Lord of the Wardrobe

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This article is part of a series called Art Month. We'll highlight more on the intersection of faith and art during December.

Is fashion art? If what makes it into art galleries qualifies as art, then yes.

Technically, fashion is a sub-discipline that falls under the larger umbrella of dress.[1] Fashion has to do not only with bodily coverings and changing seasons but also with changing trends. Fashion emphasizes the aesthetically new dress of a culture.

Interestingly, Genesis indicates that humans themselves are priceless works of art. We are “living statues” made as part of a series of God’s self-portraits (Genesis 1:26-27). So, while it is tempting to say that humans serve as the canvas for clothing, it is more accurate to say that dress is the creative adornment of pre-existing divine art. Fashion is aesthetically heightened, expiration date accelerated adornment.

Granted, the first items of clothing were made to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. But, presumably, dress and its trendy child, fashion, would have been invented by humanity even if the Fall hadn’t happened. After all, making clothes, like building bridges or creating music, is one way humans fulfill the God-given mandate to cultivate and manage the earth (Genesis 1:28). As Bob Covolo writes, “Dress enables diverse cultures to be about the activity of subduing various climates outside the garden.”[2] And fashion is “a tool…to acclimatize and thrive in almost any environment,”[3]“including cultural environments.”[4]

Additionally, clothing serves several other functions: protection from the elements, communication of roles (police officer, bride, OT priest), beautification, etc. And it appears dress will exist in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 19:13-14). So, for the sake of this article, it will be assumed that dress and fashion are part of the good potentiality that God built into creation.

In what follows, we will consider three ways that sin has distorted the sphere of fashion and three ways that grace restores the sphere of fashion.

Dress is the creative adornment of pre-existing divine art.

Fashion Gone Wrong

Because of the Fall, fashion often serves as a means of boasting, seduction, and injustice.


Think about Joseph’s coat. Joseph wearing his famous coat of many colors could have been a form of boasting, as he likely knew the coat was a symbol of his father’s favoritism. Showy clothing aims to evoke jealousy. In Joseph’s case, he succeeded: his brothers murderously envied him.

If we’re honest, much modern fashion is designed and worn to make others jealous. We don’t want to just dress well; we want to dress in a way that elicits praise tinged with envy. Ostentatious or superfly clothing is an obvious example of braggadocious attire.

But one does not have to wear gaudy or luxurious clothing to dress with boastful intent. Showy attire can also be related to why one wears a particular brand or outfit. In these cases, it isn’t the cost or presentation of the clothing that’s the issue, but the motive of one’s heart. Suffice it to say, as Christians, what we wear and why we wear it shouldn’t be aimed at making others jealous—sorry, social media.


Another example of fashion gone wrong is when people wear seductive or sensual clothing publicly—or privately with someone other than their spouse. Seductive clothing aims to evoke lust or sexual desire. Obviously, from a Christian perspective, that type of attire is only appropriate within the confines of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).

Consider Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians 12:23: “Our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty.” Paul assumes that our sexual parts are not to be highlighted or accentuated in how we dress. As Christians, what we wear and why we wear it shouldn’t be aimed at making others lust after us either (Cf. Proverbs 7:10).


Fashion also goes wrong when we hoard clothing or finances instead of being generous to those in need of proper adornment or employment.

Unfortunately, not only are we not sharing our clothes, but we are also wasting clothing at an incredible rate: “Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons end up in landfills.”[5] Much of this clothing is produced in sweatshops, which makes me think of Amos’s biting critique: “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 2:4).

Tragically, the fashion industry often has an incredibly damaging impact on people and the environment.[6] As Christians, what we buy and how it is produced should not be aimed at filling our closets or coffers, regardless of the cost.[7]

So, what does it look like for fashion to function properly? A godly approach to fashion prizes humble excellence, glad modesty, and wise generosity.

Only the robes of Christ’s righteousness can make us perfect and restore to us the creaturely goodness and joy of dress.

Fashion Redeemed

Humble Excellence

Everything we do, including how we dress, is to be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Making excellent clothing and dressing with excellence can honor God. Dorothy Sayers once wrote, “No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth.”[8] We should infer the same would be true if Jesus had made tunics—they would have been made well.

Indeed, we see God’s concern for good craftsmanship and artistry in fashion in Exodus 28: “Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron…Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen” (Exodus 28:3,5, emphasis added). The priest’s clothes were nice, but they were also humble, as they symbolized the need for propitiation, not partiality or superiority.

