Question: “How should a Christian view fashion?”
Answer: The Bible doesn’t specifically use the word fashion in the text. But it does speak to how we are to dress and how to view the role of adornment in our lives. Here are a few passages we can look to for guidance:
The role of clothing:
Clothing was initially created to cover our nakedness, which became a problem in Genesis 3. Clothing also protects us from the elements. Because there exist different styles and colors and textures of clothing, different fashions developed. And, because there are different cultures in the world, particular fashions developed within various people groups: lederhosen and dirndls in southern Germany and Austria; kilts in Scotland; saris in India; kolts in Scandinavia; and ghos and kiras in Bhutan.
Other types of “fashion” are designed to identify the wearer with a certain group. Law enforcement officers wear certain outfits—uniforms—to identify their role in society. Various church denominations have required vestments for their clergy. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees wore long robes with tassels and phylacteries (see Matthew 23:5).
Then there is fashion for fashion’s sake. Designers and the wearers of the designs may use clothing as artwork or to make statements or simply to draw attention to themselves. Such fashions are often faddish and come and go quickly. Most people do not have the luxury to indulge in much high fashion. Their main concern is coverage. Clothing is a basic need, first provided by God to Adam and Eve and now provided by God (through more common means) to people throughout the world. The primary role of clothing is not fashion, but coverage and protection.
How we should dress:
We are instructed to dress modestly. First Timothy 2:9–10 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
We are to dress in a way that covers ourselves appropriately and does not advertise ourselves as sex objects, as a prostitute might dress. Certain fashions and styles of clothing are meant to inflame lust and communicate a readiness to engage in immorality (see Proverbs 7:10).
We are also to dress in a manner appropriate for our biological sex. Transvestism and androgyny are wrong. In other words, if you’re a girl, you should dress in a way that people can tell you are a girl. And, if you are a boy, you should dress in a way that people know you are a boy. There should be no confusion or ambiguity as to what your gender is.
How we should view the fashion industry:
The fashion industry does not set the standard for beauty. That standard is set by God alone and is unchanging. In fact, beauty has nothing really to do with clothing or fashion, per se. First Peter 3:3–4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Fashion should never become an idol in our lives. The fashion industry and its products should not be something we worship. The vicissitudes of the fashion world reflect the fleeting nature of the world in general: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
It isn’t wrong to wear nice things. It isn’t wrong for a Christian to be fashionable or operate in the world of fashion. But there’s more to life than fashion. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:22–23). It isn’t wrong to be fashionable as long as we keep things in perspective and the fashions we choose do not contradict biblical standards. Fashions that are immodest, selfishly draw attention to oneself, or blur the lines of gender are off-limits.
We live in this world but are not of this world. We must shine a light for Christ. Fashions that require us to set Christ and His Word to the side, even momentarily, should be avoided. First and foremost in our lives is Christ. We don’t have to throw away all fashionable trends. But we do have to pick and choose. In the end, we must purpose in our hearts to never throw away Christ.