It is good to miss dressing up

I miss dressing up. But more than dressing up, I miss the reasons and occasions for dressing up.

The fashion industry tells me to dress for myself. Your clothes are personal, they say. Good clothes will boost your confidence.Your clothes establish your identity and personal branding and your outfit tells the world what you are all about. In the right clothes, you can control your own world.

So why is dressing up at home by myself so unsatisfying? Because we do dress for other people. Even when working from home, I invite people into my house via video meetings and calls. If I am home by myself, I still try to dress the part (work clothes for doing work, workout clothes for working out, comfy Saturday clothes for comfy Saturdays, etc), but dressing the part isn’t as fun without other people around. (Also, I should point out that if you live with your family, your family counts. Just because your kids are around all the time, it doesn’t mean they don’t notice what you wear. For example, my nieces get so excited when my sister wears a pretty dress. So you don’t need to leave the house to think about dressing for other people.)

But this year, there might not even be a wedding season. Do you miss it? I hope you do. Not just the dressing up, but the reason for dressing up – honoring other people and bearing personal witness to their lives. In Jeremiah 25:10-11, part of the Lord’s judgement is the cessation of normal life. “Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

I’ve been through many wedding seasons since college and I’ve enjoyed all of them. As Captain Jack Sparrow says, “A wedding! I love weddings! Drinks all around.” I like the dressing up, the ceremonies (even the ceremonies I don’t understand, like unity candles), the celebrating (even the much-maligned electric slide and cupid shuffle). Why do I like weddings? I love my friends and get the honor of sharing their joy with them. If my attitude toward weddings ever sours, it comes from worrying about myself. Self-centeredness ruins a lot of otherwise joyful occasions. I have learned that lesson more times than I wish I had.

The busy sounds of work getting done? Gone. The sounds of celebrations – weddings, graduations, Easter feasts, parties, concerts, church services? Gone. It sounds like this past month, doesn’t it? Desolate and silent for a time, but not without hope.

Because the book of Jeremiah doesn’t end with silence. The desolation doesn’t finish everything off. At the end of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men, he writes, “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” And that is how this silence feels. It feels like the end of the world, like the end of everything normal. But ten years after writing The Hollow Men, Eliot wrote his Four Quartets and it has a much different ending. In the last stanza, he wrote,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Here is the Lord’s promise near the end of the book of Jeremiah:

10 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place—of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast”—in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, 11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:

“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever”—

and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 33:10-11)

It is right and good to miss normalcy, to miss people, to miss witnessing each others’ lives, to miss dressing up and celebrating, but don’t assume that this is how the world ends. Live in hope. And when we get the chance to celebrate together again, let’s celebrate with all our hearts. And you’d best believe I will be dressing up to do so!

All Dressed Up, Nowhere To Go: Outfits For Staying Home

I bought these beautiful dresses a few months ago and except for the dark pink one, which I wore to celebrate Easter, they haven’t been worn at all. Such a shame! But I look forward to wearing them all once leaving the house and meeting up with people is once again the norm. Man, do I look forward to that day. But what AM I wearing these days, when the norm is staying home?

Layers

One thing I’ve noticed about working from home is that my house’s temperature changes throughout the day, depending on which window the sun is coming through. Or if the sun is behind a cloud. Or if the day starts out sunny, but then it starts snowing. (I live in Idaho, so that last situation isn’t hypothetical.)

Layering clothes helps to even out this temperature fluctuation. Sometimes I’ll start out the day with a knit dress, leggings, fluffy socks, a cardigan, and a blanket. Then by lunchtime, I’m in my dress, my leggings, and barefoot.

Yes, I do wear dresses! Knit dresses are staple pieces for my working-from-home wardrobe. But I tend to stick to dresses that are stretchy, comfy, and machine washable. One of my favorite things to layer over a dress is a denim/chambray shirt – a denim shirt serves the same function as a jean jacket, but the shirt will usually be softer and lighter weight.

Wham bam – a comfy, cute, casual outfit! The jean shirt also works great over black jeans and a t-shirt or over shorts and a tank top – any outfit that needs an extra layer. I treat this shirt like a hoodie. As a former California girl, I know that the perfect temperature is any temperature where I can wear shorts and a hoodie and sandals. We haven’t quite reached that temperature in Idaho yet this year, but I live in hope and it will be so glorious when that weather does come!

