To my fellow, holy, Catholic, and apostolic family women; you who are my inspiration, my glue to the Faith in many, many moments.  You bright stars, hidden gems in our Lord’s crown, you moms who do everything for everyone around you; yes, you…

Can we talk about clothes for a minute?

We all love modesty, and we’re all moms.  We’re used to ‘putting ourselves last.’ We’re all for shielding our kids from the vanities of the world, guarding their purity of heart, as well as rejecting worldly standards of beauty…

But when was the last time we went shopping for ourselves?

Call me superficial, but hopefully we can all agree that a bit of put-togetherness and a touch of conformity to current trends never hurt anyone.  And that’s my nice way of saying that, frankly, some of us are still wearing things that we should have torched three years ago (which was also the last time we took ourselves out for a professional haircut).

But when do I have the time to shop for myself or get a swanky new hairstyle? If you frequently ask yourself this question and believe that finding the time is impossible, I’m writing to reassure you that it is possible.

The universal obstacle to taking care of ourselves, of course, is just that: time.  Everyone needs time to scout around and see what styles interest them, to weed through old clothes and try new things on.  And, of course, time is what we feel most guilty giving ourselves, since most of us view giving our needs attention as ‘taking away’ from more important things.

Well, stop it.  We deserve to give ourselves some personal consideration too.

And the truth is, as godly women, don't think for a second that how we look doesn't or shouldn't affect how others perceive the Faith.  The truth is, the impression we send to others through our dress matters, even in the realm of attracting others to the faith.

What do I mean? In some ways it's just common sense.  When I’ve encountered someone at Church who wears expensive clothes and only carries designer purses, I’ve often wondered how effective the faith is in their lives if they continuously spend money imprudently.  By the same token, those that don't seem to bother with looking nice at all, or who adhere to a dress code of frumpy clothes have cause me to question how positively transformative faith actually is if that person appears to lack the self esteem to look nice in public.

While we should never base our feelings of self worth, or our standard of beauty on every new trend, either extreme I just mentioned risks erecting an obstacle to faith in others.  As unfortunate as it may be, our clothes do send the message to the world that we Catholics have either arrived at a healthy balance between being 'in the world and not of it,' or that we're as self-absorbed as ever.

And this can cause division, even amongst those within our ranks.

For years, I dared not venture into the realm of the long-skirt wearing moms section of the parish grounds because I wore jeans .  Based on clothing alone, I judged that I probably had nothing in common with those moms.  Years later, I’ve discovered that I was mostly incorrect in my judgment, thank goodness. But I also discovered something else.

The reason that many of my mom friends wear, shall we say, not so trendy things is this: when do they have the time to go shop?  When, in the midst of giving and giving and giving to their families, can they break away to do anything for themselves? And who, I ask you, deserves it more than they do?

Bottom line, moms need encouragement to get out there and update their overall appearance from time to time, and many of us feel too guilty, or are simply out of practice in asking permission to give ourselves a little attention. If you are a spouse of one such treasure of a woman, encourage her in all charity to do so, and then please help her make it happen.

And far be it for me to tell another woman how to dress.  I don’t want to sound like I don’t like skirts or handmaid clothes (but, perhaps you should make a rule not to sew until after you’ve educated yourself on what the current styles are).   As a not-so-girlie mom with a very girlie  daughter, I’m learning to appreciate wearing more feminine clothes (and, surprise!, I'm actually enjoying doing so!)

Now let me address the weight issue.

As someone who put on enough weight for three pregnancies when I was carrying my son (oh, but he was so plump and perfect when he came out!) and who took two years to lose it, I get how impractical ‘shopping at every weight loss stage’ is.  Don’t do that.  With the exception of a couple of new t-shirts and tank tops, I kept the same gradually disintegrating and loosening wardrobe as I lost the weight. But by the end, my husband was happy to go out and buy me new clothes that made me feel comfortable and pretty.

Finally, in case this manifesto for shopping still strikes you as too vain, and you’d just feel too guilty spending money on yourself, I want to reassure you that it’s never an ungrateful thing to want to improve oneself for the better.

We’re daughters of God and it’s no sin to look the part every now and again.

For proof of this, just look at religious sisters who consider their habits as their ‘wedding dresses’.   They are enrobed and en-scapulared and veiled.  A rope or belt gathers their waists, revealing that they have one.  They look feminine.  They look like they should be wearing that.

How about us?  Do we look like we intentionally tried to put ourselves together in the morning, or like we just haphazardly threw on the same old, un-matching, outdated selection of stuff?  This is just something that, in all prudence, we should ask ourselves every now and again.

I realize that shopping is genuinely intimidating.  Our culture, our personal insecurities, our body types, dressing rooms (shudder) and even other, well-meaning women just don’t help.   Don’t let that discourage you!  Set up a time to get away and shop without the kids or with another encouraging mom, so that you can really focus on what  you feel comfortable in and which is also relatively recent.

Copyright 2012 Marissa Nichols