find it fascinating. They are walking exhibits of art and many of them are beautiful.
Yes, I know, “It’s what’s on the inside that really counts.” However, what is conveyed on the outside can be a reflection of what is on the inside. If your fashion decisions are meant to gain the lustful eye of the opposite sex, it will only lead to a hollow thrill. Please take the advice from one who has walked down that path: the lustful responses you provoke are not the kind of attention you really want and it brings with it a cost you cannot afford to pay.
The dictionary defines lust as: the sexual desire to seek unrestrained gratification of the senses and bodily appetite. Matthew 5:27 says, You have heard the commandment, “Do not commit adultery”, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman and cherishes lustful thoughts has already committed adultery with her in his own heart.
Men and women are different in many ways. Women are emotionally stimulated while men are visually stimulated. That’s the way God made us. Proverbs 27:20 says, The grave and destruction are never satisfied; so too the eyes of man.
Cultural dressing for the Islamic religion only allows a woman to expose her hands and face. “Waabiism”, a sub-sect of Islam, requires women to be totally covered in black with only a small slit for the eyes in the veil. This legalistic form of dressing is not the answer either. It merely deletes the beauty of a woman.
Recently, I was at a Christian Music Festival. One of the guys asked if I could spend some time with his teenage daughter since he was going to be busy setting up. I agreed to pick her up at the hotel entrance later that morning.
As she opened the car door to join me, I tried not to gasp. First of all, she was gorgeous! I had never seen a more perfect body. Then I realized…… I didn’t have to use much imagination ……. she had very little clothing on! Obviously, she had dressed for a “hot” summer day but we were not at the beach.
When we arrived at the park, we met up with her dad. Within a few minutes she whispered to him. “Dad, is this outfit scandalous?” He said, “Well, honey, I guess if you have to ask the question, then it is.” Quietly reaching into her backpack, she pulled out a full cut shirt to cover her bare midriff, skintight halter-top and very low- rise jeans.
Her dad commented to me later. “Her mother was just like her when we first started dating. She had no clue how others perceived her scanty clothing. I had to be the one to tell her.”
For the first time, I realized it was possible that inappropriate dressing could be something other than an intentional decision. Without a parent or mentor to help guide those decisions, people choose their trendy styles from movies, TV and fashion magazines. Again, I am not finding fault with fashion or fads. It’s fun to create but do it with discretion.
If you are a leader, this is extremely important. People are looking to you as an example. What standard do you want to set? When others look at you, what do they see? When you stand before the congregation, whether you are “the” leader or just a part of the band on the platform, you are a leader. People are “checking you out.”
Girls – when every curve or bulge can be seen, I promise you, there are people around you having to close their eyes to have a spiritual experience.……men and women alike. If a fabulous body is being flaunted, other girls are caught up in a whirlwind of thoughts that range from envy, jealousy, criticism or self-degradation. And the guys…they are fighting their own battle of visually ignited desire .
So, girls…. let’s be kind to the guys. Don’t make it difficult for them. Think of them as a best friend who needs your help to keep a clean thought life. When they look at us, let their first thought be of Jesus…not a sexy body or lack of it. If you’re married, save those “sexy outfits” for a date with your spouse.
The same is true for the guys. Tight clothing is not only uncomfortable but distracting. Be kind to the ladies. Instead, let them see your gentleness, compassion and strength of character.
Not only do you want your appearance to be above criticism but your speech as well. Sexually suggestive conversations can lead down a road of ungoldy imagination. You know what I’m talking about…. the two possible comments that follow someone’s statement. One is the innocent comment and the other one has an “off color” sexual slant. You may be tempted to choose the sexual comment because you think it makes you look “clever” or a little “naughty”. My advice is, “Keep your mind out of the gutter.” Get a laugh from jokes that are witty and clean. Proverbs 27:11 He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for a friend. Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, those who make it a friend shall eats it’s fruit. Matthew 15:11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Here are some clear fashion guidelines that have proven to work well in most church and social settings.
1. Necklines should not expose cleavage.
2. No tight fitting clothes or see through fabrics. Keep in mind that thin “clingy” fabrics are less “forgiving” than heavier ones . If you’re on the stage, remember physical shape is accentuated with bright lighting.
3. Also, for the platform – skirts should be to the knee. Remember, most stages are elevated which makes the length of a skirt appear shorter from the audience level. If you are sitting on the platform, make sure when you are seated that the skirt is designed to give adequate coverage.
4. No exposed midriffs. Bare midriffs give the suggestion of nudity. If you are on a worship team or one who raises your hands in worship, give that outfit a trial run at home in front of the mirror before you leave for church.
5. Ladies, make sure if you get a “chill” or a “hormonal surge” you are the only one who knows it. Shirts that are dark in color or patterned fabrics make a great camouflage. Tip: Hanes – HG510
If you don’t have someone to help you with your fashion decisions, ask the Lord. He will tell you. I even take Him shopping with me. He’s a good shopper and He instructs me on what to buy.
To keep our hearts pure, we must choose our focus. When temptations come, will we discipline our eyes to look away or take the journey of unclean fantasy? Psalm 101:3 I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The definition of vile is: cheap, worthless, attributing no value to a person other than a fleeting moment of selfish pleasure.
As you desire to become more like Jesus, allow Him to complete the transformation. Let your heart, your tongue, your appearance and conduct reflect the beauty of Jesus. When others speak your name, may it be with honor and high regard. A respectful reputation will never be forgotten. It will be your crown and legacy. Proverbs 22:1 A good name is more to be desired than great wealth, and to be respected it better than silver or gold.