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What Not to Wear

by Pami Phillips

“Wardrobe malfunctions” for Christian girls to avoid

 The M word

Any girl who has experienced a family episode of “night of the angry parents”—when she thought she was acceptably attired—knows that sometimes parents have a tendency to overreact about what she happens to be wearing. But is this just a matter of opinion or something deeper?
Most of us girls who’ve been raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church are quite familiar with the word “modesty.” But many of us don’t have the slightest idea of what that really means.
Today clothes are designed to draw attention to the wearer’s body, putting it on display for others to look at. Popular teenage styles shout, “The sexier, the better.” This trend has caught on big-time, and we’ve all been affected by the  mass media messages we’re exposed to. But are popular styles the guidelines that Christians should follow?
Think of the ritual we all go through every single morning (that is, when we don’t wake up late). We get up, groan a few times, shower, make faces in the mirror, and put on clothes. We stand in front of the mirror surveying our outfit, slowly deciding whether we look good or not. Finally satisfied, we grab our stuff and head out the door.
But consider this: we may think we look good, but are we the only ones affected by our outfit?
Who is affected by our clothing?
Guys are probably the largest group of people affected by women’s clothes. Today sexual crimes are rampant—and increasing—in our scantily clad society. And there’s little wonder why. Many girls complain about guys looking at them in a lewd manner, but they themselves are partly to blame because they wear clothes that attract that kind of attention.
Let’s face it: guys are very drawn to the female body. Despite that, the seventh commandment requires sexual purity. In addition, Jesus clearly states that lust is as sinful as adultery (see Matthew 5:28).
We girls must realize that our clothing choices can either push them toward surrendering to temptation or help them to resist it. If we decide to wear a low-cut shirt, or a tight miniskirt, or something else provocative, aren’t we causing others to sin? Guys have it harder than we think, so why don’t we give our brothers in Christ a helping hand? Let’s cover it up so that they can talk to us without having to look at the carpet the whole time!
Even more important, God is affected by what we wear. We are ambassadors of the King! Dress like it! We must present a moral, godly standard and show the world that we have treasure in heaven, not on earth. Modesty is embodied by the pure, simple, humble attitude Jesus had—being different from the loud, lewd, obnoxious, worldly culture. 
Real beauty
One main reason that we girls struggle with clothing choices is that inwardly we all have the desire to be beautiful. We want to feel pretty. But is putting our bodies on display the right way to meet this desire? No.
In fact, the Bible describes a completely different way to be beautiful, and it has nothing to do with clothing or makeup. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight” (1 Peter 3:3, 4, NIV).*
The reality is that we are beautiful because God made us in His image (see Genesis 1:26)!
Each of us is unique; there will never be anyone else exactly like us. Even if we have acne (as I do), or we think our hair is too poofy or too straight, or we’re not thin enough or are too thin, to God we’re awesome. We’re His precious, lovely daughters. So if we stand in front of the mirror and call ourselves Madam Ugly or the Big Bad Wolf, who are we really insulting? The One who created us.
As daughters of God, let’s always remember that our true beauty is inner beauty—our wholesome, godly, feminine spirit. When the inside shines, the outside is barely noticed. 
A compass for clothing

However, we still need to be careful about how  we dress—especially in the areas of the chest, backside, and legs, because those areas attract the most attention. Here are some basic, practical guidelines to point all of us in the right direction regarding what to wear.
1. Cover it up: exposed skin
This is probably the most basic guideline, and the most important! Skin is possibly the most beautiful and provocative part of the human body. Showing even a little skin in certain places will no doubt attract attention. Sleeveless tops can be a big problem because the armholes often reveal underclothing and parts of the body that are supposedly covered. A certain top may look modest in the mirror, but as we move around, our clothes will move too. In regard to skirts, a completely modest and comfortable length is just a little below the knee. It’s better not to wear skirts above the knees—especially not as high as the thighs—even if we’re wearing tights. This way we don’t have to worry about revealing anything we shouldn’t every time we sit down or get up. 
2. High and dry: necklines 
We all need to aim for wearing high necklines. This doesn’t mean that the only safe clothes are turtlenecks, but we should definitely make sure that we’re not exposing ourselves whenever we lean down at the drinking fountain, etc. Really, necklines shouldn’t go lower than one or two inches below the dip in our collarbone, so that our chest area stays adequately covered. Remember, we’re witnessing for or against the principles of Christian modesty by how we dress, and this is an area of the female body that often leads guys to impure thoughts.
3. Hang loose: tight clothes
Not only do tight-fitting garments reveal too much of the figure’s outline, but they also actually put physical stress on our body. Loose-fitting garments give the body more room to breathe and relax. Concerning tops of any kind, if the fabric curves completely around the breasts or shows any part of the bra, it’s way too tight. Concerning skirts and dresses, if the fabric curves around and under the backside, it’s too tight. Many girls today think that if they wear dark tights with a miniskirt, it’s not revealing. But that’s not the case. One pastor decided to survey all the males in his congregation to get their opinions on the most revealing clothes. Many said that even if a body part is covered up, if the covering is tight enough to show the outline, that can still trigger impure thoughts. 
4. Your slip is showing: sheerness
Today many stores sell extremely thin, see-through clothing for girls, and few people realize what a big problem this can be. Clothing that’s too sheer allows pretty much anyone to determine what color bra we have on, as well as see a significant amount of skin. To solve this  problem, we can put on a lightweight shirt underneath it. Camis (camisoles) still allow the bra straps to be seen and are often very low-cut. With regard to this, I’ve found that wearing a black or dark shirt under a lighter shirt is best, because white or lighter shirts still draw too much attention to underclothing. For skirts, a slip should do. (We should always check out the fabric’s sheerness before buying the piece of clothing.) 
5. Now you see it: illusion clothing
Perhaps the biggest way the fashion industry has outwitted a modest society is with illusion clothing. Today many clothes are designed to not show skin, but to still create the illusion of nudity. Many sweaters, blouses, and other tops have deep necklines, and even when a regular shirt is worn underneath it, the top still lies across the chest in an almost bikini style. Another popular trend is jeans that are fitted down your entire leg, called skinny jeans. Even regular jeans can tend to hug the body too much. So though we may be covered up, we’re still exposing the entire form of our legs and backside to public view.
These are just some basic ideas to keep in mind when we go shopping. Of course, not all categories of clothes are included in this list. As each of us thinks carefully and prays earnestly about Christian modesty and purity in dress, the Holy Spirit will impress on our minds other do’s and don’ts to follow. 
Why modesty?
Many people are probably wondering why I (and others) am stressing the clothing issue so much. Some people think it’s legalistic and that we shouldn’t put any emphasis on the way a Christian dresses.
However, as I’ve said before, we’re Christ’s representatives on earth, and as Adventists, we’re representatives to other Christians, as well. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). 
God has told us to glorify Him with what we put in our bodies and also what we put on them. If we’re true followers of Christ, we must exalt Him in all that we do. This includes dressing for Him, so that we won’t cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble, and so that the whole world may know we aren’t of the world. 
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright  1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.  

Pami Phillips is a college student from Nebraska. She enjoys painting, pottery, and natural foods. She volunteers at a nursing home on weekends and plans a career in nursing.

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