Layers also give an opportunity to introduce some bright color and contrast into an outfit. I’ve been appreciating this bright cardigan from Loft this week:

This bright mustard yellow actually goes with more than you would think. In my experience, that goes for a lot of bright colors. Most of my clothes are blue and black, so they provide a great blank canvas for any pieces I have that are bold and brightly colored. Speaking of, another theme of my working-from-home outfits is…

Bright Colors

For the first week or so of working from home, I noticed that my outfits were very basic and bland. Jeans + pullover sweater + socks. That was my uniform every day. And that was just fine, because I was working my tail off trying to finish a huge work project before the deadline hit. Clothes were not very important that first week of working from home. But the sameness started to affect my morale after a while, because I did the same type of work every day, wore the same pair of jeans every day, rotated through the same few sweaters every few days, and sat in the same spot in my house every day. Eventually, all the days were the same day. (In fairness, I have trouble telling days apart even when I’m NOT in lockdown mode, so I can’t blame working from home for all of this.)

This outfit is a perfectly fine outfit on its own. Jeans and a soft neutral buttondown shirt. (It’s also wrinkly, but I’m not going to steam a shirt that will wrinkle again as soon I sit down.) But let me tell you, when I wear this shirt in a zoom meeting, I blend right in with the walls. After a while, I started craving bright color. Like when you haven’t enough Vitamin C and suddenly, orange juice sounds like the most delicious thing in the world. Or when it’s been dark and cold for months and sunshine becomes a physical and mental necessity.

Same outfit, but with a bright silk scarf. I picked this scarf up for a dollar at an antique store and it has been such a good investment. It does all the color combination for you – a light dove gray background, with stripes of dark pink, red, yellow, and orange. A little bright color does wonders!

I figure this is a great time to experiment with color combinations – if they don’t work, nobody has to know except you and your family or housemates. So go for it!

I call this my Cabin Fever shirt, because it reminds me of that brilliant song from Muppet Treasure Island. It of course looks good with normal jeans, but I want to try it out with my favorite red corduroys. Why not? If it works, it will be very cool. If it doesn’t work, no worries.

Pattern and Texture

Color isn’t the only way to add variety. Patterns pack a visual punch and a mix of textures keep all your clothes from feeling the same.

This outfit mixes patterns and provides some lovely texture, while remaining comfy and simple to wear. After I put on some cozy slippers and throw a jean shirt over everything, I’m ready for whatever the day throws at me.

Effort

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – effort counts. The hardest thing about working from home for me is the force of inertia. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. When I’m in bed in the morning, I am the Object At Rest, so the easiest thing in the world is to stay at rest. It takes effort and willpower to get going. Once I’m up, it’s pretty easy to stay in motion for the rest of the day. Getting up and getting dressed and brushing my hair and putting on a little bit of makeup is part of the push that gets my day started. (Right now, my makeup routine is basically just a tiny bit of brown eyeliner, some bronzer, and lipstick. I ran out of foundation and I don’t want the hassle of removing mascara at the end of the day. But I do want my eyes and mouth to show up on my face during daily Zoom meetings. Hence, my new sheltering at home makeup routine. It takes seconds to accomplish and does the trick.)

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t been missing my foundation.

My hair is much longer than usual, but since I can’t get it cut, it is time to embrace what I have. Longer hair does take more effort for me, but putting in a little bit of time into making my hair presentable helps the whole day out. It doesn’t take very much time. It’s more about the effort than the results for me. Hopefully the results are decent, but doing something is the most important part. I’m a doer of things and unconcerned with perfectionism. (And that last line describes this blog better than any other sentence I’ve ever written.)

So that’s my lockdown style guide. It is reactionary, for sure. A reaction against the quiet string of days that all become one long day. It is the same reaction that drives people to bake sourdough bread or whip up fluffy coffee or move all their furniture. I want variety, because right now in my household, it’s just me.

What I really want is people. Switching up my outfits, trying new recipes, reading new books, or listening to different music every day is just a proxy for listening to other people, hearing thoughts that aren’t mine. I want to hear all your ideas, all your songs, all your family stories, all your wild plans. And yes, I do want to hear what you dreamed last night. (Has isolation made anybody else dream up a storm?) I want to give big hugs and firm handshakes. I want to smile at people and be smiled at again. Miss you all and can’t wait to see you in person. I can guarantee that you will all look especially beautiful to me on that good day. So until that day, don’t worry, take in the springtime, faithfully read the Word, and lean on the Everlasting Arms.

Why I wear jeans and other musings on working from home

Like a good chunk of the country, I’ve been working from home for a while and I have thoughts. This blog won’t be very cohesive. There. You’ve been warned.

