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CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XI.—On Clothes.
Chapter XI. 1518 —On Clothes.
Wherefore neither are we to provide for ourselves costly clothing any more than variety of food. The Lord Himself, therefore, dividing His precepts into what relates to the body, the soul, and thirdly, external things, counsels us to provide external things on account of the body; and manages the body by the soul (ψυκή), and disciplines the soul, saying, “Take no thought for your life (ψυκῆ) what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on; for the life is more than meat, and the body more than raiment.” 1519 And He adds a plain example of instruction: “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them.” 1520 “Are ye not better than the fowls?” 1521 Thus far as to food. Similarly He enjoins with respect to clothing, which belongs to the third division, that of things external, saying, “Consider the lilies, how they spin not, nor weave. But I say unto you, that p. 264 not even Solomon was arrayed as one of these.”” 1522 And Solomon the king plumed himself exceedingly on his riches.
What, I ask, more graceful, more gay-coloured, than flowers? What, I say, more delightful than lilies or roses? “And if God so clothe the grass, which is to-day in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith!” 1523 Here the particle what (τί) banishes variety in food. For this is shown from the Scripture, “Take no thought what things ye shall eat, or what things ye shall drink.” For to take thought of these things argues greed and luxury. Now eating, considered merely by itself, is the sign of necessity; repletion, as we have said, of want. Whatever is beyond that, is the sign of superfluity. And what is superfluous, Scripture declares to be of the devil. The subjoined expression makes the meaning plain. For having said, “Seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink,” He added, “Neither be ye of doubtful (or lofty) 1524 mind.” Now pride and luxury make men waverers (or raise them aloft) from the truth; and the voluptuousness, which indulges in superfluities, leads away from the truth. Wherefore He says very beautifully, “And all these things do the nations of the world seek after.” 1525 The nations are the dissolute and the foolish. And what are these things which He specifies? Luxury, voluptuousness, rich cooking, dainty feeding, gluttony. These are the “What?” And of bare sustenance, dry and moist, as being necessaries, He says, “Your Father knoweth that ye need these.” And if, in a word, we are naturally given to seeking, let us not destroy the faculty of seeking by directing it to luxury, but let us excite it to the discovery of truth. For He says, “Seek ye the kingdom of God, and the materials of sustenance shall be added to you.”
If, then, He takes away anxious care for clothes and food, and superfluities in general, as unnecessary; what are we to imagine ought to be said of love of ornament, and dyeing of wool, and variety of colours, and fastidiousness about gems, and exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls; and furthermore, of staining the eyes, and plucking out hairs, and painting with rouge and white lead, and dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions? May we not very well suspect, that what was quoted a little above respecting the grass, has been said of those unornamental lovers of ornaments? For the field is the world, and we who are bedewed by the grace of God are the grass; and though cut down, we spring up again, as will be shown at greater length in the book On the Resurrection. But hay figuratively designates the vulgar rabble, attached to ephemeral pleasure, flourishing for a little, loving ornament, loving praise, and being everything but truth-loving, good for nothing but to be burned with fire. “There was a certain man,” said the Lord, narrating, “very rich, who was clothed in purple and scarlet, enjoying himself splendidly every day.” This was the hay. “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at the rich mans gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs which fell from the rich mans table.” This is the grass. Well, the rich man was punished in Hades, being made partaker of the fire; while the other flourished again in the Fathers bosom. I admire that ancient city of the Lacedæmonians which permitted harlots alone to wear flowered clothes, and ornaments of gold, interdicting respectable women from love of ornament, and allowing courtesans alone to deck themselves. On the other hand, the archons of the Athenians, who affected a polished mode of life, forgetting their manhood, wore tunics reaching to the feet, and had on the crobulus—a kind of knot of the hair—adorned with a fastening of gold grasshoppers, to show their origin from the soil, forsooth, in the ostentation of licentiousness. Now rivalry of these archons extended also to the other Ionians, whom Homer, to show their effeminancy, calls “Long-robed.” Those, therefore, who are devoted to the image of the beautiful, that is, love of finery, not the beautiful itself, and who under a fair name again practice idolatry, are to be banished far from the truth, as those who by opinion, 1526 