With all the headlines recently about the current trends in young women’s fashion, the rising epidemic of eating disorders among all ages of females as they vie for that coveted runway look, and what I perceive to be a dangerous fixation by younger and younger girls on a false notion of what is beautiful, I feel the desire to speak out. Try as I might, I’m aware that I myself will not be able to stem the tide, but there’s no sense in not at least doing my part.
I was once told that girls want the way they look to impress other girls, and could for the most part care less what the men around them think of it. If that’s true, then everything I’m about to say is wasted effort. Be that as it may, I want to make public domain the same advice I give my sister about her appearance, specifically as it relates to members of the opposite gender. I hope someone out there finds it, if not useful, at least enjoyable or educational.
My plan it to do this in 4 installments, focusing on a different element of “beauty” in each one.
Installment 1: Clothes
When it comes to attire, I’m probably speaking way outside of my expertise. Admittedly, I have no fashion sense – I can barely even dress myself. In fact, I so rarely buy myself clothes that I’m hard pressed to find something in my wardrobe that didn’t get there as a birthday or Christmas gift, or else as a souvenir someone in my family brought back from a vacation for me. But I’m going to try to stay away from fashion advice to whatever extent possible and limit myself to one simple observation:
Yeah. Pretty basic, hopefully in a self-explanatory kind of way. But then, nothing is as simple as we would like it to be. Thus, let me elaborate.
Here’s a few principles I think you would do well to at least consider when deciding on an outfit, starting from the bottom and working up.
#1 – Wear comfortable shoes.
I’ve heard before from several sources that the first thing a girl notices about a guy are his shoes. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, I don’t know – but let me assure you, it’s the last thing I notice going the other way.
Yes, yes, I do get around to noticing eventually, but probably not in the way you think. No, I’m not looking at how well your footwear accentuates your arches or slenderizes your calves. I’m not interested in noting the brand or observing the intricate craftsmanship of your designer heels. It’s really not about looks, per se. It’s about functionality.
Yeah, yeah, may I be beaten with a thousand lashes for having practicality in mind over and against fashion. I’m well aware that you could probably care less about my opinion on this, because you’re more worried about what your girlfriends think than my 2 cents. So be it – but at least hear me out.
To me, the gear you put on your feet should be adapted to the environment and activity. I’m all for cowgirl boots when you are horseback riding, but if you’re going to the mall, leave them at home. And snow boots are fine in the winter, but when I see you walking around in Uggs and short-shorts I feel like I’m looking at one of those optical illusions: does not compute.
Look, would you wear tennis shoes to a funeral? No. So why the high heels to a football game? I find it really hard not to snicker as I note how much you resemble the sugarplum fairy when you teeter around on your 6-inch stilts. It’s embarrassing, so could you please have pity on me and pick something else?
In the end, I really couldn’t care less what footwear you’re in, as long as it’s appropriate to the occasion. I don’t actually notice your shoes at all… unless you’re in something out of place. If you’re wearing open-toes shoes to go hiking, it’s clear to me that you’re more interested in showing off your new nail color than engaging in the activity at hand. That’s called vanity – and I find it very unattractive.
If it helps, think about this from the perspective of natural selection (which, to all you fundamentalists who cry foul, you CAN believe in without being an evolutionist). Is the ability to accessorize going to be a big help in carrying out God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply and propagate the species? No it is not. Will it make you an invaluable help-meet, a respected member of the community, or a successful individual? No it will not.
Will the ability to select the proper tool for a job help accomplish all of those things? In a word: yes. And heck, even monkeys are minimally competent at that – so what gives?
Bottom line: to a guy, any type of shoes are attractive (even the old, worn, falling apart kind) in the proper context. A guy is looking for someone who is smart enough to choose the right shoes for the occasion, not someone who can accessorize this shoe with that purse.
#2 – Wear modest pants
You’re a leggy miss with cute calves, nice knees, and no cellulite on your thighs? Congratulations – doesn’t mean you need to get all showy about it. Cover yourself, for goodness sake.
Look, I’m no prude, but the hemlines of women’s pants/skirts/whatever have gotten way too short for comfort over the years. Seriously, how can you be comfortable in those little shorts? Don’t your legs get cold?
But really, I mean my comfort too. As someone who does his able best to curtail the lustful tendencies of his eyes, you’re really not helping… at all.
Let me put it to you bluntly: you know how a little cleavage turns men’s heads? Well, a little thigh can work the same way. Of course, I’m not talking about an inch or two if you sit down in basketball-shorts and your knees stick out; I mean like three or four inches above the bend in your leg or so. For every extra inch after that the compelled-to-look feeling gets increased by a factor of 10.
This goes for skirts, too, by the way.
Another bone I have to pick is with tight pants. I mean, good grief, isn’t it uncomfortable to walk around in saran-wrap? Denim, leather, polyester… does it really even matter what material is cutting off the blood supply to your feet?
