I mentioned the other day that I’ve been reading Woman Alive magazine. The other article that really struck me was entitled ‘Is Dowdiness Next to Godliness?’ and promoted the author’s book. The book is now on my wishlist but hopefully I’ll get lucky and win the prize draw for a copy.
I’ve been interested in the way women dress, make-up and do their hair for a long time. Which does not mean I look like a fashion model – at the moment, I’m wearing crocs, leggings and sweater, no make-up and sad hair. I do have to point out that I wasn’t intending to go out today when I got dressed this morning! I will possibly be running down to the shop later on but I’ll probably get changed – leggings aren’t the best thing to wear if you’re overweight and your sweater doesn’t cover your … well, anyway.
My appearance has gone through many incarnations. As a little girl I wasn’t bothered about what I wore although I did like dresses and liked to dress up ‘like a bride’ with my mother’s net curtains. Please don’t let the photographs survive, Lord. But it wasn’t until I hit my mid-teens that I started to care about how I looked. And then it was with the intent of attracting male attention. I got very into make-up and happily got up at 6am every morning to wash my hair. That pattern really persisted until I fell ill with depression in my late twenties and getting dressed at all was a major achievement. Today, I think I scrub up not badly but I’m a low-maintenance girl and, generally, don’t bother too much beyond making sure I’m generally hygienic.
There seem to be a lot of Christian writers talking about the way women present themselves. And some of those authors are women. The first school of thought I was attracted to was definitely dowdy. Heads are covered. Hair is long but in a bun. Dresses (and only dresses, mind) go up to the neck and down to the feet with long arms in between. Aprons are probably worn. There is no make-up on that, freshly scrubbed, face. As I understand it, this is Godly because the woman is not encouraging men towards impurity (of body or thought).
The opposite extreme sees women squeezing themselves into the latest trends and ‘making the most’ of whatever God’s blessed them with. Perhaps they argue that, since God made bodies and God made sex, there’s nothing wrong with displaying their bodies and sexuality. Men should, after all, be responsible for controlling their own bodies and minds.
Now, most women – Christian or otherwise – will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum I’ve described. And, I have to say, I’m probably over at the dowdy end. My youth left on the last train out of here (although it’s only been gone five minutes, honest!) and I no longer want to attract the kind of man I did in my 20s. I like comfort more than I like displaying myself and, as I’m fundamentally lazy, this is probably just as well.
However, I am wondering if I shouldn’t begin making somewhat more of an effort. We all have a certain beauty about us (male or female) and it no longer sits well with me to hide it all the time. I’m not sure if it honours God, other people or myself. I worked out a while ago that following the dowdy path, complete with apron, was really a lie – I’m not that kind of woman even if I do like wearing long skirts and comfy shoes. I think, perhaps, this is the next stage of my self-discovery. I don’t mean the kind of navel-gazing that’s totally self-obsessed and selfish. But I want to find out who God intends me to be because that is who I truly am.
I went into town this afternoon and I changed out of the leggings and sweater I was wearing when I began work on this post. I had a shower, did my hair, wore perfume. I wore jeans and trainers with an old, comfortable top. And it felt good.