Let’s talk about Fashion and Beauty as religious apparel.
When fashion and religion intersect controversy often is close behind.
We are now being met with fashion and beauty serving as a means of self-expression in a religious context.
Currently, with the rise in recognition of Islamic beliefs, apparel is increasingly serving as an expression of one’s religious beliefs; likewise accessories and hairstyles.
However, this form of expressionism can lead to bitter controversy . In France the row over the hijab and the burqas lead to its banning in 2010 forcing women to remove burkini’s in public and are faced with a fine. The French have become fearful of what lies beneath the burkini and see it as declaring an allegiance to terrorist organisations. But Muslim women traditionally wear burqas and burkini’s as a symbol of modesty and faith. Lets not forget to mention Bulgaria becoming the latest European country to ban burqas in public places otherwise face their social benefits being suspended and fined up to £665. There are other European countries moving towards similar bans. What of the Muslim women’s freedom and human rights to exercise their religious beliefs?
Some Muslim girls, are progressively wearing brightly coloured hijabs and headscarves as opposed to the traditional black. To some, these headscarves offer an expression of character and modernness.
Perhaps, as has in the past, it will take Madonna, Queen of pop, wearing cross shaped necklaces and earrings in the 1980s to become acceptable apparel as a fashion accessory. Since Madonna , crucifixes have appeared on the countless necklaces, earrings, rings etc. And recently we have seen Christian symbolism stem from jewellery to clothing. Printed crosses are snap shot on clothing from Topshop ranging to ASOS.
Ironically, people of no faith even have tattoos showing the crucifix. How many Christians are offended?
Dolce Gabana’s 2013 fall collection had explicit references to Catholicism it was on – prints with saints, angels, and kings.
In 1994 we saw Jean Paul Gaultier’s collection inspired by orthodox Jewish apparel. Gaultier defended his “chic rabbis” collection as seeing a group of rabbis leaving a New York Public library on Fifth Avenue, stating that he found them beautiful and very elegant.
But what of Rhastafarians wearing dreadlocks? Many dreadlock wearers do not follow the Rhasta faith, but wear dreadlocks as a fashion statement. If those non Rhasta’s were faced with not being given a job, if they refused to remove their dreadlocks, then it is likely that they would remove their dreadlocks. However what of those Rhastafarians whom are denied jobs based on their dreadlocks?
The US case of Xodus-v-Wackenhut Corporation 2010 involved a suit for religious discrimination by a plaintiff who practised the Rastafarian faith. The plaintiff applied for a position at the defendant’s security firm and was told that he needed to cut his dreadlocks to comply with the policies. Xodus sued the company claiming that it engaged in religious discrimination when it refused to hire him based on his dreadlocks.
The appeals court confirmed the lower courts decision, holding that the plaintiff’s dreadlocks and his use of the word “beliefs ” were not sufficient to notify the defendant of the religious nature of his hairstyle. The court concluded that “unlike race or sex, a person’s religion is not always readily apparent . “ However, were the courts dismissive of the Rhastafarian faith and paying it very little (if any) importance?
I am certain, that the French authorities did not feel the same way as those appellant judges. Do you?
So in conclusion, it is likely to take a celebrity to turn a cultural piece into an avant-garde fashion trend, resulting in little regard being given to religious values.
The pop Queen Madonna would need to sport dreadlocks like she did the crucifix. Or Lady Gaga sporting the burkini- like garments. But for Lady Gaga’s suggestive lyrical content it did cause great offence to the Islamic community.
But will this be the key to overcoming the increasing discrimination of others in their apparel which is aligned to their customary religious beliefs?
I leave you with a Christian Dior thought- ‘There is no beauty that is attractive without zest’.