In poem 28 of her “Nature” collection, Emily Dickinson writes this of autumn:
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I be old fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.
I’ve always loved this poem. Perhaps I love it because Emily and I share one key thing here: a desire to delight in the bold colors of the autumn season by dressing in equally festive attire.
The temperatures are finally starting to drop here, and fall clothing lines are hitting the stores. While many probably don’t think much about clothing lines in autumnal colors, I have had to plan for this occasion so as to maintain the self-control Paul refers to in Galatians 5.23.
Let me back up. For me, clothes have always served more than utility; for me, clothes are a creative expression.
While some people are strongly affected by musical sounds, and others by scent, I have always been incredibly color-driven.
Expressing myself through color sometimes takes the form of paint and brush, sometimes takes the form of decorating my window box, but most often, it takes the form of curating a wardrobe that reflects the colors that are speaking to me.
There is nothing inherently wrong with creative expression. We desire to create because we were made in the image of the One who created all things.
There is nothing inherently wrong with creative expression.
Where a love for clothing can go wrong, however, is in a few different ways:
- When certain brands of clothing are worn as an indication of wealth and status in hopes of inciting envy or jealousy
- When money that should be tithed or spent in a charitable way is used to purchase unnecessary clothing
- When clothing has become an idol in terms of sheer amount amassed
- When extended amounts of time that could be spent in communion with God is spent thinking about and desiring more clothing
Though I can’t say I struggle much with the first one, I have definitely had to take a hard look at my own love of clothing in terms of the other three.
So, over the years, I have put a few measures in place to keep my love of clothing in check.
PROBLEM: WHEN MONEY THAT SHOULD BE TITHED OR SPENT IN A CHARITABLE WAY IS USED TO PURCHASE UNNECESSARY CLOTHING
Budgeting is all about choosing how money is spent. If more money is spent on X, there is less for Y. Impulse buying is one of the fastest ways to upset a budget. If too much impulse buying occurs, and it’s time to give charitably to disaster relief—or buy a meal for someone struggling—these fruitful acts are sacrificed for the dress already hanging in the closet.
Making my fall wardrobe feel new can curb shopping for fun
I’ve noticed that I impulse-buy the most when seasons change. As I mentioned earlier, when the new fall line drops in all those autumnal colors, my will gets weak.
One strategy that helps is to segment my wardrobe into fall/winter and spring/summer. When the weather moves from one to the other, I take my out-of-season clothes and tuck them away underneath the bed in a rolling tub.
Pulling out the clothes for the new season can be as exciting as a shopping trip which helps me substitute it as such.
Be sparing and mindful about “trendy” items
My rule-of-thumb when it comes to purchasing clothes is to spend very little on trendy pieces; instead, I try to invest in classic, well-made pieces that will last for many years.
But trends can be fun, so I don’t rule them out entirely. I just have to be judicious about trendy items.
This fall, I want to see if I can turn some pants I found secondhand into some trendy wide-leg crop pants (stay tuned).
And speaking of secondhand…
Shop secondhand so not to compromise the budget
The first 10% of my paycheck goes straight to God. He has given me everything I have, and it’s all His anyway.
Once the bills are paid, and we cover food and gas, there is not always a lot left in the checking account for clothes. But I have found that I can find great items when I buy secondhand.
This fall, I decided to invest in a pair of high-waist flare jeans as a staple for the fall and winter months (and, ideally, for years to come).
I did some casual looking online and found a pair of Anthropologie jeans on Poshmark for $40 (retail $128).
Poshmark is an online secondhand store that is individually based: anyone with an account can list an item of clothing for sale, and the buyer completes the transaction when the item arrives as described.
On the other hand, ThredUp is a different model, but another great online secondhand shop that I have used for years. ThredUp takes mail-in bags of clothes from sellers and lists them, consignment-style, on the website. ThredUp does accept returns, and offer a rewards program for frequent shoppers. Buyers can even filter the search for “new with tags” in hopes to score some good deals (these items are probably retail overflow).
Keep in mind that money not spent on clothes may find a more fruitful avenue
In the parable of the rich young man in Matthew 19, Jesus tells him that in order to gain eternal life, he must keep the commandments. And when the young man presses further, Jesus adds that to be perfect, the man should sell all of his earthly items and give them to the poor and set out to follow Jesus. And though we don’t know what the young man in the parable ultimately chose (we infer that he doesn’t sell his riches because he goes away from Jesus sorrowfully), we can heed the message: rather than living in riches, we should use the equity of such to help those who have less than us.
