Likeness of God

Clothing alters the image and likeness of God possessed by people. At least Medieval friars were quite sure about that. Susan Haskins in Mary Magdalen: myth and metaphor (Riverhead Books, New York, 1993) mentions Augustine of Hippo, a Latin church father, who fought with vanity considered as one of the forms of the sin of pride. Women who donned their finery, and wore cosmetics were very unpopular in the Middle Ages, since expensive dresses and makeup were placed on the same footing as “idols and masks”.

It seems that Tertullian, an early Christian author, was the first to touch the subject. He opposed those who presumed to alter the work of the Creator – the body – with paints and the dyeing of hair were in fact criticising their Maker, and subverting Nature, which had been created by God, the “artificer of all things.”

That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! If He was able, then plainly He was unwilling: what God willed not, of course ought not to be fashioned. Those things, then, are not the best by nature which are not from God, the Author of nature. Thus they are understood to be from the devil, from the corrupter of nature… (On the Apparel of Women. Book I)

Of course, Tertullian didn’t stand for nudity, the state in which, according to the same logic, God ordered people to be born. He recommended the garb of penitence as a style of dress that should remind the Christian woman that the sin was introduced through her ancestress, Eve. Imagine what such a world would look like. Fortunately, we live in more tolerant times, don’t we?

Woman holding sign reading "?"

Woman holding sign reading "?" Washington, D.C., 1922

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