"Overall, my appearance is important to me, as I believe a put-together and at least somewhat stylish mode of dress is an important part of my witness as a Christian wife and mother."
I realize that there are a number of Christians who do not agree with me. The prominence of the one-size-fits-all jean jumper and floral print prairie dress in church circles are evidence of this fact. If you don't know what I am talking about, just attend a homeschool conference and you will see the wide gamut of interesting dress choices among Catholic mothers and their young daughters.
Dressing without concern for modern style or beauty greatly diminishes our ability to impact the world for Christ. Unlike a nun, who wears a habit to separate herself from the world, we are called to live in the world. We are called to be an example of holy, Christian living and our family is called to be an example of a holy, Christian family. Our bodies speak a language to others, and the way we dress ourselves and our children is our first statement to the world. In many instances, it may be the only statement we can make.
St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, makes this point in a far more eloquent manner--
I believe You should dress in accordance with the demands of your social standing, your family background, your work... as your companions do, but to please God: eager to present a genuine and attractive image of true Christian living. Do everything with naturalness, without being extravagant. I can assure you that in this matter it is better to err on the side of excess than to fall short. How do you think Our Lord dressed? Haven't you pictured to yourself the dignity with which he wore his seamless cloak which had probably been woven for him by Our Lady? Don't you remember how, in Simon's house, he was grieved because he had not been offered water to wash his hands before taking his place at the table? No doubt he drew attention to this example of bad manners to underline his teaching that love is shown in little details. But he also wants to make it clear that he stands by the social customs of his time, and therefore you and I must make an effort to be detached from the goods and comforts of the world, but without doing anything that looks odd or peculiar. (emphasis mine)
As Christian mothers, we must strike the difficult balance of detachment from worldly goods and yet presenting ourselves in a manner that is appropriate for our state in life. At a very basic level this means you should shower and make your hair presentable before leaving the house! Most of us will also need to own some formal dresses and jewelry. When we have a playdate with a friend or run to the grocery store, we should dress in manner that is appropriate for a casual gathering (for example modern slacks/jeans/fitted tops). Wearing a floor length floral print dress to the supermarket or a playdate at a local friends house would strike most as odd or peculiar. In general, our goal should be to dress in a manner that respects our femininity and beauty, but at the same time does not draw attention to our appearance. Dressing like we live in the Victorian era, not making time to shower, and/or pulling our unkempt hair up in an 80's style banana clip, are not likely to inspire others to follow Christ. We live in a secular world. If you want your faith and your values to be listened to, respected, and taken seriously, it helps significantly to dress the part.
In addition to our duty to present Christ to the world, we have an additional duty to take care of our appearance for our husband. St. Josemaria Escriva, in advising married couples, reminds wives of the following:
Another important thing is personal appearance. And I would say that any priest who says the contrary is a bad adviser. As years go by a woman who lives in the world has to take more care not only of her interior life, but also of her looks. Her interior life itself requires her to be careful about her personal appearance; naturally this should always be in keeping with her age and circumstances. I often say jokingly that older facades need more restoration. It is the advice of a priest. An old Spanish saying goes: 'A well-groomed woman keeps her husband away from other doors.'I realize this may sound very harsh but there is great wisdom and truth in St. Josemaria Escriva's words. I can think of countless women, myself included, who neglect their appearance and think little of how this affects their husbands. Whether it be through excessive weight gain, not taking the time to shower, or regularly wearing sweatpants, many of us neglect our appearance and forget that this has an effect on our marriage. When we love someone, we should want to look nice for them, do our hair, wear a little make-up, and dress in an attractive manner. Love is in the details. It is amazing how a little attention to detail can go a long way toward growing a happy and joy filled marriage.