Every living person, with the exception of maybe those in nudist colonies, participates in fashion. Even people who think fashion is totally stupid and hate malls and would rather have a ten year long abdominal cramp than wake up early to go black Friday shopping–even that person makes decisions about fashion. It may be a default, but it is still a decision!
So what about the Christian? What decisions do Christians make about fashion? Maybe you’ve never thought about it before, in which case, I’m glad you’re here because I believe that faith should influence every area of life. Whatever you eat, whatever you think, whatever you wear—should all somehow tie into your faith.
Now I don’t think this means that every Christian should look wear a white flowing robe with a little cross sewn in somewhere to designate their beliefs. I’ve seen groups that look like that, and they scare me.
So what DO we wear? It seems like Christian guidelines often focus on what not to wear and never help us design a framework with which to make those decisions. So, I’ve come up with some questions that might help you clarify how your fashion might help reflect your faith. Some of these questions tie into modesty and morality, others are just about being responsible with resources.
Here they are in no particular order.
- We already talked about modesty so I won’t say much here, but ask yourself: Can I be modestly, appropriately dressed in this item? Is it about glorifying my body parts or about serving God?
- Does the clothing contain images or wording that seem to be directly against God’s love, peace and well wishes for every person? Does it glorify ideas contrary to scripture?
- Is the clothing part of a current trend that hints at immorality? For example: In the Bible Paul gave specific things to avoid– He said braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire were out of place for a woman of God. He said this because some of the church members were trying to mimic trends that the Roman Imperial households were making popular—elaborate and expensive hair-do’s and ornamentation. Immoral people who had nothing to do with Christianity were influencing fashion choices. (Just like today).
Today we see the same thing—clothes that come from porn culture, hair that comes music scenes, make-up that mimics the smudging of a morning after a hook-up. They’re popular, and that of itself is not necessarily a bad thing! Its just that some things have only become popular because of the sin that they allude to. These are the things I think a wise Christian is attuned to.
The last question is a doozy, and one that I think Christians should make priority:
4. How do my fashion choices affect people, attitudes, and natural resources?
Here are the top 5 issues I think we can improve our awareness of.
- Consumption is on the rise
Bringing out a new line of clothing every year encourages young people to buy new clothes that they don’t really need. While some people see this as harmless or as a way to support the economy, but it can also lead to rampant consumerism and waste, where people buy just because they think they need the newest item.
- The Environment Suffers
The rise of consumption can negatively affect the environment because the materials, transportation and production that are involved in the fashion industry all have an impact. Many synthetic materials come from petroleum products, which results in lots of toxic chemical waste, exhaust—eventually producing climate change and other environmental issues. Even natural materials are grown on land that could be used for food production. Basically, the less we use, the better or environment will be. It’s funny because our generation has done an excellent job of recycling but we just can’t bear to reduce our consumption.
- Brands affect body image
Virtually all of the models who represent fashion houses are abnormally thin. This focus on extreme thinness in women has been blamed for eating disorders and poor body image among some women whose bodies don’t conform to this idealized image. If I had a daughter, I would want to support clothiers who branded themselves as a wholesome, healthy company that supported my ideas of self-worth.
- Fashion adds to people problems
Many clothes are made by poorly paid people in developing countries. They get may work unsafe conditions with no insurance or benefits just to earn a few cents a day. This practice, known as sweatshop labor, has been condemned but still exists in some areas.
A problem more visible in the Western world is that clothing seems to highlight or even cause inequality. A large part of the appeal of fashionable clothing is that it’s exclusive. Those who are able to buy the name brands are glamorized and treated as more desirable. These human issues should be particularly heinous to Christians as we are encouraged to foster a sense of humble oneness that centers around unity in Christ. It’s hard to feel together when someone seems to be placing themselves in an elite class by wearing expensive high-fashion clothes.
- Fur and Leather may be cruelty
Clothing items that use real animal fur support the fur industry, which has traditionally been found guilty of inhumane treatment of animals. Fur is acquired either by trapping wild animals and skinning them or by raising animals domestically just for their fur and is used to trim out clothing and accessories. Many of these animals are not desirable for meat, so they are just killed and dumped.
Leather may be a bit different in that it can be the byproduct of the meat industry and so the animal doesn’t go to waste, but there are definitely ethical and moral concerns with both of these products for many Christians. Depending on the source of the leather, how the animals were treated when alive, how they were slaughtered and how long you keep your products, you may be a very responsible leather-wearer. The reality is that most people don’t even look into these issues and are oblivious to the plight of God’s creatures.
These are the main concerns I have about Christian Fashion. I’d love to be a part of changing the dialogue away from a modesty-only approach to a more holistic look at how we choose what to wear.
Which of these issues is most important to you and why? Are there others that I didn’t mention that you are becoming more aware of? Your input is valued!
That’s the close of this series on clothes. (See what I did there?)
Let me know if I missed a facet you wanted to discuss!