For a long time I didn’t wear pink, red or any other color that seemed distinctly feminine. Pink seemed too girly. I didn’t want to be lumped in with Barbie or women that liked devotional books with flowers and hearts on them or sappy love songs that made women cry.
Red seemed too tempting. What color is the devil always portrayed as? Red. What color do temptresses wear? According to Nathaniel Hawthorne in sophomore year english class, she wears a scarlet ‘A’. Red is supposed to signify desire, love, passion. If I wore red myself was I making a target out of my body which people already noticed? How was I going to be taken seriously, especially as a preacher if I wore a color associated with sin, lust and the devil?
Purple- this was a more safe color. Associated with royalty, a little more demure than red and more serious than pink. Plus, the Bible speaks favorably of Lydia, the woman who wove purple cloth. No scarlet ‘A’ there. Plum, or violet could work as well. Still feminine, but not too feminine.
There are certain colors that are flattering to my skin tone and hair color- some pinks or reds or purples with cool undertones make me look like a vampire- and not the sexy Twilight type vampire- a “whoa, she hasn’t seen the sun in a while type vampire.” Others like magenta, orange or plum don’t wash me out. But as you can see, beyond that, it isn’t just a choice of what goes well with my skin tone or hair color- what we wear on our bodies signifies what we are like internally, our creativity or how we perceive ourselves or want to be perceived. If you think that I’m over thinking all of this, just recall the scene from Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts where she walks into an upscale shop wearing this outfit:
I remember getting in a fight with a male colleague years ago when I offered to take a member of our staff team shopping for an influential speaking engagement she had coming up. “It shouldn’t matter what you wear,” he heatedly said “people should listen to you because of the merit of what you say, not how you look” as he scoffed at my offer to take her thrift store shopping to find something professional to wear. At the time I retorted with how people judge whether they want to listen to you within the first few minutes of observing you in addition to hearing what you have to say.
He replied that he thought we shouldn’t placate people’s superficial vanity. But as I’ve grown older and have thought more about what it means to be embodied, I think it’s more than that. Isn’t it simply acknowledging that we have eyes? have bodies? enjoy color, aesthetics and design as created beings? In Christian circles we seem to forget that those things matter and try to dismiss the impact of our physical world on our interactions with others and the influence they have. Those first few moments of seeing someone is a visual statement that declares: “this is who I am and what I’m about.” Even if you claim not to care about what you wear, you make choices about what you put on your body. There are styles and colors that you like or dislike, brands you prefer and cuts of clothing that you feel comfortable in.
We shouldn’t be afraid to be who God made us to be- in the colors we enjoy, the styles that are flattering to the bodies we’ve been given or the ways we feel comfortable expressing who we are in what we wear. To dismiss the importance of the visual and aesthetic nature of who we are is foolish- yet to place too much emphasis on it is also foolish. We were made for more than what we wear, yet what we wear is important in expressing who we are.
This is the crazy thing about Christianity- the paradoxes that are difficult to work out in what it means to follow Jesus. To care about the external world, but not be enslaved by it. To care about your internal spiritual world but not to neglect the body that God has given you- as a man or woman, someone who looks great in yellow or avoids it at all costs.
For me, I avoided the fact that I was a woman for a very long time. Subconsciously choosing colors that were gender neutral or clothes wouldn’t emphasize the fact that I have boobs, a Kardashian-esque booty or curves. I realize this may seem like a can of worms to someone who wakes up in the morning and grabs the first thing that’s clean. Our choices have meaning- to live into who you were made to be or to try and avoid it like I did for a long time.
Over the years I’ve learned to embrace pink, (actually coral or magenta because those are shades of pink that are flattering) as a way to embrace that I am a woman. I am created in the image of God and he loves and celebrates every inch of how he made me. I don’t need to be afraid to live into that, and choosing colors that I enjoy without worrying what others will think of me is a small yet powerful way to do so.