Monday, June 29, 2009

Mode of Dress

One comment on my previous post, "Bikini Builders," asked me to explain the following statement:

"Overall, my appearance is important to me, as I believe a put-together and at least somewhat stylish mode of dress is an important part of my witness as a Christian wife and mother."

I realize that there are a number of Christians who do not agree with me. The prominence of the one-size-fits-all jean jumper and floral print prairie dress in church circles are evidence of this fact. If you don't know what I am talking about, just attend a homeschool conference and you will see the wide gamut of interesting dress choices among Catholic mothers and their young daughters.

Dressing without concern for modern style or beauty greatly diminishes our ability to impact the world for Christ. Unlike a nun, who wears a habit to separate herself from the world, we are called to live in the world. We are called to be an example of holy, Christian living and our family is called to be an example of a holy, Christian family. Our bodies speak a language to others, and the way we dress ourselves and our children is our first statement to the world. In many instances, it may be the only statement we can make.

St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, makes this point in a far more eloquent manner--
I believe You should dress in accordance with the demands of your social standing, your family background, your work... as your companions do, but to please God: eager to present a genuine and attractive image of true Christian living. Do everything with naturalness, without being extravagant. I can assure you that in this matter it is better to err on the side of excess than to fall short. How do you think Our Lord dressed? Haven't you pictured to yourself the dignity with which he wore his seamless cloak which had probably been woven for him by Our Lady? Don't you remember how, in Simon's house, he was grieved because he had not been offered water to wash his hands before taking his place at the table? No doubt he drew attention to this example of bad manners to underline his teaching that love is shown in little details. But he also wants to make it clear that he stands by the social customs of his time, and therefore you and I must make an effort to be detached from the goods and comforts of the world, but without doing anything that looks odd or peculiar. (emphasis mine)

As Christian mothers, we must strike the difficult balance of detachment from worldly goods and yet presenting ourselves in a manner that is appropriate for our state in life. At a very basic level this means you should shower and make your hair presentable before leaving the house! Most of us will also need to own some formal dresses and jewelry. When we have a playdate with a friend or run to the grocery store, we should dress in manner that is appropriate for a casual gathering (for example modern slacks/jeans/fitted tops). Wearing a floor length floral print dress to the supermarket or a playdate at a local friends house would strike most as odd or peculiar. In general, our goal should be to dress in a manner that respects our femininity and beauty, but at the same time does not draw attention to our appearance. Dressing like we live in the Victorian era, not making time to shower, and/or pulling our unkempt hair up in an 80's style banana clip, are not likely to inspire others to follow Christ. We live in a secular world. If you want your faith and your values to be listened to, respected, and taken seriously, it helps significantly to dress the part.

In addition to our duty to present Christ to the world, we have an additional duty to take care of our appearance for our husband. St. Josemaria Escriva, in advising married couples, reminds wives of the following:

Another important thing is personal appearance. And I would say that any priest who says the contrary is a bad adviser. As years go by a woman who lives in the world has to take more care not only of her interior life, but also of her looks. Her interior life itself requires her to be careful about her personal appearance; naturally this should always be in keeping with her age and circumstances. I often say jokingly that older facades need more restoration. It is the advice of a priest. An old Spanish saying goes: 'A well-groomed woman keeps her husband away from other doors.'

I realize this may sound very harsh but there is great wisdom and truth in St. Josemaria Escriva's words. I can think of countless women, myself included, who neglect their appearance and think little of how this affects their husbands. Whether it be through excessive weight gain, not taking the time to shower, or regularly wearing sweatpants, many of us neglect our appearance and forget that this has an effect on our marriage. When we love someone, we should want to look nice for them, do our hair, wear a little make-up, and dress in an attractive manner. Love is in the details. It is amazing how a little attention to detail can go a long way toward growing a happy and joy filled marriage.


sophie said...

This is a very well done post, Red, I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer.

This is a subject I've put a lot of thought into, but still have many debates with myself about it.

Specifically make-up...I hate the double standard that this is expected of women in our society but yet I see the point about using the cultural standards.

The one decision I have made since marriage is to not wear earrings anymore. It is a standard for women these days, but I just keep getting this nagging feeling that there's something just wrong about punching a hole in my skin so I can call someone's attention to my body.

