Why I dress simply

Photo: MariaBeatrice Alonzi, Unsplash.

Part of my heritage as a conservative Mennonite is the teaching that Christians should dress simply and modestly. At Mountain View Mennonite, the church Ivan and I currently attend, there is no standard like the one in my childhood congregation, which says women should wear cape dresses. 

But still, I choose to wear cape dresses because for me they are the easiest way to dress tastefully, economically and modestly without going to a lot of trouble and spending hours shopping (which I don’t enjoy). 

I’m not touting a certain clothing style. Dressing simply can be done in many clothing styles, and a dress is not necessarily more modest than pants. 

I am calling all of us as Christians to a deliberate choice of simple dress. And though both men and women are called to this, I write today specifically from my perspective as a woman. 

I love the verses in 1 Peter that call women to a depth of living and inner self-worth that is countercultural. 

“Let your beauty not be external — the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes — but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4, New English Translation).

Think about the messaging we hear for women in movies, books and advertisements, subtly and overtly. We women are called to look good, to be sexy and to be strong.

I am OK with strength, but most contemporary messaging positions strength as an individualistic, I-am-who-I-am-and-don’t-mess-with-me quality, whereas biblical teaching positions strength for both men and women as springing from a life of faith and trust, displayed in humility and made perfect in unity. However, the subject of this column is not strength, but simplicity.

Biblical Teaching calls women to put a greater value on what is inside of us than on our appearance. It calls us to stop stressing over how we look and how we compare, to put most of our time and thought into cultivating the beauty of our inner person.

Many people before me, both Christian and non-Christian, have talked about how detrimental to women is the strong sexual and appearance-based messaging in our society. Professional women or women in the public eye live with comments about their appearance, their clothes and their sexiness that men never have to consider. 

To me, dressing simply isn’t adhering to a rule or squishing myself into a box that dictates what a woman can be. Dressing simply is a way of saying and of feeling deep within myself that I am worth more than my clothes or my sex appeal.

In a similar vein, I don’t wear makeup because to me makeup says a woman believes the beauty God gave her isn’t good enough. For others or herself to feel she is attractive, she must cover and smooth her face. She must put on a façade. 

I want to see your face with the moles and freckles God gave you, the lines and the wrinkles that come with a hard-lived but good-lived life. I want to see the natural softness, the mobility of your skin. (Like my clothing choice, my choice not to wear makeup is personal, and I in no way believe it to be a universal mandate.)

The ancient greeks believed men had the ideal body image. Statues of women were basically fashioned like mini-men. I am not suggesting that women should look and act like mini-men. God made women to be women, and women often seem to care more about the small details of beauty in everyday life than men do. I am not saying a woman should not follow her desires to dress beautifully.

God made women beautiful. But of all the gifts we are given, physical beauty is most temporal. As we get older, our beauty fades, and then it is our other depths of skill, wisdom and being that will beautify our spirit and make people like to look at us. 

A woman’s smile, her warmth, her caring, her competence, her humor — these are the things that make her beautiful as she ages. She has so much more to offer the world than sexual allure. 

When I wear simple clothes, I am trying to make that statement. When I wear simple clothes, I am cultivating inner beauty rather than outer show. 

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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