Recently, I started watching the occasional rerun of What Not to Wear. I stumbled upon the show one day when it came on after Jon and Kate Plus Eight, which I had turned on so that Gabriel could see all of the “babies” for a few minutes while I finished a project that was demanding my attention. I’ll admit, watching that show has got me thinking. I know that I would be a prime candidate for the show myself, throughout high school and college a large percentage of my wardrobe came from the children’s section of the store (have Stacy and Clinton ever had to deal with someone with that particular problem?), and I was wearing those clothes up until my body changed too much due to pregnancy and breastfeeding to keep wearing them.
Now, at over a year post-baby, I recognize that I have decidedly NOT been dressing very well for awhile now. I used to wear a skirt and do the dressed-up look at least once a week for my “Sunday best,” but I can count the number of times that I have worn a skirt or dress since Gabriel was born: five. I have always believed that it is important to look nice on a daily basis. As a member of the Catholic laity, I am a representative of the Church. There is a line between “looking nice for God” and pride/vanity, however, and sometimes I wonder where exactly I should be.
Clothing is relatively easy for me to grasp. If you are willing to search, you can find clothing for any occasion that is both modest and appropriate attire. Even the hosts of What Not to Wear spend a considerable amount of time getting women to dress more modestly (skirts and shorts at knee-length, tops with wide straps, and less visible cleavage), and when even a mainstream fashion show is trying to get people to dress more modestly, I think that we as a people have to admit that there is a problem. Some people would label me ultra-modest, but my rule of thumb is that an article of clothing should fit in such a manner that people can tell that you are a true lady, not just a woman, by looking at you. A woman can look nice, but the focus should be on the woman herself, and not her body.
Probably my most difficult experience of finding both modest and appropriate clothing was for my wedding. Although you can buy beautiful modest gowns, if you look in the right places, I approached the problem from a different angle. I bought a dress on eBay, then designed a top for it that a seamstress from J.R.’s family created for me. I chose the material, and then designed the dresses for the bridesmaids, which the same seamstress created.
The realm of hair and make-up is harder for me to grasp the line between “looking nice” and vanity, however. Any routine that requires a disproportionate amount of time or money goes too far in my book, as my resources are limited. Is it vain of me to wear make up to even out my complexion and help hide the circles under my eyes? Or does a small amount of make-up that complements my features in such a way that it is not even noticeable that I am wearing make-up fall into the “looking nice for God, myself, and others” category? Is it appropriate for a twenty-five year old mother to nearly always wear her hair in a ponytail? I need to take up some of these issues in my prayer life, and I recognize that a major component of this issue is what my intentions are, but input from anyone who has traveled this road themselves would be welcome.