Your Clothes Say it For You, by Elizabeth Rice Handford: God Has a Standard for Your Appearance

This book is about a very controversial subject. We women don’t really like to be told what to wear. The only reason I dare write on the subject is that there are women who earnestly wish to please God. They would do what God wants them to do about their appearance, if only they knew what He wanted. It is for these honest, open-minded women who want to please God that I write.

I went to a meeting of Christians where demure Men-nonite women in somber, floor-length dresses and white caps sat next to women in pantsuits. Other women, carefully and tastefully dressed, sat by barefoot girls with bare midriffs, wearing blue jeans (one with the surprising words, “Smile, God loves you,” printed on the seat!). These women would have agreed that the Bible really is the Word of God. Why then were their dress standards so very different?

Are there clear standards in the Word of God for the way we clothe ourselves? When our children complain about our standards for their clothing, do we have any plain instruction from the Bible for them? Is it disobedience for a woman to wear slacks? Are we accountable for the Scripture that com-mands women to wear their hair long? Does it really make any difference at all to God about what a woman wears?

You have an opinion about all this. Is it based on the Bible? Are you willing to consider what the Scriptures say? Will you make a decision, not by what is convenient, not by what others are wearing, but simply by the Word of God? The Bible tells us that if we are willing to do God’s will we can know God’s will (John 7:17). You can know what God requires, if you are willing to do whatever He says.

God does have a standard for your appearance.


Christian women are to be discreet; they are to have good taste and good sense. Surely this should be true of how a woman dresses.

Proverbs 11:22 complains that ‘a fair woman without discretion is like a jewel in a swine’s snout.’ Can you visualize a big, fat, dirty sow, wallowing and grunting in the mud with an exquisite diamond in her nose? A naturally beautiful woman who lacks discretion is as painfully distasteful.

Occasionally we women have put up with clothes that were really uncomfortable or in poor taste only because a designer somewhere decreed them fashionable.

Remember those huge block heels on shoes that made us galumph like a hippopotamus? Then there were the shoes with toes so narrow that some foolish women had their little toes surgically removed so they could be “stylish”! How often have we endured awkward styles because a designer, looking for something new, ignored good taste and artistic sense!

I suppose the problem comes as we try to determine what is aesthetic and what is moral principle.

Of course a woman, liking pretty things as she does, wants new styles in jewelry and clothing. It’s exciting to see the inventive human mind apply itself to feminine adornment and think of ingenious ways to decorate clothing.

We would be bored if we had to wear the same skirt style. the same sleeve length, a collar cut the same way, all the time. The essence of good fashion design is to find fresh and pretty ways to drape the female frame.

But a woman’s choice of clothing must still be governed by God’s command for moderation. “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array” (I Tim. 2:9). To break this command exposes a woman to serious temptation. She will be vulnerable to Satan’s snares if she is too absorbed in her body and its adornment.

Our children need to be taught the importance of this principle. In their teen years especially, children want to look like, and have the approval of, their classmates. Mother may say, “You look very nice, dear,” but what really matters is “What will the kids at school think?”

A child picking out frames for glasses at the optometrist’s may think they are just right until one of the “in” crowd at school makes a sniping comment. Then the child is ready to scrap glasses forever and view the world with blurred vision.

Our children will pressure us to let them conform to the standards of the “in” group. A daughter wails, “But. Mother, all the girls in the sixth grade wear hose to school.” When you investigate, you may find perhaps four girls do, and the rest of the girls are going to badger their parents until they can wear hose, too!

This is where a mother must be truly wise. Many youthful fads are a part of a child’s expressing his differentness, his membership in “the club,” or just personal taste.

If the silly socks, the bangles, the crazy cap, do not hurt the child, if they do not reveal a wrong attitude, if they do not distract the child from his duties, then surely there is no harm in letting him express himself. We parents impose so many decisions on children, surely we can permit them some freedom of choice.

If striped socks are the style. fine. If penny loafers are “out” and saddle oxfords are “in.” then little Sally surely could decide which she wanted.
So they look old-fashioned to you? Just wait. Someday your grandchildren will snicker at the styles your children are choosing now, and you can all laugh together about the vagaries of fashion.

Perhaps a sixth-grade girl ought not regularly wear hose to school. She has so little time to be a little girl. She ought to be able to run and play freely during recess. Father ought not to have to spend extra dollars to keep her in hose for that. Discretion, moderation, cost and suitability, along with the child’s particular preferences, all bear weight in determining what our children wear.

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Elizabeth Rice Handford is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. John R. Rice. She has written numerous books for Christian women and young adults.