I’ve always had a love of fashion. Ask my mom! She knew it when I was only 3 and would stand in front of my closet with my hands on my hips and state, “I have nothing to wear!”
There have been many stages and phases since that day: stirrup pants, star shaped sunglasses, the ever popular “california roll”. I’ve done prep, I’ve done grunge, I’ve done jeans and t-shirts as many ways as there are kinds of jeans and t-shirts! I think I could walk through every year of my life and their would be an outfit, or a piece of jewellry, or a hat or a bag or a pair of jeans, or shoes that would stand out as summing up part of who I was at that age and in that stage.
So I’ve thought A LOT about fashion throughout the years and I’ve been asked numerous times how I feel about it. Is it just frivolous? Am I falling into a materialistic trap? Shouldn’t I be feeding the poor instead of buying a new belt? The answer is Yes! And no.
There have definitely been times in my life where it was all about materialism. In high school I wanted the Club Monaco symbol on my sweatshirt, Roxy on my backpack, and John Fluevog stamped on the bottom of my shoes. Not simply because these were better products. But because the symbols meant some sort of status. I’m pretty sure we’ve all gone through that.
But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years and one of those things is that no matter how many labels you have you’ll always want more because they don’t satisfy. It’s the longing in our heart for belonging, for getting new things, for having the biggest and best that drive many a label but I know now that the feeling you get from material things doesn’t last. In a month, a week, a day(!) there will be something else.
I believe that scripture teaches that God has placed a longing in our heart. An emptiness inside of us that longs to be filled (which is why we try to get “stuff” to fill it) but this can’t be filled by anything other than Christ Himself.
So yes, there is a materialistic aspect to fashion – absolutely. But just because a person is “fashionable” or “into fashion” doesn’t mean that they are materialistic. As with everything, it comes down to the heart. Are clothes something we’re grasping at to feel better about ourselves? Or is getting dressed (as we all do each day!) an art, a creative outlet, a recognition of Christ in us flowing out in everything we do – including our clothes!
I mean really – pride works itself out in many a way. Pride can be a feeling of superiority because you have Louis Vuitton shoes and a Coach handbag OR pride can be feeling spiritually superior for NOT having these things and only wearing second-hand clothing and looking frumpy because you so obviously pray more than you think about your clothing. So I firmly believe that there is no way you can look at someone and what they wear and judge their heart. Even in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin we see that God clothed them. What would he have clothed them with? Skins of animals? Fur? They could have had the first ever leather jackets! How cool is that?
Christ also says to us, “Think of the flowers, the lilies of the field, which do not do any work to gain anything, yet they are more beautifully clothed than King Solomon when he was at his height of glory. Therefore, if God can so beautifully clothe the flowers of the field, which only last a short time and then are cut down, how much more shall He clothe you, oh you of little faith?”
We’ve likely all heard a sermon on this passage talking about trusting God to provide what is needed! I’ve read this verse again and again and it always causes me to think about how I trust – which is never enough! But I think there’s another aspect to it. Edith Schaeffer, in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking says this,
…this passage also clearly says something else. It tells us to consider or think about (look at with our eyes and make some conclusion with our brains) the fields full of flowers.
So think for a second about your favourite flowers. Mine are cala lilies, tulips and gerbera daisies. Each flower is “dressed” completely differently. Cala lilies have a long thick stem with a creamy, smooth, delicate flower. Think of tulips growing row upon row in a multitude of colours. gerbera daisies have layers upon layers of petals – not one type of flower is dressed just like another and this is what we are told to think on when we consider clothing! God, our creator, and the creator, artist and designer of every flower gave us colours, shape, textures and an incredible variety of form to draw upon and he even told us to think on this in terms of clothing.
picture from New York Times
Edith Schaeffer asks the question,
Is there any reason that a child of the One who designed, created, brought forth, and clothed the flowers should set out to look ugly and drab? Are we representing Him by looking unattractive?
I know that some people are jeans and t-shirts people. I am not. I am dresses and skirts and boots and scarves and sweaters and tights and coats. Not to make myself stand out in any way but because God has given me a love of texture, pattern and design. He has given me a creative mind in many realms and clothing is just another extension of this. I’ve never even understood why people would want to just “get dressed” when you can Play Dress Up!!
So I’ve come to learn a few things about myself and how God made me, about God and His beauty and creativity and how that plays out in fashion. To answer my original questions:
Is fashion frivolous? No. It is an art given to us by a creative God. Can it be frivolous? Yes, of course. It we spend too much of our time and resources on it. We are told very clearly to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Putting anything before that would be idolatry.
Am I falling into a materialistic trap? I must check my heart on this every single day and if I’m finding my identity in clothing and not in Christ then I had better get on my knees and repent.
Shouldn’t I be feeding the poor instead of shopping? As in everything there is a balance. I need clothes to feed the poor too. So the bigger question is, am I stewarding all that God has given me in a way that is honouring to Him? This is each persons personal conviction and we must trust that the Holy Spirit is working in and through us and not lay our own convictions on others. We can not put out a blanket number as to how much time, energy and resources christians can spend on clothing.
God has not give us all the same features, the same personality or the same mind. Why on earth would he want us all to dress the same?
Thoughts? Opinions? Feel free to add to the discussion…