Sartorial display

In the renunciative view of Buddhism I was first introduced to, which bears significant similarity to Protestant Christianity, ostentatious clothes were seen as vain, even arrogant. That comes from a view whereby the material world is seen as a tempting seductress one must kick in the face. To be pure, one needs to climb out of the muck of sin samsara.

Yet we can also see clothing as a gift. This is the method of sartorial display1. Instead of seeing it as a greedy grasping of attention, we can understand it in the vein of art. By wearing clothes that express us, we are inviting more appreciation into the world. Just as more paintings enrich the tapestry of the home, more beautiful outfits invite vivid appreciation of our surroundings. At its best, art invites us out of our claustrophobic self-fetish into wordless awe, forgetting for a moment thoughts like ‘this is good/bad’ and moving into interactive appreciation with the emotions beneath the art.

As a form of art, fashion can do the same, and moreover allow us to manifest the qualities we want to embody. Personally, I want to be noble and see the nobility within others. I can embody this trait by wearing my long mandarin-collared linen shirt and straw colored blazer. In this way I am invited into appreciative connection with strangers that are occasionally moved to compliment me on my display.

  1. This term and concept I borrow from Ngak’chang Rinpoche, who mentions it in certain sections of Tracts of the Sun↩︎