Friday, 19 September 2008

The dream designer

Fashion show

Congratulations to organisers. Bury St Edmunds answer to London's fashion week - thank you to the firms who have provided the clothes - and the models, look stunning.

One word of warning: Dave Barry said, 'The leading cause of death among fashion models is falling through street grates'. When I said that to Alison, she answered, ''Some hope!"

So what has a vicar got to say at a fashion show - especially a vicar who is so well known for his fashion-consciousness. At least his wife makes up for him.  However I am being educated: I know now about colours - Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer - and styles and I know now not to wear socks with sandals. Although - in my more rebellious moments - I still do have some sympathy for Bruce Oldfield who said, 'I'm not that interested in fashion. When someone says that lime-green is the new black for this season, you just want to tell them to get a life'. 

 

The vicar wishes to say two things:

FASHION MATTERS

Mark Twain said, in what is a remarkably astute observation, 'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence.'

What we wear, whether we like it or not, speaks so loudly about what we think of ourselves and our place in the world, and they do affect how people react to us.

 

Several years ago I went with a small delegation with the Bishop of London to Moscow, where we were meeting with senior leaders in the Russian Orthodox Church. He asked that in Moscow we wore cassocks at all times in public. For someone who claimed that he did not care less what he wore, I was mortified. 

I do not come from that part of the church that wears cassocks in the public arena. 

I would be different. 

I would be identifying myself with other people who wore cassocks. 

But that was precisely why the Bishop was insistent. He wanted us to say to our hosts: "We identify ourselves with you. Even though for you, wearing a cassock in public may bring ridicule and rejection, and a few years ago could have meant that you were sentenced to labour camp or even to death, we are here to identify ourselves with you". 

The clothes that we wear do identify us. They make a statement about who we think we are and who we think we belong to. The jacket and tie, jacket and no tie; the dress or jeans and t-shirt; the teenage uniform – the bare midriff, big belts, short skirts and leggings for girls; the pumps, hoody and long hair for boys; the Goth black; the Ascot uniform – actually written down this year (no bare midriffs and no bare shoulders); the cassock: they all make statements about who we think we are, who we think we belong to, and how we relate to the rest. 

That is why Trinnie and Suzanne work. Changing what we wear does change how others see us, and therefore how we see ourselves.

A new outfit promises a new life: wear me and I will give you romance, sophistication, freedom, uniqueness, respect, beauty and power; wear me and I will make you desirable and lovely.  Ralph Lauren said, 'I don't design clothes; I design dreams'

 

But although fashion matters, and it does make a difference, it is only a surface difference. It is not the real answer to our dreams.

You can have the figure of a Keira Knightley, and wear the dress of a duchess; you can have the physique of a David Beckham and wear a $10000 Hugo Boss suit, but they will not protect you from being broken, confused, mixed up, lost, guilty and ashamed. 

2. WE NEED TO BE WILLING TO LOOK DEEPER.

Fashion, someone said, is our defence against nakedness. And here I do not just mean physical nakedness.

One of the very first stories ever told was the story of how men and women got their clothes!

Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. They were naked and they were not ashamed. They lived in freedom and love. They walked in the garden with God: they were right with him, right with each other and right with the world.

God told them that they could eat from any fruit in the garden. It was all theirs. The only thing forbidden them was to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But because the fruit looked good, and because they were told that if they ate it they would become like God without God, they disobeyed God and ate the fruit.  The result: they saw that they were naked and they were ashamed. So they made themselves clothes of fig leaves and they hid from God. 

Now I am not asking anyone to believe the story as a record of what happened, but I am asking us to listen to what it tells us about the human condition.

·        We have rebelled against God

·        We have tried to hide from him: we are naked in his eyes and in our own eyes - And we try to cover it up with fig leaves.

And the reason that we are putting this on is to say that fashion is OK and does matter, and can be great fun, and can - to some extent - change lives; 

But we are also asking people to look deeper.

Later on in the year we will be having a series of events at which we will present the good news of the Christian faith.

It is good news.

A new outfit, new hairstyle, a makeover, is good news: it may make a new man or new woman of you, for a time.

But it is only God who can really make a new man or woman of you. It is only the dream designer who can fully satisfy the dreams that he has given us: dreams for love, belonging, uniqueness, beauty, peace, creativity, fulfilment, eternity.

The good news of the Christian faith is that - for those:

who have the courage to look beneath the fig leaves, who are aware of their rebellion against God, of the inner darkness and mess in their lives, and who are prepared to say sorry and throw themselves on God’s love because of Jesus, there is the amazing offer of forgiveness, an interior redesign job (illustration used in bible is that God will change our heart of stone and replace it with a living heart), a new life now, and the promise of dreams fulfilled. 

 

 

 

 

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