We went to a therapist with fashion and religion to try to understand this relationship
It is a well-known fact that religion has always had a significant influence on society. There were moments in history when the church would dictate on almost every aspect of the individual’s life. And so, it should not come as a surprise that religion would also influence the fashion industry.
MET gala’s 2018 theme “Fashion and religion” has generated little discussions around the topic. But still, how is fashion connected with religion? Does the belief really influence the way we dress?
“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another, although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion”, said Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the costume institute of MET.
— María Villodres (@girlsayes) November 8, 2017
We use fashion as a way to transmit who we are to other people, and we express our personality in the little details; for instance, the punk does it with the heavy use of eyeliner and the colourful hair. Religion, on the other hand, plays a big part in shaping us as individuals, in determining who we are. And there are small details that people use, like the David star for some jews, or the hijab for some muslin.
There was a time when in the western world, that religion would oppress women from what they were. When Mary Quant, dared to break the oppression of the Catholic church, inventing the mini skirt, a shock for the church. However, this does not suggest that the religion’s only purpose is to oppress and block fashion from happening. Things had evolved, and fashion didn’t stop being shocking for some religious.
But Nowadays, it changed designers are even creating for Muslim women giving them modest fashion. Now they have more options of what to wear, and they can be in the fashion. Long gone are the days when they would hide their fashion tastes under the burka – remember that “Sex and the City 2” sequence?
Even though, there are still disrespectful uses of religious symbols and motifs in the industry of fashion. The Hamsa hand representing the five pillars of Islam or the Bindis symbolising the third eye chakra in Hinduism are only two elements wrongfully appropriated in fashion. If fashion wants to include these features in its narrative, then the industry needs to understand what they mean and what they represent.
Ultimately, the line between a respectful translation of this religious elements into fashion and an insulting and abusive representation of them is fragile. It can either be fantastic and inclusive or terrible and offensive.
For many years fashion was about breaking the rules, breaking barriers. But now it’s all different. It’s more about accepting the differences and seeing the beauty of them. Fashion used to be oppressed by the church and only from the 60s until the 00s it made its first attempt to break free from under its strictness.
Now, when fashion is independent of anything and anyone, it just adapts to everyone’s needs and beliefs. There are no more rules to break or go against it. Instead, fashion’s goal is to give a little something for everyone. And although the relationship between fashion and religion was always complicated, the fashion industry is trying to embrace that complexity and make it work for both worlds.
— Simba 2.0 🅴 (@TheBlueIvyPark) November 8, 2017
We only hope that the 2018 MET gala, a place when fashion will collide with the Catholic imagination, will see a beautiful reconciliation between the two and will introduce us to some fresh concepts beneficial for both sides.
Words: Omar Balde | Subediting: Madalina Corjuc