I grimace inside every time I hear a rant about leggings being okay to wear as pants. I instinctively know that leggings aren’t pants and the more I ponder the question, the more it leads me to think about why we even wear clothes at all. Not only that, but how do we explain, especially to a teenager, that leggings (along with many other items of popular clothing) might be ‘cool’ or ‘in style’, but are inappropriate to wear as pants? The following is what I came up with, and might help you in explaining to the kids and teens in your life why we dress our bodies appropriately in order to be classy – and holy.
Why do we wear clothes?
We wear clothes for a few reasons. First, because of the climate. Whether you live in a predominantly hot or cold climate, our bodies aren’t very good at protecting us against nature’s elements, so we must either keep warm or keep our skin covered to protect against the sun. Either way, the body needs clothes.
Secondly we wear clothes because of our societal standards. Our society dictates that certain parts of our bodies remain more or less covered. So we clothe ourselves to stay classy.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we wear clothes because the Lord asks us to cover our bodies appropriately. After they sinned in the Garden, something happened to Adam and Eve. They felt their nakedness, and wanted to cover themselves. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be so from the very beginning, but humanity’s sin changed how we look at and treat our bodies forever. Ever since the Fall, we clothe our nakedness.
So why does God ask us to cover our bodies, especially certain parts?
He does so because our bodies are very special- different parts being made for different purposes. For instance our hands were made to live mostly uncovered. We put gloves on them when it’s intensely cold outside to help keep them warm, but mostly we need our hands as they are to pick up items, cook, clean, wash, write and go about our daily lives. They’re incredibly useful to us exactly the way they are.
But other parts of us – most especially the parts from the neck down and the knees up – these parts are very special, and were not made to be shown to the general public like our hands are. There are only a very small list of people that see the body parts between our neck and knees, and for a very small list of reasons: our doctor for medical reasons, our parents (if we’re children), our spouse for marital purposes, and ourselves for hygienic purposes - and that’s about it. Other than these, we keep these very special parts under wraps.
We don’t cover ourselves because we are afraid of our own bodies. We do so because our bodies are very beautiful, and special, and have depth and meaning beyond ourselves. And because showing our bodies, most especially the parts between our neck and knees, misrepresents us - as human persons - to the outside world. We are not only body, we are a crazy mix of body and soul, and when we leave the parts between our neck and knees uncovered, the public gets distracted and tends to think of us as mostly body - sometimes devoid of soul! So dressing ourselves in a way that shows particularly special body parts off to the world misrepresents us to the world, as we aren’t giving people the full picture, or living in the truth of who we are.
So how do we keep these special body parts under wraps?
First we clothe the actual nakedness. We wear stuff that covers the actual skin, and we do so with the thought that we are beautifully and wonderfully made. We don’t wear ugly, shapeless garments - but rather items that accentuate the beautiful parts of our bodies. For instance we wear blue items to bring out the blue in our eyes, or belts to bring out a small waist. We can also use clothing to cover our not-so-liked features, like stretchy undergarments to smooth out rolls or fuller skirts to even out broad shoulders. All shapes and figures can look gorgeous just the way they are!
But we don’t only clothe the actual skin of our bodies, we also clothe the form of our bodies as well. Tight, clingy clothing is not only uncomfortable to live in, but it distinctively outlines the body parts it’s covering, giving the impression of nakedness while the skin is still in fact covered. But the end result is the same – tight clothing (like leggings) makes it look as if we are naked. We are explicitly displaying parts of the body by accentuating their form - coming across, again, as only a body, rather than as what we are: a human person made up of a body and a soul.
So where to go from here?
The easiest thing to do is to ask ourselves a few questions as we’re dressing in the morning.
Ask the Lord – is what I’m wearing glorifying you, by covering the parts of my body that you ask us to guard for our sake and for yours?
Ask yourself – Am I covering the important parts of myself, so that people see me before they see my body parts? Am I comfortable with my outfit? Are my undergarments visible? Will I be adjusting this outfit all day: pulling things up or down? Do my clothes ride up when I sit, stand or walk? Can I bend over, lean down, walk, run or sit cross-legged without exhibiting (either the actual skin or the form of) the special body parts between my neck and knees? Is my clothing, as Coco Chanel once said, “tight enough to show that I’m a woman, and loose enough to show that I’m a lady?”
Then get rid of clothing that is tight, clingy or transparent. Add specific undergarments like scarves, camisoles or skirt extenders to help with issues of clothing falling open, plunging necklines or short skirts. If you want to wear leggings add knee-length tops to your outfit. While there are a few items of clothing that are irredeemable, most outfits can be salvaged by adding a few finishing touches.
Stay classy ladies!