I started out trying to separate my work space from my home space, but it turns out that’s impossible to do in my tiny and adorable and very open house. Do you remember that scene in Winnie The Pooh where Pooh Bear gets stuck in Rabbit’s front door and Rabbit is faced with the dilemma of how to deal with this new feature in his house?

All rights to Disney for this classic.

I don’t usually think of myself as a Rabbit type, but I definitely have control issues. As witnessed by my “solution” to the problem, which was to hide the work space in the most obvious way possible. This next photo is weekend mode:

Nothing to see here. Why do you ask?

Working from home does affect how I dress a little bit, but not that much. Unless I’m wearing a dress, I won’t wear leggings to work, even if I’m home by myself. There are a few reasons why less comfortable jeans are chosen over comfy leggings. Not to say you can’t wear leggings, but this is why I don’t.

  • More structured clothes make me sit up straight. Over the years, I’ve learned that posture can make or break a day. If I’m slouching all day, my back is going to hate me by the evening. If my posture is consistently good, my lower back is pretty happy at the end of the day. So I save the slouchy clothes for when sitting isn’t required.
  • I wear fitted jeans, because I don’t own a scale. My weight fluctuates in normal circumstances, so it’s safe to assume that it will fluctuate in stressful times when I’m in my house surrounded by quarantine food. I love food. So if my jeans start to get uncomfortably tight, it’s a good indication I need to stop eating quarantine snacks between quarantine meals.
  • Putting on a nice sweater, a good pair of jeans, and a little bit of makeup gets me ready for the day. It is a ritual and it helps me delineate time. I’m bad at delineating time, which is why having set times when things happen makes a big difference.
  • One of my former housemates told me that I have two modes – all dressed up or Lost Boy from Neverland. This is true. Saturdays are my designed lost-boy-style days and I don’t want that to spill all over the rest of the week.

I’ve been on a lot of video calls over the past few weeks. Video calls crack me up, because they are pure theater. Everybody is starring in their own little film and those films all have different styles. My preferred Zoom style is radically backlit, so I can be a mysterious silhouette and not worry about my face doing crazy stuff. Anyway, I’ve stopped worrying about those meetings. Video calls are a necessity right now, so might as well make the best of it. My style advice for video calls: if you wear a color that contrasts with your background, you will show up nicely. Good lighting makes any shot better. Keep the overall shape in mind. If I pull my hair back into a tight ponytail, I look like I have no hair at all on Zoom. But if I put my hair up in a high bun, people can at least see that I have hair to put up.

Overall, it’s been okay working from home. I really miss people. If anything funny happens during the day, my impulse is to tell everybody I know individually, like Paul Revere. Why would I tell my story to everybody at once on social media? The story must be tailored to each individual hearer. I would have preferred to tell this blog post to each one of you who are reading this. You guys are great.

Feeling isolated, but overwhelming the feeling of isolation is gratitude. I’m healthy, my family is healthy, and we’re all on good terms with other. We all very much wish we could be together, which is a blessing in itself. Even though we’re apart right now, this won’t be a permanent separation. I’m grateful for blue skies and dark skies and sunbeams and snow flurries. Oh, and an earthquake. We had an earthquake. And I will tell every one of you all about it, individually.

Rediscovering Lost Loves

During the general state of crisis and uncertainty, I (like most of the world) am trying to figure out what to do when life isn’t normal. My work space is now part of my living space, because I’m working from home now. Living alone has never felt so alone before. This may be the first time in my life I miss crowds. (That’s something I never thought would happen!)

Probably because of the new unfamiliarity of this whole situation, I’ve been seeking out familiar things. While this is a good time to make new friends, it is certainly a good time to lean on established friendships and strengthen them. My communications channels are busy right now – chat and text and facetime and phone calls bring me great joy these days. It’s a good time to sing old songs and tell old stories. Rediscover the things you used to love.

That’s why I’ve been going through my old outfit boards this week. After Polyvore unexpectedly shut down a few year ago, I have hardly looked at the sets I created, because creating was the point. Standing back and looking at the finished product never really crossed my mind. But I truly loved making sets as a creative outlet and a way of communicating ideas. There was some overlap between my Polyvore days and the beginning of this blog, but I know that losing that creative outlet shoved me into this new version of creating and communication that I probably wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. Writing isn’t a natural strength for me, but ideas sleet through my brain all the time and unless some of those ideas are communicated, they fall through the cracks and I forget about them. So I’m going to do a different sort of blog post today and post some of my favorite sets.

