The Armor of Fashion

What has fashion to do with reality? I believe it has everything to do with reality. It’s a constant that shows up with me everyday. It can also act as a refreshing novelty in the mundaneness of life. I think the late fashion photographer Bill Cunningham said it well: “fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” If fashion is an armor to survive just everyday life; how much more could fashion be an armor to survive through particularly difficult times? In this sense, fashion is inextricably tied with reality. This became especially evident during the pandemic, as it undoubtedly helped me cope through daily life. I recall seeing an online comment about fashion not being relevant during those times. After all, we had a pandemic on our hands plus economic and social instability; we had no time for such “trivialities.” But fashion is just what some of us needed to cope with those tumultuous times. Even though few people might see me, I would still dress up a little when I would go on a walk or pick up some supplies. Fashion helped provide a sense of normalcy during those unprecedented times.  

Most significantly, clothing being a type of armor is seen in Scripture. God initially provided covering for Adam and Eve after their disobedience. The covering acted as protection for them as they stepped out into an uncertain future.  However, in the gospels, we find that Jesus Christ had a stripping away of clothes:  John 19:23 reads, “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”  While Jesus was undergoing this atrocious act, the soldiers took the last items of Jesus – his clothes—the last tangible objects of protection and dignity of his humanity.  I must note that while Jesus yields in totality, he returns in victory (resurrection).

What we wear on our bodies is more than a basic covering. I believe that it acts as a covering against the harsh realities that we see around us. Some days, it might even the only armor by which we fight. For instance, if the weather is gray or if we ourselves feel down, putting on an outfit that brings us joy can counteract the negative.  Fashion can be a powerful shield against the darts of darkness and heaviness. Fashion invites us to take solace in its beautiful forms, colors, textures and possibilities. By participating in dressing up (and taking joy in it), I refuse to yield to the bleakness in the world. Instead, I rise up in my beautiful garments and accessories, confidently facing each day. While my faith is what truly grounds me and gives me lasting hope, fashion is the tangible grounding I use in daily life. Faith and fashion combine to form my trusty daily armor.