Fashion, Religion and Ridiculousness

I don’t own any “church clothes”. This point will become relevant shortly.

church

It’s been two years since I attended church regularly, which is almost a sin because my husband is a deacon. My work schedule (which I confess I chose) had me in-store during the hours of service. I changed my schedule a little over a month ago, realizing that I needed a dose of Jesus more than that $36 I earned in those few hours.

Because I haven’t been to church in so long and because I have developed a passionate love for cookies, pizza and chocolate in the last two years, I have outgrown all of my “proper” church attire. Depending on what denomination of Christianity one ascribes to, proper attire can run the gamut from boxy dresses, to trouser suits, or even jeans if your house of worship is liberal enough.

This past Sunday I wore jeggings.

Turns out this was a no-no.

Now, for all the members of my church who surreptitiously read my blog and try to act like I don’t know you DO read it, I heard everything else Bishop said about Christ dwelling in our hearts and giving and so forth. But when he pointed out “tight pants” while casting a side glance in my direction, it caused me to think on other things: specifically men’s opinions on women’s fashion.

As a re-converted Christian, I try to draw a little attention to myself as possible while in religious circles. However this Sunday, fate would have me sitting in the very front row of the church – what preachers refer to as ‘spitting distance’ – because one of my friends is an elder and her husband was out of town. She motioned for me to come sit with her on Elders Row. I obeyed.

I have made no bones about my struggle with weight. And with that struggle comes the hardship of how to clothe such a large body frugally. I have recently come to discover jeggings, which are stretchy and very comfortable. Paired with a thigh length tunic (or long sweater as was the case this Sunday) I find that I look respectable enough and am quite comfortable. I know this because I never get second glances from other women. It is the approval of other women that most women seek, which is a point that is missed by most men.

I admire my Bishop, I really do, however like many men he has no clue what influences women’s fashion or tastes, or even what brings a woman pleasure. Oddly, pastors, who overwhelmingly tend to me male, seem to have a conviction that they understand the nuances of the female existence and comment on it liberally. I remember one there was a story of some pastor in Ghana who got on the radio and said that a man should never perform oral sex on a woman because “that is the place she menstruates from”. Yet another American pastor said that oral sex should be forbidden because “you’re putting your mouth on/in an environment where you will later praise God from.” Well, considering that the same hands I’ve used to wipe poo for the last seven years are very often raised in worship to Almighty God, I fail to see the relevance in that line of logic. I need oral stimulation to climax and my babies have all needed thei bums cleaned.

Cunnilingus

Cunnilingus

Cunnilingus…

I listened obediently and politely while my Bishop talked about women – and there may some in this church – who follow trends like this tight pants where you can “see all your stuff”. Who are you dressing like that for? Just because a man is old doesn’t mean he doesn’t have eyes to see! And what kind of man do you think you are attracting with that mode of dress?

I stared down the row and looked at the five women seated, two of whom were past their bloom. Both firmly in their 60s, they both had on boxy trouser suits and sensible shoes. The woman following wore a pea green skirt suit with fishnet stockings. My elder friend had on a dress with a jacket and 4 inch black patent leather platform heels. And there was me in my jeggings. I’d wager my first born child that none of us got up that morning wondering what a man would think of what we were wearing.

Here’s how I know, and I invite anyone to tell me why and how I’m wrong.

When a girl in the fourth grade gets dressed for school, she dresses so that other girls won’t tease her and call her names. She wants to fit in with the crowd and be accepted by her female peers. If a boy notices, great! But overall she wants the approval of other girls.

This changes in high school,  when girls are more sexually driven and carries on up to about age 25 when a woman thinks she just HAS to have a man.

Thereafter, we go back to dressing for other women and more importantly for OURSELVES. Here is my thought process when I put on clothes in the morning:

  1. Is it going to be cold/hot?
  2. Is it comfortable?
  3. If I have to pee, will I be able to get this thing off in time?
  4. Is it comfortable?
  5. Would I look at another woman dressed as I am right now and say “Dag. Didn’t she have a friend to tell her shouldn’t have left the house like that?”

Then I put on my clothes and leave. The idea of what a man might or might not think will never factor into the equation. You know why? Men don’t care about what a woman is wearing. They care about getting her naked. I know this because I have been hit on while dressed in the following attire:

Sweat pants

A skirt and blouse

Jeans

A boubou

What did any of those outfits have in common? Nothing except some dude saw me in them!

The sermon led me to have a conversation with my husband on what he thought on the matter. He too was of the opinion that women dress to attract me. I also gave birth to an imaginary baby. What utter nonsense!

“The problem is, we live in a culture that infantilizes women,” I growled. “Men, the media, and even some other women think we all as a sex are stuck at the age of 18-25. That our ONE goal in life is to impress and capture some MAN.”

I was pacing and he was nodding.

