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Appropriate Attire

Jun 16, 2011

I couldn’t help but blog about clothes today. Mostly because it is “Fashion Friday” over at Big Mama’s house and fashion is just “in the air,” but also because I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments about my clothes recently. In fact, questions about what to wear when you are speaking is always a hot topic for women that want to be fashion forward, while at the same time exuding modesty.

Even after the Deeper Still event, I sat around a dinner table with Miss Beth, Miss Kay and some other incredibly gifted women and we found ourselves discussing clothes – what’s appropriate and what’s not; what works for different body types and what doesn’t.

Dressing appropriately. . . .it’s really an interesting dynamic that often requires more work than you’d imagine. I cannot begin to tell you how overwhelming the process of choosing the right clothes can be – well goodness, just when you are going out for dinner, much less standing on a stage where people will be looking at you. I get a bit daunted sometimes. So, I thought it’d be fun to spend a few minutes talking about some lessons I’ve learned. (If you could care less – then just ignore me until Monday 🙂

Please know that dressing appropriately is something that I feel a constant stress about. I’ve blogged a a bit about that before. I’m in an interesting decade of my life – mid thirties; that weird place between your youthful twenties and your more mature forties. I’m often torn between wanting to make sure I “look my age” without looking like I’ve lost my youth. I’ve got an affinity for most of the new trends and yet remain attracted to the more conservative mainstays. So, I try to combine them both. Sometimes, I do OK – other times I fail miserably. . . and you, my sweet friends, make sure that I stay in line.

I’m grateful for that.

In fact, I think that having someone(s) who keep you in line is the moral of the”dressing game” story. Miss Beth even mentioned this in her message at Deeper Still last weekend. She said that in her early ministry years, she had a mentor that literally taught her how to dress in front of a crowd. We all need that – someone who can look at us from head to toe and let us know if something looks right.

Here’s an example. I wore this outfit this past weekend.

Priscilla Shirer outfit

Priscilla Shirer outfit maxi skirt

I checked with two “seasoned” women (who were familiar with that audience’s dynamics) about that sleeveless shirt before I packed it for the trip. Even though I’d wear that shirt to the mall or out to dinner without thinking twice, I wanted to make sure that it was appropriate before taking the stage in front of 8,000 women.CONFIRMATION helps to settle the issue.

So, having someone who can help you see yourself clearly and whose advice you can trust is imperative.

Besides CONFIRMATION, another thing to consider is BALANCE:

The sleeveless shirt worked because the skirt was long. Having my arms AND legs bare would probably have been too much.You’ve seen this happen far too often right? Something form fitting on bottom AND on top doesn’t work nearly as well as something form fitting and then another article of clothing that is more giving and generous over it. When you balance your outfit well, then you can get away with one thing while making up for it with the other. For instance – I LOVE leggings – the most comfortable thing I’ve ever spoken in. But I’d never wear leggings AND a form-fitting or shorter top. With leggings, I always wear a long top – more commonly a dress – that is full and goes all the way down to my knees or slightly above.
BALANCE. It makes all the difference.

Thirdly, consider your audience. That sleeveless shirt works well for a women’s conference where most folks are in jeans or capri pants, but I’d not think of it in a more traditional setting where there are liable to be some hat-wearning, stocking-clad sisters in the house. And while I am a fan of teaching in nice, trouser-fit jeans or great slacks while teaching – I’d not even wear pants if it meant I might offend someone in the audience. Conversely, if a group I’m addressing is going to be dressed in shorts and t-shirts, I wouldn’t wear something too upscale and dressy. Doing so makes me seem detached and unapproachable. Either extreme effects my relationship with the group that God has entrusted to me. Why in the world would we want to risk losing our audience’s attention over our clothes? We should always forgo our clothing preferences to preserve a good rapport with the audience. So, CARE about them. Ask questions beforehand, search online, find out what kind of group they are and then choose your outfit accordingly.

SO, once you get CONFIRMATION, have checked your BALANCE and taking time to CARE about the audience, consider your level of COMFORT.

Sure. . .  how your clothes affects your audience is important, but it is also important to consider how they will affect you. Does the neck line itch? Does the skirt have static cling? Do those shoes hurt? Are you afraid that if you turn a certain way some cleavage might be revealed? Then DON’T WEAR IT! When I’m teaching, every single ounce of my energy is used up trying to think about how to communicate my message. If I’m also worried about my clothes then I won’t be nearly as effective. It’s exhausting to be worried about my outfit and my communication at the same time. Even the cutest outfit is not worth it. (well, maybe it depends on HOW cute it is . . .kidding)

So, find some clothes that you are extremely comfortable in and confident about, and then wear them again and again until they darn near fall apart from all the dry cleaning!

Well, we could just go on and on, couldn’t we? Maybe we should revisit this topic in the future!

But until then, remember that the bottom line is this – if you just aren’t sure  . . . .Don’t wear it until you are.
I’ve learned that the hard way.

There’s so much more to say. . .Enough for now.


What are your thoughts about “appropriate attire?”