I have a few favorite stylists. J. Bolin is one of them. His courage to dress people by mirroring what is in their heart is genius. The other day, he asked a question on his Instagram. I had already written the post below, but I felt like adding a new intro to this weeks blog because I was so moved by His question.
“What are church clothes?” - J. Bolin
My counter question is, “Who is the church?”. I think when we think of church clothes, we think of a place that we go to. I’ve began to think that maybe my perception of church is incorrect. While it’s imperative for my growth that I do congregate with my sisters and brothers, it’s also important that I’m a living and walking extension of the church where ever I go. Do I need to dress for the occasion of Sunday and not carry that out thru the rest of the week? What exactly are church clothes? Is the question, “How do we dress FOR church?”, or is it “How do we dress THE church?”.
Thanks J. Bolin for your brave undertaking as a stylist to represent. You are kind and humble and absolutely incredible.
Here is my personal experience.
Growing up in a church where we couldn’t wear pants or makeup or nail polish gave me a sense of control. It made me feel like, as a little girl, my clothing could somehow control or create my outcome.
I was a baby myself at 12 years old. My classmates were bearing children. I knew friends and relatives who were my age and in a grave. Gun violence was an epidemic and what color to wear was a life or death choice.
I didn’t have fear. I had doctrine to keep me warm. My nails were clean and maybe a soft pink, my skirt hit my knees and I prayed. A lot.
I’ve grown up since then. Skinny jeans became a part of my life in my early 20’s. Modest apparel became a part of my past a few years later. I was introduced to the beauty industry thru my occupation and I became so covered in products, I was surprised by the outcome of every photo.
It was me. But it was absolutely designed. From my lip color to my highlights. I was a literal work of art.
I’m not sure exactly when I lost myself, but I did. Clothing slowly became a replacement for relationship with God. In the same way religion gets in the way of relationship with the Father. I still had the same pull toward clothing as I did when I was younger. It was still religious. Shopping, tailoring, perfection. I was obsessed and what I would wear took up more time then what I would say or BE on the inside. My “look” gave me a sense of control in a very out of control Hollywood.
I didn’t have enough time with myself. The simplest parts of me. The little creases in my lips were always being blended out. My eyelashes always heavy with extensions. My belly would shrink and expand like a balloon depending on the date of the red carpet. I was someone’s muse. Maybe my own. Maybe the worlds. I’m not sure, but definitely not God’s.
After a while, I couldn’t really tell who was dressing me. I had four closets. One the size of a bedroom and 3 others. One for coats, one for gowns and one for lingerie and loungewear. The large closet was shoes, accessories, denim, leather and lace. Each closet was another part of me. I had to decompartmentalize myself in order to ground my self. There was way too much to choose from, all of the time.
Eventually, I wore of the pomp and circumstance of my daily arrivals. Something was missing. I had the look finally. I had the Image I’d taken so long to perfect. But something was now fully missing. I began to lean in. I sold everything I owned. I kept the black simple things that easily matched each other. I kept just a few dresses and 1 or 2 coats. I saved a few shoes, my very first runway pair, a pair my mother purchased me and another special pair given to me by a stylist I’ll always love.
When I let everything go, I felt awakened. Something inside of me was calling out. I wasn’t positive what it was. I just kept leaning towards it. It urged me to purchase a plane ticket and leave LA. It urged me to lie before the Lord and stay in my word. It urged me back to love. The Holy Spirit was kind enough to call me, and for some reason, I could hear it loud. Maybe someone was praying for me. I’d had a few days off and I was really silent for about a week. I began to pray and write. I began to seek Godly counsel. My mother will always be my angel. I was tugged towards forgiveness. I was nudged towards release. I was nudged towards my first true love. I was married in 21 days.
What clothes couldn’t provide me with, was a covering. I craved one. I purchased every item that looked good on my body in every store from Bergdoff to Forever 21. That structure and order from my youth was my constant reminder that God was with me. I tried to duplicate that “feeling” with clothing, but it didn’t work. Fashion, hair and makeup, didn’t give me the safety I craved, in God.
I had turned to a life the young me would have never been able to recognize. Back in the day, the young me might have called that older me, “backslider”. I was at all of the parties, and with the boys, and out later than I needed to be. Now a days it might be called, “Turned Up”, or “Living My Best Life”.
When you’ve had enough experiences to make decisions, you can blame your decisions on wisdom. I can do that now. Clothing wasn’t as much a part of my identity as I thought it was. Christ was. His imprint never left me, I just had to uncover all the layers. When I got away from the home I had in Christ, I tried to find the right garments to make the world less intimidating but the armor of God was missing. Sure, I prayed. Sure I was being prayed for. Certainly, I made my way to church every now and again. But it was surface. I wasn’t passionate about it. I wasn’t covering my mind, ears, mouth and eyes. I wasn’t in a constant place of feeding myself His love. I wasn’t a bad person, by the worlds standards. But sometimes, the worlds standards aren’t enough.
Now I know that I am covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ. I don’t have to search anymore. Now that I am in passionate pursuit of his righteousness, my rest and my peace is in Him. My clothing convictions are now simply to represent the peace and the covering that I’m experiencing in my spirit. They aren’t my religion.
Might my outter appearance be a mirror of the peace of God that now lives within. May I never search for material things to armor me from this world. Might I be brave enough to believe that God is more than enough and with Him I am made whole.
Wholeness. That’s the goal now. Not religion. Not appearances. Wholeness in Jesus Christ, my Savior. For Me.
Church Clothes: the outer manifestation and perhaps representation of what lives in my heart.
Chrisette Michele Ellison
Check out the epicness that is Stylist J. Bolin here: https://www.stylistjbolin.com/
Comment below. How has clothing shaped your life? What are church clothes?