You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Religion

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Worn Through would like to highlight a popular topic of research in our field: the relationship between fashion and religion. While early studies focused primarily on the role of ceremonial vestments, contemporary research has begun to explore how fashion itself intersects with religion. These three recently published articles are examples of this new trend in research; they include examinations of fashions in 1950s Italian Catholic women’s dress, homosexual Jewish men’s dress, and Canadian Muslim women’s dress. Although research on religion and dress can be found in fashion-specific journals, these articles were specially chosen to highlight the way this topic has expanded to other areas as well. Enjoy!

1. Cullen, N. (2013). Morals, modern identities and the Catholic woman: Fashion in Famiglia Cristiana, 1954-1968. Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 18(1), 33-52.

This article uses the prism of dress to explore the ways in which ordinary women negotiated Catholic morality codes in Italy during the great social transformations of the ‘economic miracle’ and afterwards. These years saw dramatic changes in gender roles and the influence of the mass media in society, as well as a rapid increase in migration, urbanization and financial well-being among Italians, and all of these changes were reflected in a very visible, everyday sense in changing fashions. At the same time, the Church was on the defensive and launched a morality crusade, focusing particularly on feminine ‘purity’ and modesty in dress, seeing more modern ways as a threat to Catholic values and traditions. Here, the advice column of Italy’s leading – Catholic – magazine in these years is used to examine how individual Catholic women negotiated the competing influences of these years as they decided how to dress. – Full Article Abstract

2. Golnaraghi, G., & Mills, A. J. (2013). Unveiling the myth of the Muslim woman: A postcolonial critique. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 32(2), 157-172.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between neo-colonialist discourse and Quebec’s proposed Bill 94 aimed at restricting the public activities of niqab and veil-wearing Muslim women. Drawing upon postcolonial feminist frames, this study critically analyzes the discourses of Muslim women and Western elites that serve to construct the niqab and veil-wearing Muslim women. Using critical discourse analysis of digital and print media articles from 1994 to 2010, the authors trace the discursive character of the Muslim woman related to Bill 94, which proposes the banning of religious face coverings when seeking public services in the Province of Quebec, Canada. This paper develops a postcolonial understanding of the discursive conditions that constitute the social environment in which Muslim women are required to operate in Quebec and the advent of Bill 94. The authors contend that the discourses in the construction of Muslim women have mutated over time towards Western cultural hegemony and paternalism, and, in the process, Muslim women have been constructed as oppressed, in need of saving, and at the same time not to be trusted. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

3. Milligan, A. K. (2013). Colours of the Jewish rainbow: A study of homosexual Jewish men and yarmulkes. Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 12(1), 71-89.

The yarmulke is one of the most familiar external markers of Jewishness and also represents masculinity. This essay offers pertinent background information on the wearing of yarmulkes by Jewish men, including an overview of concepts of Jewish masculinity and the history of the gay Jewish community. The practice of wearing yarmulkes by gay men is critiqued, with particular attention given to the wearing of “pride yarmulkes” (those which are rainbow or otherwise supportive of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community). This essay argues that head covering––especially through pride yarmulkes––takes on importance as a significant symbol in terms of self-identity and agency for gay Jewish men. Their use of yarmulkes demonstrates an affirmation of their Jewish identity at the same time as it broadens concepts of Jewish masculinity. – Full Article Abstract


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