Christian Fashion Week Is A Thing, But Not For Long

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While personal style blends into all aspects of life, the relationship between fashion and religion remains fraught. The two worlds only clash in the news. See: Abercrombie’s recent religious discrimination lawsuit; Christian bloggers who boycott yoga pants for their lack of “modesty,” and, of course, John Galliano’s career-damaging anti-Semitic rant from 2011. But, there's one place where the two can happily coexist, and it's Christian Fashion Week.

The New York Times attended the third annual event this season in Tampa and reported that (not surprisingly), it’s about as different from the other fashion weeks as you can possibly get. Unlike Paris, Milan, London, or New York, this showcase of 11 designers — which all presented collections in just one night, on February 20 — isn’t so much about selling clothing and predicting trends. Rather, it's about promoting a modest lifestyle, one devoid of plunging necklines, very short hemlines, and booty shorts as the Times article points out. (It's also worth mentioning that modesty is a rising trend for many other denominations — the recent Hipster Hijabi controversy illuminates the crossover between Jewish and Muslim fashion, for example).
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According to the Christian Fashion Week website, “it's a true movement fueled by a passion for modest clothing and for building an industry around its consumers.” This means rows of buyers, editors, and celebrities are replaced by Christian bloggers and local fashion fans. 

The difficulty, Christian Fashion Week cofounder Jose Gomez told The Times, is striking a balance between promoting beliefs and finding clothing people actually want to wear. “Really quickly we found out how hard that was.”

“The designers that wear Christianity on their sleeve are not that good, and the ones that are really good don’t wear it on their sleeves.” Sure, you could argue that covered-up is the new sexy — and, thanks to labels like Céline and Jil Sander, conservative pieces like turtlenecks, loose trousers, and even sack dresses are trending. But, if the clothes aren't wearable, nobody will want to buy them (even if they're deemed lifestyle-appropriate).

And, there's a bigger issue facing Christian Fashion Week: the closed-mindedness of some of its proponents in terms of the "right" way to dress. Although some showgoers agreed that fashion should be individual and open to interpretation, attendee Jayson Emerian — who was quick to tell NYT that he was only there because of his wife — summed up the underlying judgmental perception simply. "You don’t have to look like a slut,” he said. Yikes. Comments like his are especially ironic, considering a model walked the finale wearing nothing but a lace bra under a capelet. Needless to say, conflicting attitudes about what's considered Christian make it tough for the show to go on.
This is why officials proclaim that 2015 is the final season for the religious shows — for now at least. As Gomez put it, “This is Christian Fashion Week, and so there could be a resurrection.” Good one. (The New York Times)
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