In the coming weeks, I may be doing blog posts of my favorite Shakespeare quotes or trying to (very poorly) recreate Renaissance portraits or just talking about how lovely food is. Hopefully this will inspire you to look back and rediscover something you used to love and is still worth enjoying! Everything’s not lost. If something good has been lost, this is an excellent time to find it again.

One of my very first sets, based on the character Eunice Burns from “What’s Up, Doc?”
One of my first book-inspired sets, taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland.
Based on Satsuki and Mei from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.
An homage to Billie Holiday and her timeless style.
Inspired by Terry Pratchett’s character, Anoia. She used to be a volcano goddess, but she was reassigned and is currently the goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers.
Color combination inspired by Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Inspired by Diana Rigg’s character, Emma Peel, from the 1960s British show “The Avengers”
My ideal tea party includes strong tea, loads of biscuits, and Emma Thompson.
Color combination inspired by Van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase”
Calvin and Hobbes. Absolute legends. What’s not to like?
Inspired by Chihiro’s transformation in Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”
Inspired by The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a love letter to 1960s style.
A good number of my sets are bookish, this one particularly so. Olivia Williams is my dreamcast for Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night. (Of course I dreamcast my favorite novel – isn’t this perfectly normal nerd behavior?)
A Halloween costume idea for Prince John. Robin Hood is my favorite Disney movie.
I cannot overstate how much I love this version of Much Ado About Nothing.
Pippi Longstocking, a pioneer of quirky style. Another bookish set – yes, it is a theme.
One of my first ventures into conceptual advertising and promoting a brand – in this case, Dolce & Gabbana.
Inspired by Renoir’s “Danse à la ville
The legendary Groucho. Enough said.
I was part of a group dedicated to taking inspiration from nature – the challenge was to create an outfit based on this photo of seashells on a beach.
Inspired by the delightful collages of Mr. Eric Carle.
Based on La La Land and its modern vintage style.
Butterfly inspiration. How can we not be inspired, when there is so much beauty around us?

Not only did I love making these boards, they remind me of so many other things I love. This was my first venture into styling, color combinations, and composition. I’m very grateful for the chance to rediscover this part of my life! What will you rediscover, I wonder?

Demeanor: The Most Difficult Beauty Hack

Groucho Marx once said, “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” There’s a culture of fakery and hacks and short cuts in the fashion and beauty industry, but there are elements of beauty that are almost impossible to fake. One of these is demeanor. Sometimes we use the word only to describe facial expressions, but it extends beyond that. My demeanor encompasses my facial expression, how I carry myself, and (probably most important in the current climate) how I conduct myself toward other people. It has more to do with the spirit than the face.

I started thinking about this idea more over the past week, as my number of virtual meetings started to increase, due to so many coworkers working from home. While I am grateful for virtual face-to-face communication via Zoom or Facetime, these meetings make me hyper aware of what my face is doing. Also, my laptop camera is located underneath my screen, making finding a flattering angle nearly impossible. This particular camera placement is known in tech circles as “nostril cam” and boy does it ever live up to its name. So virtual work meetings are an ongoing lesson in humility for me.

Besides the unflattering camera angle, I have realized I have a People Face and a Technology Face. My facial expression changes when I look at a screen. It becomes focused and somber. (Think Sam Eagle from the Muppets – that’s what my face turns into when I look at my computer. Lots of eyebrows and sternness.) When I see a person, my expression softens right up. My face changes, because I very much like people. I don’t *understand* people all the time, but I do like them. So on a virtual meeting, my default expression is Technology Face and I need to consciously remember that I’m dealing with real people and switch back to my People Face. It’s a weird thing. Does anybody else deal with this, or is it just me?

Incidentally, the people/technology face thing is one of the reasons I haven’t been posting outfit pictures on Instagram for a while. For me, the outfit photos are more about friendship than about the quality of the photo or (to be honest) the quality of the outfit. My goal isn’t to dazzle people with my amazing sense of style. It’s to show that it is possible to have fun putting together an outfit and the best way to convey the fun is being with a friend. A selfie of my daily outfit wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a two-minute photo shoot with a friend, so until we’re all back together in the same building, there may not be outfit photos.