- Maybe it means through careful budgeting and purchasing, we ensure that the end of the month sees enough extra funds to financially support Convoy of Hope as they swoop in to help when disaster strikes.
- Maybe that means donating the baby’s crib to a family in need instead of saving it for sentimental purposes.
- Maybe that means asking for a smaller Christmas gift for oneself in order to sponsor a family who won’t have any Christmas gifts.
I’m likely preaching to myself more than to my readers, here, but I believe maintaining perspective with our money is a powerful, holy tool.
PROBLEM: WHEN CLOTHING HAS BECOME AN IDOL IN TERMS OF SHEER AMOUNTS AMASSED
Clothing is truly something we need, to a certain extent. Learning to parse out what we could use for the upcoming season versus what we are tempted to accumulate is an important practice.
Creating a purchase plan as a measure of self-control
Paul tells us that one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control: the ability to resist temptations and desires (Galatians 5.23, ESV).
If I go into the fall retail season without a plan, I can find myself not even realizing how much shopping I am doing—casually grabbing an item of clothing every time I go to Target, for instance.
A more mindful, self-controlled approach is to pull out my fall/winter items as the season is beginning, and write down a careful shopping list for the seasons.
Here is my shopping list for this fall:
- High waisted flair jeans (purchased—the ones I snagged secondhand and mentioned earlier)
- 1 hair scarf in fall colors
- A belt bag or mules using my Madewell gift card from last Christmas (self control!)
- Allowance for an inexpensive “fun” purchase
And here is what I am planning for winter:
- Two plain long-sleeved tees
- One hair scarf in Christmas plaid
- Allowance for an inexpensive “fun” purchase
I like to add that last one to each list because, occasionally—albeit rarely—I will stumble upon an item I hadn’t planned for that seems tailor-made for me. I don’t want to be so legalistic that I don’t ever get to enjoy sound purchases.
But having a list and practicing self-control means I am buying wisely and making sure I am not using more of my family’s budget than allotted.
Do not store up; let unused items go
Jesus directs us explicitly in the matter of collecting fine things:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, or where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be alsoMatthew 6.19-21, ESV
First off, right there in Jesus’ command is a logical reason against hoarding textiles: the most expensive, most coveted garment can be taken down by a single moth. Why place our value on something so easily destroyed? It makes no logical sense.
But more importantly, Jesus tells us that the state of our hearts is reflected in what we pour our attention and funds into.
PROBLEM: WHEN EXTENDED AMOUNTS OF TIME THAT COULD BE SPENT IN COMMUNION WITH GOD IS SPENT THINKING ABOUT AND DESIRING MORE CLOTHING
Though the tips I have mentioned definitely help curb impulse-buying and hoarding, there comes a point in which the time spent hunting for clothes should be considered.
Yes, I am a bargain-hunter, but at what point does the bargain-hunting take up too much time?
Time for a shopping fast?
For Lent this year, my friend Michelle (you may have caught her Sips & Scripts chat in July) and I decided to refrain from purchasing any items of clothing. For some of you, this all sounds silly— 40 days without purchasing clothes? Easy.
But Michelle and I made that decision for a reason. Clothing has a draw and an appeal to me that I do find hard to resist. If I ever feel that draw starting to get out of control, it’s time to pull back and prove to God that I don’t need to strive for more earthly items. He is all I need.
I don’t need to strive for more earthly items. He is all I need.
Flex creativity in the styling, not in the purchasing.
There are so many ways to give an existing item of clothing a fresh look. I’m reminding myself to take some of my warm weather pieces and re-mix them for the cool weather:
If I hadn’t had a 6-year-old photographer for these pics, you might have been able to see my fall outfit with booties. But what can I say? He works for hugs and cookies.
When we keep our gaze off “new” and “more,” we find contentment in what we already have.
And perhaps the most important strategy of all:
Stay in the Word to keep the gaze on heaven, not on earth
As I round out Paul’s letters and move toward Hebrews, so many of his words speak to just this topic. Just this morning, I read these words:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.1 Timothy 6.6-7, ESV
We will leave the world with naked palms unfurled and empty. Our belongings will be sold at an estate sale, or perhaps passed on to those who will ultimately pass them on as well.
Let us use our earthly items with gratitude, but let us not grasp them tightly.
A tight grasp is intended for the right hand of God.
with His love,