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Modesty in Dress and Love of God

Header-Modesty of Dress and the Love of God 
by Luiz Sergio Solimeo

 

“I love vulgarity. Good taste is death, vulgarity is life."1 These words by English fashion designer Mary Quant, who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants, reveal one of the most important, though rarely pointed out, aspects of the “fashion revolution” that started in the sixties: vulgarity.

Indeed, fashions have increasingly tended toward vulgarity. It is a vulgarity that tramples upon not only good taste and decorum but which reflects a mentality opposed to all order and discipline and to every kind of restraint, be it esthetic, moral or social, and which ultimately suggests a completely “liberated” standard of behavior.

1. Are Comfort and Practicality Supreme Criteria?

St Therese, the face of modestyThe rationale for introducing ever shorter skirts was “to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.”2 The notion that comfort, practicality and freedom of movement must be the only criteria for dress has led to a breakdown in the general standard of sobriety and elegance, not to speak of the norms of modesty.

Thus, casual dress, being more comfortable and practical, increasingly becomes the norm regardless of people’s sex, age and circumstances. Jeans and the T-shirt (formerly a piece of underwear) became part of common attire.

Though one can wear less formal clothes at times of leisure, these clothes should not convey the impression that one is abandoning one’s dignity and seriousness. They should not give the idea that one is actually on vacation from one's principles.

In the past, even leisure dress, though more comfortable, maintained the dignity that one should never abandon.

It is curious to note that many companies require employees to wear business suits to convey an image of seriousness and responsibility. This is proof that clothes do transmit a message. They can express seriousness and responsibility or on the other hand, immaturity and a carelessness.


2. Unisex Garb

The premise that comfort and practicality must preside over the choice of clothes had yet another consequence: clothes no longer reflect one's identity. In other words, they no longer indicate a person’s social position, profession, or even more fundamental characteristics such as sex and age.

Thus, unisex garb has become widespread: jeans and shorts have come to be worn by people of both sexes and all generations. Young men and women, the youth and the aged, single and married, teachers and students, children and adults, all mix together and wear one and the same clothing which no longer expresses that which they are, think or desire.

Monk3. The Habit Does Not Make the Monk but Identifies Him

One could object that “the habit does not make the monk.” The fact that a person dresses with distinction and elegance does not mean, of itself, that he has good principles and good behavior.

Likewise, the fact that a person always wears casual dress does not necessarily indicate that he has bad principles or a reprehensible conduct. At first sight, the argument appears logical and even obvious. However, analyzed in depth, it does not stand.

True, the habit does not make the monk. Nevertheless, it is a strong element that identifies him. Furthermore, it influences not only the way people look at the monk but the way he looks at himself.

No one will deny that the loss of identity by many nuns and monks that took place over the last forty years was largely due to their shedding the traditional habits, which adequately expressed the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as an ascetic lifestyle proper to consecrated persons.3

 

4. The Need for Coherence Between Dress and Convictions

Given the unity that exists in our tendencies, principles, convictions and behavior, the way we dress cannot fail to influence our mentality.

Wearing a certain type of clothing constitutes a form of behavior; and when clothing no longer adequately reflect our tendencies, principles and convictions, one’s mentality begins to undergo an imperceptible change to remain ‘in sync’ with the way one presents oneself. This is because human reason, by the force of logic inherent in it, naturally seeks to establish consistency between thought and behavior.

This rule is magnificently summed up in the famous phrase of French writer Paul Bourget: "One must live as one thinks, under pain of sooner or later ending up thinking as one has lived."

The process of transformation or erosion of principles can be slowed down or impeded by a person’s religious fervor, deeply rooted tendencies or ideas, and other factors. However, if inconsistency between behavior - reflected in the way one dresses - and one’s principles and convictions is not eliminated, the process of erosion, no matter how slow, becomes inexorable.         “Fashions will much offend Our Lord."  Saint Jacinta Marto

Dress of the Belle Epoque 5. Living Faith, Inadequate Clothing

This subtle erosion is often manifested by a loss of sensitivity regarding the fundamental points of one’s mentality. One example would be the respect one must have for the sacred.

In some way, concessions to the principle that comfort must be the only rule of dress have ended up by giving a casual note to more serious and holy activities. How can one explain, for example, that persons who have true faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and who make admirable sacrifices to frequent perpetual adoration, nevertheless see no contradiction in presenting themselves before the Blessed Sacrament wearing shorts as if they were on a picnic?

The same person who shows up thus dressed for perpetual adoration would never don those clothes for an audience, say, with Queen Elizabeth II. This contradiction shows how, though the person has maintained his faith, to a certain degree the notion of the majesty of the Sacrament of the Altar -- the Real Presence -- has vanished from his soul.