Anyway, I think there's a lot here to ponder on for women for it could be a difficult balance to "be careful about her appearance" and act out of vanity.

Mary Alice said...

So, perhaps it is a matter of geography, or not attending enough homeschooling conferences, but I have not really come across the denim jumper look in person.

For me, the struggle has more to do with effort -- there are days when it is tempting to stay in sweats, I definitely don't wear make up most days, and with fluctuations of nursing and pregnancy, I find that I have wardrobes in various sizes but usually nothing that fits!

I find myself agreeing with you, in theory, Red, and yet find that the logistics of "taking care of myself" are quite difficult, and this goes beyond appearance to include things like doctors appointments -- between OB and pediatrician, it seems like I am often at the doctor, but my own needs (dermatologist, dentist) don't make the priority list, time wise or financially.

Jennifer Frey said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond; an interesting and thoughtful post I disagree with you about makeup; so far as I can tell it is a sign of vanity, and sets a bad example for our daughters. Personally, I think I am beautiful enough without it; and culturally speaking, Christian women used to be united in believing that make up was only for prostitutes (the cosmetics industry spent billions trying to change our minds about that one!) Also, I should note that it was my husband who talked me out of wearing makeup. He was the one who finally convinced me that I was beautiful just as I was, and that I don't need to cover up my face in paint to be attractive.

I do agree with the main thread of what you are saying here though, but I wonder if next time you could match these thoughts up to your previous post on modesty. For many Catholic women, "modern dress" of course, conflicts with modesty, which is why, as I mentioned last time, they would never set foot on a beach in any bathing suit, or run in a marathon, etc.

Jennifer Frey said...

Just to be clear, I am not against modern dress (or beaches, or marathons), but I know many, many women who are, and like I said, I think that they are the women who really take modesty seriously. I don't take it very seriously--I'm OK with form fitting clothes, elbows, knees, and everything that shows on the beach. I'm just not sure that those of us who want to fit (as I do) in can claim the mantle of modesty, that's all...

Amy P. said...

I agree with you that women need to take care of themselves. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is only fitting that we take care of this temple that God has given us. I have a simple long hair do, wear virtually no makeup, and am letting my hair go gray naturally. My husband loves the way I look. He has encouraged me to look the way I do now. He thinks I am beautiful. The latest hairstyle, makeup, jewelrey is not appealing to every man or woman.

But I think you are being very judgemental on women who you feel are not dressed fashionably. Who's fashion police are they not passing? Yours? The nonChristian world? I do not believe that many of today's styles are church or even Christ-friendly. We know through the Catholic Church that it is wrong to lead others into sin. So what are many women doing by wearing the immodest clothing? You are no exception to this. Your picture on the left shows your cleavage. I do not want to see other women's chest. I do not want my husband seeing other women's breasts! Yet, we see this frequently. Men are men. They are going to glance at it when it is presented to them.

One thing I love about homeschooling my four daughters, ages 13 to 6, is that they never feel that they have to conform to modern standards. They love dressing however they want to as long as it covers. By the way, do you know how hard it is to find clothing for them that is modest? It is very hard.

I really do not think you thought through the example you gave of Jesus. Yes, Jesus did follow the Jewish customs of his time in cleanliness. But Jesus was a poor peasant. He would not have been able to afford to dress with the styles/fashions of that time period. And his cousin, John the Baptist, (a great prophet) certainly did not dress fashionably!

Some of the most holy, Christ-like mothers I know, are the least fashionably. Yet, I am drawn to them because of the light they radiate out. Some of the most fashionably dressed women I know are also some of the meanest.

We are to live in this world but not of this world. So yes, keep yourself neat and clean. But please let us not judge a book by its cover...Jesus did not!

B-Mama said...

Red, this is great stuff and I LOVE your inclusion of St. Josemaria Escriva's thoughts on the matter. They are so enlightening on a subject that is amidst much grey area and left for interpretation by the modern Christian woman. As we've seen even through the handful of comments, how we apply the word "modesty" is very different depending on the person.

I still believe I can be "modest" and stylish at the same time. I can wear skirts at the knee and blouses with puffy sleeves and a slight v-neck and still be modest. I wore this type of outfit to church on Sunday with wedge sandals and pearls and felt very stylish and appropriate for Mass.

