THE CULTURAL ASPECT
Two months ago I started a mini series on this journal titled “Faith and Fashion” with the sole purpose of raising an awareness for us as Christians to pay attention to what we wear and to also understand whether or not our faith plays a role in our sense of style and fashion . So far we’ve had two posts on here discussing various aspects of this broad topic . First we had ‘finding my style’ … http://yarhsjournal.com/faith-and-fashion-finding-my-style/ which is a back story of how this topic was birthed . We’ve also had a guest writer (Thiago Moro) give us his opinion and he addressed Elegance ..http://yarhsjournal.com/faith-and-fashion-ep2-a-guys-opinion/… Miss Anita, the Godquest writer, also shared her opinion on the matter on her site https://godquest.wixsite.com/godquest/blog/0bcc8cd1… I must say that it has been quite the journey so far and this week , we’ll be looking at a very important factor that plays a big role in the overall personality and lifestyle of an individual , Culture .
Culture,as explained by The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. Also, the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time. Back in high school we defined culture simply as the way and life of a group of people, which includes-but not limited to- their way of dressing. As people from different cultural backgrounds and various upbringings, we are taught by our parents/elders how to dress, what’s appropriate etc. These standards, for some of us, consciously or unconsciously stick with us and serve as a guide for how we dress even when we get older. As a result, we often judge people’s clothes and overall appearance by the measure by which we were brought up. For example, in most African settings, guys who braid their hair or pierce their ears are classified as ‘bad boys’ whereas this is quite common among black Americans. The same applies to girls who wear short/revealing clothes. My dad usually deemed clothes he considered inappropriate as “pornographic”. Other examples can be seen among Christian denominations, although they all preach decency and modesty. The women in some churches don’t wear pants at all , while others wear them around but just not to church. The men in some homes (e.g mine ) aren’t allowed to drop their pants, but some homes don’t mind. The point remains that so long as we come from different cultural backgrounds, our standards and opinions will vary.
In my current church (Jiamusi International Christians’ Fellowship), this diversity is greatly seen in the difference in our clothes and styles. The Indian ladies usually wear sarees or salwar suits with bangles, anklets (my favorite piece of all) and other beautiful accessories. The guys sometimes wear wraps (that look like skirts) and a long top which I know our African brothers won’t be caught dead in. The African ladies usually wear western casual or African prints and almost never cover their heads. This difference, I realised, can be attributed to the difference in our culture and upbringing as a whole. As Christians, we are challenged even in the things we grew up with, to have a deeper meaning and reason to why we do what we do. To help throw more light on the varying effects of culture on an individual’s style and also where faith meets culture in today’s fashion, I’ve invited some guests to share their answers on a few questions to help expose us to more thoughts on this topic. You may also share your answers in the comment section below.
- 1. Does your background/culture have an influence on your style at present?
- 2. Did growing up in your faith affect your style in any way ?
- 3. How do you appreciate the difference between your style and that of others?
- 4. How would you describe your style? Final remarks.
Sharing with you is Dr. Rachel Magdalene Sadhana – a traditional South Indian Christian by birth. Style for me is all about comfort. South India is a place where women often dress in authentic clothes like salwar suits or sarees even in schools and colleges. Growing up in such a place is bound to influence our style of dressing. Not just my culture but as a growing Christian I also feel the responsibilities to style and dress in such a way that I fulfill the expectations of my faith as the scripture commands. As a believer my mom often insisted on presentable, modest and traditional clothing with well-dressed hair to church since church gatherings are a part and parcel of our life. I feel great and privileged about being raised up in such a background where faith and culture works hand in hand in building a woman clothed in strength and dignity as the bible quotes in Proverbs 31:25. I would describe myself as a very simple and elegant person and I always love the way I dress and style myself. This style of mine often makes me feel good and confident from inside. A great thanks to my younger sister Rebecca and my mom who are more concerned about making me look good and different from others, yet maintaining the modesty and elegance my faith and culture expects from me. I wish to continue as such that I would present Christ wherever I am through my modesty and simplicity.
Starting from the first question; Yes my background somehow does have an influence on my style especially when growing up in Africa some people/relatives regard certain clothes as over-revealing etc. My style however is centered mostly on comfortability before anything else. Growing up in faith, my style isn’t just based on comfortability anymore but also on reflecting who I am, not dishonouring God, my parents or my self in the best possible way. Style is a reflection of not only who we are but our upbringing too. As such, what you and I may consider morally wrong may be different and that’s definitely because of our upbringing. Coming to China has really exposed me to a number of different cultures and has given me a change of perspective. All in all, I’ve learnt to respect and value the style of others even though it may be totally different from mine. I’ll describe my style in one word, SIMPLE. I mean I could do over-the-top or extra on a few occasions but simplicity and elegance is my cup of tea. Casual, however, is an everyday vibe.
