by Andrea Kennedy
I came to the Lord when I was 15 years old. I had been raised with a little light. My mother had studied with a Seventh-day Adventist minister in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1974 for about six weeks. My father had been raised in a Seventh-day Adventist foster home as a child in Sacramento, California. His foster grandparents were missionaries and whenever they came to visit, the parents enforced a very different set of rules to appease the grandparents. From my parents' experiences with the church, they were both convinced that the Adventist church was the true church of God, Jesus was coming in my life time and the seventh-day Sabbath was the true day of worship. But they also came to believe that in order to be a Seventh-day Adventist you'd have to be perfect and that following the many rules would not only rob my parents of their cigarette habit and some income (tithe) but also us children of our childhood.
One evening when I was about nine years old, my mother read to us from Uriah Smith's Daniel and the Revelation . I remember making a decision that I wanted to be a true follower of Christ and be ready for Christ's second coming. My parents still were not interested in church at that time however and did not want to begin taking me. For several years I struggled with my desire to know Jesus and my desire for the things of this world. I became a highly flirtatious teenager and especially liked to wear the skimpiest clothes that our lenient school dress code allowed. I finally made the cheerleading squad for my sophomore year of high school. But that year, not only did I discover that becoming cheerleader did not fill the emptiness in my soul, my father left my mother creating an even greater void. I began to long for God more than ever and was desperate to attend church.
One day my father called me and because of his own loneliness he had begun to attend church—a Seventh-day Adventist church. He invited me to come with him and in that moment my whole life flashed before my eyes. I had grown up with a list of rules of what a Christian was supposed to be like—a list of rules that had come from Adventism past in the 1950s or earlier. I quickly agreed and searched my sister's closet for something longer to wear. I imagined Adventists must be a lot like Quakers and I was so weary of trying to fit in with the world, I was ready for an abrupt change.
I was baptized into a small country church. I was mentored by a dear sister who sewed her own clothes for herself and her little daughter, including matching pants for under the long prairie type dresses. I determined to dress the same, but my sewing was not nearly as good and instead of matching pants, I had long johns under my dresses.
I remember the first time the Holy Spirit ever whispered to me about dress. I had made a few jumper style dresses but was wearing them without undershirts. During a sermon not on dress at all, the Spirit whispered to me that my sleeveless jumpers were not modest. I put my cardigan sweater on and began trying to implement that change. I went to an Adventist university as soon as I graduated high school. I was so eager to meet other young people like myself, but instead found myself to truly be a gazing stock. The other girls would snicker behind my back and I would go to my dorm room and cry. I'd ask Jesus to make my smile so big that people wouldn't notice my goofy looking clothes. My skirts were a practical length but they didn't cover my flower printed long johns.
I persisted in my dress reform for a few more years, but one cold, windy day in Oklahoma, I began to despise my reform and long for something attractive, practical and normal! I had worked at Colonial Health Center associated with Oklahoma Academy in 1993. I liked OA's dress code. The girls were required to wear dresses at school, but for hiking and outdoor work, they were permitted to wear pants with long shirts to cover their bottoms.
For several years I quit wearing dresses all the time and preferred jeans usually paired with a long shirt. Then one morning on my way to work I heard a most alarming discussion on the Christian radio station about homosexuality and bisexuality in the public schools in my area. I was shocked. I had been out of high school for about 15 years and the complete change in climate disturbed me greatly. A girl was filing a law suit against her school district because they had decreed that no same-sex dates would be allowed to the prom. The girl said that she herself was not bi-sexual but that she had friends that were and she felt that the rule was discriminating against gays. When I was in school it was normal for girls to go to the prom together if no boys had asked them, but this was a different situation. Same sex couples had become so prominent in the school that the school district didn't want them dancing together and displaying affection at the prom.
My heart ached for my daughter to grow up in this world in the midst of such wide-spread confusion and I felt impressed to go back to wearing dresses all the time. I also found an article on modesty on the internet that really convicted me. http://www.momof9splace.com/sinof.html . It was this article that convinced me I should stop wearing pants. I made changes gradually—I couldn't afford to go out and buy a new wardrobe all at once, but after the birth of my son I decided not to replace my maternity pants or skinny jeans with pants that fit. Instead, I bought skirts. It was a real comfort to me to be wearing dresses and skirts because my husband loved the change and his appreciation helped me cope with my excessive weight gain from pregnancy.
I have been very blessed to find skirts and dresses at my local thrift store and I have a precious friend who has been very helpful in finding old fashioned sweet little girl dresses in the thrift stores in the large city she lives in for my daughter. We pair her dresses with leggings and have decided that leggings under dresses work far better than culottes. With culottes, it's possible to see all the way up the leg depending on how my daughter is playing.
I've also found that bike riding is very doable in a skirt or dress that isn't too long. A dress that is mid-calf seems to be the perfect length for practical work and bike riding. For hiking, I like to wear blue jeans with a short shirt dress. I've included a picture. This dress is a little short and I have another that is knee length that I like better. For many trails, a skirt or dress is fine but if our walk takes us through tall grass, I prefer the jeans for protection against chiggers and ticks.
It isn't easy to be the only person wearing a dress at a church social and sometimes I'm really tempted to wear make up when the other ladies at church look so pretty with it. My comfort is that my husband loves my dress reform and much prefers a modest, natural look and I'm hoping that my example will be a help to my sisters in Christ.
Also, I hope by choosing to dress modestly in an attractive way, my little son will be more attracted to modestly dressed girls when he's old enough to be thinking about a wife of his own. I've also been shown more courtesy and respect from men when I'm out in public. I'm striving to make my dress reform practical and attractive to other women, but most of all, it is attractive to my children and husband. My son actually saw an old video of me in pants and said, “Mommy, I don't like the way you look in pants. It just doesn't look nice.”