Throughout high school, I wanted to find clothes that were fashionable, that I liked and that I looked good in. Catholic school made this much harder by placing an undue amount of attention on the way young women dress, to the point where I at times felt like the “shame” nun from “Game of Thrones” was stalking the halls.
So when I heard about an event called Christian Fashion Week, I was immediately suspicious. After all, in my experience, Christian fashion revolves around one word: modesty. And modesty usually conveys the image of loose clothing with low hemlines and high necklines, the opposite of fashionable. In my experience, the way modesty is enforced is fairly sexist, teaching young women that they are responsible for whether or not young men have impure thoughts regarding them and their bodies. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Christian Fashion Week does not support this view of modesty.
Instead, they believe in what they call “contextual modesty,” meaning that appropriate dress is entirely dependent on the situation. What they mean is simply that appropriate and modest attire is based on conventional dress for the venue as well as personal comfort. Their website states, “Part of our mission is to promote the concept of contextual modesty and help those within the Christian church break free from legalism and imaginary dress codes while developing a more grounded and disciplined perspective of what modesty truly means.”
They state that strict dress codes have no basis in scripture. For the people behind Christian Fashion Week, modesty is about maintaining personal dignity and not drawing attention to oneself by flaunting wealth, which could make those with less money self-conscious.
“Christian Fashion Week does not support views of modesty…that place the responsibility of one person’s lust on the shoulders of the object of that lust.”
But Christian Fashion Week is about more than modest clothing. They recognize that the fashion industry is responsible for environmental destruction through use of harsh chemicals, exploiting natural resources and piles of old clothing growing in landfills because of the rise of fast fashion. They promote the idea of fashion that is both sustainable and affordable, avoiding the exclusivity that high fashion is known for. And, unlike many mainstream brands, they refuse to showcase any designers that use unethical labor practices.
They seek to raise awareness of hostile work environments, child labor practice and human trafficking, all of which are linked to the fashion industry. This is not to say that individual companies are even aware of these practices, but weak spots in the industry are exploited by men and women who seek to gain from them. They are taking a stand by refusing to support any designer that exploits other human beings.
Overall, this organization, while church affiliated, seems more focused on ethical practices than religious doctrine. They are not trying to convert people under the guise of fashion, and overall, seem like an organization that I am comfortable supporting.
Along with womenswear, they showcase men’s wear collections and use a cast of ethnically diverse models featuring multiple body types. Unfortunately, as of 2015, they have not been able to run any more designer showcases, as they need serious brands and companies for financial support. However, the showcases can still be found on their website, along with links to individual designers.
Whether you support the idea of modesty or not is your choice, but as someone concerned with the state of the environment, I do encourage you to check out the designers who have been shown at this event in the past, as ethical, sustainable and affordable fashion is something that anyone, regardless of religion, can support.