ROBERT is desperate! He has to attend his sister’s wedding and has absolutely nothing to wear. Not that Robert is in what the Bible calls “a naked state.” (James 2:15) But Robert’s everyday outfits simply will not suffice for this formal occasion.
Young Angela, though, has three social engagements to attend, each requiring a different style of dress. Unlike Robert, however, she has little trouble finding something appropriate to wear. Not that Angela is wealthy. She has simply built up a basic wardrobe that allows her to be well dressed in a variety of situations.
An article in Woman’s Day magazine said: “Clothes are important. They can go a long way toward making you feel really good about yourself.” What you wear also has a large impact on how others view and treat you. With good reason, then, the Bible urges us to be adorned with “well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Timothy 2:9) If you are a Christian, having a suitable wardrobe should be important to you.
Could it be, though, that in spite of having a closet chock-full of clothing, you sometimes feel that you have nothing to wear? What is the problem, and how can you correct matters?
The High Cost of Fashion
Often the problem isn’t money but the result of being enslaved to the world’s ever-changing styles and fashions. The book Youthtrends says that “the business world realizes how much money young people will spend for clothing labels.” Driven by a greed for cash, the clothing industry uses catchy magazine and TV ads to entice youths to spend—and spend, and spend! Reinforced by peer pressure, the strategy works. Laments a teacher: “Everybody is spending huge amounts on clothes and the kids who can’t afford it . . . are taking jobs after school just to buy designer jeans.”
Being a slave to fashion costs money and may leave you with little to invest in more practical garments that you really need. Romans 12:2 thus gives good advice when it says: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.” True, standing out as different is not always easy. Sixteen-year-old Charlene admits: “The kids in school look at you funny when you don’t dress like them.” When you let others dictate what you do, however, you become their slave. (Compare Romans 6:16.) A young woman named Johanna admits: “I get irritated because I feel as if I’m always dressing for someone else.”
Is this always wise? Take, for example, the street-gang, hip-hop, and “grunge” clothing styles. Many wear these styles simply because they are popular. Yet, they virtually scream anger and rebellion. Could wearing them give others the wrong impression about you? (John 15:19; compare 2 Corinthians 6:4.) Not to mention that looking like a gang member could get you killed. Some U.S. schools have therefore banned the wearing of gang styles. The lesson? It makes little sense to let your peers choose your wardrobe, much less rule your life. Instead of being anxious about what will please them, “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord”!—Ephesians 5:10.
Considering Your Needs
Once you have freed yourself from the tyranny of fad and fashion, you can begin building a wardrobe that meets your actual needs. For example, much of your time is spent in school. If your school requires a uniform or follows a strict dress code, your choices will be limited. But in many schools choice is permitted, and the casual look is the norm.
In such a situation, it may not be wise to make yourself conspicuous by sporting a jacket and tie or a dressy skirt. You would want to look casual without looking faddish or sloppy. A teenage girl named Millie did so. While in school she avoided fashion extremes. If your situation is similar, you may likewise need a few casual slacks, shirts, or blouses in your wardrobe. If money is tight, having just a few of these items may suffice.—Compare Luke 10:42.
Keeping your school wardrobe a modest size may leave you with enough cash to care for other needs. Do you, for example, have an outside job or household chores to perform? Then you have a need for some durable, sturdy garments. Appropriate clothing may also be needed for sports and other play activities. Although it may be in vogue to wear designer shorts, tops, and sneakers, you will find that some less expensive garments are equally serviceable.
If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will also want to consider your need for suitable clothes to wear to Christian meetings, inasmuch as casual clothing is inappropriate for worship. In lands where Western-style garb is worn, young men usually wear dress slacks, a dress shirt, a tie, and a jacket. Young women usually wear a dress or a skirt and blouse. Similar apparel is also worn in the door-to-door preaching work. How many of such outfits you can buy will depend on your budget. Fortunately, your clothes need not be plentiful or the latest in fashion. They should be neat and clean.
Jesus Christ attended a wedding, and you may also be called upon to attend certain social events. (John 2:1, 2) If dressing up for such events is customary, then it makes sense to have some suitable garments on hand. “I’ve been in situations where I was not dressed for the occasion, and it was not fun,” admits Johanna. Owning at least one dressy garment can also spare you the pressure and expense of last-minute shopping.
You might take what writer Jean Patton calls a closet audit. (Color to Color) Sort through your clothes, including items in storage. You may discover garments that you had forgotten about. At the same time, you can discard items that you have outgrown or that you no longer like.
Next, make an inventory list, perhaps organizing it into major pieces (coats, suits, dresses, blazers, sport jackets), support pieces (blouses, sweaters, dress shirts), and accessories (scarves, belts, gloves, hats, shoes, handbags, neckties). Such a list helps highlight what items you may need to round out your wardrobe.
In some lands new clothing is a luxury. Youths take pains to care for what clothes they do own and to keep them reasonably neat and clean. What, though, if you are in a position to buy some new clothes? In her book Working Wardrobe, Janet Wallach states that “a woman can save time and money if she’s bought her clothes by plan and design.” That’s true for young men too. Likely, you have a limited budget, so you need to count the cost of anything you purchase. (Compare Luke 14:28.) That may mean pruning your shopping list, sticking to high-priority items. A good rule of thumb is to spend the most money on the clothes you will wear the most.
The Better Business Bureau A to Z Buying Guide gives this advice: “Build your wardrobe around one basic color group, such as navy and gray or maroon and black. Select major clothing items in those colors, and save bright complementary hues for shirts, blouses, and accessories.” Neutral-colored clothing will stay in style longer. By sticking to basic colors, you can more easily experiment and create new outfits.
Proverbs 14:15 says: “The shrewd one considers his steps,” and having a definite plan for your purchases can help you avoid costly impulse buying. “I always take my shopping list with me when I shop,” says one young woman. Remember, too, that in the long run, it pays to go for quality, not quantity. A quality garment can last for years. “I still have sweaters that I wore as a teenager,” says one young woman. However, a brand name is not necessarily a guarantee of quality, which is best determined by carefully examining the garment itself.
Be on the conservative side when it comes to style. A classic dress or man’s suit will almost always be in style. Trendy styles quickly fade in popularity. In her book Conservative Chic, Amelia Fatt notes: “Conservative clothing is easier to accessorize, easier to add to next year, a better investment.”
Don’t forget that your parents have years of experience in buying clothing. Some of your tastes may be a generation apart, but you may agree on the basics more than you realize. “My mother helped me and my sister to develop good taste in clothing,” recalls Angela. With time and patience, you too may be able to develop a suitable, workable wardrobe. Perhaps you will never again have to say, ‘I have nothing to wear!’