I can remember the day clearly. I sat on the couch, sipping a cup of coffee while my children played on the living room floor around me. A fire in the wood stove filled our living room with a soft, enveloping warmth. Wooden blocks and plastic animals were strewn about on the floor along with piles of abandoned books. I was perusing a simple, homey dress catalog, one that had obviously been printed in someone’s home office and shipped out individually. The catalog was filled with charming line drawings of modest dresses, ankle length dresses and tiny swatches of fabric to choose from. I mentally calculated how much it would cost to purchase three dresses, the minimum I felt I needed to switch over to wearing dresses only. I already had a few skirts in my closet, after all.
Those you who know me are probably looking around to see if this is a guest post since you’ve probably never even seen me in a dress. Hold on, I haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.
Choosing the dresses wasn’t easy. Most of the fabric swatches looked like they had come straight from Mr. Oleson’s store in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Cute denim skirts were out for me as I am way too short to pull off that look. I found a few swatches that I sort of liked.
I had decided to wear only dresses as a tangible symbol of my faith (I hadn’t told my husband of my choice yet). I didn’t think it was necessary for everyone, or sinful to wear pants, but I wanted my commitment to Christ to be visible to everyone I met. I wanted people to see my love for Jesus.
I already had the long hair and five small children. We lived on acreage and raised chickens for meat and eggs. We heated our house with a wood stove and planned to homeschool our children. I not only made our bread from scratch but ground our own wheat as well! I was rocking this Christian mothering gig.
On the day I decided to wear only dresses, I also had an epiphany. I hate wearing dresses and had since I was eleven or twelve. Why do I hate it? It just doesn’t feel like me. That’s the best I can put it. I feel like someone playing dress up when I put one on. But still, I was willing to sacrifice that. To wear dresses for Jesus. Then something happened. It suddenly occurred to me that not only did God create me, He loved me intensely, dress or no dress. God wasn’t impressed with my commitment to wear only dresses. Baking bread didn’t bring me closer to Jesus. Collecting eggs from our own chickens didn’t make me more spiritual. Those were all lifestyle choices. Choices Chuck and I consciously made because it was the way we wanted to raise our children. Good choices, choices that were in line with our family values. We wanted them to have fields to frolic in, animals to care for, wholesome foods to eat and hard work to do.
But they were choices; not commandments.
I have dear friends and family who choose to wear only dresses, but unlike my decision to wear only dresses, theirs is a conviction they have. The thing is, I didn’t and don’t have that conviction.
Romans 14 says:
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
I’m not religious but I like this because to me it’s about self-knowledge and self-insight. And this blog to me is all about understanding and love of self and family–it might be summed up by one of my favorite lines from Les Miserables (the musical, not the book): “To love another person is to see the face of God!”
Nice! I love hearing how you decide to do something or not. As a young mom (hmmm, semi young ) I struggle with those choices too. Your decisions do not make up my mind, but they give me something to think about, and some relief. I like the large family blogs that show how to manage time and give suggestions, but I don’t live such a strict life, and often feel like a failure for not doing so. I like how very real you are. You try, but your self worth isn’t smashed because you don’t garden, or your home isnt pefectly clean. I really appericate seeing that. 🙂
I read all the reasons for dresses….how I make men sin by wearing pants. Andy and I talked about it. He, of course didn’t care, and I realized I don’t like wearing dresses all the time. I jokingly told him, “I like making men sin. ” Ok, not really, but men are going to think what they will sometimes regardless of what I wear. I try to be modest and that is that. 🙂
Thanks for the great post!
And let’s be clear here, you don’t “make men sin” by wearing pants (or anything else). If you dress immodestly, you may very well make it more difficult for them not to sin, but that is not the same and making them do something. They are responsible for themselves.
Also, obviously dresses can be immodest and pants can be very modest.
Like I said, I have friends and family who have a conviction about wearing only dresses, in that case, they *should* wear only dresses. The thing is, that isn’t what I was doing…I didn’t (and don’t) feel that conviction. I was simply trying be more spiritual by my outward appearance. Those are two very different things.
Thank you for your comment!
Agreed. I hate this argument that women wearing skimpy clothes or whatever will cause men to sin. As a bloke that is supposed to grow to be a leader, that just says I am a weakling.
We all have to walk a line of what’s reasonable. The reality is that men are very visual and women have a huge range of clothing options. Choose fashionable and not skanky. Feel pretty. Look pretty but don’t devalue men.
I just loved this. I have several times in my short spiritual journey, had moments of… I should do this… wouldn’t this make God happy?! While of course I want the Lord to delight in me, my biggest shortcoming is in forgetting that He already takes great delight in me! The fact that I accepted Christ is my Lord and Savior is enough. Like you said, unless we are convicted to do something… our “efforts” are usually just that… OUR efferts.
This was so wonderful to read. Thank you for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).
Wishing you a lovely day.