So this is Rebecca ,a Christian by faith,doctor by profession and an Indian by nationality. In India we dress differently for different occasions. As we grew up we had different dresses assigned for different places and occasions. School was the easiest. It was a uniform which covers completely from neck to feet ( a salwar suit). Then for family functions and festivals it was traditional dresses like sarees ,ghagras,skirts,salwars. For church, we wear sarees and salwars which is very different from the western world . Jeans ,pants ,t-shirts etc. were reserved for informal gatherings, outings, and family trips. My parents, especially my mom , were very particular in being modest and traditional while going to church. And as I grew I realized the importance my faith in Christianity had upon my dressing not only to church but also to other places. I was brought up in such a way that my dress should always be modest below my knees ,high necked and with sleeves whether it is traditional or western,whether it is for church or for parties. After reading the bible more and more I made sure that it is not just my culture but it also my faith which is asking me to be nice and modest with my dressing .I always appreciate the way I differ from others in my dressing and style. I really thank the Lord and my parents for keeping me simple and showing me the right path. Everything I do with my dress and hair always makes me confident, comfortable and different in front of others. But I always make it a point that my fashion goes hand in hand with my faith as a christian .I am always a simple,traditional girl who loves to glorify God’s name by her modest yet beautiful dressing,styling and fashion . Have a blessed day ..
When I was younger there were some clothes I couldn’t wear because my mum thought they weren’t good for me but growing up, I realized that some of the clothes I was wearing weren’t my style either so I set out to discover my own style. I believe that as a person you will always have someone looking up to you for some kind of inspiration and even if there’s no one, I believe that one can be his/her own inspiration. As a Christian when people look at me they are supposed to see Christ in me and I believe that there are some clothes that won’t portray what I’m trying to present in life. As I’m growing up in faith I believe that the clothes we wear shouldn’t show what God has made to be private. I’m really enjoying my new style, I can look cute without having to show all my skin or without having to be ‘naked’ in a picture. I like to be simple (black jeans or skinny jeans and a top with sneakers are what I love the most). Your beauty shouldn’t come from your clothes, I’m not saying that you should wear ugly clothes y’all , but your real beauty should come from what God has placed in you. We shouldn’t just follow popular trends to wear some clothes that don’t show the kind of women God is building us to be. Style will one day end but what God has given you in spirit will never end, so let’s focus on that not on what people will think of our style. We should choose our clothes carefully, choose clothes that bring glorification to God because if we can glorify God in everything we do, why not do so in our clothes too?
Growing up in a typical Indian culture we’re taught women are not supposed to expose their body when they dress. In my culture we wear saree, Salwar, half saree etc. Girls are advised to wear salwar which covers up to our ankles and married women mostly wear saree. Even though I’m away from home, I always wear my Indian clothes and I am very comfortable in them. Growing up in our culture I thought wearing modern clothes is a sin and even our church elders at home also advised us that wearing T-shirts and Jeans which show the cuts of your body is a sin. Growing in my faith helped me understand that I can wear any dress (not just Indian clothes) that glorifies God, I am not dressing for any human’s attention or praise but I am actually dressing for God. For this reason, any time I pick something from my wardrobe, what I consider first is if it will please God. I was brought up in a very closed environment of church , school ,prayer meetings and home so coming to China and seeing people from diverse cultural backgrounds dressed in ways other than what i knew to be appropriate initially made me quite judgmental. Thankfully, God opened my understanding to know that we don’t all come from the same background and as such, the standards for each person are different. I got to understand how a Godly woman is supposed to dress through church discussions and I am now able to see the beauty in each one’s dressing and appreciate them. My style is wearing salwar everyday in, I sometimes wear saree and western clothes on few occasions. Our clothes should always speak our faith out loud. Always remember that this body is the temple of the holy spirit and so anytime we dress, we should be careful not dishonor it. May God richly bless everyone who reads this and Yarh’s journal.
Well if you made it this far then congrats and I hope that you got something from us today. This world is a global village with different cultural standards and so as christians, we need to test these standards by our faith. In the end only one culture remains for us and that’s the ‘Jesus Culture’.
Long post but worth the read. Which of our guests do you identify with the most? Let’s hear your thoughts on today’s topic as well.
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