“I can tell you right now: when I wake up and get my day started, what you think of how I look doesn’t even filter into my head! And furthermore, if a man sees an attractive woman out there ‘advertising’ with whatever she’s wearing and strays, the burden of guilt is on HIM, not her!”

On that point he disagreed. He vehemently holds that women who dress in a certain way bear responsibility for the attention they attract. Whatever, says I.

Why aren’t men held to these same standards, I wonder? Outside of the baggy pants issue, which  we all agree is slovenly, men’s fashion and the concept of “decency” is never a topic of discussion. Women have always had to fight this silly battle with regard to clothing, starting from riding a horse astride, which as once considered “vulgar”.

So dear reader: in your view, do women dress to impress other women or for the sole purpose of attracting or pleasing men? When you look at your closet and eventually in the mirror, what makes you pleased with what you see? Are you looking with the eyes of others or do you judge yourself? Discuss!

And yes, I will be wearing jeggings at church in the future. I figure if it’s good enough for work, it’s good enough for worship. Same God who gave me my job doesn’t object when I have to wear jeggings to work and pay my tithes…

  • Eish. Somebody give Malaka a mic because she is fearlessly preaching!
    What influences how I dress in the morning? 1. Where I am going to, and if I have any meetings, and do I need to rep my fashion label i.e. wear MAKSI or not. 2. What do I feel like wearing? Am I in the mood for a body con skirt, and a stretch top because I do not feel like ironing as was the case this morning. I dress primarily to please myself, to look good to myself, and once I have made up my mind what to wear its rare for me to change my mind unless my Mum for e.g. is extremely insistent that a dress for e.g. needs an underskirt and then literally hands me hers. I do me. I’m a grown woman.

  • Arhyel

    Wear what Jesus would wear if he was a woman.

    • I guess you’d have to ask what he’d be wearing during carpentry, or in a boat preaching. Chances are, he’d have his shirt off…

      Good to know The Lord would endorse partial nudity.

    • Xhalo

      Say that again…..you wear what would please God. Your body is a holy temple. Treat I like one.

  • Nana Ama

    Eish! Underskirts! My mum used to make me wear them pleated a few times over to give me curves! Then I came to the west and found that slim hips are a sought after commodity! I don’t own underskirts any more, because I don’t like see-through clothes..
    I dress for comfort first and foremost, and increasingly these days to make political statements – either well-cut trouser suits or ntama, to high-powered meetings, depending on the weather. They work well every time! I choose these two styles to help me stand out, and reinforce what I went there to say. I can’t take responsibility if people I meet with, waste precious time guessing the price of my tailored suit, or wondering where I got that chi-chi kaba!:):)

  • Oh this is an awesome piece. It is Very down to earth. And i perceive that your order for putting on clothes will strike a chord with most women.

    When i dress it’s all very me. I dress to be comfortable and the weather and environ where I’m going counts. It matters to me that i look good for me. And certainly, the pee part comes in. I love to know my clothes are suitable for quick dress ups when nature come calling. Plus i consider how easy it would be to get it looking just the way i wore it if there were no mirrors at the ladies where ever i will be going.

    Yes, i love the effect of being well groomed and beautiful, especially when you have to kick ass. I have found that it is easier to deal with bad situations and bad days looking fabulous. It tempers the pressure and gives you the boost that otherwise would have been stolen by unforeseen negative experiences.

    Mostly i love to see a nicely dressed lady who looks gorgeous with less. I tend to always let them know this and it’s rewarding to see the twinkle in their eyes when i compliment them.

    Have you noticed how you feel most times when you walk past a lady and they tell you how good you look or approve silently in those appraising eyes. It is empowering. Usually, it is not because you want people to mark you but because of the way it makes you feel. The sheer confidence is liberating.

    Some ladies make your inner critique spit fire. And when i look at a lady and say to myself “now that’s how i never have to look like”, you can bet that when i stand in the mirror it makes my list of considerations. It matters to me that something does not fall into the ‘weird’ and ‘scary’ category in my overall outcome when i am ready to step out. If it is not something i love to see as an onlooker, it would not be something i would love to be seen in!

    Of course the guys do matter. But usually, for me they come last.

    And when it comes to church it is still going to be the same old me. As long as it’s not an outright shock to sensibilities (and i use that carelessly here) I want to meet Jesus, the President, my Lover or any other person in the universe knowing i am comfortable. So the order is ME before ANYBODY else.

  • Comfort is key. Plus whether I like how I look. I really don’t care what someone else thinks.

  • Single and fishing for a big meat. I dress to catch the attention of the man I seek and no I don’t wear clothing branded as slutty. Bottom line if I loook good, I feel nice and look happy. More fishes for me 🙂
    So all the married ladies I mean you already got your man so you don’t have to try really hard to impress him. However, I have heard of stories where men have felt bored in the marriage because their wives are simply not dressing nice enough.
    So anywho after I catch my big fish we get hitched, I would need to keep it spicey just like the first day. #keepitspicyalways

    • I have been waiting for one of your ilk. 😉

  • David S.