My secret to non-materialism with style--I shop at Ann Taylor Loft to take in the styles and then head to Target to buy their imitation clothes. If we have a really nice event coming up, like my husband's work Christmas party or a wedding, I save up/budget in the months before so that I can justify buying something nice and quality for the event. This year, though, I managed to find a beautiful silk skirt on the sale rack for $19. Bonus for me!

B-Mama said...

Before we get any further here, let us remember the words of St. Matthew, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (7:3)

We are here to build one another up in the community of Christ and His Church, not to point fingers.

Katie said...

Thanks for the great post! I have the same issue with jumpers! Before I got married, I thought they were required wear for Catholic Homeschooling Moms.

I totally understand your point about being witnesses to Christ. I think, in modern society, we are judged by our appearance. That may not be true, in our own Catholic, Christian circles, but in society, in general, it is very true. And to be witnesses to the world, the general population, we need follow St Paul's example (I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I Cor:20-23)No, that does not mean that we dress immodestly. But, it means that we dress fashionably, we present ourselves well and take care of ourselves.

I think makeup is a personal choice. I naturally have horrible dark circles under my eyes . . . if I went out without make up, I would look unkept and tired. I do not think it is vain for me to wear makeup. Nor, do I think that someone who does not wear makeup is not taking care of their appearance.

When we take time to take care of our appearance we also show the world that being a mom, particularly a SAHM, you can be fashionable. So many times, women do not want to be moms or stay at home because of the fear that they "lose themselves" . . . by taking care of ourselves we can shed beauty on our vocation. We can show the world that we become more of who God is calling us.

I am working on this myself right now. Since the birth of my third son, I have gained weight. I am now working hard to lose weight. I think it is important for my own well being, my marriage, my kids and my witness to take care of myself, be healthy and look healthy.

Right Said Red said...

Amy P., let us be careful to practice both modesty and charity in this discussion. We cannot sacrifice one virtue at the expense of all others.

Ultimately, I think this is the problem with the style of dress you mentioned Jennifer. The women you suggested seem to value modesty at the expense of evangelization. Both are important, and a balance can be struck--as suggested by B-Mama. Since we have a lay vocation, this is a balance God is asking of us as mothers.

Second, let me say that the the words about Jesus are not my own, they are the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, so I apologize if you do not like his interpretation. There is nothing wrong with wearing inexpensive clothing, as we are not all called to live in high society! The point of the passage is to dress in a way that is fits the customs of your society and your stage in life. Modern dress is important for the reasons he suggested. And let me just add that John the Baptist didn't have a lay vocation to the married life. He was not living "in" the world as we are called to do.

There are plenty of fashionable, modest choices out there. Unfortunately, many women I know choose to sacrifice fashion for modesty,and in doing so they hurt their ability to witness to the non-christian community. We are called to impact the world for Christ, not just live in a bubble in our church or homeschooling community. It is difficult to do this when we look odd or peculiar to those around us.

I am not saying we should judge a book by it's cover but that the world will judge this way--whether we like it or not! St. Josemaria recognized this when he gave his advice, and it is for this reason that I think holy women should rise to the occasion and attempt to put style and modest dress together.

Finally, let me say that when attempting to be fashionable, we must all be careful not to become vain. But this fear of vanity should not prevent us from caring for our appearance. In everything man does, an abuse can enter. One can abuse intelligence, dressing well, and even virtue (by becoming proud at the virtue he practiced), but his is not a reason to abandon these practices. Rather, present a good appearance but be vigilant against vanity.

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen said...

Red, I couldn't agree with you more. I am so sorry to have read the uncharitable comment above. It makes me so sad to see a Catholic woman attack another so viciously.

I have given this topic much, much thought and prayer. The one thing I keep coming back to is modesty. Modesty is not merely about keeping things covered, rather it is more about not standing out, not calling attention to oneself. So, dressing somewhat in conformity with modern fashion is necessary so as not to call undue attention. Also as you said, for some of us (especially those of us who live in areas where fashion is more prevalent), we cannot be witnesses or reveal the light of Christ to anyone if they can't relate to us on the basic level of appearance. I know for me, I would never have had some of the most beautiful conversations (on homeschooling, on my faith, raising children, etc.) I've had with locals, had I not had make-up on or been dressed with fashion in mind. I think geography plays a big part in this - if I lived in the country in Kansas with my family I might be called to dress differently than I am here in Orange County.