not knowledge, dream of the nature of the beautiful; and so life here is to them only a deep sleep of ignorance; from which it becomes us to rouse ourselves and haste to that which is truly beautiful and comely, and desire to grasp this alone, leaving the ornaments of earth to the world, and bidding them farewell before we fall quite asleep. I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defence against excess of cold and intensity of heat, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the object of clothing, see that one kind be not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. The necessity, then, being common, we judge that the provision ought to be similar. For as it is common to both to require things to cover them, so also their coverings ought to be similar; although such a covering ought to be assumed p. 265 as is requisite for covering the eyes of women. For if the female sex, on account of their weakness, desire more, we ought to blame the habit of that evil training, by which often men reared up in bad habits become more effeminate than women. But this must not be yielded to. And if some accommodation is to be made, they may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they put out of the way fabrics foolishly thin, and of curious texture in weaving; bidding farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks and elaborate Bombyces (silks), which is at first a worm, then from it is produced a hairy caterpillar; after which the creature suffers a new transformation into a third form which they call larva, from which a long filament is produced, as the spiders thread from the spider. For these superfluous and diaphanous materials are the proof of a weak mind, covering as they do the shame of the body with a slender veil. For luxurious clothing, which cannot conceal the shape of the body, is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily, and adhering as it were to the flesh, receives its shape, and marks out the womans figure, so that the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, though not seeing the body itself. 1527
Dyeing of clothes is also to be rejected. For it is remote both from necessity and truth, in addition to the fact that reproach in manners spring from it. 1528 For the use of colours is not beneficial, for they are of no service against cold; nor has it anything for covering more than other clothing, except the opprobrium alone. And the agreeableness of the colour afflicts greedy eyes, inflaming them to senseless blindness. But for those who are white and unstained within, it is most suitable to use white and simple garments. Clearly and plainly, therefore, Daniel the prophet says, “Thrones were set, and upon them sat one like the Ancient of days, and His vesture was white as snow.” 1529 The Apocalypse says also that the Lord Himself appeared wearing such a robe. It says also, “I saw the souls of those that had witnessed, beneath the altar, and there was given to each a white robe.” 1530 And if it were necessary to seek for any other colour, the natural colour of truth should suffice. 1531 But garments which are like flowers are to be abandoned to Bacchic fooleries, and to those of the rites of initiation, along with purple and silver plate, as the comic poet says:—“Useful for tragedians, not far life.”
And our life ought to be anything rather than a pageant. Therefore the dye of Sardis, and another of olive, and another green, a rose-coloured, and scarlet, and ten thousand other dyes, have been invented with much trouble for mischievous voluptuousness. Such clothing is for looking at, not for covering. Garments, too, variegated with gold, and those that are purple, and that piece of luxury which has its name from beasts (figured on it), and that saffron-coloured ointment-dipped robe, and those costly and many-coloured garments of flaring membranes, we are to bid farewell to, with the art itself. “For what prudent thing can these women have done,” says the comedy, “who sit covered with flowers, wearing a saffron-coloured dress, 1532 painted?”
The Instructor expressly admonishes, “Boast not of the clothing of your garment, and be not elated on account of any glory, as it is unlawful.” 1533
Accordingly, deriding those who are clothed in luxurious garments, He says in the Gospel: “Lo, they who live in gorgeous apparel and luxury are in earthly palaces.” 1534 He says in perishable palaces, where are love of display, love of popularity, and flattery and deceit. But those that wait at the court of heaven around the King of all, are sanctified in the immortal vesture of the Spirit, that is, the flesh, and so put on incorruptibility.
As therefore she who is unmarried devotes herself to God alone, and her care is not divided, but the chaste married woman divides her life between God and her husband, while she who is otherwise disposed is devoted entirely to marriage, that is, to passion: in the same way I think the chaste wife, when she devotes herself to her husband, sincerely serves God; but when she becomes fond of finery, she falls away from God and from chaste wedlock, exchanging her husband for the world, after the fashion of that Argive courtesan, I mean Eriphyle,—“Who received gold prized above her dear husband.”
