Fashion & Identity : What is the Truth Behind your Outfit?

You’d never think my background was one of a fashion consultant. I didn’t grow up in LA or NYC. I wasn’t part of a wealthy family. In high school, stores like Hollister were out of my price range unless I shopped the clearance section.

I wasn’t part of the popular crowd. In fact, I was homeschooled through my first few years of high school. I always wondered what it must be like to be the pretty, popular girl with all the right clothing. I envied the confidence, the allure, and the apparent satisfaction of being the most beautiful in a crowd of people.

I wanted my image to create a version of myself that pleased others. That attracted others to me.

During my first year of marriage, my husband and I enjoyed weekly date nights. I looked forward to Friday nights and spent time planning and getting ready for them. I would get all dolled up, expectant of my husband’s reaction. Even though he often told me I looked beautiful, it left me feeling empty inside. I had convinced myself I would feel a certain way, and that this feeling would satisfy me. On many date nights, I felt held back…not free to be myself.

I later discovered the reason behind my disappointment. I was distorting a truth, a God-given right as a woman. I was putting my identity in my outward appearance. And I wasn’t the first.

Our culture is entrenched with lies around beauty and self-worth. We see an ad with a woman in a beautiful dress and immediately associate the attention she receives with value. She’s the epitome of beauty, of womanhood.

The jewels, the fine lace, and the rich lipstick send a message of grace, dignity, and poise. She must be gracious and kind. She must be a woman of virtue. That’s what her clothing says about her.

Yet more often than not, the inside of us is rotting away while we devote all our time and attention toward our outward beauty. While we seek the apparent satisfaction of being the fairest of them all, we nurture the idols in our heart that distort our true beauty. While we seek momentary and fleeting attention from others, our priorities are skewed and our humility and gentility are replaced with envy and jealousy.

We make a good gift the ultimate gift. And we tell God He didn’t do a good job when He created us.

But wait…

Isn’t it a bit ironic to be hearing all this from an image consultant? After all, isn’t the entire stylist thing about helping women feel beautiful? To empower women to feel comfortable in their own skin? Yes it is. But it comes with a message.

Your clothing isn’t your identity. It represents a part of your identity, but it won’t give you value or worth. Though the clothing you wear sends a strong message about who you are, it cannot cover or mask the true you. While you’re busy creating a version of yourself in the clothing you wear, the true you, the heart and soul of who you are, will fade if neglected.

This part of you, your true self, is made beautiful through a relationship with Jesus. As you seek His heart and design for you, you are conformed to His image. Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The words “conformed to” in this context mean “sharing the same inner essence or identity”. As you reflect the nature of Jesus in your words and actions, you are taking on His very identity. An identity that doesn’t base worth or beauty on outward appearance, but on the precious and priceless heart of your inward person. With the gift of His Spirit living inside of you, you are becoming more and more beautiful everyday.

Fashion Confidence

So how does all this really shake itself out?

When you get dressed in the morning, enjoy the confidence you feel in a well-designed wardrobe, but remember Who gives you true confidence…a confidence that isn’t dependent on how you look.

Thank God for the way He created you, and learn to steward your appearance in a way that brings glory to Him. Not with apathy, and not with an idol of approval in your heart.

Dress in a way that reflects who you are, but don’t spend all morning getting ready. Put thought and intentionality into your wardrobe so you don’t have to agonize about what you’re wearing later in the day.

Enjoy it, but don’t make it ultimate. Because true beauty lies within, and that beauty is imperishable.

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
1 Peter 3:3-4

Dig deep—how do you feel about your external appearance? If you immediately bristle up, it’s time to have a long talk with God. He’s the one that made you and loves you, regardless of what the mirror throws back at you. How can you step more into God’s view of you?

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  • Malia (Queens of Virtue)

    Thank you so much for this! I thought this article was going to be about how you should dress as a virtuous woman, but it was totally different. I love the powerful message behind this article! May God bless you in everything you do!

    • Sandi Mele

      Malia, I am so glad to hear this article touched your heart!

  • ky ky

    This was really timely! I’ve been struggling with my “youthful” appearance (I’m 30 but always get mistaken to be a decade younger!) More so lately, I’ve been really insecure and wanting to look more “womanly” than my girly appearance. So I’ve been so obsessed with getting the right kind of clothes and avoiding certain kind (those which are simplest and comfortable). This article couldn’t be timelier! Thanks for your sharing!

    • Sandi Mele

      Ky Ky, I’m almost a little jealous of you because I’m on the flip side! People think I’m the oldest of my three sisters, and my oldest sister is 6 years older than me. Ah! But it is all too easy to obsess over our appearance, isn’t it? It can be tricky to find the balance between caring a little and caring too much. I’m so glad this article was timely for you! I know I’ll need to be reminded of this again and again. 😉

  • Sophia

    Such a good topic that isn’t talked about. The pressure of facing your closet every morning is a real thing. Than you for sharing this perspective.

  • Talia Vlieger

    These struggles can be deep rooted for many or even most women. I love your willingness to expose what’s underneath it all and then share the truth and freedom that comes through Christ. Lovely article. You go, girl!

  • April

    You took the words out of my mouth!! I was going to write a blog post about this but I would rather share yours, if that’s okay?