Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 2 (On Fashion)

Once again, there was one paragraph that really stood out to me in this chapter. It is the second paragraph of the second chapter, and it reads like this:

[The world of fashion] is not a large world... There is much good in it; there are many good and true people in it; it has its appointed place. But the evil of it is, that it is a world wrapped up too much in jeweller's cotton and fine wool, and cannot hear the rushing of the larger worlds, and cannot see them as they circle around the sun. It is a deadened world, and its growth is sometimes unhealthy for want of air.

Initially this struck me as I am considering what material I want to cover for Protocol this year. There is a place for fashion. We ought to take care in how we present ourselves, as God's creations. But if we get caught up in it, we reveal not the Life that is within us, but the death we are allowing to foster by our misplaced focus.

What Dickens wrote about fashion in the 1800s is true about fashion today. That is not because the fashion itself has remained the same, but because humanity has. And his truth about fashion can apply to any area of life if we allow it. In any God-given field, there is much good. There are people who hold to that which is good and true about it. But there are those, too, who are so wrapped up in this tiny little world that they do not see the other worlds God has created around them, nor the God who created them. And so the challenge is to see the world as God sees it, within the context of Himself and all that He has created, and to take what is good, and true, and right from it and discard what Satan has distorted to blind us.

Using Dickens' example of fashion, we must ask ourselves, "What is good, and true, and right about fashion?" Is there anything good about it? Or is it wholly and completely shallow and base? What are the origins of fashion?

And so we go back to the beginning. Genesis 3 gives us the first account of clothing. When Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and sewed fig leaf coverings for themselves. After the curse, God made garments of skin from a sacrificial animal. The purpose of clothing is to cover our nakedness. It is a symbolic of the sacrifice Christ would make in order to cover our sins. So when we consider fashion, we ought to remember first and foremost modesty. Is the purpose to cover or reveal? The boundaries of modesty are dictated by culture. In the Victorian era, it was considered immodest for a woman to show her ankles. Not so today. In Irian Jaya, it is considered immodest if a man is seen without his gourd, despite the fact that the gourd really doesn't cover anything by our standards. In the same vein, if an American man tried to walk down the street wearing only a gourd, which would be completely modest by Irian Jayan standards, he would most certainly be arrested in a heartbeat for indecent exposure here. Modesty is dictated by culture, and we would do well to make sure we know what our clothes are saying about us before we wear them.

Once modesty has been made the priority, we ought to choose clothing that is appropriate for the event or task at hand, and finally something that is pleasant and flattering to look at. After all, we are representatives of God, and as His creations we ought to reflect the goodness and beauty that He possesses. But if we focus our attention on the form first, we will almost certainly lose sight of the Creator and His purpose. And then we reflect not Him with our dress, but our own sinful desires. And that is not fashionable at all.

No comments: