The popularity of fashion reality shows is soaring. Project Runway is perhaps the most popular, as it has been on the air since 2004. What Not to Wear was also a hit, and it has morphed into other shows with similar themes. An upcoming new show on Lifetime, 24 Hour Catwalk, is generating interest. So fashion is popular on the airwaves and it is a major part of our lives. After all, every day we get to choose what to wear. Do it matter what we wear and how we wear it? What does the Christian faith have to do with the fashion industry?
Surprisingly, two interesting articles recently appeared in Christianity Today online which “covered” this subject. The first one, Why Fashion Matters, seeks to engage Christians in clothing beyond simply purchasing it. The article covers Christian Fashion Week (CFW), a ministry previously unknown to me. This piece addresses, among other things, the issue of modesty and puts it into perspective:
Modesty in our 21st-century context typically means “not revealing too much skin.” Today, a burqa-clad woman encrusted head-to-toe in pricey designer goods is considered more modest than a homeless teenager wearing a handout tank top and running shorts. But the New Testament’s original audience would have understood the word modesty as “unassuming or moderate.”
In focusing the modesty discussion primarily on sexualized bodies, many Christians have lost the thread of the biblical discourse on clothing. The Bible addresses socioeconomic issues in the church as well as sexual ones when talking about apparel. For example, James 2 warns against showing favoritism to wealthy churchgoers who displayed their status through clothing. Paul’s charge in 1 Timothy 2 can be read as a similar caution for people choosing to flaunt their wealth.
The CFW, for those interested, has adopted the following CARE model for engaging the fashion industry:
- Contextual modesty: A moderation that goes “beyond policing hemlines and cleavage.”
- Affordable, sustainable fashion: A commitment to “clothe our world affordably with garments that will last.”
- Responsible use of natural resources.
- Ethical hiring, casting, and labor practices: “No one should profit from the abuse of human beings for the purpose of sex or labor.”
The second article, The Biblical Meaning of Clothing, is an interesting journey though the many Scriptural passages that deal with clothing, beginning with the nakedness of Adam and Eve. “Then God provides for them in their nakedness. Theologians call this a protoevangelium—literally a “first gospel.” The gift of clothing reveals a God who meets us in our shameful, sinful condition and covers us through a sacrificial death.”
Here’s a taste for the rest of the article, so that interested people may pursue it:
Clothing takes on special significance in the story of Joseph; in the way the prophets Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah delivered their message; and at the Transfiguration, where Jesus appeared in clothing that “became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). Luke 12:27–28 tells us God dresses the flowers of the field, more splendorous than Solomon in his fine dress. If that is how God clothes the fields, how much more does he care about clothing us?
It is fun to consider biblical material from a particular perspective, is it not?
Here’s one way to clothe ourselves that should be embraced by the wide variety of fashionable follower of Jesus:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14 NLT).
Blessings on you and your apparel,