At any rate, thank you Red, for addressing a topic Christian women can unnecessarily divide themselves over.

Juris Mater said...

Kristen, I think you hit it right on. Modesty is the cornerstone.

Beyond that, I believe that we can be called by God to different levels of engagement with secular culture. St. Josemaria and Opus Dei have a very "in the world" flare. I always have been most drawn to a more secular apostolate of friendship, and my husband is the same way, but that's an individual calling. We're all called to help bring souls to Christ, but that can take on many different forms, some in more Catholic circles and others more in the world. For all the reasons Red describes, with a more secular aposolate, it is important to blend in, and even take care to show a little extra sparkle (makeup, jewelry, a nice haircut, whatever) that the secular world recognizes as attractive. Otherwise, I think I look to the unchurched, on a first impression, like a victim of my circumstances rather than someone who is thriving living the Christian life.

However, there are just as many people whose apostolate is slightly different, and current fashion matters less. If I were a homeschooling mom whose calling was to build up other homeschooling families, devoting my extra time to planning those events and encouraging other homeschooling mothers, I could dress more traditionally. In fact, dressing "up" might even seem unnecessary, or inappropriate. And there are a million other degrees in between. No reason for us to judge the fashion of others, to the extent that our style corresponds to our particular apostolates (although I never can resist a chance to take a dig at the unfitted denim jumpers).

And as Kristen said, geography and circumstances matter even for secular apostolate. When I was a law student at Notre Dame, I could get away with more casual/less fashionable attire. But now as a growing family in the urban northeast, we have to mind our fashion p's and q's a little more to blend in and make secular friends.

Red, I couldn't agree more about "dressing up" for our husbands. I guess not all husbands appreciate that, judging from the comments, but mine notices every time. It's really good for me to take extra care to look nice for him, too, because it reminds me that our marriage is as much a part of my identity and vocation as my motherhood is. That's really, really, really, really, really important.

(By the way, Kristen, your LOVELY blog has been one of my favorites for years, I thought you were a celebrity and had no idea you and Red were personal friends.)

Jennifer Frey said...

Just to be clear: I did not mean to suggest that wearing makeup is, in and of itself, wrong. What I meant to suggest is the idea that it is necessary or important is not quite right either. And by make-up, I mean eyeshadow, mascara, rouge, lipstick, etc, not powder on your face to cover up dark circles or smooth out lines.

I used to wear makeup all the time; in fact, I wouldn't leave home without it. It wasn't until I met my dear husband that I could see that I was beautiful as God made me. And I don't think the fact that I don't wear makeup hurts/helps me witness to Christ.

Anyway, I really do agree with the main thread of Red's point, and I think the comments here have only underscored my original point of how subjective "modesty" judgments can be. And that's why I think we need to be careful-about women in bikinis, women in makeup, women who are willing to show some cleavage, etc. Many of us are trying the best we can in a culture that is against Christ. We should all remember that!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm Anon4, who posted the original question. Thank you for the post & all the thoughtful comments. I'll certainly think about them. I had written a long response, and my 3 yr. old hit a key that wiped it out ;)

Very briefly, I'd like to say that I'm not a homeschooler and don't belong to a group of traditional families who're effectively a subculture, so I'm always struck by it when folks online seem to associate the Amish look with an ideology or subculture. Maybe that's your experience, but it isn't mine. Just a preference for plainness and comfort at this point in my life; detachment is also a driving virtue in my spiritual life. If I had stayed on the East Coast, it might be different--the point about geography is a good one. It was at Yale that I noticed very many professional women who didn't wear makeup if they didn't feel like it, realized I just didn't want to, and stopped. No secular or religious baggage involved.

In any case, I'd like to add that St. Escriva's remarks are interesting for a different perspective. I've read similar quotes from St. Gianna Molla. But personally, don't feel like I'm called at this time in my life to be actively evangelizing the secular culture. If I did, I think it would be worth balancing detachment/being unselfconscious with the need to present few superficial barriers to folks who'd find superficial things a barrier. St. Escriva and St. Gianna were proposing evangelization, esp. of the professional class & if many of the Builders here identify with this, that's super! I just hope we could please avoid here stereotypes or unnecessary distinctions from those of us with much in common with the Builders, but not currently called to a similar evangelization.

