It’s officially autumn, so in addition to Pumpkin Spice Lattes and new pens and notebooks, I am currently obsessed with fall fashion. Now, you may well wonder, “Why is this person writing about fashion on a website called ‘Thinking Through Christianity?’ Isn’t that a little shallow? And anyway, what does fashion have to do with Christianity?” These are good questions, and some that have been at the forefront of my mind this fashion season. Here are a few of my own musings in response:1. Christianity is a worldview, and fashion is part of the world; there must be a Christian view of fashion.
For the Christian, there’s no part of life that is not affected by Christianity. This includes something as “shallow” as fashion — especially since everyone wears clothes. Even if you think you are not fashionable, you probably care about how you look at a job interview or on a first date; even if you despise fashion and say you don’t care about it, your decision to eschew fashion norms is still a decision about how you present yourself to the world — which leads me to my next point:
2. Fashion has an ethos
I teach Freshman rhetoric classes, and when I teach about the rhetorical appeal of “ethos,” I tell my students that “ethos” is self presentation. Fashion is one of the ways we distinguish our identities from others’ and present those identities to the world. In presenting ourselves to the world, fashion can be a kindness or a disservice to those around us, depending on aesthetic appeal and on how much of our bodies we choose to reveal or conceal. Consider the classic example of a father’s shock at his teen-aged daughter’s date night attire. Fashion, in such a case, is not neutral, nor is it mere decoration — fashion says something about the wearer and about the society that produces it. If the notion of fashion as a reflection of society is starting to sound familiar, it should; TTC’s Renea MacKenzie wrote about this very quality in her post on a Christian view of art. This, of course, leads to my next point:
3. Fashion can be art
If fashion is art, then it has great potential as one of the ways we reflect God’s image as Creator by making our own beautiful creations. (Just because these creations are made from the stuff we accumulate in our closets doesn’t make them less worthy to be called art). Even better, the beauty that we make through fashion may enhance our lives and the lives of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues on a daily basis. If art is a mirror of society, we may also want to consider how the daily artwork of our fashion choices both contributes to and reflects our culture — fashion is one area in which we each have the potential to be culture makers; to not be merely swayed by society’s whims, but to set the new fashion standards through our shopping and styling choices. This is especially true in a world of fashion blogging, where anyone with a camera, a computer, and a good eye can play an influential role in setting trends. (By the way, check out this blog that I just found in my latest bout of fashion blog stalking — I mean reading — for some interesting and modest fashion choices.)
These are only the beginnings of my thoughts on this subject, but the big take-away is this: if Christ is Lord of a Christian’s life, He is Lord of all of it, including that person’s fashion life. Monks and nuns understand this when they wear a habit — a garment that almost literally clothes them in praise.
Readers, what do you think? Am I overthinking this? Is fashion truly a valuable consideration for the Christian? If so, what is a Christan approach to fashion? A few elements I might consider include stewardship, economy, modesty, and beauty. What other elements might you include in a Christian view of fashion?
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)