6. Egalitarianism...

There is a general tendency in our times to establish a most radical egalitarianism at all levels of culture and social relations between the sexes, and even, in the tendency of egalitarianianism, between men and animals.4

In dress, this egalitarianism is manifested by the growing proletarianization, the establishment of unisex fashions and the abolition of differences between generations. The same garb can be worn by anybody no matter his position, age or circumstance (e.g. in a trip, a religious or civil ceremony).

Chaos reigns in the domains of fashion today. It is often difficult to distinguish, by their clothes, men from women, parents from children, a religious ceremony from a picnic. Haircuts and hairstyles follow the same tendency to confound age and sex and to break down standards of elegance and good taste.


7. ...That Leads to Infantilization

One of the aspects that stand out the most in the modern dictates of fashion is the desire to create an illusion of eternal youth, even perpetual adolescence with no responsibility, a phenomenon that has been called the “Peter Pan Syndrome."5

Modern fashion shows a tendency to infantilize people. A Brazilian fashion critic thus expressed herself: “For a long time now, we have seen on catwalks, both international and domestic, fashions that should be displayed at the Children’s Expo, such is the level of infantilization they suggest. Stylists over 25 years old were designing (and wearing) clothes that could be worn by children in a day care center.”6


8. Modesty is Essential to Chastity

In addition to the extravagant, egalitarian and infantilizing tendency of modern fashion, one needs to consider the attack on virtue and the complete lack of modesty.

The human body has its beauty, and this beauty attracts us. Due to the disorder which Original Sin left in man, the disorder of concupiscence, the delight in contemplating bodily beauty, and particularly of the feminine body can lead to temptation and sin.

That is not to say that some parts of the body are good and can be shown and others are bad and must be covered. Such a statement is absurd and was never part of Church doctrine. All parts of the body are good, for the body is good as a whole, having been created by God. However, not all body parts are equal, and some excite the sexual appetite more than others. Thus, exposing those parts through semi-nudity or risqué low cut dresses or wearing clothes so tight as to accentuate one’s anatomy poses a grave risk of causing excitation, particularly in men in relation to women.

Therefore, clothes must cover that which must be covered and make stand out that which can be emphasized. To cover a woman’s face, like Muslims do, shows well the lack of equilibrium of a religion that does not understand true human dignity. The face, the noblest part of the body because it more perfectly reflects the spiritual soul, is precisely the part that stands out the most in the traditional habits of nuns.

Just as masculine clothes should emphasize the manly aspect proper to man, feminine fashion should manifest grace and delicacy. And in this sense, having longer hair is a natural adornment to frame a woman’s face.


9. Immorality in Fashions and Destruction of the Family

Garb that does not show a person’s self-respect as an intelligent and free being (and, through baptism, as a son or daughter of God and a temple of the Holy Ghost), contributes to a large extent to the present destruction of the family. It does this by favoring temptations against purity. It also does this by its vulgarity and childishness that corrodes the notion of the seriousness of life and the need for ascesis (self-discipline), all of which are fundamental elements that maintain family cohesion and stability.

The struggle for the restoration of the family by opposing abortion, contraception, and homosexuality will be much more effective if done together with efforts to restore sobriety, modesty and elegance in dress.

“Fashions will much offend Our Lord." Saint Jacinta Marto


10. Dress and the Love of God

The role of clothing is not only to protect the body from the elements but also to serve as adornment and symbolize someone’s functions, characteristics and mentality. Garb must be not only dignified and decent but also as beautiful and elegant as possible (which requires more good taste than money).

If the “way of beauty” leads us to God by seeing Him as the exemplary cause of Creation, the “way of ugliness” turns us away from the Creator and places us on the slippery slope of sin. That is why ugliness is the very symbol of sin and is so well expressed by the expression “ugly as sin.”


Footnotes:

1. Mary Quant talks to Alison Adburgham, Tuesday, October 10, 1967, https://century.guardian.co.uk/1960-1969/Story/0,6051,106475,00.html.[back to article]
2. Cf., https://www.spiritus-temporis.com/mary-quant/ [back to article]
3. Fortunately, for some time now there has been a wholesome reaction against the abandonment of the traditional habit, a fact that has brought an increase in the number of vocations. According to a recently published book, “communities of sisters whose members wear an identifiable religious habit” are the most flourishing and attract young women the most. (Book says young women attracted to orders whose members wear habits, CNS, https://www.catholicnews.com/data/briefs/cns/20090526.htm). [back to article]
4. Cf. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, https://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/books/ [back to article]
5. Cf. Dr. Dan Kiley, The Peter Pan Syndrome - Men Who Have Never Grown Up, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1983. [back to article]
6. Gloria Kalil, Os kidults e a moda Alô Chics! [back to article]

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 5, 2020

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do...