My face is better when I smile. I know that. But if I’m putting on a fake smile, it may not be apparent to everyone, but it is definitely apparent to me and probably to people who are close to me. The eyes don’t lie. If I look tired, I can hide the dark circles with makeup. If I am disorganized, I can fake having everything together with a sleek ponytail and a blazer. But if I’m worried or upset or angry, my demeanor will change and I can’t fake my way out of it. The demeanor is the outward display of our internal state and it comes out in how we look and carry ourselves and in how we treat people.

I may use my mom as an example a lot, but that is because she’s a good example and therefore I shan’t apologize for it. My mom makes friends wherever she goes. Her beaming smile and kind eyes make her beautiful outwardly, but they start from inside and work their way out. She has a kind heart and people see that in her eyes. She has peace in her soul, so she can smile whatever the circumstances. There is no hack, no three easy steps, no tutorial that can teach somebody to smile like my mom. If there was, I would take that tutorial in a heartbeat.

Whatever is inside your heart comes out eventually. It comes out in your eyes, in how you speak, in how you treat other people. That’s why a beautiful demeanor can’t be faked – at least not for very long. If your soul is consumed by worry, anger, conceit, selfishness, or envy, those attributes will eventually come out on your face and in your actions, no matter how well you think you conceal them.. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Those are beautiful attributes. Beautiful on the inside, but also beautiful as they work outward. Kind eyes and a joyful smile are a beauty that don’t fade with age, because they aren’t only on the surface.

So what are you showing to the world during this time of upheaval? Do you look kindly on other people, or do you look at them as though they are a threat? Is worry written all over your face? How are you conducting yourself towards the people in your life, especially the ones closest to you? I think self-quarantine and isolation will tear down a lot of carefully maintained facades, because there is nowhere to hide. Some people keep busy to avoid self-evaluation, but when the busy stops, they start asking the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions as long as you are willing to be honest in your answers. And if you are a Christian, remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not something you have to manufacture by yourself. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift from God and it comes through faith in Christ. So don’t let worry overtake you. Trust in the Lord and let His peace flow through you to the world. There is a blessing in St. Patrick’s Breastplate, and that is what I will leave you with:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

Beauty In The Details

I don’t know if I mentioned this in previous blog posts, but I had a trip planned to Italy during this particular stretch of March. For obvious reasons, that trip got canceled. Thank goodness. At this point, the borders have been closed. If we had continued on with the original travel plan, our group would be stranded there without a way to get home, contributing to an already strained situation in that country.

This is a very common situation right now. What’s the best way to deal with changed or canceled plans? Start working with what you’ve got and the situation you find yourself in. Do you need to stay home for a while? Be grateful and love your home. One practical way to do this is giving thanks for all the little things. Find beauty in the details.

I made panna cotta for the first time last weekend. It’s delicious.

We should (of course) give thanks for the big things as well, but sometimes giving thanks for the details gives us the perspective we need to see the big things. If you start finding it difficult to love your home, make a list of all the little things you do like about it. The kitchen window where the light streams in during the afternoon, hot water in the shower, cozy blankets to wrap oneself in, access to the internet, the oddly-shaped storage area under the stairs that holds more stuff than it looks like it should, bookshelves with books in them…. the list goes on. Build up enough details until you can see the whole thing, then give thanks for all of it.

This week, I focused on clothing details, especially the ones I take for granted!

Some of my favorite lining fabrics. An often overlooked, but delightful, detail.
I love a good button. Also, a good zipper.
Embroidery is one of my favorite decorative details.

Enjoying the details helped me this week. A lot of big things have happened over the past couple of weeks and the world is still reeling. So if all the big things overwhelm you, trust in the Lord and start thanking Him for the little things. Don’t wait until things get less overwhelming. Gratitude gives perspective.

Fashionable Guilt

This time of year, I keep half an eye on each city’s fashion week, to see what will be coming down the pipeline to conventional stores soon. Paris, Copenhagen, New York, London, and Milan each have major fashion weeks and each city has its own strengths and weaknesses. Paris’s not-so-secret weapon is its specialized workshops (ateliers) filled with skilled seamstresses, embroiderers, and beaders. Copenhagen is the most experimental, especially in terms of shapes and silhouettes. London excels in traditional textiles and tailoring. New York has the best business sense and the best understanding of which trends will take off and what will sell. Milan values femininity and glorifies a woman’s form.

But each of strength comes with corresponding weaknesses. Paris can get so obsessed with details that the fashion becomes purely for its own sake with nothing to ground it in reality or practicality. Copenhagen can experiment itself right into Dr. Seuss-style weirdness. London tries to push against history so much that it runs away from the traditional craftsmanship that makes it great in the first place and in trying so hard to defy expectations, ends up being predictable. New York can push trends past exaggeration and into ridiculousness. Milan takes femininity and pushes it into overt sexiness.

