There is no dearth of reflection and response from the Christian community on film, music, or food. We have great organizations, institutions, magazines, programs, and conferences that address these issues. We are well attuned to the fact that we should be mindful of the things that we set before our eyes, what we introduce to our ears, and we grant to our mouth and stomach.
Yet something is missing. Something fundamental.
That which is close to us, can often be far. That which is natural for us to think and talk about, can become supernatural. That which is physical for us, can be spiritual if we paid attention.
Clothing is close, but far. Natural, but supernatural. Physical, but spiritual.
Putting on clothing ranks as one of the most routine, mundane, unreflective practices we engage in. The only time we really consider it is in light of the weather or the occasion. At least that gets us thinking about it. But, like all the other practices we engage in—eating breakfast or driving to work—we should be thinking carefully and consistently about it. How should a Christian think about the fabric they put on their back?
What we wear on our bodies enables and conditions our experience of space and time. But perhaps more importantly, what we wear on our bodies can be an obedient and worshipful response to these experiences of space and time and who we encounter in these experiences. Fashion, in the narrowest sense of the word, can be an act of worship.
Fashion implies covering, but it certainly cannot be reduced to it. Covering yourself can be done subconsciously, unintentionally, impulsively, quickly. You cover yourself to get on with other more significant and meaningful tasks. You cover yourself to avoid incarceration. Covering yourself is an exercise in utilitarianism. Most Christians cover themselves.
Fashion, on the other hand, is an exercise in virtue. Fashion requires consciousness, intentionality, meditation, and time. Fashion assumes awareness and deliberation. It assumes the category of beauty and the discipline of aesthetics. It assumes that others are intentional about what they wear and why they wear it. It assumes the possibility and importance of style. It understands the concept of adornment. Few Christians fashion themselves.
There are biological, social, economic, and political issues that inform when, how, and to what degree Christians can and should fashion themselves. But this shouldn’t give us incentive to brush fashion aside as if its superfluous or peripheral to the Christian life. Truth be told, God cares about what we wear—have you read Leviticus? True, God cares that we wear. But he also cares about what we wear.
God could have covered Adam and Eve with fig leaves. Instead, he fashioned them with animal skin.
How we cover and adorn our bodies is linked with our life of worship. What we wear is reflective of our perception of God’s presence and action in the world. If we don’t think God is redeeming this world, we won’t have any incentive to consider what we should wear here-and-now. Likewise, if we don’t think God cares about how we present ourselves before him and others through our material goods, we won’t have any incentive to acquire or develop these goods for our own purposes or market and produce them for others.
We experience God’s goodness and glory in this theatre of creation so that we may respond back in gratitude and worship with the gifts we have been given. We are invited to participate in adorning God’s creation, as he has already done, through our lyrics, paintbrushes, screenplays, choreography, and fabrics. Adorning our bodies is on par with adorning our museums, churches, homes, schools, and the like.
It’s time for a little more ration for fashion. Fashion, too, is and can be an exercise in Christian obedience and worship.