|This is both ugly and glamorous.|
Our inveterate commenter 'Eufrosnia' wants to know if there is anything wrong with dressing in an ugly way. Of course there is.
1. Ugliness is a natural evil. (Will anyone disagree with this?)
2. To embody it is bad. (This just follows from 1)
3. To do so deliberately or through negligence is morally bad. (This just follows from 2.)
To build an ugly building is wrong, if it is done deliberately or negligently (when it can be avoided without serious inconvenience). To dress in an ugly way is worse. It evinces a lack of gratitude to God for one's own creation, a lack of respect for oneself, and a contempt of others. There are even more fundamental issues involved here, as this post will argue.
|The trouble with searching for 'Grunge' is that you|
get the fashion-industry imitation. The real thing
is a street style and far more extreme.
Dietrich von Hildebrand noted the unfortunate tendency in some of the more rigorist Catholic circles before the Council to disparage natural goods, because they had failed to distinguish them from worldly goods. Worldly goods, like money and worldly honours, have no intrinsic value. To set one's heart on them is to set one's heart on a vanity: on nothing. Natural goods, like beauty, have intrinsic value. Beautiful things were created good by God, or if man-made, they reflect His goodness. To reject natural goods is to reject the goodness of creation and its capacity to reflect God, and lead hearts to God.
Such a rejection is characteristic of Protestantism, and this forms the background, looking at the big picture, of the crisis of fashion we are living through. The Protestants taught that at the Fall nature human became depraved, evil, and by parallel the created world falls under suspicion. The Protestant attack on religious art did not limit itself to devotional images: it included Gregorian chant. Of course it is impossible to exclude the artful use of created things to raise the heart to God completely from religious architecture and liturgy, but Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists and Anabaptists settled at different points on this dismal road. The Anglicans smashed the stained glass and abolished the antiphons of Vespers and Compline. The Lutherans insisted that no syllable have more than one musical note. The Calvinists got rid of the organs. All of them created white-washed churches which look like neo-classical meeting rooms instead of holy places.
The Protestant mindset had it that to contemplate a devotional image - a crucifix, say - is to contemplate something other than Christ, to give to the image what we owe to Christ. It is idolatry. By extension, to contemplate any beautiful thing is to focus our attention away from God, onto something else. Something, in fact, which is worthless or even evil, because all created things have been tainted by the Fall.
The Catholic attitude is that by contemplating the crucifix we look beyond it, and raise our minds and hearts to the real Christ. By extension, any beautiful thing can raise the heart to God. Religious and devotional art, of course, expresses all sorts of specific truths, but all art which aims at beauty expresses the Catholic doctrine that God's creation is good even after the Fall. It lost Grace, and was wounded, by the Fall, but it did not lose all its value.
On clothing in particular, the more extreme Protestants adopted a sort of uniform of black and white, without colour or decoration, and with the simplest form. In fact this can look extremely elegant, but the logic of the position would suggest it should not please the eye at all.
Just as devotional images were thought to take the mind away from what they represented, it is easy to develop the idea that clothes distract one from the real person wearing them. The real thing, devotionally, is supposed to be something entirely spiritual: as if the Incarnation had never taken place. Similarly, the real thing in any material thing, including humans, might be thought to be something beneath and separate from the outward appearance. You can see this idea developing in the Enlightenment, in the writings of philosophers imbued with Protestant culture. This is essentially the Heresy of Formlessness which Martin Mosebach talks about, and I make no apology for mentioning this book again. Anyone interested in these issues should read it.
Applied to the liturgy you get the Novus Ordo. Applied to clothing you get grunge.
In reality, we are incarnated in our bodies, and we express ourselves in our clothes. Garments do not hide us: they clothe us.