In the past, there were overarching trends and designers who defined decades – Chanel’s slim-cut suit and little black dress in the 1930s, Christian Dior’s fit-and-flare New Look in the 1950s, Givenchy’s column dresses and Mary Quant’s mini skirts in the 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent’s peasant dresses and caftans in the 1970s. But in recent years, there haven’t been as many overarching trends. In fact the only trend I can think of that has been a dominating theme of every city’s fashion week for the past few years has been Guilt. Guilt over the fashion industry’s carbon footprint, guilt over the amount of stuff people own, guilt over cultural appropriation, guilt over body image portrayal in the media, etc.

Now this shouldn’t be surprising, shame and guilt have always been a part of fashion. Adam and Eve fashioned the first clothes out of shame over their sin. Mankind’s relationship to clothes and body image have been complicated ever since. But over the past couple of years, guilt has been so broadcasted and publicized and marketed that it gets more and more difficult to see. It has become part of the air we breathe.

There are a few reasons why guilt has become such a universal trend when it comes to fashion and beauty. The first is that guilt connects everybody. Who doesn’t feel guilty sometimes? And that feeling can be manipulated and monetized and turned into a call to action. Another reason is that the internet defines fashion now and the internet is not a culture of law or grace, but of shame and honor. The Internet chooses who it will honor and who it will shame, like the caste system in India or the pecking order in a high school cafeteria. Just post a photo of a disposable plastic water bottle on Instagram and watch the lynch mob form in the comments section. They are there to shame you into good works and recycling and reusable water bottles (usually whatever brand of reusable water bottle Instagram finds most aesthetically pleasing).

You might be wondering, “Is guilt such a bad thing? The fashion industry definitely has things to apologize for and feel bad about.” Without a doubt, the fashion industry has sins to repent and turn from, but this guilt culture has nothing to do with real repentance. Real repentance leads to joy and contentment, neither of which are easy to manipulate. Where would the trend-makers be if everybody suddenly became content all of a sudden? It is in the seller’s best interest to keep their customers feeling guilty.

What kind of things do we feel guilty about? I know from experience that women can feel guilty about almost anything, even good things. I can feel guilty about having so many clothes in my closet and so much food in my fridge. If I hear a friend’s story about a messed up family situation, it is easy to feel guilty (in comparison) about having a family who loves me so well. I’m supposed to feel guilty about how much trash I generate, where I buy things from, where my clothes are made, and how much water I use. I can feel guilty about not exercising enough or for not loving my body just as it is. Guilt can catch us from both sides.

And for all the young moms out there, bless you. You get more guilt thrown at you than almost anybody else I know. What to feed your kids, the constant vaccination vs. anti-vaccination debate, how to discipline and what to discipline for, and when you should start teaching your kids French, etc. It’s an overwhelming mountain of guilt. When I have kids, I may stay off the internet altogether. Men also get a lot of guilt thrown at them, with all the claims about mansplaining and manspreading and inherent male privilege. But I don’t think that men absorb guilt in the same way that women do. This can be very frustrating to women.

So what’s the point of all of this? My first point is simply to point it out. Pay attention and notice when somebody tries to manipulate your behavior through guilt. A technique for keeping pickpockets at bay is to make eye contact and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t blindly allow guilters to steal joy from you. This joy theft is so common that we sometimes stop noticing it. So keep your eyes open and identify guilt when it comes.

Next, remember that guilt is a terrible place to live. Guilt and shame should prompt us to turn away from sin, repent, and enter into joy. It should never be our permanent address. In Christ, we should enter into and live content in the joy of our Lord. Why set up a tent city in Shame when we can live in Joy? Sometimes guilt and worry feels righteous and productive, because in our Pharisaical little hearts, we want to make other people feel guilty for whatever we think they should feel bad about. Don’t let other people steal your joy and don’t steal joy from the people around you.

Lastly, when you start feeling guilty about something, take a moment and figure out whether it is something you should actually feel guilty about. If it is, repent and turn to joy. If it is not something you should feel guilty about, stop feeling guilty about it. If you aren’t sure which category to put it into, ask your mom. Surround yourself with wise people and practice living in contentment. A content life is a stable life. When guilt dictates our actions, we are like ships without rudders, at the mercy of the tide.