Yesterday evening my sisters and I readied ourselves for an evening out, putting on pretty tops to go with an elegant, slim pair of dark jeans or a knee-length black skirt, fixing our hair, and adding a final spray of Sea-breeze scented perfume.
(To pause a moment for what may be a necessary note of clarification: though the title of this post is “When Going Out,” it refers not to dating and going out with… *ahem* a boy… but a general “going out” as in literally stepping out your door.)
What we were arranging ourselves for was to attend our youngest sister’s dance recital. There was something special about getting dressed up for the occasion – though most of the people in attendance were wearing jeans and a t-shirt with maybe a zip-up sweater or a hoodie. But during intermission, from our vantage point in the audience, one lady in a flowing black dress and heels stood out. She was not show-offy or ostentatiously dressed – it was simple; yet it was beautiful and attractive, making her stand out in her elegance.
A similar thing happened when I went to a children’s play production last week. The general impression of prominent clothing choices among the audience was jeans and hoodies, but one family walked in in their Sunday best. It didn’t seem out of place at all, but it placed a sense of value and excitement about what we were going to see – that this production was worth getting dressed up for. And this was even more evident during Tech Week (as backstage crew, I was able to get the behind-the-scenes perspective as well); in theatre of all things – with its long hours of rehearsal, its demand for flexible movement, and the naturally resulting desire for comfort – it’s tempting to just throw on your comfiest clothing. Being backstage, I found myself wearing whatever was loose-fitting and even balancing on the borderline of sloppy. Especially since the whole cast was wearing sweats or leggings and hoodies, I was only fitting in.
But among the cast, one of the older girls unfailingly came in a print dress or a tasteful skirt or jeans with a sophisticated blouse- the elegance of her attire matched the elegance of her smile, and the way she put care into what she wore was reflected in the way she put care into her attitude towards others. It took one smile from her to enchant the younger children, for her smile was charm itself and she simply exuded grace and elegance. She was prepossessing in an unassuming, cordial, and unpretentious way.
There is certainly an inherent value in putting some extra work into one’s appearance to look elegant and refined when one leaves the house. It’s incredible to think how much our outer appearance reflects our interior attitude – and it not only reflects, but also impacts it. And it’s also quite beautiful to think that simply by dressing with some extra care that reflects our femininity, we can bring joy into someone else’s day when they see us. Clothes can help us express ourselves – cheesy as the expression is – and they can inspire. Not because clothes in themselves have some transcendent quality about themselves, but because in our use of them we acknowledge the inextricable connection of our exterior and interior states. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and when we dress ourselves well, we are reminding others – and ourselves – that we are made in the image and likeness of God.
As Amy March, from Little Women, put it, “Let us be elegant or die!”