My article on Chabad.org about fashion and Judaism stirred a great deal of controversy and criticism due to the fact that many believed that the two were an inappropriate, offensive comparison that didn’t belong in the same breath.
The biting comments that followed made me sick to stomach and humbled me thoroughly. I've heard that you can’t write anything without getting bad rap. Where there’s good press, there’s bad. And where there’s bad, there’s really bad. But if I was wrong and wholly mistaken I wanted to know and stand corrected. At first I was stung but then I couldn’t help but wonder if they were right. Was I completely misguided as to say that a person could be a fashionable Jew? That a person who might normally get revved up about a pair of shoes could channel that excitement toward their Judaism? Or had my readers completely missed the point?
The crucial focal point throughout my article was that, like football or art or really any pastime, fashion is something that is desired and often leaves a trail of followers. The purpose of my article wasn’t to promote fashion worship but to promote the idea that a person could be as excited about Judaism as they are about fashion.
I understand that there are flaws in fashion and I don’t dismiss them. The industry is fickle and immodest, sometimes to the point of immorality. A person could easily get caught up in material, vanity and the shallow belief that exterior appearances are all that matter. One could fall so head over heels in love with fashion to the point of slavery and reject all notion that there is anything more to life than their body.
That is not the aspect of fashion we ought to learn from. Reb Zushe teaches us the that we can learn positive behavior even from a dishonest and completely corrupt individual; from a thief!
Was he suggesting we become thieves?
Or was he proposing something totally novel? That we are possibly smart enough to discern between the significant and the shtuss!?
Fashion may not be completely kosher and we’ve never mixed kippas with couture but the two may have more in common than we’ve ever cared to admit. The question is, are we strong enough to separate the poison from the message and learn a trick or two from the runway without getting trampled by a parade of six foot, pin-thin models?
Ps. BTW- I shop at Forever 21 (a fashion crime, I'm sure) and I have never met Michael Kors- in person or in the form of a dress. Fashion is eye candy to me, not my life, G-d forbid. As much as I wish I could afford to drip materialism, I can't...