Baha'i, Beauty

Thoughts on a Baha’i Sense of Fashion

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I love fashion. I have a rather simple fashion taste, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy putting on nice outfits on, neither does it mean that I don’t enjoy seeing a fabulous outfit on the street. However, I always question what is the relationship between fashion and one’s spiritual progress in life.

There are a couple of things that I can think of.

First is the most obvious link between cleanliness and dress with dignity and nobility. I only need to change from a sloppy outfit into a nice one to immediately feel better and stand a little more straight. By the same token, an oily scalp or itchy body make me curl into myself. How can we expect ourselves to carry forward human civilization if we don’t stand tall and project to our fellow man?

Another obvious link is that of habits required (and hopefully, through practice, acquired) between your hygiene and dress routine and the application of these habits to your spiritual life. One of the reasons why I remember to say my obligatory prayer is because throughout the years, I acquired the habit of being regular about brushing my teeth, cleaning my face and other such things (thank you, Mom!). The regularity that I apply to my outward cleansing ritual was applied to my inner cleansing ritual.

Then there is a link between the individuality of each person’s spiritual journey and each person’s individual fashion sense. It’s another inward-outward link in that outwardly, we demonstrate that two people can look totally different and yet both be equally fashionable, just like they can have totally different spiritual strengths and yet be equally close to God.

What concerns should we have, then, with our dress, if everything is acceptable? In my humble opinion, the only concern we should have is the following exhortation from Bahá’u’lláh: “The choice of clothing and the cut of the beard and its dressing are left to the discretion of men. But beware, O people, lest ye make yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.” When I go shopping and I reach for an article of clothing not because I love it and I want to wear it, but rather because I am told that I should like it and I am told I will be pretty in it, isn’t that becoming a plaything?

By the same token, when I use various cosmetic and hygiene products from companies who put hazardous ingredients in them (just check this out), isn’t that becoming a plaything?

Therefore the only thing that seems to be a necessary condition for a Bahá’í to be fashionable both in the societal sense and in the spiritual sense is to wear things that he or she feels reflects their inner reality, rather than to follow the rules of fashion as imposed from a selected few. Which basically means that everyone is fashionable, which means that I should be booking my Vogue cover shoot any day now 😉

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Baha’i Sense of Fashion

  1. I ask this question to myself as well. Where is the border of looking nice and dignified and being a slave of fashion? Very often it’s hard to admit why are we buying certain things, so subtle are the ways of advertisement and peer pressure.

    I am always amazed how Abdu’l-Baha dressed. Always elegant but simple. Lesson for us: why pay more just for the brand when the Master asked to exchange expensive dress to 4 cheaper ones.

    One more thing I learned when I traveled to Central Asia – we need to support local and national clothes. In some places it’s cheaper (nicer and supports local business) as opposed to multinational labels. But youth who live there want to dress as Westeners… Sad..

    1. What I find sad is that I am answering so many comments three years later 😉 I have been thinking a lot also about buying more “ethical” as being part of a “Baha’i wardrobe” – after all, we can’t say we believe in treating all humans as noble creatures while wearing things whose existence is dependent on another human being working in horrid conditions. The question then becomes, how can we create such a wardrobe in a sustainable way?

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