Those of us ladies who hold to a plain, un-stylish, concealing way of dress are often thought of as being brainwashed or oppressed. We are looked down on as ugly or even downright ridiculous.
But I firmly believe the fashion industry is one of the devil’s tools for preventing women from pursuing biblical dress and modesty and effectively keeping them in a firm state of spiritual (and sometimes even financial) bondage.
I would like to begin with this quote from William Perkins in “The Right, Holy and Lawful Use of Apparel” from the book Cases of Conscience. It was published in the year 1608, yet remains perfectly in step with today’s times.
“The greater sort of men are exceedingly careful, by all means and ways to follow the fashion, and to take up every newfangled attire, whensoever it comes abroad. A course flat contrary to Christ’s doctrine, which commandeth an honest care , only for necessary ornaments, and condemneth the contrary, and that upon special reason; because this inordinate and affected care, is commonly a great pick-purse. It fills men’s heads, and hearts with vain and foolish thoughts: it makes them wastefully to abuse the blessings of God given unto them, whereby they are disabled, from helping others that are in need. Whereas the first and principal care, ought to be for the adorning of the soul with grace, and putting on the Lord Jesus: and this is it, which will yield more comfort to the mind and conscience, than any external formality to the outward state of man.”
The Fashion Industry is of the World
Can I help you with something? The fashion industry isn’t run by a God-fearing Christian group of people seeking His will in all they do. It is run by those of the world. The styles you find in magazines, on advertisements and at the mall are products of very cleaver minds who are not looking to please the Lord in what they do, but to make a buck. There is big money in the fashion industry. So they make things with the sole intention of selling them, which is not wrong in and of itself, but it is when it is done at the cost of obedience to Scripture.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
They use a very simple strategy to do this. Every good marketer knows that you can sell more products or services if you make people feel a desire or an emotion. The fashion industry is primarily targeted at females, who are by nature more emotional than men, so they have a foot in the door already. How do they want you to feel when you look at that catalog? Covetousness. They want you to want what they are showing you. It’s a tactic that’s as old as the garden of Eden.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and they did eat.” (Genesis 3:6)
Notice how the fruit was pleasant to look at. It wasn’t a rotten, moldy, soggy, wrinkled thing like what you found at the bottom of your basket 6 months after a picnic. No, this fruit was something to look at. It got her attention. And so she desired it. She bought it hook, line and sinker. But it turned out to be a cursed decision because she trusted in her sight and her own feelings, not God. Oh, she got what she was promised, but along with it came all of the trouble mankind has had ever since that moment. She lost the perfect relationship with her husband, was now cursed with childbearing pain, sin and death too.
She got the short end of the stick because she was sold a LIE (ye shall not surely die). Deceit and lies fill the fashion world. They know they don’t sell a product by advertising a yellow shirt for what it is, because that would be boring, right? I mean, you never hear them focus much on what the thing actually can do for you in real life practically. “This yellow shirt, ma’am, is guaranteed to cover your torso and keep you from getting sunburned where it rests. It also has the ability to keep you warm in the winter depending on the temperature. You can take it off and on quite easily whenever you feel like it.” It sounds silly, but that’s really just the physical extent of what it does.
But instead the unspoken messaging is: “You, too, can look like me. You, too, can have this man fawning over you. You, too, can have my perfect face and figure. Your life will be better.” None of that is what you get when you buy that shirt, is it? When you look at the facts it has no more potential to ensure your success in life than a garden rake.
“Well, that’s just harmless marketing. It’s what companies have to do.”
It may be hard to get yourself out of this mindset since we have been saturated with this all of our lives, but people have been selling clothes for thousands of years without all of these things. There was no magazine, Photoshop, airbrushing, none of that. They would focus on pointing out the quality of the materials and the painstaking care put into every garment in order to sell something, upfront and honest. No funny business. No mind-games. What you saw was what you got, nothing more, nothing less. Sure, there were dishonest salesmen I’m sure back then, who perhaps would mislead someone about what they were being sold, but that is like comparing apples to oranges when we’re talking about the deceptive marketing tactics of the fashion industry. Almost no attention is ever paid to in the average magazine to the materials of the clothes, because most people don’t care. (Why did they stop caring? Because the fashion industry decided to focus on emotions rather than materials, or did people stop caring and the fashion industry went along with the trends of the masses? Who was influencing whom? The secrets lie with the history of clothing industrialization.) I think we’re hitting on a deeper spiritual problem. The problem at the root isn’t the fashion industry. If people didn’t buy their stuff it would cease to exist. It is the hearts of the people fueling it that are at the bottom of the issue. Ultimately they aren’t forced to do anything, but they are carnal, easily caving into their feelings, and thus they allow themselves to be led along. Some people that attempt to be fashionable may not always be of a covetous heart. These people need to be taught why it is wrong so they will not be ignorant, and then turn from it.
People think they are just innocently selling clothes. They are not. These people know very well what they are doing! They don’t spend billions for no reason to stage photo shoots, do photo editing, hire models etc. If they were just selling the clothes themselves with no hidden agenda then why go to all that trouble? Why not just photograph the clothes alone or on a mannequin to show how they fit? Because they are working on your mind. They are doing more than just peddling their wares. And they do it very well.
