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Conclusion: Personhood, Not Propoganda

March 13th, 2008 | 4 min read

By Anodos

The Sword and the Shaving Brush

Towards a Biblical understanding of fashion

by Timothy Bartel

Part X Conclusion: Personhood, Not Propoganda

Having reinterpreted fashion as an incarnational art form and modesty as a sort of aesthetic and moral check on that art, we may now turn to the last problem of fashion. It was said before that when aesthetic concerns are ignored, and moral concerns overemphasized, fashion becomes a frame for propaganda. One’s t-shirt is used to advertise and proselytize. Often this is defended as faux-incarnational by those who argue that fashion expresses one’s self. We have discussed above that clothing most primarily images forth one’s body, yet it would be foolish to say that one’s fashion does not also express one’s immaterial self. Without becoming overly metaphysical, I believe it is safe to say that for the Christian, the body is intricately connected with and acts as physical ‘clothing’ to the soul. While it may be too tidy to say that one’s clothing is to one’s body as one’s body is to one’s soul, it is not improper to say that fashion may, when most complete, image forth the whole self of the wearer, not just the body. There is, then, a place for the ideological and verbal in fashion. Yet this expression of ideas must be ruled by the governing principles of incarnational art—that careful attention must be paid to the imaged object if the image is to be of any quality, and that one art form must not be exploited for the purposes of another. I will give some examples.

Take, for instance, the ‘Christian T-shirt,’ which sports Psalm 23 written in a fancy, stylish font across the torso. While Psalm 23 is a masterful piece of poetry, and the t-shirt a garment of simple beauty, when put together, they detract from one another. Poetry is written to be read on a stationary, flat piece of paper, not a moving, folding, curving surface. A T-shirt was made to accentuate and image and move in unison with the bold structure of the torso and shoulders, not be an image of a printed page. Perhaps this is why smaller, bold emblems have traditionally worked best as accents on clothing. An embroidered cross or badge mimics much more the small, bold accents of the human form: the eye, the joint, or scar. Color is another safe and aesthetically consistent method of imaging not only body, but idea or cause. Yet the correct balances of uniformity, complexity, and contrast not only between clothing colors, but also between body and garment must be understood and employed in such designs. Once again, the hard work of looking well and learning from artistic tradition is essential to the art of fashion.

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