Yes, Jennifer, it’s it funny how we somehow always make it about ourselves (I will make God happy) when what we need to learn over and over (and over) it’s really all about Jesus.
I love this post. I choose to wear skirts most of the time as I find pants uncomfortable. If I want to bush walk you can be sure that those hated trousers will be on. I do not want any nasty Aussie insect or worse hurting me. I have personally wrestled with the long hair issue. My hair is greasy and looks awful long, so it is not for me. I think that my Saviour would far rather a happy and productive me following him and not doctrine. Asbestos underwear is now on.
Your message is clear and true. Salvation is not earned it is freely given with grace. I thank you for that.
The beauty of the gospel and at the same time that hardest part for us to truly grasp is that we don’t need to do anything for Christ because He already did it all for us. I think it is wired into our nature that we have to do something, that its about us but the Gospel goes against it all and reminds us that it is all about what He has already done. I’m still working on grasping this fact. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.
This post falls in my top ten favorites because, yes, I did look around to see if it was a guest blogger! And then I thought you were reposting the homeschool stereotype party, but with a new picture. I have also dabbled in the “what is the right way to show Christianity,” but have also felt like an imposter when I do. God did not create me to be a submissive wife and do everything my husband says. He made me full of spice to be the perfect compliment to my spicy husband. When I was trying out the “Yes, dear,” life, my husband was really frustrated with my lack of opinion and inability to make decisions without his guidance. Oh, but skirts…man, my maxi skirts are my new yoga pants! I bet when people see me out and about with my maxi skirt, birkenstocks, and seven children, they think “crazy hippie” or “crazy Christian.” Maybe a little of both?
This is one of your most religious blogs I’ve read, so I guess this is as good a time to ask this questions; Do you take the bible literally..I mean, taking it as the direct word of God much like Muslims do with the Quran? I’ve always considered it to be a written by men who had good intentions and were trying to write down a guide to help people find contentment, hope and salvation in a barbaric time. Indeed, some of those who wrote the Bible never even met Jesus and lived many years after he died. Couple that with the numerous times the Bible has been translated and updated over the centuries and I find it hard to take it literally.
Well let me preface this by saying I am a follower of Jesus, not a theologian, so my answers may or may not be “right”.
Do I take the Bible literally? I take the literal parts literally (as in it is full of parables and visions- those I do *not* take literally). Do I believe that Jesus was a real man? Born of a virgin? Lived a sinless life and died for my sins? Yes, that I believe 100%.
You are absolutely right, many of the authors never met Jesus. I believe what was written was divinely inspired by God. One thing I believe it is easy to lose sight of is that some books of the Bible were letters written to specific people at a specific time…Paul is not writing letters to *me* but to churches in the Bible during his day.
Does that make sense?
I’m having a bit of trouble understanding your post today. Why would Jesus want women to wear dresses? I’m not a religious person, I do believe in God and pray every day but I don’t know the bible that well. Is there a passage somewhere it says that women have to wear dresses? Or is it because when Jesus was on Earth women wore what would be called dresses today? Because if that’s the reason, men wore pretty much the same thing.
I’m not trying to be argumentative, just trying to understand why dresses are supposedly the approved way to dress to be a Christian.
Peg, it sounds like you understood my post perfectly. There is nothing inherently *right* about wearing dresses. That was exactly the conclusion I came to. I was trying to become closer to Jesus and somehow equated that with wearing conservative “christian” dresses. The idea of wearing only dresses is manmade- not something Biblically mandated. Does that help clarify? If not, I’ll try to answer more specifically.
This is exactly my thought! I mean, I’ve even heard the excuse that pants make women look masculine. That might be true in the very rare case where a woman doesn’t have a particularly curvy body, but in most instances, women REALLY have to go out of their way to look like a man, and me least of all. I even have a buzz cut, but still — I have only rarely been mistaken for male, and that was the two times I went out of my way to try (and boy let me tell you those four times too big clothes were So. Blinkin’. Annoying. I quit immediately and never did it again. lol) and look like a dude. I mean, come on, folks, they make women’s pants these days.
I think people forget that back when the Bible was written, clothing was similar for both men and women, only the styling was different. That’s now true today. They want to look at the strict dress code from, say, the 50’s to define what should happen today. They typically forget that there were times when men dressed ever so fancily and wore makeup. Or all sorts of things inconvenient to their particular view of How Things Should Be.