Likewise, you can get what you desire in your flesh, but it’s a trade-off. Along with looking stylish and alluring and getting the approval of man, you get stripped of your decency and godly attire. You can’t have it both ways.
What weakness in the feminine complex do they prey on, these slimy salesmen? They know all women deep down crave attention. They like to be noticed and admired by others. Most of all, they crave the attention of men. They want to be beautiful for those reasons. $ex $ells! It’s used in marketing everything from a car to a burger. Why do they always have some half-naked woman in an ad for those kinds of things, when it has nothing to do with what they are selling? Airbrushed models contorting themselves into pretzels being caressed by men? It arouses the lusts of men. It makes them feel an emotion, which they then associate with the thing they are being marketed. How men are being sold seduction around every corner today is a separate topic altogether.
Group Think & Respect of Persons
What gives the fashion industry so much power? I think this is largely attributable to two things: group think and respect of persons. Let me explain what I mean by both of that.
There are these unwritten rules in society that say you need to look like everyone else. You need to follow the masses and fall in line with the crow and life will be good, you will be liked and admired.
BUT if you “deviate,” there will be consequences (and no doubt there are). People will look at you funny. You won’t make friends or be able to connect well with others, facing exclusion. Maybe you even threaten your chance at getting married. You know what I have to say about all that? So what. Face it like a disciple of Christ. It’s part of taking up your cross and following the Lord Jesus, who gave up much, much more to save our souls, didn’t he? Is giving up being “normal” really that great of a sacrifice? Trust me, there are much greater sacrifices to be made fr His sake on our pilgrimage here.
All these concerns – fears, actually – about not fitting in are based not on trust in the Lord, but out of fear of man. What man will think of you. How man will treat you. Your level of comfort in this life as offered to you by others.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare:” (Proverbs 29:25)
And a snare it brings indeed. It is true that it can be hard in some ways not to fall in line with social norms. But it is much worse to become a slave of the fashion industry – I know that personally. There is actually tremendous freedom in NOT giving into it, which I talk about in my post about beauty. Their comfort suffers, their wallet suffers, and even their Christian walk suffers to an extent because they can’t walk in accordance with biblical principles for modesty and separation and follow worldly fashions at the same time. You can’t be a friend of the world and a friend of the Lord at the same time.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
And then there is the whole pretty people/celebrity side of things, which is admiring people because they are pretty according to worldly standards and not because they are good people. The carnal eyes only see others superficially, don’t they? So self-described Christian women end up mimicking these unsaved people and holding them up for their standards rather than the standard of the Word of God.
Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean we should.
“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil…” (Exodus 23:2)
But What About being Pretty?
The styles of fashion are not pretty in the eyes of the Lord. They are intended to be seductive and whorish, and many times flamboyant. Oh sure, they are portrayed as beautiful, but is beauty what arouses a carnal appeal to the sight, the lust of the eyes, or our love for spiritual things that are pleasing to the Lord? I’ve talked about this before on other posts. Holiness is what is beautiful. If it isn’t holy, it isn’t beautiful. It is ugly, sinful and disgusting to those who look on it with the eyes of faith.
Secondly, being beautifully externally is not important to God and it should not be important to us. When it comes to externals, being modestly dressed is important. There is beauty in modesty, but only to those who understand and appreciate the principles behind it. It isn’t the kind of beauty we find in the world, and the world does not and cannot appreciate it.
We need to stop worrying what other people think and ask first what pleases the Lord.
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:” (1 Peter 1:14)
Once is in Christ, God has made that person a new creature and old things are passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17) So why would you turn back to all of those things you lusted over when you were a worldling? Why would you make yourself and fashion yourself like you were when you were lost? We need to be conformed to the image of Christ, which is something completely different.
“And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31)
More Ungodly Principles of the Fashion Industry
The only constant with fashion is change. It is constantly changing. It is all about what is trendy here and now. What once was “all the rage” shortly becomes tiresome. What is the next big thing?
“In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.” (Isaiah 3:18-23)
It’s all really quite ridiculous. Something comes into favour with the big brand labels. As soon as everyone has snatched up the latest accessory or clothing item, the craze is over and it’s onto the next thing. That very thing that became scorned as out of date might be then taken up a decade or two later and flaunted by some movie star. Why is this?
“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:21)
For the world, it’s never enough, it’s never sufficient, it’s never satisfying. Always more, something different, something new. And it leads to consumerism. People think they’ve got to have the latest thing and they throw out their whole wardrobe, not because the clothes are worn and tattered, but because society no longer wants it at that moment. Americans are incredibly spoiled. There are places in the world where people are doing well to piece together some basic leftover, dirty, secondhand mismatched donated products of our industrialized society, just to protect them from the elements, while we sit around and fret over whether the cut of our shirt is in sync with those of billionaire designers. What nonsense! We are sorely missing a heart of contentment and gratitude in our nation.
