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Dressing up is good for us

By Judith Victoria Hensley

Plain Thoughts

My long-time cousin/friend, Rhonda Long Robinson, arranged a “celebrating health” outing for us to visit the Downton Abbey Exhibit at the Biltmore grounds in Ashville, North Carolina this week. I’ve known her and we’ve been part of each other’s lives since she was about 14 years old. During those years, I’ve convinced her to dress up in front of my camera on many occasions.

This time around, she convinced me to dress up along with her and attend the exhibit, which was spectacular to any Downton Abbey fan. We had high tea in the dining room with our own personal server. Perhaps we were “playing” at being part of the finer life, but it was so much fun!

When we stepped off the elevator into the dining hall and total strangers exclaimed about how lovely we looked in our vintage dresses and wanted to know where we go them, it was an unexpected surprise, and a blessing. A compliment from strangers who had no ulterior motives, not pity for what I’ve been through, and who were being truly genuine, meant a great deal.

I think we underestimate the power of dressing up in our best from time to time. We live in a casual world where people rush about in comfortable clothes at every opportunity. I do likewise. But I think we may have carried it to extremes.

People go to work looking far less than professional, even when they have professional jobs. People go to church looking like they’re ready for a picnic instead of worshipping God. I am guilty in these, as well. When we let our standards down, people eagerly adapt, but then the standard continues to get more and more casual.

There is just something about making the effort to look our best. We do it for weddings. We do it for funerals. Most people try to put their best foot forward on a date night out. We live in a world where dressing up is more unusual than not.

My dad and mom always dressed up for church. My dad had his suit racks and hundreds of ties to choose from to match his dress shirts and suits. My mom was always coordinated from head to foot. As pastors, this was a standard that was expected of them. Growing up, I was held to that standard as well. But in the busy days of life and the change in dressing standards in most churches, I became far less dressy and far more comfortable.

I’ve always been a person who kept a formal gown, a formal suit, a black dress, and a black suit in the closet at all times whether I ever used them or not. The ones I have now may be outdated, but they are there, ready if I should need them.

I believe there is a little girl inside of most women who loves to play dress up at any age. I’ve seen what a difference it makes in women whom I’ve photographed for the Warrior Women series of Christian women’s testimonies of God’s personal interaction in their lives. When they put on a medieval dress, crown, and pick up their sword for the photo shoot, a change comes over them. It has been an amazing transformation for each woman who’s stood in front of my camera. Book 7 – Warrior Women, Steadfast is currently open for submissions and photo sessions.

Visiting the Downton Abbey Exhibit in our vintage dress styles was fun and uplifting. For just a day, we got to step outside of our normal selves and step away from the cares of our daily lives. I don’t know when my next truly “dress-up” occasion will present itself, but I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity.