Girly T-Shirt Fashion – A Christian Designer’s Appraisal

A woman in my congregation has spent some considerable time in Africa and told a story of women from a tribal group that were new Christians now coming to church. They wanted to express praise by way of one of their tribe’s dances. It became obvious during the dance that this was a traditional fertility dance, lots of hip action and provocative moves. After the service, the pastor said to someone in private, “Look…I’m only human–I think maybe that dance was too sexy for church!”

Tensions between cultural expression and notions of propriety are universal. I also deal with it, not in dance, but in fashion, as a Christian designer of ladies wear. Today’s styles for ladies are fitted, figure flattering, and sometimes skimpier than we’ve seen in the past, so then are they “too sexy for church”?

The emergence of ‘uber-pink’ women’s fashion, however, may give us even deeper pause. Where did this wind blow from, exactly? What happened to the grungy, one-size-fits-all-genders-look that I remember like it was yesterday? What should we make of the huge popularity of the girly styles niche?

Assessing the Trends: Is Girly ‘Good’?

As Christians we seek to help shape culture even while we’re at the same time being counter-cultural, as needs be, wherever our faith is at clear odds with certain trends and prevailing outlooks. But where are the lines? Many may sense a repulsion or subliminal disconnect with this article’s title, wondering, perhaps, how ‘girly’ and ‘Christian’ can live peaceably in the same phrase.

Still, at its heart, “girly fashion” may be expressing something good, if only because it’s possible to understand its current significance as a letting loose of gender-blurring unisex clothing and a re-embracing of the inherent, created differences custom-designed by the One who “made them male and female”(Genesis 1:27). A delight in the differentiating work of God in creation is one characteristic that sets Christianity apart from Gnosticism and Monism.

So, viva la difference! Love your curves–celebrate womanhood! Still, many will ask, what about ‘modesty’? This word is used in the New Testament in passages specifically concerned with women’s dress (I Tim. 2:9-10/ I Pet: 3: 3-4). Indeed, while millennia apart from us, these ancient texts may be the closest thing we have to scriptural witness on women’s fashion. They are also the ‘bugaboo’ texts as many women’s apprehensions are that a “Christian dress code” is intended. Yet two things of significance should be noted that contextualize these passages.

The Bible On Ladies Wear

The first observation is that these passages, in their own words, are less about prescribing specific standards for dress and more about the essence of beauty coming from within, rather than from outward adornment. The second is that the ‘modesty’ being urged is almost certainly (though perhaps not entirely) economic, that is, a modesty of means. It’s far less clear that women in these new first century congregations may have been flaunting their bodies, as it is that they were flaunting their wealth, dressing to out-class! Gold, pearls, braided hair, and expensive clothes are specifically named, clearly the ‘bling’ of Greco-Roman era ostentatious, status-seeking fashion choices. Even the wording around ‘braided hair’, in the original language, carried the meaning of rolling costly gems into the hair’s braids. So will buying pricier clothes ‘cure’ immodesty? These passages seem to be nudging in the opposite, dressing down direction.

Notwithstanding, a sense of ‘modesty in all things’ trails with the leading thought if only because the clothing is also a metaphor of the recommended virtues (dressed in ‘good deeds’ would be over the top if literal!) and because ‘decency’ and ‘propriety’ are also mentioned. I for one wonder about a society whose women’s wear seems to move in a more and more baring direction. Personal motivations, even in fashion choices, are also to be wrestled with, though as with all matters of conscience, a spectrum of differences is surely predictable (dare I say even enjoyable?) Here I think C.S. Lewis was on to something when he noted that notions of modesty, while universal, change from time to time and from culture to culture.

New trends have a way of becoming standard, commonplace classics, and society at large adjusts. Is “dressing like man-bait” someone’s actual motivation or is it the judgment of sectors of society not accepting of the new trends? This question was an aside with which audiences were being teased in the movie “Erin Brockavich” (though undoubtedly after a manner that many Christians might find unsatisfactory.)

Along these lines, perhaps we should take our cue from the mini skirt, once thought to be scandalous, but now an everyday classic even in business circles. Was the 53-year-old mom in a mini who recently came to church to pick up her daughter from my church’s youth group trying to be ‘immodest’ or ‘scandalous’? Or was she simply making a wise and now classic cool-down fashion choice on a hot summer’s night? She’s a friend of mine– I’ll opt for the latter! Among the people of God, isn’t there room enough to make room for each other when it comes to personal expressions like style and fashion? Perhaps that’d only be Christian.

Secrets of a Fashion Daredevil – #1 How to Wear What the Skinny Girls Wear

What the Fashion Daredevil wants the Fashion Daredevil gets

I love shopping with my friends, those special days we take to the malls to try everything on in hopes of finding that new favorite dress. On those days of dressing room rumors it is never more apparent that no two women are created equal. What looks good on some looks equally as bad on others (didn’t Versace say that?, well someone did).

