You know how sometimes you can know something as in you know the words, but you don’t really know it?
I knew that fashion was art in a sort of off-hand sort of way, but I didn’t really know until that night when I watch The Devil Wears Prada (starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.) Ironic that a film about a woman who in the end (spoilers!) turns her back on the fashion world would be so instrumental in showing me what fashion truly is. Yet, not that ironic when you think about how the message was not that fashion was either bad or good but simply that one must not lose oneself in the pursuit of it.
Before I get too sappy, let’s get to the point….
That lumpy blue sweater that Andrea wears her first day on the job. The one she wishes would swallow her up during Miranda’s frighteningly soft lecture (as only Meryl Streep can do) which I am including below:
“This….stuff? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room…from a pile of “stuff.”
As she said those words and I got a glimpse into the detail and the thought and the pride in the workmanship that goes into every garment that I have ever put on myself, (including a lumpy sweater VERY much like the one in question only I think the one I wore back in the day was baby girl pink) it suddenly hit me, that knowledge that I had but just didn’t get, the knowledge that fashion is art. It is every bit as much art as Van Gogh’s water colors or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or the 3d chalk drawings that I’ve often wished I possessed the skill to create.
If fashion is art, is it not the only art medium that every person in the world participates in almost every single day of their lives? Don’t we get up in the morning and “paint” a masterpiece for the world to see? We’ve all heard that what a person wears is a statement about themselves and it certainly is, but do we really think about what each article means to us as we put it on ourselves? If instead of dressing in what randomly catches our fancy, what if we thought, “I am painting a masterpiece, what do I want to communicate and what should I wear to that end?”
Growing up in the conservative Christian community, modesty was always a big deal. My parents tried to teach me to balance attractiveness with modesty. Other parents taught their daughters to “dress in such a way as to frame your face” which unfortunately was often translated into shapeless floral prints and blouses with huge collars. I remember being surprised one day as I saw a friend walking toward me from about a block away and I thought, “Who is that guy?” For just a split second, her loose blouse, skirt and pulled back hair made her look LESS feminine than something more figure flattering would have done.
I remember the frustration that my sisters and I experienced, (myself especially being less of a seamstress than they were) as we would scour the internet for modest clothing. On the one hand we had your typical trends with low-cut tops, short skirts, tight jeans, and the list goes on but on the other hand we had the Christians in the fashion world putting out the above-mentioned shapeless, drab pieces. I’ve always asked myself, why is it that those who claim to serve a God who so clearly places great importance on beauty would design such beauty-less things? Is it any wonder that the world looks at us and laughs? We can’t even utilize the talents God gave us to make a dress that is both lovely AND modest!
We will be laughed at until the end of the world, but perhaps could we make it a priority to be laughed at because we do serve Yahweh rather than because we claim to and yet miss the mark on something so simple as the art of dressing ourselves?