Amy P. said...

I am sorry for offending you, Red. You are right in saying that we can not forgo one virtue for the others. I do apologize for offending you or any one else reading this blog. I am sorry for being a blunt person. It is something I am working on.

I do feel very strongly though about being modest. I did not say it has to be frumpy or ugly. But then everyone has their own sense of what is stylish.

What I am saying is that some of our society's fashions of the day are not really Christian friendly in the terms of modesty. We do need to dress the part in the sense of modesty. You are all right in that we all have different standards of modesty these days. It is very confusing. We just need to continue being the best person the Lord leads us to be in prayer.

Martha said...

I have lived in on near Dallas, TX, all my life. If a grown woman goes out here without any makeup, it's kind of like she had gone out wearing rags after not having showered for 3 days. I am not crazy about that, but that's the way it is. I have been told by many people who have moved here from other states that it is not the same elsewhere. Just wanted to say that yes, geography does make a difference! (And while my husband is not a fan of lots of makeup, I don't want to be the least attractive woman he sees in a day.)
I have many Mexican friends and they all encourage their daughters to dress well, wear appropriate makeup, etc. I have been told that in Spain, people dress much less casually. So perhaps there's a geographic influence on Fr. Escriva's comments as well.

Kat said...

Martha, I can totally relate to what you're saying about living in Texas. We recently moved to Texas, and I do feel that people here are much more concerned with up-to-date, fashionable dress than other places that I've lived - Chicago, Boston, even Atlanta! There are all sorts of in-home parties selling CaBI clothing, make-up, etc., as well as all sorts of home products - Southern Living, monogrammed items. This is also a whole new experience for me - not once was I invited to one such party when living in other big cities. In any case, I'm still getting used to this culture!

Mary Alice, like you, I find it hard to find time to go shopping for clothes or to get to a hair appointment. It's not that I'm so crazy busy, it's just that I don't have time without the kids, and with them it's hard to do these things! I've liked Lands End for precisely this reason - it's much easier to shop from the computer, and I can return to the local Sears if something doesn't fit.

Claire said...

I confess that unlike other readers, I have up until now been unable to articulate my views on dress, and I had hoped that you would help me think through this. Thanks for tackling this question and devoting an entire post to it.

I was hoping for some general principles (because I am lazy, maybe), but now I realize two important things:
#1. each person will have to thoughtfully and prayerfully come to their own decisions, because each person, marriage, culture is different and unique.
#2. although the appearances of others might suggest one thing to me as I observe them from the outside, I cannot assume that I am right in my assumptions.

# 2 came out of your post which I read last night and frankly, I found very shocking. I don't think you realize it, Red, but there is a tone of ridicule within this post, aimed at a very specific group of women. They seem positively irrational for dressing the way they do.
But have you thought that maybe these women are honoring their hard-working husbands by not buying new clothing, especially if the husbands don't earn much? Or maybe some people believe strongly in not buying new (or resale) at all, and rather recycle and re-wear what they already own. Maybe others don't want to buy the latest fashions because they don't want to participate in the economic exploitation of third-world labor. Maybe their husbands begged them never to wear makeup again. Or maybe they just like that style of dress, and it suits their community.
Now, I have watched enough Reality TV to know that it is indeed true that people judge others by their outward appearance. But they are WRONG to do so! In the same way that we Christians must stick up for the rights of the most unwanted and unloved of our society by speaking out against abortion, by refusing to live lavish lifestyles at the expense of the poor, etc. --and the fact that we do this through the witness of our entire lifestyles (which are dramatically changed in the process)---I think that we should not shirk from outward differences, even if it means wearing respectable if slightly faded clothing. We should respect others enough to believe that they can get a glimpse of Real Beauty that is deeper than makeup.
Finally, a lot of people feel virtually enslaved to fashion trends, and enjoy encountering interesting, happy people who are free of such burdens.

Molly said...

Claire, I don't think Red's tone was one of ridicule, but rather her expression of a different philosophy than women who wear floor-length dresses and other outdated styles.

Nor do I think her intention is to suggest that any of us buy clothing we can't afford or constantly dress ourselves from the latest issue of Vogue--she's simply saying that it aids our ability to evangelize if we look, well, modern-but-modest.

