One of the things I sometimes say about a particularly gorgeous woman is “She’d look great wearing a trash bag.” The implication, of course, is that most of us would look, well, trashy wearing a trash bag, but a woman of style and beauty would be able to pull off any outfit. In high school, it bothered me to no end that I was tagged “odd” and “awkward” because I often wore my older sisters’ hand-me-downs…but if one of the popular girls wore second-hand clothing bought at a “retro” boutique, she was hailed for being “hip” and “stylish.” The stylishness of an outfit, in other words, had more to do with who was wearing it than with what the outfit itself actually looked like.

Perhaps this explains why I’ve never been a slave to fashion. Even in high school, I suspected that it didn’t matter what I wore: I’d never be as “hip” and “stylish” as the popular girls, so I might as well not even try. So while my slightly-more-trendy friends tried to keep up, sartorially, with the popular Joneses, I recognized a doomed endeavor when I saw one and wore whatever was available. Growing up in a frugal family with four daughters, “whatever was available” was usually whatever my sisters had outgrown, grown tired of, or otherwise castoff: in other words, not the most trendy or (currently) stylish stuff.

Through the cracks

Perhaps this also explains why Christ’s parable about the “lilies of the field” was always one of my favorite Bible stories (and perhaps the fact that I had a favorite Bible story helps explain why I wasn’t a popular teenager). Christ’s admonition to “consider the lilies of the field,” after all, is simultaneously an exhortation to avoid anxiety and a reassurance that some parts of creation look perfectly fine in their natural state. If wild daisies and sunflowers were better dressed than King Solomon in all his glory, why then did my high school peers spend so much time fixing, fussing, and fiddling over their hair, clothing, and makeup? If birds, flowers, and other natural beings looked just fine how they were born–and if, furthermore, guys looked perfectly fine in T-shirts, jeans, ball-caps, and no makeup–why did teenage girls have to pour so much time, money, and effort into dressing, coiffing, and painting themselves?

I still opt for a lazy-woman’s approach to personal grooming: I wear what’s comfortable, pull back my hair and shield my eyes with a baseball cap, don’t wear makeup, and don’t color my hair. I don’t have philosophical objections against women who choose to take the time to do these things; I just don’t see the point in my spending time that way. Perhaps if I were taller, thinner, blonder, or bustier–perhaps if I came closer, in other words, to what a well-dressed, properly made-up woman is “supposed to” look like, judging from fashion magazines and Barbie dolls–I’d see merit in the effort. But given the “lilies” that God granted me, I don’t see how its worth my worry trying to fix, fuss, or fiddle myself into something I’m not. Given that I don’t have a thing to wear that would morph me into one of the popular girls, I’ll content myself with being an odd, awkward, and ultimately natural wallflower.

The other side of the fence