The Sword and the Shaving Brush, Part I

Towards a Christian understanding of fashion

By Timothy Bartel

Part I

It was a dress made out of wool—not finely spun wool, not the wool of your favorite sweater, but wool in natural clumps, as if freshly shaved from a shivering sheep. The whole skirt was shaped from this, with sticks, leaves, and bits of lace clinging to it. Even a pine cone rested at the bottom hem as if dragged from the forest. This dress was in an art gallery, draped around a headless mannequin supported by a frame of slate-grey branches. The top of the dress was a cream, silk tank stitched in front with wool, draped around the neck with a gold chain and pendants. This dress was made by Julie Barby, and was featured in an alumni design show at the Biola University art gallery. While several other art pieces in various design mediums caught my eye, I kept looking back at this dress. As I left the gallery I turned and saw it from afar—-now less textured, more regal, it seem the dress of a queen of faeries. I shook this strange sensation away, and saw it again as merely an odd piece of art. I wondered why this dress remained in my imagination after I had left the gallery, why it intrigued me. I then realized that the answer to this wondering would form the rest of this article.

I want to explore what it is about fashion that troubles the modern Christian, what keeps them from serious consideration of fashion, and how that may, perhaps, change. While American Christians today have, for the most part, learned to embrace art in general as a valid area of thought and inquiry, the arena of fashion and dress have not yet been thought or inquired about in an adequate manner. While no single article can do justice to the wide field of fashion studies, I’d like to attempt, in this brief series of articles, a sort of practical and ideological manifesto for the Christian who wonders, as I do, about the world of fashion.

Timothy Bartel is a Califonia naitve and graduate of Biola Univeristy and the Torrey Honors Institute with a BA in philosophy. He currently teaches for Torrey Academy, a classical high school program, and is working on an Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry at Seattle Pacific Univeristy. His academic interests include poetry, aesthetic theory, and classical philosophy. In his spare times he acts and writes fiction and poetry.

Posted by Anodos

  • beth

    Timothy,
    I had resigned my dream of exploring the world of fashion from the Christian perspective of beauty and modesty to a time in heaven when eternity will grant me the necessary hours of study, design and imagination in that area. It was, therefore, incredibly exciting to read your introduction into this very important topic. And if Christians can “take dominion” in the arts, what prevents them from leading the way in the world of fashion design? It is not only necessary for the Christian woman struggling with a beautiful approach to modesty, such an investigation can and should demonstrate to the world how exquisitely lovely is the combination of elegance, grace, creativity and fascination in the human soul that the body adorns through clothing. I look forward to reading and interacting with your posts.

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