Seeing myself in a better light

Back in the day, we used to have such a thing as a dinner dress. Fancier than what you’d wear to church, but not full-on formal. Long sleeves, longish skirt, usually a full skirt rather than a narrow one.

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© diavolessa – Fotolia.com

Such dresses are near impossible to find anymore, since women’s evening wear is now short-skirted, narrow, or sleeveless, if not all three.

There remains in my closet a lone dinner dress from days of yore. It was handed down to me by my mother, after she lost weight and couldn’t wear it any more. I, unfortunately, still can.

The dress is red, really red-red, not my favorite color. And it’s polyester. And it’s a hand-me-down from my mother, for cryin’ out loud. So…not my favorite dress, but sometimes it’s the only one that suits the occasion.

My boss once gave me tickets to a symphony concert. My husband dressed up in one of his classy Italian suits, and I’m looking through my wardrobe having a classic “not a thing to wear” moment. It came down to the old red dinner dress. I was reminded of the old soul standard “Try a Little Tenderness.”

…wearing that same old shabby dress…

But I put on that same old shabby dress and wore it to the symphony. As we worked our way down the row to our seats, a gentleman about my dad’s age, maybe a little older, stood up so I could pass, and started singing.

The lady in red, the fellas go crazy for the lady in red…

Totally changed my outlook.

Yet despite that, when the Florida Writers Association award banquet rolled around again, I went through my closet and discovered I’ve worn all my other formals in years prior. Buying a new dress, even if I could find one, was not an option. So the only thing to do was wear that same old—strike that—the Lady in Red dress.

My first thought was that if I won, I’d have to get up there in front of my peers wearing that polyester hand-me-down. My second thought was…

The lady in red, the fellas go crazy for the lady in red…

red dinner dress

The red dinner dress. On the right is Tom Waters of Autography, one of the event sponsors. Photo by Karen Lieb.

I don’t know if guys have these sorts of issues, but women often get hung up on body image and clothes, and forget that we always see ourselves in a harsher light than others do. But I successfully suppressed the Otis Redding earworm and replaced it with Desi Arnaz, and when Hope and Pride won first place in the unpublished inspirational romance category, I concentrated on thanking God and on not tripping over my skirt while climbing the podium steps. How I looked and the age of my dress didn’t matter.

After I left the stage, one person after another commented on how nice I looked. I’ve been attending this conference for eight years, and I think I got more compliments on that old red dress than I’ve ever gotten before. It reminded me that no one thinks I’m as shabby as I think I am. It reminded me to be less self-conscious, and more conscious of others. It reminded me to stop worrying about outward appearances and concentrate on what’s really important.

And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?—Matthew 6:28-30





About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

10 comments on “Seeing myself in a better light

  1. I know how you feel. I’m never comfortable when I have to dress up, but even when I think I look ridiculous (like at this year’s conference), everyone else seems to see something I don’t. Kind of reminds me how God see us, ya know?

  2. This is the song I thought of…

  3. Thanks for that inspiring story Kristen, we all need to forget the outward appearances and look within to the beauty that is created by God and His love for us.

  4. […] different without drawing too much attention to myself. But a carefully curated closet means that even when I do obsess over my dress, it doesn’t take a huge amount of […]

  5. I drop in late on this one… what would’ve been really cool (and ne plus ultra flattering) would’ve been that velvet cloak you feature in today’s post. My opinion, possibly biased by the fact my protagonist and his kind all look so good in hooded cloaks. 😀

    • But I’m not missing the point, either. If you’re beautiful on the inside, you’ll be beautiful on the outside. I think that photo of you in the velvet cloak is what it is because you actually let more of the “inner you” show in it – and wear something which reflects that “inner you” even more fully than here. The red dress looks good (actually, it reminds me of “an intense yet somehow soothing shade of fluorescent orange” as in THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY! 😉 ), but there is something about your appearing in what seems to be your preferred natural setting which brings out the best in you inside and out. And I think that’s a valid key. We worry too much too often about what others think of us, but if we’re on our own ground we worry much less.

      • True! I didn’t have the cloak at the time I wrote this post. I’m not sure I have the nerve to wear it at the FWA conference. Realm Makers is definitely my “preferred natural setting.” 🙂

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