    Maybe the Bishop thinks you are attempting to entice him. Clearly when you put on your jeggings, you were thinking of him. Admit it!

    • LOLOLOL!!!

      Wait

      HAHAHAHAAAAA!!!

      You’ve caught me. I confess. I am a slattern intent on enticing the head of my church.

  • Ekuba

    Interesting article as usual! My friend attends a church very popular in Ghana and Nigeria which stipulates that women shouldn’t straighten their hair, braid it with any extensions or wear weaves (twisting your natural hair is also prohibited by the way cos it looks too much like locs which they believe is demonic since African Traditional Priests use that hairstyle). They also stipulate that women should never wear trousers, any blouse whose sleeves are above the elbow or the collar is not high enough or any skirt which is not several inches below the knee! Makeup of any kind is forbidden as are earrings or necklaces. On the other hand, whenever, I’ve attended the services, while the women look dowdy, the men looked as proud as peacocks, dressed to the nines in flashy suits complete with hats and tie pins! When my friend told me that lots of the men in her church branch cheat on their partners, I wasn’t shocked. The misogyny which causes some men to demand that women wear potato sacks is the same misogyny that causes them to cheat on their partners without shame. PS: whatever you say about your weight, some of us readers think you’re very pretty! 🙂

    • Ekuba I swear you are good for my ego. Ah!

      That’s exactly the point! I’ve never heard a sermon about men texturizing their hair, or being forbidden to wear silk suits, or told they CAN’T wear pointy toe red shoes, all of which they do in church! It’s nonsense.

  • AM

    I dress according to my MOOD. Men have absolutely zero influence on my fashion and style tastes.
    I’ve never understood this notion of dressing to compete with my fellow vagina comrade. For why? Do you boo! If I like it, I’ll compliment you. If I don’t, I’ll just deal. It’s not like your fashion decisions have any bearing to my life. Just do you and keep it moving.

    As for the pastor, if that sermon was being aimed at you, shiiiiiit, I’d be crossing and uncrossing my legs for added effect!

    • AM

      Edit: if I’m goin to be in he same room as Idris Elba my choice of dressing which would probably be nekkid would be TOTALLY influenced by him.

    • Ei. AM. I beg you with God. I’ll just sit in the back row next time. No Basic Instinct tings are necessary!

      • AM

        Lmao!

  • I never thought about it till I read this. Except once in a while when I wear a skirt so the guys who think I’m one of the guys can see my legs and remember i’M A HOT CHIC, it’s mostly the other women in my office who I think about. Especially since i have a more than African rear, and can never find pants that fit both my waist and my bum. I don’t care when guys complain (except the fatherly ones, that’s just embarrassing) but i feel so small when the girls at work ask polite questions about my wardrobe choices.

  • David S.

    All jokes aside and on a much more serious note. Think about your post about understanding why Oprah never got married. Now think about this one. Are you not sensing a theme? As a woman you are expected to make it your one and only mission in live to snag a man. That’s the undercurrent of the comments made by both your bishop and the unfortunate soul who inspired your Oprah post. This is unfortunately how many in our society think.

  • Akosua

    i just read your article on christian men hitting from behind, though am not married…yet it had me in stitches.it also gave me a different viewpoint on sex as a christian. thank you. now on this topic,. i just have this to say; i dress thinking of what JESUS would say, whether am comfortable and finally where am going. but once again thank you u have a way with words!

    • Mmmm. Beh Jesus had his feet bathed by the tears of a harlot in all her harlot shadders. What would he say indeed? One must wonder!

  • Clarion

    I also just read your post about “hitting it from behind” (chuckles) and I’m browsing through older posts. See eh, God bless you for this. We women have been subjected to so many criticism and “ideals” on how to be, what to wear, why we should…etc.
    As a Christian, my first thought about dressing is being modest. Note, I said “modest” not “plain/boring/drab”. I ask myself “if Jesus was to pass me on the street, would I be happy to hug him or say hi?” if the answer is yes, then I’m good. (Considering that Jesus was a friend to sinners and harlots, I’m pretty sure that nothing I wear will shock HIM anyways, I just want to glorify God.)
    Asides from that, I dress for comfort and functionality. I’m a very active person, and I need clothes that allow me move, bend down with ease, run up stairs, carry/play with my kids. I also want to look good, make my husband drool when he sees me (if other men like what they see, meh. I’m taken.)
    Worse, Church folks are usually the biggest critics when it comes to women’s dressing. Provided she’s not naked or exposing unnecessary body parts, I say, let her be.
    PS: I’m loving you!!

    • Oh SIStah!!! Thank you! That’s all I’m saying. Let our clothes be functional. Jeggings are functional for me. They stretch and allow me to bend. A straight full length skirt is NOT. Most Black women’s hips make a straight skirt look “vulgar”. We’re just built that way.
      PS: I’m loving you back!