I have found this discussion very useful because I think it, combined with the bikini discussion, points out the proper line to walk. For instance, I don't want to wear a bikini, but wearing a swimsuit that covers me from ankle to neck would make me unapproachable. There's a happy medium: wearing a modest, modern one-piece or tankini isn't going to single us out as unapproachably religious (and yes, some secular people who could stand a good conversation might think that way).

Anonymous said...

Hi! Anon4 here again. The last couple of posts made me laugh, because I grew up in central Texas. It's not just that Texans don't leave the house without make-up on. When I was home from college one break & not made up because I wasn't going out that day, my mother (also a native Texan) asked me to put make-up on just to hang around the house!! (Hello? Young women's body-image, anyone?) Let's not even bring up the jean tightness factor or high heels in Texas....LOL!

Even 'though I've been out of Texas 20+ yrs. every now & then I think about it when I'm someplace like a grocery store in the Midwest, where my denim jumper over a t-shirt makes me better dressed than anyone but the store manager.

MargaretJDMom said...


I try to dress as fashionably as I can while being modest. I stay away from the mom sweats, jumpers, baggy clothes. But I don't wear super tight stuff either. I think it is important to be fashionable because it gives more credence to our apostolate. I would argue that we ALL do apostolate just by existing. People are watching you at church, at the grocery store, on your walk, as you cart your kids around. They will look at how you treat your kids, how you look etc. I for one want to make a good impression. So many times when we are out as a family people will come up and tell us that they don't know if they will "try" for another one or whatever....people notice families. It is not about being vain, it is about making a good impression. When you are trying to one up everyone in the minivan line with the latest expensive trend or whatever then you've got a problem. You don't have to wear name brands etc., it is about fitting in. I think it can almost be sort of prideful to want to stick out too much on issues where we can "blend in".

Anyway, regarding the expense of keeping up to date, you don't have to spend a ton of money doing it. I find fun jewlery works really well for that. I can get some cute stuff on clearance and wear it with all classic pants/tops/skirts, but it instantly modernizes them. And of course the best accessory for a catholic mom is a smile. I think St. Josemaria said something about that somewhere too!

Juris Mater said...

Are there any long skirt wearers who are willing to explain why it's preferable to wear loose-fitting floor-length skirts and loose-fitting tops, assuming that the cost and time it takes to acquire non-revealing, more modern clothes is the same? Like could you take it from the top for us? If you dress that way, you're making a choice to do so. It's unlikely that those just happen to be the clothes you've picked up as hand-me-downs from friends or at yardsales, because those types of clothes are often more difficult to find than modern clothes. I don't think we've gotten a thorough, positive explanation of that, since that position has been on the defensive. That would be really helpful for me. I know there must some cohesive argument for it that lots of people agree with, since that's certainly the Catholic homeschool mom "uniform".

Marcy K. said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. I remember reading a comment from Billy Graham that said much the same as St. Josemaria. You are trying to attract people to Christianity and you want it to look attractive and not turn people off. That means trying to look decent (reasonably groomed, clean, modest but stylish clothes.)

It is very easy to run out in sweatpants, needing a shower, with a poor attitude and not carrying yourself with dignity. I struggle with that too. I very rarely wear makeup, but do when I feel it is appropriate. If you need makeup to look better, wear it. Such as if you have bad skin or dark circles, etc. If it makes you feel better, wear it. There is nothing sinful there. Don't wear clothes that are tents or from 100 years ago. You will just look strange. And most people will not really listen to you if you are strange.

I buy clothes that do not have lots of cleavage or are too tight but are comfortable. I bought a swim suit from Lands End last month that is two piece but is essentially a tank top and shorts It is half price apparently, right now. I like it because it is modest and I don't constantly feel self-conscious and can wear it and not need a cover-up. But I think it is reasonably stylish. You are right, we are not nuns in habits (whatever do they wear to the beach?) Thanks for the article.

Mama On A Mission said...

I love to wear long, loose-fitting skirts. I usually wear plain color tops that I get from Lands End (to funny that is where everyone seems to be shopping) that do not show cleavage with them. Why do I wear these skirts? I love them. I love the way they look. I love the way they make me feel womanly. I love the comfort level. I love the romance with them. I think they are fun. I do not think they are out of style. I do not always wear them though because it is very hard to find cute, long skirts.

