I get letters very often from moms concerned about what their daughters want to wear. They want to know how they can get them to want to dress more tastefully. Let me tell you how I found some peace concerning the topic.
It started with considering how I dress.
When I first examined the Scriptures to develop a personal theology about what I wear, I discovered that I needed more than a change of clothes.
I needed a change of heart. Maybe you do, too.
It’s easy to get caught up in conforming our clothing to a reasonable standard without really understanding the point of the Bible verses that encourage care and consideration in our wardrobe. We tend to focus on what the Bible says we should not wear rather than accepting the invitation to proactively dress with dignity through Christ.
Consider these frequently quoted verses about how a woman should present herself.
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
(1 Peter 3:3–4 ESV)
Hmmm. The last I checked, you won’t find a gentle and quiet spirit for sale at your favorite online retail site. The point of these two verses is to adequately adorn our hearts, not our bodies. In fact, the vast majority of Bible verses instructing us to clothe ourselves appropriately don’t even mention the garments we put on our bodies. Check out this passage of Truth!
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
(Col. 3:12–17 NLT)
Mercy. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. (Did you get that one?) Love. Peace. These are the clothing of the believer. Once you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you need to put on the character that best reflects your new identity.
I think it’s important to mention baptism here. It’s an external act of what happens by faith when we initially surrender our hearts to Christ. Submerging ourselves under the water signifies that last moment any vestiges of our former “dark deeds” clothed us. We rise from the dunk in new life and new clothes.
All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.
(Gal. 3:27 NLT)
Now, let me ask you a question about the few moments it takes you to be submerged: Are you able to do anything of significance to change yourself? No! You’re barely able to hold your breath. And yet, you have put on Christ. Being baptized is a radical way to declare, “I’m going to be showing up differently—not because I can do that in and of myself, but because God has done and is doing something new in me.”
As with everything in our walk with Jesus Christ, we’re incapable of being well-dressed without Him. At the same time, we can and must cooperate with Him. Baptism is an early act of participating in the work He is doing.
Now, don’t for one second think of it as having your own personal internal wardrobe stylist! He’s not just advising you what to wear. This is more like raiding your mom’s closet back when you were a teenager and wearing her wardrobe. When you come to Christ, you put on His righteousness, His holiness, His nature.
Of course, this happens positionally, when you surrender to Christ and then follow obediently in baptism. But I find that I have to let it happen practically every day. Because, hey, I’m still sinful! So I come to Jesus daily to borrow from His wardrobe, and He clothes me again—in everything. Not just mercy. Not just kindness. Not just humility. Not just gentleness. Not just patience. Not just forgiveness. Not just love. Nothing is left behind. The closet is emptied, and I am clothed.
Do you see how this would be impossible without the work of God’s Spirit in your life? You could probably muster up a day of kindness. Or a moment of humility. But could you live every moment cloaked in His character unless He was and is doing the work of it? I surely could not.
I am incapable of living the character of my identity in Christ without consistently turning to Him for help. And I do that every morning, with few exceptions.
Each morning when I wake up, I shuffle over to my closet and choose what I will wear that day. The Scriptures tell me over and over again that I can do the same thing with my mind and heart. I choose to do that when I spend time in the Word and prayer each morning—a discipline my mother helped me learn beginning when I was eight years old!
Did you invite the Lord to dress your spirit this morning?
Here’s one reason I have made this my lifetime practice: It’s so easy to get caught up in this physical world—caring for my family, doing my job, grocery shopping, the laundry—and forget that I’m a spiritual being. The things I can see, taste, and touch clamor for me to believe they matter more than the things I cannot. I think we all struggle with this. And that’s why we turn verses like 1 Peter 3:3–4 into “modesty verses” as opposed to an invitation to be clothed in the dignity of Jesus Christ.
So, I ask you again: Did you spend time asking God’s Spirit to clothe you today?
Talking to your daughter about being clothed in Christ: Take the True Girl True Beauty Challenge with your daughter. I developed it almost two decades ago as a way of reminding ourselves to be clothed in Christ. It’s very simple. You set apart a period of time—a week or month, for example— to spend more time each day with God grooming your heart than you do in front of the mirror grooming your body. In this way, you place yourself in the presence of Jesus to be clothed. And you override the temptation to obsess about your external appearance. Each day of the True Girl True Beauty Challenge, you ask yourself: “Did I spend more time in God’s Word than I did in front of the mirror?”
Your daughter is not too young to begin to learn the beautiful discipline of dressing herself with dignity.
This article is an excerpt from Clothed in Dignity, a magazine-style booklet to help you explore what you believe about clothing, dignity, beauty, and how we dress. Each article answers questions like these:
- Whose Idea Was Clothing?
- Why Do We Fight Over What We Wear?
- Do We Need More Than a Change of Clothes?
- Does God Really Care What I Wear?
- What Does Dignity Look Like?
At the end of each article, you'll find conversation prompts for you and your daughter to discuss the topic of dressing with dignity. Clothed in Dignity was written as a resource for our True Girl subscribers, but this month we're offering it as a way to say thank you for a donation of any amount to support the ministry of True Girl. I'd love to send a copy to you.
Get your copy by making a gift of any amount.
As soon as we receive your gift, we'll ship Clothed in Dignity to you!
Our True Girl theme verse:
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32
Mom, the best way to teach your daughter to live like an authentic True Girl is to live like an authentic True Woman. And to do that, you've got to get your life lined up with the Truth of the Bible. Listen to Dannah Gresh every weekday on Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's Revive Our Hearts podcast. The program features biblical teaching, interviews that offer godly advice, and other opportunities to abide in God's Word.