My dad was saved in an IFB (independent, fundamental Baptist) church when I was 6 years old. Two years later, he was called to preach and made plans to go off to Bible college. The church where the college was located also had a Christian school, which he planned to place me in. The school had a dress code which included dresses for girls, so I would be wearing dresses to school all day and dresses to church (this was 34 years ago, so everyone wore dresses to church then). He explained to me that, since I'd be wearing dresses most of the time anyway, it only made sense for me to wear them all the time. He and my mother had been learning about dresses only for ladies and had come to the conclusion that it was right and that I should wear dresses also. I submitted to that with no problem.The following books, in addition to the one mentioned above, may be a help if you're seeking more information on this issue (disclosure) Please note that I may not agree with every position or conclusion in these books, but I believe their value is worth the read.
I don't remember ever hating wearing dresses; it was just how our family lived. As a teen, there were moments of discomfort when I felt odd, but not overwhelmingly so. My dh and his family had the same conviction, so after we married, I still wore dresses only. It was just how we lived.
There came a point about 10 years ago, that I had a friend who was a Baptist preacher's daughter. She had been raised to wear only dresses, but after she married she had grown away from that. She began talking to me, questioning my "conviction," so I talked to Wes about it. I finally talked him into letting me wear pants just around the house. He said only at home, and no jeans, only slacks. I wore them about 3 times, and felt so out of place that I decided I'd study this thing out for myself.
I used a concordance and my Bible and a book or two (Cathy Corle's book, What in the World Should I Wear, was one I read), and the things that made wearing dresses my personal conviction were the modesty of dresses and separation from the world.
Women are to dress in modest apparel (I Timothy 2:9). Modest means not extreme or bold, and not morally loose. Those can apply to pants, yes; but when I have on a pair of pants, I don't feel that my body is covered. Pants are form-fitting, thus exposing my body. That's just how I feel. The illustration that Cathy Corle uses is two pictures of the same woman. The first one has her in a nice dress. She asked a group of ladies what they noticed about this woman, and they answered her face. Then she showed them the picture of the same woman in a pair of jeans and asked what they noticed. They said their eyes were immediately drawn to the crotch area! That drove home to me that clothes can emphasize the body or the face; I'd rather have folks, especially men, notice my face and not my body. Again, this is my feeling.
The other thing that convinced me was the doctrine of separation from the world (I John 2:15; II Corinthians 6:17). The fashion of the world is to wear pants (patterned after men's clothing). This wasn't the case until about 100 years ago, when actresses began wearing pant suits that resembled men's suits. Before that, women in western culture almost universally wore dresses (I remember my Granny saying that she wore her brother's overalls to pick cotton to keep her legs from getting all scratched up). So the fashion of the world became women wearing pants. I felt that, to be separate from the world, I needed to dress differently than the world. I also needed to be feminine and distinctively female; there should be a noticeable difference between my clothes and a man's clothes (Deuteronomy 22:5). The difference in our culture is that women wear dresses and men wear pants, so I believe it's right for me to wear dresses.
(Edited here to remove the principles for modest dress that I posted last week that my pastor had preached)
As for this being a matter between a wife, husband, and God:
I believe that a saved man will probably encourage his wife to do what God is laying on her heart. Several ladies have mentioned how their husbands didn't see the need for dresses only, but supported them in wearing them because the ladies felt that is what God wanted them to do. With an unsaved husband, the dress issue can be a witness to her husband in one of two ways: (1) if he doesn't mind her wearing dresses only, it can be a witness of her changed life; (2) if he doesn't want her to wear dresses only, her submission to him in this area will be a witness to him (especially if she makes sure to wear what pleases him when they are at home, even if she wears dresses all the rest of the time).
This issue is just like any other that families have to make a decision about. If your heart is open to do whatever God wants you to, and you study scriptures related to it and come to a different conclusion than others, you've done what you need to to follow God's leading. We have freedom in Christ to follow Him as He leads us to. I don't know why some people develop certain convictions and others don't. How people dress is not a salvation issue; it's a separation issue. It's not my job to win them over to my way of thinking on separation - it's the Holy Spirit's job to teach them how God wants them to live. If they ask why I believe something, I'll tell them; otherwise, I stay quiet. It's not something that will stop me from fellowshipping with someone, and wearing dresses is not a requirement to come to our church. It's a personal standard.
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