Even the world sees the folly of following fashion very clearly, at least back in 1833:
“Custom is the law of one description of fools, and fashion of another; but the two parties often clash; for precedent is the legislator of the first, and novelty of the last. Custom therefore looks to things that are past, and fashion to things that are present; but both of them are somewhat purblind as to things that are to come; yet of the two, fashion imposes the heavier burden; for she cheats her votaries of their time, their fortune, and their comforts, and repays them only with the celebrity of being ridiculed and despised; a very paridoxical mode of remuneration, yet always most thankfully received! – Fashion is the veriest goddess of semblance and of shade; to be happy is of far less consequence to her worshippers than to appear so; and even pleasure itself they sacrifice to parade, and enjoyment to ostentation. She requires the most passive and implicit obedience, at the same time that she imposes a most grievous load of ceremonies; and the slightest murmurings would only cause the recusant to be laughed at by all other classes, and excommunicated by its own. Fashion builds her temple in the capitol of some mighty empire, and having selected four or five hundred of the silliest people it contains, she dubs them with the magnificent and imposing title of THE WORLD! But the marvel and the misfortune are, that this arrogant title is as universally accredited by the many who abjure as by the few who adorn her; and this creed of fashion requires not only the weakest folly, but the strongest faith, since it would maintain that the minority are the whole, and the majority nothing! Her smile has given wits to dulness, and grace to deformity, and has brought every thing into vogue, by turns, but virtue. Yet she is most capricious in her favours, often running from those that pursue her, and coming round to those that stand still. It were mad to follow her, and rash to oppose her; but neither rash nor mad to despise her. – [Lacon] Cited from The Family Magazine, p. 284, Volume 1.
You know, when you stop caring about these things, it is so liberating. You realize you don’t need quite so many clothes or replacement clothes so often. You don’t need a hundred different colors of the same thing. You don’t worry about what others will think about your wardrobe. Suddenly you have more spare cash. A jewelry box stuffed with silly trinkets is seen for the useless, immodest vanity it is. Your closet and dresser aren’t even difficult to get into anymore! More importantly, you are at peace and contentment with the Lord. A few good dresses made of natural fibers so you won’t sweat or have your hormones messed up and an apron or two to keep them clean. Some warm clothes for winter, some cooler ones for summer. A few pairs of shoes, stockings, undergarments, girdles and headcoverings (which I would encourage you to learn about if you haven’t already). In fact, perhaps sometimes you don’t need more than one article of clothing in your possession at a time. When it wears out, you can make or buy a new one. The Lord provides our daily bread, does he not? He clothes the lilies of the field, how much more will He tend to those needs of clothing for you? We need to remember to travel light here during our stay on earth, not getting bogged down with a bunch of unnecessary things. It’s part of being content and trusting the Lord. I think you will find such a mentality a great relief once you break free from the worldly mindset.
The Downward Spiral
I want to say that the fashion industry did not cause the spiritual problems we see in society today. It was a byproduct of them. Nevertheless, as such, it must be wholeheartedly rejected by all sincere Christians.
What we wear and how we act is only a reflection of our spiritual state. As carnality took hold on our country, it showed up with the flamboyancy of many Victorian era styles (hats decked out in ornamentation, long heat-curled hair, tight corsets, superfluous ruffles, powders and beauty creams and puffed sleeves) and only progressed downward as the decline continued. It continued to worsen from the prideful Victorian styles to outright rebellious styles of the 20’s (short hemlines, cropped hair, nail polish and cosmetics) at the turn of the century, reflecting the impregnating philosophy of rejecting Biblical truth. Fast-forward to the 40’s and 50’s and we have much heavier cosmetics, poodle skirts, no more hats at all as a further embracing of feminism, even pants start getting worn. The 70’s, infused with the hippy, new-age, free-love spirit sported unisex clothing and hair. Women paint themselves up more and more; they completely let their hair down. We see pants on women universally everywhere. Finally the 80’s and 90’s all the wheels fall off and it’s just absolutely openly satanic, blasphemous, sinful rejection of everything even remotely Christian. We haven’t recovered from that and don’t know whether or not we will, certainly not without massive revival. Each gradual “wave” came about after a change of thinking which gradually went further and further down. The Victorians, even the most fashionable, would never have embraced the 80’s fashion. The exact same thing happened with music and art. It’s the downward spiral of sin.
We aren’t victims of the fashion industry. We aren’t their puppets. Ultimately we are it’s proponents. They only give out what the people lust over. The people desire those wicked things because they don’t have the mind of Christ. They FEED the monster out of their own covetousness. The fashion industry can only go so far as the crowd that supports it. If revival came and people stopped following it because their hearts were changed, you know what would happen? It would die. Bye-bye giant labels. Same thing with the porn or drug industry. It’s as simple as supply and demand. No demand = no supply. Revival would put an end to all such wickedness. I’m just saying don’t blame it all entirely on the companies, though they obviously work very hard to “peddle their wares” and cause people to lust in order to buy, which is certainly bad. No, the majority of the blame rests on us. We need the Spirit of God to come in our lives and order our steps in His Word so we won’t want those evil things. We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). If we want to be rid of the yolk of the fashion industry, we need revival to work in our lives first.
“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out…” (Proverbs 26:19)