Wherefore I admire the Ceian sophist, 1535 who delineated like and suitable images of Virtue and Vice, representing the former of these, viz. Virtue, standing simply, white-robed and pure, adorned with modesty alone (for such ought to be the true wife, dowered with modesty). But the other, viz. Vice, on the contrary, he introduces dressed in superfluous attire, brightened up with colour not her own; and her gait and mien are depicted as studiously framed to give pleasure, forming a sketch of wanton women.
But he who follows the Word will not addict p. 266 himself to any base pleasure; wherefore also what is useful in the article of dress is to be preferred. And if the Word, speaking of the Lord by David, sings, “The daughters of kings made Thee glad by honour; the queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in cloth of gold, girt with golden fringes,” it is not luxurious raiment that he indicates; but he shows the immortal adornment, woven of faith, of those that have found mercy, that is, the Church; in which the guileless Jesus shines conspicuous as gold, and the elect are the golden tassels. And if such must be woven 1536 for the women, let us weave apparel pleasant and soft to the touch, not flowered, like pictures, to delight the eye. For the picture fades in course of time, and the washing and steeping in the medicated juices of the dye wear away the wool, and render the fabrics of the garments weak; and this is not favourable to economy. It is the height of foolish ostentation to be in a flutter about peploi, and xystides, and ephaptides, 1537 and “cloaks,” and tunics, and “what covers shame,” says Homer. For, in truth, I am ashamed when I see so much wealth lavished on the covering of the nakedness. For primeval man in Paradise provided a covering for his shame of branches and leaves; and now, since sheep have been created for us, let us not be as silly as sheep, but trained by the Word, let us condemn sumptuousness of clothing, saying, “Ye are sheeps wool.” Though Miletus boast, and Italy be praised, and the wool, about which many rave, be protected beneath skins, 1538 yet are we not to set our hearts on it.
The blessed John, despising the locks of sheep as savouring of luxury, chose “camels hair,” and was clad in it, making himself an example of frugality and simplicity of life. For he also “ate locusts and wild honey,” 1539 sweet and spiritual fare; preparing, as he was, the lowly and chaste ways of the Lord. For how possibly could he have worn a purple robe, who turned away from the pomp of cities, and retired to the solitude of the desert, to live in calmness with God, far from all frivolous pursuits—from all false show of good—from all meanness? Elias used a sheepskin mantle, and fastened the sheepskin with a girdle made of hair. 1540 And Esaias, another prophet, was naked and barefooted, 1541 and often was clad in sackcloth, the garb of humility. And if you call Jeremiah, he had only “a linen girdle.” 1542
For as well-nurtured bodies, when stripped, show their vigour more manifestly, so also beauty of character shows its magnanimity, when not involved in ostentatious fooleries. But to drag ones clothes, letting them down to the soles of his feet, is a piece of consummate foppery, impeding activity in walking, the garment sweeping the surface dirt of the ground like a broom; since even those emasculated creatures the dancers, who transfer their dumb shameless profligacy to the stage, do not despise the dress which flows away to such indignity; whose curious vestments, and appendages of fringes, and elaborate motions of figures, show the trailing of sordid effeminacy. 1543
If one should adduce the garment of the Lord reaching down to the foot, that many-flowered coat 1544 shows the flowers of wisdom, the varied and unfading Scriptures, the oracles of the Lord, resplendent with the rays of truth. In such another robe the Spirit arrayed the Lord through David, when he sang thus: “Thou wert clothed with confession and comeliness, putting on light as a garment.” 1545
As, then, in the fashioning of our clothes, we must keep clear of all strangeness, so in the use of them we must beware of extravagance. For neither is it seemly for the clothes to be above the knee, as they say was the case with the Lacedæmonian virgins; 1546 nor is it becoming for any part of a woman to be exposed. Though you may with great propriety use the language addressed to him who said, “Your arm is beautiful; yes, but it is not for the public gaze. Your thighs are beautiful; but, was the reply, for my husband alone. And your face is comely. Yes; but only for him who has married me.” But I do not wish chaste women to afford cause for such praises to those who, by praises, hunt after grounds of censure; and not only because it is prohibited to expose the ankle, but because it has also been enjoined that the head should be veiled and the face covered; for it is a wicked thing for beauty to be a snare to men. Nor is it seemly for a woman to wish to make herself conspicuous, by using a purple veil. Would it were possible to abolish purple in dress, so as not to turn the eyes of spectators on the face of those that wear it! But the women, in the manufacture of all the rest of their dress, have made everything of purple, thus inflaming the lusts. And, in truth, those women who are crazy p. 267 about these stupid and luxurious purples, “purple (dark) death has seized,” 1547 according to the poetic saying. On account of this purple, then, Tyre and Sidon, and the vicinity of the Lacedæmonian Sea, are very much desired; and their dyers and purple-fishers, and the purple fishes themselves, because their blood produces purple, are held in high esteem. But crafty women and effeminate men, who blend these deceptive dyes with dainty fabrics, carry their insane desires beyond all bounds, and export their fine linens no longer from Egypt, but some other kinds from the land of the Hebrews and the Cilicians. I say nothing of the linens made of Amorgos 1548 and Byssus. Luxury has outstripped nomenclature.