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July 5

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegiti...

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St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth of Portugal known as “The Holy Queen” was born Isabel of Aragon in Zaragoza, Spain, the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon and Queen Constanza of Naples. She was named after her great aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

From childhood, having received a most Christian upbringing, she learned to practice self-discipline, mortification of wayward tendencies, the avoidance of sin and the pursuit of virtue, prayer and union with God’s holy will.

Beautiful, talented and good, she was sought in marriage by several European monarchs, and was ultimately betrothed by proxy at the age of thirteen to King Dinis of Portugal.

A year and a half later she arrived in Portugal to assume her responsibilities as queen. Although he was an able ruler, her husband had an irate temper and sinful habits. While he respected and revered his queen, he was unfaithful to her and had several illegitimate children.

Elizabeth bore the conjugal betrayal with exquisite patience and heroic magnanimity, praying continuously for her wayward spouse. She and Dinis had two children: Constanza and Alfonso.

The young queen started her day with Mass and prayer, and then proceeded to see to the governance of her palace. In the free moments she sewed and embroidered with her ladies for the poor, and personally tended to their needs. Afternoons were dedicated to the care of the elderly, the poor or anyone else in want.

Amazingly talented, Elizabeth mastered several languages, sang beautifully, and enjoyed a remarkable understanding of engineering and architecture. She herself designed and oversaw the building of several churches, monasteries and hospitals, developing her own “Elizabethan Style.”

One day while inspecting a construction site, a girl approached and gave her a bouquet of flowers. The queen then distributed the flowers, one to each of the workers saying: “Let’s see if today you will work hard and well for this pay.” The men reverently placed their flower each in his own satchel, only to find, at the end of the day, a gold coin in place of the flower.

In her city Elizabeth built hostels for the poor, a hospital, a house for repentant wayward women, a free school for girls, and a hospice for abandoned children. She built bridges in dangerous places, visited and procured doctors for the ill, and endowed poor girls for the convent or for marriage. She kept a beautiful tiara and wedding dress to lend to poor brides so they could “shine” or their special day. Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegitimate children.

A great devotee of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy centuries before the dogma was declared; she obtained from the bishop of Coimbra the establishment of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, which was afterwards observed with great solemnity throughout the whole country.

A constant peacemaker, the holy queen ironed out many a conflict between bellicose rulers and nobles. Twice she reconciled her husband and son, on one occasion, even interposing her person between them in the battlefield.
In the end, Dinis died a most repentant man. In one of his poems he left his ultimate tribute to his ultimate queen:

God made you without peer
In goodness of heart and speech
As your equal does not exist,
My love, my lady, I thus sing:
Had God so wished,
You’d made a great king.  

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth took the habit of a Franciscan Tertiary and retired near a convent of Poor Clares which she had built, dedicating herself to the sick and the poor.

The saintly queen died at age sixty-five invoking Our Lady, and was canonized in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII who had vowed not to canonize anyone during his pontificate. He made the exception for Elizabeth at being promptly healed of a serious illness after praying to her.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. N...

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A Young Man and His Lady Love

In twelfth century England, a group of young men had gathered and were bragging of their various feats, as young men have done since the beginning of time.

The lively conversation went from archery to sword fighting to horsemanship, each trying to outdo the accomplishments of the others.

Finally, the young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

Thomas of Canterbury meant the most holy Virgin as the object of his affection, but afterwards, he felt some remorse at having made this boast. He did not want to offend his beloved Lady in any way.

Seeing all from her throne in heaven, Mary appeared to him in his trouble, and with a gracious sweetness said to him: "Thomas, what do you fear? You had reason to say that you loved me, and that you are beloved by me. Assure your companions of this, and as a pledge of the love I bear you, show them this gift that I make you."

The gift was a small box, containing a chasuble, blood-red in color. Mary, for the love she bore him, had obtained for him the grace to be a priest and a martyr, which indeed happened, for he was first made priest and afterwards Bishop of Canterbury, in England.

Many years later, he would indeed be persecuted by the king, and Thomas fled to the Cistercian monastery at Pontignac, in France.

Far from kith and kin, but never far from his Lady Love, he was attempting to mend his hair-cloth shirt that he usually wore and had ripped. Not being able to do it well, his beloved queen appeared to him, and, with special kindness, took the haircloth from his hand, and repaired it as it should be done.

After this, at the age of 50, he returned to Canterbury and died a martyr, having been put to death on account of his zeal for the Church.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

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