I’ve been none-too-silent in my love of silly shoes (and accessories/fashion in general) in the past. Including my “Kardashian heels” as I call them.
Or the “hooker heels,” as Elle called them.
And thus it began.
Perhaps any other day, and in any other setting, I would have just laughed. Elle and I enjoy a steady stream of silly banter and “stuff you can say in private and not in public.” I won’t say that stuff here ’cause, in case you missed it, the interweb IS, actually, public. So I don’t know why I was so I was SO disconcerted by her walking up to me, but saying to two other women near us (all friends) “Did you see her hooker shoes?” I know she was joking. I know she loves me. And I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s fine for me to wear those shoes. And even if she doesn’t, I don’t care: because I’ve put a plentiful thought into what I wear all the times, and I have a clear conscious and peace from God about this.
I think it’s mostly nothing to do with her. It’s mostly to do with the fact that I am particularly sensitive about the subjects of objectification and sexualization of women within the church. And by that I mean, particularly, the church building. It comes up a lot. A few weeks ago a friend lamented wearing shorts to service. “I think they’re fine. I think they’re appropriate, but there is just something weird about wearing SHORTS at church.”
And last weekend, when discussing beauty and clothes, a mamafriend and I lamented about how we feel that there is a certain level of pretty you’re allowed to be at church. In fact, I go to a church that is a group of really attractive people, (blame it on the city. Perfect city + young, healthy culture = pretty pretty people, all around) so there’s a certain level of pretty many feel they need to be. Think that’s irrational? Okay. Think that. And I’ll let you, ignoring the fact that for a decade and a half, one of my very best friends didn’t go to church because she was too embarrassed about how she looked.
There are RULES. people. Not everyone agrees about what they are, but most people feel them.
And here’s what I observe: you’ve got to stay in the buffer zone. The place bordered by “reasonably attractive and well enough put together,”(clean, covered) and “not distracting, but noticeably good-looking”(can’t look like you’re TRYING to be pretty). And not that anyone knows who defines these things, exactly. It’s just a feeling. A dominant, unclearly stated but frequently suggested thought.
Not everyone is a proprietor. Some of my most fashion-supportive friends are women who are on staff and responsible for teaching and training the women of the church. They support even my weirdest fashion experiments knowing my heart and that I love so explore and have fun and be surrounded by visual stimuli.
But it’s a feeling I get, and I am not alone. A recent article from Relevant magazine says it hella-better than I do. (Perhaps because they don’t say “hella.”) Here’s an excerpt:
“While it would be absurd to deny any link between beauty and sexual desire, it’s even more preposterous (not to mention spiritually toxic) to assert the two are so inextricably linked they can’t be separated. A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation. If grace is real, it is strong enough to give us the capacity to distinguish the delight in gazing at beauty from obsessive lust. If grace is real, it is also strong enough to give us the capacity to distinguish between the longing to be validated* as beautiful and the longing to cause another person to be overwhelmed by a desire so strong he or she forgets their commitments.” (emphasis added)
I encourage you to read the entire article here. It talks about SO many of the things I see and mourn in our church culture surrounding the subject of beauty. Lookie here, pplfriends. I know I’m a bit of a heathen. And DEFINITELY a Christian Hedon (hedonist?). So I am grateful anytime someone brings to me an opinion other than the one I default to. But in all good faith, I believe in beauty. I think it communicates some really important things about God. I think his most creative and intentional works are us, his people, and while God looks at the heart, so too did he make the body. And it’s not something to be afraid of.
So how do you feel about this? What are the “feelings” you have about dress codes according to certain venues? What rules do you have for yourself, and why?
*I am not sure what they mean by “validated” here, but I DO think that every single person ever needs community around them to affirm the things that God already says are true. And he delights in us. I see no harm in people desiring to represent that they are delightful, and beautiful, and also to have those things said to them. While it should NOT be the highest goal, I could no more suggest that we shouldn’t want our beauty “validated” (perhaps a less pejorative term in affirmed?) than to say that we don’t need to hear that we are good, or loved, or enjoyable, or treasured.