The covering ought, in my judgment, to show that which is covered to be better than itself, as the image is superior to the temple, the soul to the body, and the body to the clothes. 1549 But now, quite the contrary, the body of these ladies, if sold, would never fetch a thousand Attic drachms. Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Why in the world do you seek after what is rare and costly, in preference to what is at hand and cheap? It is because you know not what is really beautiful, what is really good, and seek with eagerness shows instead of realities from fools who, like people out of their wits, imagine black to be white.
Chap. xi. is not a separate chapter in the Greek, but appears as part of chap. x.263:1519
Luke 12:22, 23.263:1520
Luke xii. 24.263:1521
Luke xii. 24.264:1522
Luke xii. 27.264:1523
Luke xii. 28.264:1524
Matt. vi. 32.264:1526
Clement uses here Platonic language, δόξα meaning opinion established on no scientific basis, which may be true or may be false, and ἐπιστήμη knowledge sure and certain, because based on the reasons of things.265:1527
[Martial, Epigrams, passim.]265:1528
[The reproach and opprobrium of foppery.]265:1529
Dan. vii. 9.265:1530
Rev. 6:9, 11.265:1531
[This refers to the natural tint of unbleached linen, or to wool not whitened by the art of the fuller. Hermas speaks of “pure undressed linen.” Book iii. 4, p. 40, supra.]265:1532
[The colour (probably, for mss. differ) reprehended as the dress of the false shepherd in Hermas. See note 10, book iii. Simil. 6. cap. ii. p. 36, this volume.]265:1533
Ecclus. xi. 4.265:1534
Luke vii. 25.265:1535
Prodicus, of the island Ceus.266:1536
Or by a conjectural emendation of the text, “If in this we must relax somewhat in the case of women.”266:1537
Various kinds of robes. [The peplus, or shawl of fine wool, seems to be specified in condemning the boast below, which asserts real wool and no imitation.]266:1538
Alluding to the practice of covering the fleeces of sheep with skins, when the wool was very fine, to prevent it being soiled by exposure.266:1539
Mark i. 6.266:1540
2 Kings i. 8.266:1541
Isa. xx. 2.266:1542
Jer. xiii. 1.266:1543
[The bearing of this chapter on ecclesiastical vestments must be evident. It is wholly inconsistent with aught but very simple attire in public worship; and rebukes even the fashionable costumes of women and much of our mediæval æstheticism, with primitive severity. On the whole subject, see the Vestiarium Christianum of the Rev. Wharton B. Marriott. London, Rivingtons, 1868.]266:1544
[Based upon the idea that Josephs coat of many colours, which was afterwards dipped in blood, was a symbol of our Lords raiment, on which lots were cast.]266:1545
Ps. civ. 2.266:1546
[Womens tunics tucked up to give freedom to the knee, are familiar objects in ancient art.]267:1547
Iliad, v. 83.267:1548
Flax grown in the island of Amorgos.267:1549
[Matt. vi. 25.]
Next: Chap. XII.—On Shoes.
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