My thing with tight pants is pretty much the same as short ones: I’m way too prone to stare. If I’m not your husband, I’m really not comfortable knowing your contours that well – and the topographical map called skinny jeans you’re wearing leaves little to the imagination.
Finally, quit with the pants that have words on the butt, already. Seriously. You think it’s cute to have “cheer”, “dance”, or the name of your alma mater displayed on your caboose – I think it’s trashy. If I wanted to read print off a girl’s rear end I’d glue a newspaper to your derriere and start with the headlines. No thank you. It’s not cute; it’s offensive that you would be so thoughtless as to put yet another stumbling block in the path of your Christian brothers like that.
Sheesh, if you don’t respect yourselves enough to put on something a little less problematic than the leggings described just now, at least have enough love (or at the VERY least, pity) on your male counterparts to help us out a bit. Please?
#3 – Wear modest shirts
Modesty is hard to accomplish with the tops on the market in most places nowadays, I get that. When I was in junior high, I remember my mom telling me that some family friends had to drive a whole state away just to find tops that weren’t too revealing. And whether or not you believe that story, we should all be able to agree that, as pant hemlines have gotten higher, shirt necklines have gotten lower.
I want you to understand something: it is not most men’s intention to ogle. That said, intentions are worth less than the “no smoking” sign at a sports bar. The simple fact is that when your neckline hits a certain low-tide, it’s easy for men to get shipwrecked.
I’m not going to give you measurements or dimensions (even though I did a little with the pants) because I’m not trying to make legalists out of ya’ll. Just bear in mind that too much skin under the chin can be a problem. If you bend forward and I can see cleavage, try again. Just sayin’. Same goes for tops that are too tight around the chest or leave the midriff bare.
Now, some will object and say, “but that’s the style – if I go out in something else I’ll look like a bag-lady”.
No you won’t. If done right, you’ll look like a tasteful, elegant young lady who cares more for the men around her than her own ego or sex appeal. That’s called Christian love, and it speaks volumes about you.
#4 – Less is more when it comes to body decoration
Okay, now I need to come out and say at the beginning that, although thus far I think I’ve been speaking for most all Christian young men (at least all like-minded ones, though I guess that’s kind of a given), at this point the opinions really start to diversify a lot more. So in the interest of full disclosure, the following thoughts about jewelry are more fully my own tastes and less a reflection of the Christian brotherhood at large.
In my own mind, jewelry is like seasoning: just a touch and a dish goes from simple to gourmet – add too much and you might as well throw it all out and start again.
Actually, I don’t much care for jewelry at all. In high school the cool thing was for everyone to wear some sort of necklace or wristband that proclaimed a message of some sort (WWJD was enjoying it’s peak popularity when I was a HS freshman). I never saw the point, myself, but to each his own.
I guess when it comes down to it I like the natural look. Painted fingernails, toe rings, garish necklaces and bracelets and multiple ear piercings just make things too complicated. If you’ve got all that going on at the same time, I’d advise you to cut back. You look like you’re trying too hard.
Look, I’m a bear of very little brains, and a girl with all that added stuff looks like she might be too much for me. It’s hard enough to keep track of my own wristwatch – let alone her 15 bracelets, 2 necklaces, and 5 ear piercings. If she’s got all that junk hanging off of her I’m just going to assume that the girl underneath is just as complicated as the decorations on top – I’m necessarily a little intimidated at the prospect of going there.
Simple is, in my book, so much better. In fact, I would be just as happy lookin’ at you with no jewelry whatsoever. It’s more comfortable, if that makes sense. All that metal and plastic and rubber and paint has a way of getting between people. If you feel at ease enough in your own skin to get by without even so much as a single pair of earrings, I applaud you.
To me (and again this is strictly my own personal appraisal), every additional piece of decoration gives me another reason to think you are insecure in your own appearance. Easy does it, I’m not railing against jewelry, or telling you to get rid of all your stuff. I’m just trying to tell you: it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be.
By all means, though, if you like jewelry and such, wear it to your heart’s content and don’t let my personal opinion dissuade you in the least – I am in no way dogmatic about it. Much more so than pants and shirts, this is something where there’s a reasonable amount of leeway and room for experimentation. Try different looks and go with what suits you.
Just bear this in mind: the best chefs know when too much is too much.
Take my word for it: you inevitably attract folks with the same values as yourself. And you really do wear your values on your sleeves, literally. If you wear revealing, dare I say skanky clothes, you will attract people who are into that. And if you adorn your body with conservative, tasteful attire which is respectful of yourself and mindful of the feelings of those around you, you will likewise attract folks who share those values too.
Remember, real beauty is not in the way you throw around your assets…
…it’s in the way you guard them in love and faithfulness for yourself and your neighbor before the God who made you what you are…