Here in rural Iowa, fashion is different for everyone. Example of a typical Sunday Mass, some women are in jeans, some in pants suits, some in very immodest dresses, some in short skirts, some in long skirts with every thing in between. It really is a mix bag. I have never really seen anyone that you have described Red, though. Some women wear makeup, some do not. I grew up in a home were my mother was not interested at all in makeup. I guess that is why I have never been interested in it. Yet, my best friend, another homeschooling mom, always wears makeup and would never wear a skirt. We have not once talked about this issue. I guess we never look at what the outside holds.

In my homeschool group and the Catholic home school conference in Ames, Iowa, I once again have never seen the people you are describing, Red. I will see women wearing skirts but not the way you describe. I have seen some interesting and what you would all call old-fashion dresses on women once in awhile at Walmart. They are always with others dressed the same and their husbands and children are dressed a certain way as well. As far as Catholic women dressing that way, not here.

It is sad to me that this is even really a topic of discussion. I would be very offended if I happen to be the woman that wears these clothes that most of you feel is unattractive and embrassing. I think some women wear these clothes think they are following the Bible.

Here is just a few things that the Bible has to say:

A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. -Deuteronomy 22:5

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clohtes, but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God. - 1 Timothy 2:9-10

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. - 1 Peter 3:2-5

I think four main things are to be considered here:

1) All women should strive to be clean, neat, and overall put together because of the dignity that they have (as Amy P. stated) as temples of the Holy Spirit.

2) How they accomplish that is a matter of personal preference and how they feel God is speaking to them to live and witness to others.

3)We should never feel like we have to be like anyone else. I was saddened to read that a few felt that sort of style was what was excepted of them to be Catholic homeschooling moms. All women need to worry about one thing: Being the best them that they can be with who they are.

4)A friendly smile and a loving personality will do more to win others to Christ then anything else.

Catherine said...


I have to agree. I know many marvelously interesting people who do not fit any kind of fashion mold. Your point about the exploitation of developing nations in creating "fashionable" clothes is right on too.

Erin said...

I have been watching and participating in the discussion the last few days here, and I have now learned the morally and socially acceptable uniform is a Lands End Tankini for the beach, stylish jeans and fitted top for the day, and a knee-length skirt with trendy top and jewelry for evening. Light make-up optional, per husband's request.

My point in this conclusion is the conversation seems to border a harsh brand of judgment for anyone who falls on either side of the tankini/knee length skirt line. If you wear a bikini or a shorter skirt, you are compared to Richard the Weasel who sold his soul and denied St. Thomas More for Wales, shamelessly and purposefully tempting our christian brothers into sin. I think this is coming dangerously close to judging other people's souls on account for six inches of Land's End fabric.

On the other hand, if you wear a floor-length skirt and are not comfortable in swimming suits at all, the wrath of social judgment and ostracism is coming your way, not to mention a judgment on your evangelization skills (who would want to approach someone wearing a jumper?). JM, I appreciate your attempt to ask for comments from jumper-wearing homeschoolers, but if I were one, I would not want to risk the ridicule or social judgment that might accompany my putting my lifestyle (and personal prayful decisions) on display.

I appreciate the effort to vitalize some conversation about being attractive to your husband and what sort of modesty our culture calls for, but the conclusions drawn seem to be narrow and bordering judgmental. By couching this discussion in a discussion of faith clothing decisions are now a judgment of one's personal faith.

Juris Mater said...

Mama on a Mission, that is so helpful, you have really helped me to see the appeal of long skirts, and to understand a Biblical basis for this dress as well. Seriously, thank you for taking up the torch!

Erin, hilarious characterization! Those "acceptable uniform" choices sound just right to me : ) But I think you've hit it on. We've had a wonderful discussion about modesty and dress. Maybe this is a good place to stop, while we have the ideas out there but before we begin disagreeing about brand names. Hahaha. Thank you all! I'm going to close comments, but if any of the Builders disagree go ahead and reopen them.

To paraphrase Mama on a Mission and MargaretJDMom (quoting St. Josemaria), I think we can all agree that the best "accessories" for winning others to Christ are a genuine smile, a joyful demeanor, and a loving personality.

Juris Mater said...

And thank you Red for this excellent, very helpful post. I think we could all talk about this for a long time, with your clear, well-expressed ideas here as the jumping off point. Thanks!!