Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Controversy of Modest Clothing

A new series by CNN will compare those who advocate Christian modesty to the Taliban. (Via Pewsitter)

Meanwhile, the New Oxford Review offers some fascinating reflections on the importance of certain kinds of attire. To quote:

We can learn from this: If we want our sons to be masculine, we should dress them like boys. If we want our daughters to be feminine, devoted to motherhood and the other ways in which the maternal expresses itself, let us buy feminine clothing for them. There are times for jeans and sweatpants, but pretty dresses should have more than occasional use. One of the benefits of school uniforms is that for the most part girls wear skirts.

Another issue, though less important, is age-appropriateness. The 1950s saw the beginning of a revolution in the clothing industry, according to fashion historian Elizabeth Ewing, namely, "an explicit breakaway movement into fashions which effervesced out of the ideas of youth." In the 1960s this trend intensified as British designer Mary Quant and other fashion purveyors on both sides of the Atlantic created miniskirts. These dresses were saucy, immodest, coquettish, and above all, frivolous. All of a sudden, clothes became instruments to express independence, freedom, the gaiety of youth without responsibility, an insouciance with no care for the morrow, and sexual availability.

Since this was the age of the sexual revolution, younger women spent money on apparel that a generation earlier would have gone to supporting children. Such contraceptive clothing has since been a hallmark of our age -- garments acquired in great disproportion to actual need by those who have no children, or only one or two. These women also permit their 10-year-old daughters to dress like prostitutes -- and at times they themselves dress like their 10-year-old daughters. In her quest for eternal youth, the modern woman appears rather pathetic, the more so as she advances in years. Why not age with dignity? In his previously cited address to the Latin Union of High Fashion, Pope Pius XII comments that "those of mature age seek to obtain from appropriate clothing an aura of dignity, seriousness, and serene happiness." If this sounds unfamiliar, it may be because our age has dismissed dignity as irrelevant to the all-important search for personal fulfillment. Frivolity and its frequent successor, depression, leave little room for seriousness and serenity.



I would also like to point out that there is nothing wrong with being pretty, and wearing make-up, if it helps. Genevieve discusses this on the Feminine Genius blog. A married woman should not look like a nun. Christian modesty does not mean being drab. And if a young lady wants to find a husband, it is certainly within the bounds of morality to dress with restrained style and make oneself attractive. No normal man wants to go to bed with a nun, for heaven's sake.
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10 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

I was going to do a post on this - I'll save it for later - good post though!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks! Can't wait to see your post, Terry.

Anonymous said...

Do your comments extend to what we wear at the liturgy as well? As for me, I cannot wear slacks to service, nor will I enter the church without a hat. It just seems impious to me to flout tradition so.

If we are "honest to God", then, do you agree that we should avoid androgynous clothing in the church, at least? God did not create us unisex, after all!

You may be interested to know that one of our bishops (Archbishop Vikenty of Yekaterinburg) feels that women should not wear slacks at all. Do you find his views extreme? Or, do you find them a refreshing defense of tradition? (I shall admit a mixed response, myself)

When the diocese bought a television station, a new dress code for female employees was issued, and slacks were banned outright, even for the technical personnel. There was protest, but the bishop's wishes prevailed.

All in all, thought-provoking, no matter where we fall on the spectrum.

Vara

elena maria vidal said...

It is interesting that in 1960 Cardinal Siri wrote a treatise about masculine attire (slacks) for women, saying that if women destroy the symbol of the feminine image by dressing like men, then the relationship of sexes would be severely damaged. I have the treatise around here somewhere.

elena maria vidal said...

Here is the post I have written on this topic, with some quotes from Cardinal Siri.


http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/03/slacks-vs-dresses.html

Lucille said...

No normal man wants to go to bed with a nun, for heaven's sake.

Martin Luther comes to mind...

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, he does. And Luther was no damn good.....

Dymphna said...

Thank you for posting this. I love my plain Catholic sisters but I wonder how much good they are doing their marriages. I prefer to heed the advice of St. Elizabeth of Hungary who pointed out that married women should make an effort to look good.

elena maria vidal said...

St Thomas Aquinas said something along the same lines.

Alexandra said...

I used to work for the court system, and you did NOT show up in court with slacks if you were a female. We were sent home to change if we had slacks. It was a sign of respect to dress appropriately(skirt or dress)for court which I think should certainly extend to church as well.

I still wear skirts and dresses, maybe out of habit, but mostly because I look better in them. Skirts and dresses are very forgiving of curves, and momma figures. ;)