Interview: The Bible Makes a Fashion Statement

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Theologian Robert Covolo encourages Christians to take matters of dress and style more seriously.

At first glance, the worlds of fashion and theology might appear to have little to do with one another. A shallow survey of each might even frame them as opposites, equating fashion with frivolity and ephemerality while painting theology as concerned with matters more eternal and profound. But the truth is that there are more Christians quietly shaping the fashion industry than one might suppose. And major Christian thinkers, from Augustine of Hippo to John Calvin, have had plenty to say about sartorial matters.

In his new book Fashion Theology, cultural theologian Robert Covolo explores the complex relationship between fashion and theology throughout history, highlighting the richness these disciplines stand to forfeit when they ignore each other. Journalist Whitney Bauck, who reports on the intersection of fashion and faith, spoke with Covolo about the theological depths opened up in the simple act of getting dressed each morning.

Why write a book on fashion and theology?

So many books have been written about the relationship between theology and film or literature or psychology or food. But dress is just as essential to our everyday existence. I realized there was nothing theological out there taking fashion studies seriously beyond a chapter here or there. Fashion studies is an expansive field of theoretical discourse that has spread to universities across the globe. And there has been little to no Christian engagement with it.

The other side of what interested me is that theology itself is a cultural pursuit. We’re always going to be producing theology because culture always has new questions about the relevance of the Christian faith. If we don’t understand theologians within their cultural context, we’re …

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