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Fashioning (part 1)

Wednesday, 04 November, 2009

So for the past couple of months, I've been thinking about fashion and struggling to blog about it. I've been thinking about it partly because fashion has really “come out of the closet” (so to speak) this year, with films like Cococ Avant Chanel, The September Issue and Valentino: The Last Emperor being released, plus The Devil Wears Prada screened again recently on TV. In addition, it's partly because of posts on the subject by Bec, Elsie (on Jelssie) and even Dave. And it's also partly because fashion dovetails with the series I did for WebSalt on “Looking good”.

I just find it interesting that although fashion is something that affects us all (because we all have to wear clothes; it's not exactly decent or sensible to walk around in the nude!), we don't really think about it beyond the practicalities of figuring out what to wear (and what to buy, and therefore what we can afford), what looks good and, perhaps, how what we see on the runway translates to the every day. (We don't all get taught fashion at school the way we're taught maths, science and English!) I may be wrong, but it seems to me that very little has been written about the whole business of clothing oneself and how we ought to think about it from the perspective of the Bible.

Now, I don't claim to have all the answers. Instead, in this post, I want to explore the topic and share a few thoughts that I've had. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Fabric

When you delve into the Bible, it's curious to see where the whole concept of clothing comes from. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sin in disobeying God's command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this interesting little verse pops up:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen 3:7)

The creation of fashion (which, for the purposes of this post, I am defining as what you wear) takes place in the context of sin, with God's creatures, who were meant to be the pinnacle of his creation, using creation (the creation that was meant to glorify God) to hide their shame.

But of course, when it comes to the true and living God, fig leaves are not enough. Indeed, nothing is enough: the man and woman try to hide, but God seeks them out. The consequences of their sin are his judgement, cursing and exile from the Garden of Eden. But before they leave, as a sign of his grace, God replaces their pathetic little fig leaf loin cloths with something a little more durable:

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Gen 3:21)

It doesn't say what sort of skins, and my Hebrew is pretty much non-existent, so everything I say after this should be taken with a grain of salt. But it's probably safe to say that the skin mentioned here is not human skin (i.e. God gave them an epidermis; they probably already had that). I'd say it's highly likely they were animal skins, which makes me wonder if, even back here in these early chapters of the Bible, some sort of atonement—that is, some sort of covering (which is partly what the word “atonement” means)—was made. Was blood shed for the first man and the first woman on account of their sin? And was the blood of these animals a precursor to the ritual sacrifices of the book of Leviticus—only here, God provided the offering the way he did in Genesis 22 for Abraham and Isaac?

Another thought: all this makes me wonder if sin and atonement should form the backdrop to all our dressing—if, every time we put on our clothes—our underwear, shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, dresses, and so on—we should remember what sinful wretches we are (and why it is we can no longer exist in nakedness the way Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden) and how God has atoned for our wrongdoings in Christ Jesus (more about that later).

Pattern

Now, I did not do an extensive study of clothing, garments and vestments in the Old Testament and the New Testament. (I've been struggling for a month and a half to even commit these thoughts to pixels amidst the hustle and bustle of life, so apologies for the rather half-baked nature of this survey.) But here are some fashion-related thoughts arising from parts of the Bible:

All right, I dare say that's enough for one day. I'll pick it up again my next post (which, hopefully, will not take me as long to write).

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Rich survey, Karen. Particularly I was struck by the notion of Jesus being clothed with our sins. I heard recently somebody suggest the crown of thorns was a kings crown but it was made of the symbol of the curse in the Garden - thorns. I would like to read your thoughts about Joseph’s coat of many colours.
Looking forward to the next installment. Regards,Mark

Posted by Mark Crean on 05 November, 2009 12:55 PM

Thanks Mark! Much appreciated!



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