Covolo’s discourse and style are aimed primarily at the specialist and students of art and cultural theory, although interested readers will find chapters four and five highly valuable for an introduction to a theology for cultural engagement.
Fashion Theology. Robert Covolo. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2020. 216 pp.
Robert Covolo (PhD. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), a theologian specializing in cultural topics and Reformed studies, has written a book with an intriguing title. In this landmark study, Covolo investigates the history, theology, and cultural intersections between the church and the fashion world.
Fashion Theology is presented in five chapters: Fashion Theology as Tradition; Fashion Theology as Reform; Fashion Theology as Public Discourse; Fashion Theology as Art; Fashion Theology as Everyday Drama, followed with a conclusion, extensive endnotes, bibliography, and index. Covolo begins with a brief tour of the early Fathers’ views of fashion—where (unsurprisingly) the universal appeals to modesty frame the discussion. Some of the first theological views of decorum revolve around the toga. Covolo, however, has culled remarkable passages from Augustine and Aquinas to Calvin and Barth (chapter 2: Fashion Theology as Reform) demonstrating the ever-broadening interaction of theology with fashion, along with its cultural-religious implications.
In chapter 3, Fashion Theology as Public Discourse, Covolo examines radical departures between the sacred and secular in that representation of all modern ideals: the suit. Covolo’s use of the suit as a cultural marker to discuss the location of faith and fashion within the public discourse of modern democratic societies is noteworthy. Here Covolo’s multidisciplinary approach shines; as one part philosopher, one part cultural theologian, he evaluates issues such as the uniformity of modern fashions and theological responses from a variety of perspectives, including those of Abraham Kuyper, Charles Taylor, and Nancy Fraser.