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The ethics of religious dress
There is a very interesting discussion going on about acting and how physical gestures influence one's inner state, and so I would like to ask a more specific version of this, which has been bothering me for some time.

Question: What are the ethics of dressing in a particular way to show that you are devout?

That is: is a person's religious practice helped or hurt if they dress in a way that makes their specific religious affiliation clear?

Let's suppose you are a very religious woman and you want to dress modestly. There are plenty of ways to do this without dressing to clearly show others you are religious. If you're Amish you can be plain without wearing exactly the Amish style of dress -- to take probably the least politically charged example.

I certainly see the value of costumes. The military, the monastery, the soccer field, the trading floor are not places for individuality of dress. When you are in a restaurant kitchen, you wear a uniform which expediates your work there. Yes, uniforms serve a purpose.

Still, there are plenty of times when uniforms are not so appropriate. At least they need not be mandatory. It seems to me that there should also be a place in religious dressing for placing a positive value on not showing off the particulars of one's religious identity -- of letting it be between oneself and God. Is this unrealistic in today's political climate, or is there something deeper about interior/exterior which I'm missing here?
Your question reminds me of a visit I made to my brother in Jerusalem a few years ago. As I don't go there very often, we decided that we will take some time to visit the old city and its churches, the wall and other places of religious importance, and I decided therefore to dress modestly. When my brother picked me up from the station he was quite shocked to see my dress (a long skirt and a covering shirt), and asked me what came over my mind to dress like a religious woman (in Hebrew : dossit, the orthodox religious who marry young, have many children and hide their hair under a band or a wig). Apparently I was only missing 2-3 kids behind and a wig on my head to be one.
I can't quite explain how the idea of visiting certain places influenced my dressing to the point where I could be taken as affiliated to the devout society. I certainly think that once you belong to a certain society you all dress alike (more or less) whether you want it or not. It must be natural, you grow up together, share similar tastes, go to the local shops and so on. I can understand very well that you dress like everyone else, I still have difficulty understanding my chameleon transformation for a day in Jerusalem, or I was simply following the saying "when in Rome, do as Romans do."  

In response to Edna Stern
I was simply following the saying "when in Rome, do as Romans do." --Edna

I assume by Rome you meant the Jewish quarter of the old city, I wonder what it would be like to walk into the other 3 quarters while dressed as you did.

When I visited the old city of Jerusalem, I was absolutely shocked to see people living in such physical proximity while being irreconcilably divided by languages ... and yes, costumes.

In response to Qian Lin
Well Qian, I must clarify myself on the dress I was wearing. It was just a long skirt and a top that had no décolleté. So my image was not so outstanding really (another westerner with a long skirt) and I walked like that in all the other three quarters without attracting special attention from anyone. It was really more a surprise for the people who knew me who are not used to see me dressed like this, a sort of costume that could made people think that I'm religious. 
It was the last time I used this skirt and this top together too (otherwise I kept wearing both in other combinations). 
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Latest Post: October 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM
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