We all want to look good in whatever we try on, especially if it’s a hot new fashion. Everyone has clothes that fit them better than the rest, its the spice of life, but wouldn’t it be great if we could fit into any pair of designer jeans or that new Alexander Wang Leopard Print Dress. There are many reasons a “unique fit” results from something as standard as clothing sizes. In part, fashion designers design for models. Often these models are not real people, well they are real people, but let’s face it they are models; skinny, tinny, weenie models. It should be no surprise that our 5’9″ 90 lb friends (BTW, I don’t call these people friends any more) look better in high fashion than we do. To be fair many designers design for real people, but in the end the really cool fashions, the ones we wish we could wear are designed by stylistas for young women. As I write this, I dream of walking into a party wearing a Diane von Furstenberg dress complete with complementing young men and whispering two faced co-workers.

I want that dream but just short of giving up my kids to take up a life of purging, fasting and 24 hour fitness I don’t think its possible. Wait, don’t be so negative, you’re the fashion daredevil and what the fashion daredevil wants the fashion daredevil gets. After a moment of, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, “necessity is the mother of invention” and the vision of Anthony Robbins giant teeth, Body Shapers came to mind like a premonition. It makes perfect sense, I mean celebs are wearing them (cheaters). There are all kinds of new ones on the market, hell I’ve even seen plastic surgeons hocking them on TV. These don’t look like Grandma’s girdles, they are sleek, strong and technologically advanced. Can these, discretely disguised as underwear, secret weapons really work? I had to try one.

Quickly I ran to the computer and Googled, “body shapers” up came a list of about a million pages. I clicked the link top on the list: “Shape your body with some lame electronic stimulator”; what the hell…, this isn’t what I was looking for. Scanning down the first page I saw a company link “Telegaleria, largest selection of body shapers…professional help”; sounds good I clicked it. Finally, a place devoted to “Body Shapers” those under garments for invisibly slimming and shaping my body. There were so many to choose from: Cinchers, Butt Lifters, Body Suits and more; there was even High Compression Powernet. Powernet? Was this some electronic body vise? Great selection but I needed help so I clicked the Live Chat button and got Ana, one of Telegaleria’s body shaper experts. I explained to her that I was looking to slim my body and get a better fit from my clothing, you know like the celebrities do (What’s good enough for Jessica Alba is good enough for me). Ana was great, she quickly assessed my situation, determined my body shape, sized me using the site’s exclusive eTailor and offered up options. Since giving birth a few years back my tummy never fully recovered and days of taking care of a family and not myself so much has taken its toll. I needed the most help with my tummy and butt so Ana recommended something called a lipo effect body shaper made from of all things, Powernet. There were more than several in the category to choose from but I settled on a brand called Vedette model 301. I finished the order online and waited.

Three days later, pretty fast considering, I received a manila envelope containing a nicely packaged Body Shaper from Telegaleria. Eager to see if it would work I ran upstairs to tried it on, stubbing my toe at the bottom of the stairs and half limping to my room I readied myself for the new me. I pulled this tiny thing from the package, “holy crap how was I going to fit into this”, I thought. I sat down and I put my leg in shimmied left then right and pulled up the body shaper. I’m not lying it was tight and a bit of a stretch to put on. My first impression was NO WAY, this is too tight, geez Powernet means P-O-W-E-R-N-E-T and it really pulled me in. After I caught my breath and gave it a minute (well really about 10) I started to feel more comfortable, the initial shock was over and I could see it was working. I stood in front of the mirror and damn if I wasn’t thinner. I looked like a goof but I was thinner. Now that I had it on I had to test it out. Running to my closet and digging way to the back I knew just the dress to try out. A few years back, when money was less of an object, I bought a Versace dress on vacation that was a size too small and regrettably never fit me as well as I would have liked. Now, there is no way I was getting into that dress without help. Hell, if I put it on without a shaper I am sure it would rip the first time I bent over. Anyway, I pulled it out, dusted it off, and slipped it on. OH-MY-GOD, it slipped on! I didn’t just fit in it, I-FIT-IN-IT! I looked great! The first sight of myself in the mirror was music to my eyes and I enjoyed the sort of satisfied inebriation one gets when success is realized. The dress draped on me like it was suppose to. I stood tall, turned all the way around, twisting my head keeping my eyes on my new image in the mirror. Unbelievable, it fits, it really fits, now I am not going to say I couldn’t feel the body shaper, I felt it but I feel a lot of things that make me beautiful. I thought, “I could handle this”. It was a small price to pay for beauty, besides I didn’t starve or have to endure hours of work-outs. One moment I was me the next I was fashionable.