These days, I mostly wear dresses because MAN is it difficult to find pants that aren’t too long in the leg, and I end up with chewed-up cuffs, and that obnoxious drag of heavy denim on the sidewalk, both of which I /hate/. I’ve had people incorrectly assume it was for religious reasons that I made that switch. It’s actually for the too-long-pants, too hard to get a good fit pants reason (I’m short), for the fact that I’m getting too lazy to try and match clothing separates well, and dresses are VERY conveniently an outfit on a single hanger. One can add interesting leggings in winter if one wants, or knee high socks, or whatever. But yeah, at my age convenience is awesome. And, strangely, I look like I care about what I’m wearing, when I really, really don’t care, beyond comfort and durability. lol I’ve even bought (on purpose) super long men’s button downs to serve as button down shirtdresses (I find that a lot of shirt dresses made for women are too thin, and I don’t like that at all.) and put leggings on under if the tails don’t quite reach the knee. It looks super fancy, but the thing’s simply a shirt that’s technically too long for me. I’ve noticed a LOT of shirts are like that for me, so again, convenient! Not gonna lie, I intend to go thrifting to do this again, just so I have more ‘not a t-shirt dress’ options. I like to alter these things sometimes so they fit more like a dress, and look less ‘a boy’s shirt-y.’ Amazing wardrobe hack. It helps that my mom has a sewing machine and is willing to help me with these alterations, since I basically suck at sewing beyond a basic repair.
Nope, your answer is perfect. Thanks. Hope someday to meet you and your ‘gang’. My daughter and granddaughter met you a couple of years ago. I was looking at your blog last week and my granddaughter saw the pictures and said, “hey, I know those kids.”
Love your blog post, Renee! I don’t know if this will be of interest to Tony or others, but I personally found it so tremendously helpful. This is Alistair Begg at Truth for Life talking about the History of Christ. It’s available to listen to on-line or as a free download.
To clarify… The Christ of History
For two and a half years, I wore a head covering and dresses. I had my husband’s permission, but it wasn’t his idea and over time we both became unhappy with the situation. I remember him asking one day, “Will I never see your legs again?” ;D Like the Pharisees in the Bible, I had become overly concerned about outward appearances, when what really mattered was the heart. I learned a lot during those years and wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but I’m glad that now I have the freedom to dress practically and in a manner pleasing to my husband. There is a movement now for head covering, dresses, Biblical feasts and Jewish traditions. Before pursuing any of these I would encourage women to make the decision with the full knowledge and approval of your husband and family members. Proverbs 15:22
From outward appearances, most people would think that we are “dresses only.” But it’s a long story – we are “dresses mostly” and everything the women/girls in our family wears must pass our family’s modesty guidelines. These are mostly set in place by my husband, but we actually went to wearing skirts/dresses most of the time due to our daughters’ wishing to do this!
Funny, but when we moved to wearing dresses/skirts most of the time, a close family friend told us that when he heard this he thought “they already dress so modestly I’m surprised they are doing that” or something like that. We were already dressing modestly, pants or dresses, and they had noticed!
The girls started us in this direction (well, years ago we were dresses only for about 6 years, but we dropped it when it became an area of frustration with the same daughter(s) whom later desired to wear mostly skirts/dresses!) about 5 years ago, and we are still wearing dresses/skirts most of the time.
So when most people will see our women/girls they will see them in dresses/skirts, but if they come out to the coed church softball games, they will see our girls in pants. Or if you come to visit our home, you may also see them wearing pants as many of the jobs around our home are best done in pants (goats, chickens, yard work etc).
I totally agree that dresses can be immodest, and pants can be more modest than many dresses/skirts! It is the heart that counts! Are you, as a woman, dressing to bring attention to yourself, your outward appearance? Or are you dressing in such a way as to bring glory to God? Overdressing and under-dressing and dressing in worn out clothes (to be piously humble) are all extremes and I think they should be avoided. Those who know that we are believers are judged by those who are not…they are watching us to see if our “religion” is credible. Wearing dresses only can detract from the gospel just as much as pants only if it is done to attract attention to ourselves. Especially if a non-believer sees Christians wearing dresses only and believes that it is a requirement to be a Christian! I really believe that is is a matter of the heart.
I personally wear skirts away from home, mostly due to my being overweight and both myself and my husband feel that I look better in skirts right now. This may change in the future.
I do think it’s important for women to consider what the potential effect of what they are wearing will be on others whom they will be with, and be careful not to defraud others, especially in church. I know it’s distracting for my men, and myself, if women are “dressed to kill” in church. We go to church to worship God, and we should be careful to dress in a way that will not bring attention to ourselves, whether it’s a skirt or pants!
We do not dictate our girls’ dress code, especially for our older daughters (16, 18, and 24). We do, however, give our advice to them and if we see some are of concern about what they are wearing (too low of a neckline, too snug of a fit) we do talk with them and ask them to make the needed change (like “I think it’s time for that shirt to be passed down now”).
I have to admit that I do have a pet peeve. When women choose to be “dresses only” yet they wear skin tight shirts/low neck lines. I’m like “Really? You think that is modest???”
Thank you for expressing your ideas in this area – I totally agree with you that it is NOT a salvation issue at all. If we are dressing to be more spiritual or earn points for heaven you are doing it all wrong.
And yes, you “got me” – I was looking to see if this was a guest post.
(man, I think my comment might be longer than your blogpost!)
Great post! Beautiful words, thanks for sharing.