I'm not a church-goer.
Ever since my "When are we getting the snaaaaacks?" outside-voice outburst for grape juice and bread chunks during Hymn 307 back in '87, God made it clear to me through all the nasty looks and "Her poor parents..." whispers that I'd be doing myself and everyone else a favor if from then on I just slept in on Sunday mornings.
And sleep in, I have. Contentedly.
When I look back on my first 11 years of Sundays and I how felt having to pile my tired-from-late-night-stickball limbs into the backseat of the Volvo with tear-stained cheeks, a gnashed-teeth scowl, and thick white opaque tights, I now realize my own unwavering adherence and strict expectation for others to follow rule #2 - dress for your audience - was most likely a byproduct of being forced to wear things like this, act like the lady I most certainly was not at that point in my life, and repeat words that meant nothing to me for the better part of the two Punky Brewster episodes I knew I was missing back at home.
Because I have such a dated snapshot - and one from a southern Presbyterian congregation, no less - I realize my standards for what is and isn't acceptable church-wear might be a bit on the conservative side. But yesterday morning, when the princeling and I were on our first of the day's five jaunts, the two of us watched a group of teenage girls cut rather rudely in front of an elderly couple as they - the girls and the couple - entered the quiet of a Logan Circle church. These 14-16 year olds were wearing clothes I would not only describe as grossly inappropriate for Sunday church but for any situation for any young woman.
One of the girls was in a pair of skin-tight super-lowrise jeans, baring three-inches of midriff that at no angle looked within 20lbs of the one I've provided for you above, a cropped message tee that read "Who asked you?" and dirty white wedged flip-flops. The girl to her left, even heavier than her friend, was braless in a clingy hooker-red jersey halter dress with bejeweled t-strap heels. The two to her left were in shorts - short shorts - tank tops and wedged espadrilles. And the last girl, clearly the only one who had been given any adult instruction, was in a freshly-pressed khaki shirtdress and closed toed pumps.
Part of me was upset because I was never afforded the chance the first four girls obviously were to enter a house of God in what I wanted to wear; a larger part of me, though, was upset at the fact no one had taught these young women the lesson my parents taught me about doing things you might not want to do but you do anyway because you have no choice. Or as my Mother told me each week, "Because, Johanna, God does not want to see muddy cleats and cut-offs in his pews."
At present, I'm in a bit of a comment-battle with a woman we'll call "J" on another DC fashion blog over this very topic of venue-appropriate dress. J's view is that if you've got it, flaunt it, no rules, no considerations, no nothin'. "There is only one rule in fashion," she writes, "[and that's] no rules!" Yeah, that sounds good and young and hip and rebellious, all of which I often am, but my take on the issue is slightly different. I'm not going to pretend I'm not about flaunting assets - because I am - but more important than showing off mile-long legs with a one-inch inseam is being conscious of how you'll be received in whatever it is you're wearing and compromising your wants according to those expectations. Now, I don't mean to say a woman should water down her style to the most judgmental, buttoned-up, floor-sweeping prairie skirt in the crowd, not at all, but what I am advocating is that she take a collective account of the event, time of day, neighborhood and crowd demographics before she steps out in an upper-thigh-baring silk romper and 5-inch KORS Michael Kors platform sandals.
Upon seeing these girls yesterday, I couldn't help but think of J's "no rules!" declaration, smile and know for a fact that had she been there to see what I'd seen, she would've abandoned her team for mine in a heartbeat.