Monday, November 06, 2006

Timeless and Universal Principles of Dress

As you know, I've been reading a lot of blogs and books -- from past to present -- about homemaking. I've discovered that there are universal and timeless truths to which all great homemakers refer. In this sense, homemaking is a science.

When it comes to the methodology of how to apply those principles, there is more room for variation. The practical application of timeless homemaking truths can change over time, particularly as technology changes. Also, two women of today can take two different approaches to arrive at the same homemaking goal. Each family is different; each family needs different things at different times. So, a savvy homemaker must learn how to apply the scientific principles of homemaking to her individual situation. In this sense, homemaking is an art.

One universal truth that has yielded many different applications pertains to how the home keeper dresses for her tasks. The attire of a homemaker is so important that you can hardly find a homemaking book or web site that doesn’t refer to this subject in some way. Authors from the early 1800’s opined about it; authors of today discuss it frequently (and sometimes heatedly) as well. Some current home making experts go so far as to prescribe a “uniform” for the homemaker. They are very specific in telling a homemaker what to wear, even down to specific footgear.

My favorite homemaking uniform is a pretty skirt or dress and an apron. But, some women feel great in jeans and a feminine blouse. It’s not my purpose here to prescribe to others exactly how they should dress in their home.

Instead, let me lay out what I’ve discovered about the underlying principles of dress. I’ve tried to stick to the general concepts on which almost all great homemakers agree:

1) Paying attention to the details of your personal presentation -- from grooming to dress to shoes -- sends a message to you and to others that your domestic responsibilities are important. Dressing in a way that makes you feel both "professional" and attractive gives you more energy and efficiency for your tasks. (You will find this same advice in books for at-home freelance writers, by the way).

2) Keeping a neat and fresh appearance is a gift you give to your family members. After all, would you enjoy it if members of your family went around with un-brushed hair and teeth and schlepped around in sweats with holes in them? We should treat others with the same consideration we desire from them. This is especially important to our husbands. They are created by God to be attracted to our smiling, fresh, and feminine appearance. If they come home to find us habitually looking careworn and unfeminine, we can discourage them more than we realize.

3) If you make it a point to dress to at least an acceptable appearance in the morning, you will not be embarrassed if someone unexpectedly rings the bell or if you need to make an unplanned foray into public.

4) Some home experts advise wearing sturdy shoes to protect feet from household accidents, such as dropping something heavy on your toes. Others prefer to wear pretty, comfortable, inside-only slippers. These have no dust or dirt on them that could dirty carpets and floors. One expert even suggests that you wear thick cotton socks when you mop the floor so as not to leave shoe prints. There is merit in each of these points of view; the underlying principle is that you should put some consideration into what you slip onto your feet.

5) Many homemaking experts – especially those from the past – advocate changing from our day’s clothing into a fresh outfit for the evening. The evening outfit doesn’t have to be fancy, just fresh and clean. Others suggest that simply touching up your appearance by splashing your face with water, re-combing your hair, etc., is sufficient. The point is, once again, to have a fresh appearance when your family comes together for dinner.

6) Our inner and outer natures affect each other. Order in our dress and appearance can both reflect and inspire order in our hearts. Disorder in our dress and appearance can both reflect and inspire disorder in our hearts. We have to walk carefully here. This principle is not meant to be a yardstick by which we measure others; Jesus warned against judging others by appearances. Instead, this principle is meant to help us with our own dress.

7) I have found out the hard way a truth that mose excellent homemakers reccommend: Taking care of your health is a part of presenting a fresh, pretty, and modest appearance.

8) If we aspire to follow Christ, we will have an extra reason to watch our dress. God’s word enjoins us to dress in a way that is feminine and modest. The fact is; there are many differing views about how to apply this practice in today’s world. We should read God’s word, pray, get advice, and arrive at an informed conviction about how we, personally, will put this principle into practice. We should realize, however, that equally conscientious believers may arrive at different opinions about what constitutes feminine and modest dress than we do. Perhaps, this is where a reading of Romans Chapters 14 and 15 will be useful. At any rate, it’s not wise to blindly accept the world’s norm, here. We need to seek God’s will.

If you understand the principles I've listed above, you can apply them no matter what type of dress you choose. Whether you put on a dress or a pair of jeans, you can wear them one of two ways: 1) With a tired face, wrinkled or less than fresh clothing, poor grooming, and with no thought toward modesty or 2) With a cheerful face, fresh clothing, good grooming, shining and neatly brushed hair and with a thought toward modesty.



Sandra said...

Elizabeth, this is just an excellent post and one I needed to read. This topic has been on my mind lately and you've helped me think more clearly about it.

Modesty and femininity have been lost in our society and we need to bring it back. My problem is I like to be comfortable, too comfortable I'm afraid so I need to do some soul-searching about how I appear to others and represent Christ.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Sandra!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Elizabeth!


Elizabeth said...

Hi Terri,

Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

Mrs Blythe said...

I have once again been thinking much about modesty and femininity; I'm not sure where I am with it all really. But I'm patiently waiting for some inspiration ;o)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Mrs. Blythe,

Well, I'm not sure I've got the subject all wrapped up and tied in a bow, either. :)

Mishel said...

Excellent post and very inspiring. I especially liked point #8. : )

Mrs. U said...

Lovely post, Elizabeth!!! And very convicting, too. Thank you for sharing these gentle reminders and encouraging ideas with us.

Mrs. U

Elizabeth said...

Hello, Mrs. U.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Found said...

That was probably one of the most excellent blog posts I've ever read!!!

I added it to my new sidebar link list of Valiant Posts!

It's an area I'm learning and growing in. I recently became more concious of my appearance as a homemaker and have made some efforts to change many things. I'm finding joy and I pray my family is finding refreshment in seeing their mom and wife dressed for the job.

My sons have been saying, "Mom! You're so beautiful. You look like a princess!" All because I've taken time to dress more femininely.

I'm so glad the Lord has been patient with me, dealing with much more pressing issues in my life before He shone His light on this one. But I'm glad He's shining. I'm glad He's made me aware and I'm happy to change!
Thanks for this post.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for your kind comments, Found. It brought my attention back to some principles that I find myself needing to review once again.