If all God wanted was for us to be identifiable, He might have provided a "Christian uniform" in Scripture. But there is no "dress code" in the Bible that says we cannot wear buttons, zippers, or polyester. Instead, we find principles for the first believers in A.D. 100 that still work for young believers in the 21st century. These principles apply in every culture, climate, and circumstance.
Appearance is one of the most difficult issues for Christian teenagers, especially young women. What you wear may determine whether your friends compliment you or make fun of you. To make the pressure greater, you are bombarded with advertisements in every media showing the latest styles and fads.
Often, clothing becomes a battleground with parents and older believers who send the message (perhaps unintentionally) that "modern is worldly." But a new style in itself is not wrong because it is new any more than an old style is right because it is old. Plenty of old and new styles do not fall within the guidelines of Scripture.
Also, just because everyone is wearing a certain type of clothing, does not make it automatically right either. All teenagers want to fit in and be accepted. However, right and wrong are never determined by what is popular, by what the "stars" wear, or by what is fashionably "in." The only safe grounds for your decisions are the principles found in the Bible. God cares greatly about your appearance, which is why He has given clear instruction about clothing in His Word. For example, “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2:9).
"The only safe grounds for your decisions are the principles found in the Bible."
Who will want to find Biblical guidance on dress and appearance? Christian women! Generally, women notice appearance more, are responsible for the clothing of their children, and face a greater challenge in finding clothing within Biblical guidelines. More specifically, though, the Bible gives instruction to "women professing godliness." The Spirit assumes that a teenage sister will want to be as godly or Christlike as possible. Therefore, she practices "good works" that show out her profession. In other words, to say you are a believer and not act like one would be inconsistent. Perhaps, every teen should stop and ask, "Do I want to be godly? Does my practice match my profession?"
Then, Paul adds the third component of the godly life … presentation or appearance. Your clothes and appearance should confirm, not conflict, with your profession and practice of showing forth the character and values of the Lord Jesus.
Hypocrisy is horrible! You could profess to be a Christian and not act or dress like one. Or, you could profess to be a believer and look like one and yet not act like one. Sometimes, there is far too much judgment based on appearance. One of the great dangers is to think you are spiritual because you have your appearance in line with Scripture, when in truth your heart, attitudes, and life are far from it. Our world wants reality and God expects you to be consistent in profession, practice, and presentation!
How can Christian teens select appropriate clothing?
The Guide of Gender: "that men … that women"
In Genesis 1, God made a distinction between males and females. He gave them different bodies, emotions, skills, and responsibilities. Because this distinction is important to God, Satan works to erase it from Eden (Genesis 3) to the end (Revelation 9:7-8). He even tried to confuse the roles of the two genders in Corinth, prompting Paul to write 1 Corinthians 11-14. So, when you pick out your clothes, remember, if you’re a Christian male, try to look as masculine as possible. If you are a female, show that you appreciate your gender by presenting yourself as feminine as possible.
Challenge: Will these clothes confirm my gender?
The Mandate to Modesty: “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control"
Fashion designers have long understood the power of clothes to incite lust in others, especially men. As you take clothes off the hanger or out of the drawer tomorrow morning, ask yourself, how are these clothes going to affect the opposite sex? The Bible would hardly condone doing anything to tempt or stumble another. The world may say, "Skin is in!" but God wants you to have dignity and self-control. Don’t let your appearance keep the thoughts of others from being drawn to the Lord in a prayer meeting or in a park.
Challenge: Will these clothes cause lust in others?
The Order of Ostentation: "not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire"
Of course, God wants you to look the best you can! The word "adorn" is a form of the word "cosmos" that suggests orderly arrangement just as God has done in creation. However, to put gold in your hair, jewelry around your neck, or make-up on your face so that heads spin, mouths drop, and envy seethes is problematic. Ostentation is where you draw attention to yourself because of riches, style, or elegance. Similarly, there could be an equal vanity and pride of drawing attention to self because of out-of-date clothing. Remember, as one brother put it, “There is no virtue in weirdness.”
The Bible and history give us very little information about what clothes Jesus and the disciples wore. Nobody ever commented on it because they just wore the normal clothes for their culture and time – so should we. Therefore, you must consider how your clothes will affect others. If your clothes or lack of them are going to make people notice your wealth, status, style, or body, your appearance is drawing attention to you, not to Christ.
Challenge: Will these clothes draw the attention of others?
The Sieve of Situation: "In every place the men should pray … likewise also that women"
Where you are going and who will be there will also determine your dress. When Peter was fishing, he suddenly dove for his fishing coat when he realized the Lord Jesus was present. Instructions for assembly prayer meetings is found in 1 Timothy 2. Obviously, the Lord is there as we engage in reverent communication with the King of kings. How you dress will and should vary whether you are at home, in a job interview, at a meeting, or swimming in a lake. The people present, the place, and the purpose of the event will affect your choice of clothes. Obviously, what is modest or ostentatious in one situation may not be in another.
Challenge: Will these clothes be appropriate for this circumstance?
Although God gives instruction to women, let young men also apply the same principles to their wardrobes. The Bible principles for a teenage sister are to be as feminine, as orderly, as modest, and as unnoticed as possible in every situation. Likewise, the same principles instruct a teenage guy to be as masculine, as orderly, as modest, and as unnoticed as possible. Each day and each event requires new evaluation. So now, the choices and challenges are yours with the clothes that you wear.