My generation is driven by the need for relevance.
The wow factor is also crucial. Our fingers are always on the pulse of what the latest trends are in any industry, whether it’s technology, entertainment, food or fashion. And we consume it readily, almost greedily and sometimes even beyond what we can actually afford.
As a female tertiary student, I am aware that the latest fashion trends from Paris and Milan will not make it into my wardrobe. Yet there is a human desire within me to appear in public spaces as looking beyond presentable … I want to look good.
I didn’t even mind if dressing up would make me late. I wanted to be satisfied with how I looked before I stepped out.
With modesty taken into consideration, I know what styles and cuts flatter my body shape and I play to that.
Similarly for cosmetics, I know what can sharpen my rounded jaw and what can hide my hooded eyelids.
I set aside a considerate amount of time for dressing up before going out, even to the point of ensuring that the accessories and make-up worn would compliment the entire outfit. I didn’t even mind if dressing up would make me late. I wanted to be satisfied with how I looked before I stepped out.
But my wardrobe was already full, and still there was a mountain of new clothes on the floor which I had picked up over a summer sale.
Similarly, I could no longer fit all my cosmetics into my drawers. There were so many pieces that had to remain outside the drawers that they frequently rolled off shelves and broke.
Around this time, my mother had also been catching me lingering at my reflection in mirrors and shop windows pretty often, and she was concerned about it. All of these were signs that I had lost the plot, blurring the fine line between looking good and being vain.
Vanity is an even bigger problem in the present generation.
Think about social media, where #OOTD (outfit of the day) pictures abound — so many of us are caught up looking for affirmation from friends and followers.
Personally, while I enjoyed the occasional compliments from friends on my clothes, I was ultimately dressing to boost my own ego — to assure myself of my attractiveness. But that in turn, revealed the deep insecurities I had surrounding my identity even as a Christian.
Vanity is taking pride in one’s appearance, and pride is a gravely dangerous place to be in to the Bible. Pride is deceiving (Obadiah 1:3), self-seeking (Psalm 10:4) … Pride is something to be hated (Proverbs 8:13).
Ultimately, my confrontation with pride revealed to me that I hadn’t been turning to the Lord for meaning and satisfaction in my life. I had been looking at everything else; things that did not honour or glorify Him.
Pride is something to be hated (Proverbs 8:13).
So, what does it mean to dress for an audience of One?
Well, it doesn’t mean that I will no longer wear the nice clothes I already have or ever put on make-up again.
But now when I look at clothes and cosmetics nowadays, the one thought I hold on to is that beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30).
And whenever I look at a mirror to check on my appearance, I’m more conscious in keeping my vanity in check. I now prize tidiness and being presentable over being a slave to attractiveness.
Crosswalk has good guidelines on this issue which I’ve condensed into 2 main questions I personally ask that help to check my heart:
1. Do my clothes reflect surrender to the Lord, and a commitment to holiness? Holiness doesn’t mean I need to dress plainly or wear loose-fitting garments. My clothes should be respectable, worn with modesty and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
2. Do I exercise discernment when it comes to buying clothes? Is this blouse a need or a want? Am I able to deny myself and bless someone in need with this money instead? (Philippians 2:4)
Questions like these help push my change in lifestyle beyond just clothes and cosmetics. In truth, I must shift my entire perspective from the treasures of this earth (Matthew 6:19-21) to Jesus’ face.
God is the only one who will fully satisfy our hearts.