I have always had a bit of a fascination with weird cults and odd Christian subcultures. The thing I have always found most interesting was how fashion plays out within these various subcultures. I was at Bed Bath & Beyond a few weeks ago purchasing a curtain rod. The woman who was trying to help me was wearing a long jean skirt, a shirt with a long-sleeved cardigan over it, and long hair with a rather hideous looking headband. Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness, I thought immediately. Considering we have a very large Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness church not even two miles from that store, I know I'm right too. Mormons in prairie dresses. Amish. Plymouth Brethren. Of course, all of these sects have one thing in common: Modesty.
For these subcultures, modesty is tantamount to holiness. Not that one needs to be part of an extreme sect to be subject to such rules of conduct. I grew up in a church that wouldn't let women sing on stage if their skirt/dress was above the knee. We had little cloths that we would drape over women if they were praying on the floor. Even though I pretty much dressed in baggy wide-leg jeans and t-shirts from about twelve on, I was still made to feel ashamed for being curvy and having boobs. As if, my natural breasts, just for existing, were making me less holy. I didn't get over that feeling until after I had breast reduction surgery and came to the realization that the church was wrong. People don't give a shit about me and what I wear. Some people look, but they would have looked whether I was a F, DD, or a B cup.
Yet, I am still fascinated by the groups that are still convinced that men are a bunch of ultra-observant sexual perverts and women can't show any skin, except their faces because faces don't cause men to think lustful thoughts. I am even more fascinated by the weird fashion things that happen within those cultures.
Take the Apostolic Pentecostal Holiness for example. Instead of buying a dress that is below the knee and has long sleeves, they do this strange layering thing. They'll wear a sun dress with a long sleeve shirt underneath. Their hair is long, but rather than simply braid it, or twist it, they pull it up in elaborate hairdos that are mostly just all of their hair piled on top of their head in a way that would only work if they were poodles. And we can't forget the strange headbands that aren't being used to hold the hair back, but rather are pulled onto the forehead like a sweatband. Perhaps the most fascinating thing though is that the "fashion", things actually designed for this sect, look like clothing that your overweight grandma would wear to church on Easter. I get that they are trying to not show their figures, but the layering is just excessive. I'm sure there are some lovely clothing choices one could make (I googled it), but I don't see many of these girls doing so. Like I said, there are a lot around here.
What I am also curious about is, what do these girls think of those who think this is ridiculous? When I was in high school I was taught by my church and youth group to be highly judgmental. Those outside of the church didn't (presumably) know better, but if you were in church then you should dress appropriately. Yet, we absolutely judged those outside the church too. Look at that cleavage. She should leave something to the imagination. I can't believe she would leave the house in that. I bet she has had sex with half the football team. And let's be honest, as a teen I lived in the buckle of the bible belt where risky NYC fashion never got to. No one was wearing backless dresses to church. They weren't walking around the mall with their boobs hanging out. They were wearing clothing from the same stores I shopped in.
When I meet these women at Bed Bath & Beyond or wherever, I wonder if they look at me in my fairly conservative business casual attire and think, that girl must be a slut because her arms and knees are showing. Or is it more of a holier than thou attitude? Look how much better I am than those lowly sinners showing all that skin. Or is this me projecting my own experiences into a situation that has nothing to do with me?
One girl on a YouTube video states that this is not only something we can see in scripture, but that this is what a "true woman of God looks like." The same girl suggests that women have always worn skirts and it is only because they took on men's jobs in WWII that the trend started. Wearing pants is a man's thing. But we'll forget that men wore skirts/dresses for a long time in the Middle East, Scotland, and Ancient Egypt. And Indian women have worn pants for thousands of years. And women in the Middle East did too. So even though this girl claims she isn't being judgmental, she can't help it. And she is being intellectually dishonest in the same breath. But she isn't the only one. There are tons of these people all over the internet, spinning their version of Christianity and claiming it as truth. As much as I am fascinated by the strange fashion choices in this Christian subculture, I also know we have a culture of religious people who absolutely believe that their truth is THE truth. Psychological damage doesn't matter. Who cares if a woman is ashamed of her body? Obviously that is what God wants.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.