You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Religion

fashion books from

In this week’s You Should Be Reading column, we focus on the topic of fashion and religion. Instead of zeroing in on the ways in which organized religion can be at odds with fashion, these articles explore the intersection between dress, appearance, and belief systems. How are dress and style used to an advantage within certain religions? In what ways does clothing present identity challenges for men and women of certain faiths? Do religious dress practices affect perceived attractiveness? How is religions transformation similar to the makeover process? These are some of the questions addressed by the authors of the four articles presented below. We hope you enjoy!

P.S. For more on this topic, check out this column from last year. 

1. Deller, R. A. (2014). Religion as makeover: Reality, lifestyle and spiritual transformationInternational Journal of Cultural Studies, doi 10.1177/1367877913513687.

In this article the author discusses the relationship between religion, spirituality and processes of makeover and transformation as presented in a number of British reality television shows. Programmes including The Monastery, The Convent and Make Me a Muslimplaced participants in scenarios where they experimented with adopting religious or spiritual practices as part of their journey of self-transformation. The author argues that the nature of transformation in these programmes is in line with standard reality and makeover television practices. However, it also makes a claim to be more ‘authentic’ than these because of its unfolding within the more traditional environs of religious communities from which makeover culture’s narratives of transgression, repentance and salvation were originally derived. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Harmes, M. (2014). Caps, shrouds, lawn and tackle: English bishops and their dress from the sixteenth century to the RestorationCostume, 48(1), 3-20.

The vestiarian controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England have attracted an extensive scholarly literature. This literature has tended to show the ways the Church of England could be condemned as inadequately reformed through attacks against its external trappings. Much less has been written about how the targets of attack — the clothing that bishops wore — could in fact be transformed into a means of defending the Church. This paper analyses George Hooper’s 1683 tract The Church of England Free from the Imputation of Popery, within the context of disputation concerning episcopal government. Hooper appreciated that attacks on vesture were part of more penetrating attacks against religious hierarchies. By turns mocking and serious, Hooper compared the Church of England to reformed confessions and the Church of Rome, arguing that far from being popish, the dress of bishops stood out distinctively as Protestant trappings and provided positive examples of how English bishops differed from their Roman counterparts. — Full Article Abstract

3. Pazhoohi, F., & Hosseinchari, M. (2014). Effects of religious veiling on Muslim men’s attractiveness ratings of Muslim womenArchives of Sexual Behavior, doi 10.1007/s10508-014-0259-5.

Hijab and other Islamic veiling clothing are important social and political symbols for Muslim women’s identity. Although recently there has been a large body of literature on the social and political aspects of hijab in Western countries, there has been no investigation of the origin and function of veiling itself. This article hypothesized that religious veiling, which eliminates the estrogen-induced body curves of reproductive age women, decreases men’s perceptions of women’s physical attractiveness, thereby serving mate guarding functions against rival men. To test this hypothesis. Measures of the motivational appeal and self-reported perceived attractiveness of women exhibiting different degrees of veiling were obtained from 80 Muslim male participants. The results showed that men were more motivated to view women exhibiting the less veiling and rated them more attractive than those women whose bodily curves were less apparent. These results support veiling serving a mate guarding function and reinforcing the marital bond. — Full Article Abstract 

4. Sobh, R., Belk, R., & Gressel, J. (2014). Mimicry and modernity in the Middle East: Fashion invisibility and young women of the Arab Gulf. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 17(4), 392-412. 

Prior consumer research has addressed the encounter between global brands and styles versus local cultures through the concepts of glocal hybridity, post-assimilationist resistance, and the de-stigmatization of local practices in the face of competition from global consumer culture. Based on fieldwork with college women in the Arab Gulf states we detect two other practices involving highly conspicuous consumption that act to create a space for identity that lies between Western modernity and Islamic conservatism. The first is layering in which outer garments act as a “cloak of invisibility” for luxurious Western wear beneath. The second is “mimetic excess” that responds to envy of Western consumption, provokes local envy, and participates in “modern” consumption at the same time that it encompasses these practices within a covering of religious and national virtue. The key contribution of this study consists of identifying these new strategies of reconciling two opposing hegemonic fashion discourses to which privileged Muslim minorities in their own wealthy countries are subjected. —  Full Article Abstract


Image Credit:

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at :, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.