When the priest wore his garment, the people weren’t intended to feel jealous; they were intended to feel thankful. Similarly, when a bride wears her dress, the audience shouldn’t feel jealous; they should feel thankful. Humbly excellent dress aims not to evoke envy but to express and evoke thanksgiving for God’s provision and the goodness of creation (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9).

Glad Modesty

According to Paul, God’s people “should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (1 Timothy 2:9). The principle of modesty goes something like this: we should not wear anything that in our culture would communicate we are sexually available, or single if one is married (1 Peter 3:3-4). Whereas human beauty is a publicly shareable good, human sexuality is a private good restricted to being shared with one’s spouse.

Every culture has its own “grammar” regarding modesty and dress. What is considered immodest or sensual among the Xingu tribe of Brazil or the Dani tribe of Indonesia is not the same as what is considered immodest or sensual in America. Therefore, the application of the principle of modesty is, in large part, a wisdom issue.

As Christians, our desire should be to glorify God and love our neighbor by abiding by the accepted boundaries that separate modesty from sensuality. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where “sunglasses are modesty’s last frontier.”[9] In other words, the only thing people in the West consider private anymore is their eyes. Sensual dress has become the norm. So, we must use our baptized discernment to ensure we aren’t blindly “doing as the Romans do” about modesty.

The aim of modest attire is not to evoke lust or sexual desire but to publicly display and evoke gratitude for things like bodily provisions and beauty.

Wise Generosity

Jesus says, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11). Jesus’ brother, James, says one way true faith expresses itself is by helping those who are “poorly clothed” (James 2:15). Wise generosity seeks to ensure the poor are adequately clothed for their physical (e.g., cold winters) and social environments (e.g., work clothes).

Generous fashion also pays a fair wage and ensures working conditions are good. In Deuteronomy, Moses writes, “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns” (Deuteronomy 24:14). Jeremiah writes, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness…who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages” (Jeremiah 22:13). And Paul writes, “Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly” (Colossians 4:1).

The aim of generous fashion is not to ignore or exploit people but to help clothe and gainfully employ them. In addition to generously providing others with clothes, Christians should hold clothing companies accountable by spending money with companies that treat their workers and the environment well.[10]

Fashion Righteousness?

Fashion designer Monah Li once said, “I have always had more faith in fashion than in God…I believed the right clothes could make me perfect. I still do.”[11] Gucci and Louis Vuitton are as powerless to cover our guilt and shame as Adam and Eve’s fig leaves. Only the robes of Christ’s righteousness can make us perfect and restore to us the creaturely goodness and joy of dress.

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[1] See also Robert Covolo, Fashion Theology (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2020).

[2] Robert Covolo, “Re-Fashioning Faith: The Promise of a Kuyperian Theology of Fashion,” Cultural Encounters 5, no. 2 (2009): 50-51

[3] Joanne B. Eicher, Sandra Lee Evenson, and Hazel A. Lutz, The Visible Self: Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture, and Society (New York: Fairchild, 2000), 157.

[4] Robert Covolo, “Re-Fashioning Faith: The Promise of a Kuyperian Theology of Fashion,” 51.


[6] Ibid.

[7] I imagine Jesus reworking his parable in Luke 12:16-21 about the rich fool to explain the dominant approach to adornment: The shopping spree of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my clothes?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my closets and build larger ones, and there I will store all my clothes and shoes.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up clothing for himself and is not rich toward God.

[8] Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), 56–57.

[9] K. Fraser, The Fashionable Mind: Essays on Fashion, 1970-1981 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981), 253-254.

[10] Some brands you have likely heard of that offer fair trade, sustainable, modest options would be Levi’s and Patagonia. Some brands you might not have heard of are Tentree, Pact, People Tree, and Rothy’s.

[11] Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 135.


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Jonathan Darville

Jono Darville is a former Global Master Trainer with The Center for Leadership Studies and Co-Leader of the New York branch of Models for Christ (an international non-profit bringing the gospel to the fashion industry). Due to a decade-plus long battle with chronic illness, Jono almost lost his life in 2017. After spending a number of years bed-bound, God graciously intervened in 2020, using UNC Hospital to restore Jono’s health. Jono is now finishing an M.A. in the Philosophy of Religion at SEBTS, while serving as a Ruling Elder and Youth Director at Peace Church in Cary, NC. He and his wife, Jillian, have one son, Jono Jr.

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