Christian Dress

Origins of Dress

The first mention of clothing in the Bible goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created naked, but because of their innocence concerning the negative effects of sin, they “were not ashamed”. (Gen. 2:25). It was after their disobedience to God that their “eyes were opened” to the reality of their state. Fig leaves were temporarily used until God “made coats of skins and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:7, 21). The need for clothing came as a result of sin.

Elizabeth Rice, in her book “Your Clothes Say It For You”, sums it up with the following quote: “Because we are sinners subject to the temptation of sinners, it is needful to clothe our bodies.”

What About the Christian?

Almost everyone recognizes the need to be clothed. However, the Christian’s dilemma has always been, “How should I be clothed?” or “Just what fashions and styles are acceptable for me as a Christian?” While the scriptures do express the importance of being clothed, they never tell us exactly what to wear. We should note that whenever God wants exact parameters for anything, He gives them. The precise measurements and guidelines laid out for Noah in building the ark or Solomon in building the temple are good examples. Under the ceremonial law in Deuteronomy 22, the Jews were told not to mix fibers in woven cloth, and the priests were admonished to have a border of blue on their robes. However, in our day, there are few specifics given where dressing is concerned. Let us take a moment to consider the reasons.

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul speaks of women adorning themselves in “modest” apparel, and he goes on to add “with shamefacedness and sobriety”. What then is “modest”? Paul does not become any more specific but has given room for individuality and cultural differences within the confines of modesty. That last clause, “shamefacedness and sobriety”, reveals that the real emphasis of the scripture is on the “inner” man which is the condition of the heart. Why? Our dressing, like our speech, is an outward manifestation of what lies within us.

As Christians, we constantly battle to serve the Lord acceptably. Ultimately, our direction must always come from God’s Word. As long as our principles are Biblically based, we are safe.

The first step to proper dressing is to find out why we wear what we wear.  In a well known fashion magazine, Alex Penn, in his article, “Dress for Success”, states:

“Your image tells a story of what you think of yourself and how you want others to see you. It’s about the way you say and how you say it, the way you dress, your body language, your posture and how you carry yourself…And yes, many of us agree that we shouldn’t be judged on our appearance – but face it, we are…Think about the message you’re sending…”

We can sum up the answer to the ‘reason we dress the way we do’ by recognizing that our clothing portrays what we think about ourselves, and how we want others to see us. If the way we dress is based on Biblical principles and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we can be sure it will be acceptable to God. This protects us from falling prey to the subtlety of sin. God’s laws will not always be easy to obey, but will ultimately cause us to be at peace with both God and ourselves.

The way we ought to view ourselves should be based on humility, not pride. While the Christian should look beautiful and have dignity, dressing for exaltation, seduction, or any other ulterior motive is not considered proper in any way. (1 Pet. 3:3-4). Pride is regarded as “the condemnation of the devil”, and a seductive spirit as having a “bitter end.” (I Tim. 3:6, Prov. 5:4, Prov. 16:18). Clothing, with an exaggerated emphasis on ‘me’, is motivated by pride. Dressing with improper motives is clearly not modest, and God definitely does consider our motives. Let us never forget that while others cannot determine what is in our hearts, God can.

As Christians, we should want others to see us as lights (Mathew 5:16). As stated before, your manner of dress is a part of the image you present to others. Falling in with the latest trendy design will not necessarily portray Christ. We must carefully consider that designers rarely have God’s principles in mind when they design. The world is guided by the “lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” (I Jn. 2:16). It is up to us to let the Spirit guide us honestly in all things. It is immodest to wear clothes designed to allure others to sin. We are guilty of immodesty even if we are ignorant of the designer’s motives.

We must examine ourselves. Modesty and moderation are to be the keys in Christian dressing as they are in all other aspects of our Christian walk (Phil. 4:5). We must remember that we are fighting a spiritual warfare and natural weapons, such as our own opinions, will not work. Whatever we do as Christians should be done reverently and prayerfully with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. This is always the key to successful Christian living.