25 Jul 2007

Are More Girls Going ‘Mild’? Is there a "Modesty Revolution"?

I was interviewed again yesterday for the Sunday edition of a Philly newspaper, so I’m not surprised to see “modesty” is in the news again today. I expect it’ll be “news” for a month or so, since back-to-school-shopping is on many people’s minds. But after that, it’ll drop off the radar again.


Because real modesty doesn’t seem to be what’s being promoted. It’s just a news story. A way for manufacturers to sell what they are calling ‘modest clothing’.

What disturbs me is the angle some of these ‘modesty advocates’ are taking: they’re saying you can still be “sexy”, “hot”, and “modest”.


Let’s start by defining terms.

Merriam-Webster says that modest means, “observing the proprieties of dress and behavior” and “conforming to standards of propriety, good taste, or morality“.

What does Hot mean? “Sexually excited or receptive: eager.”

How about Sexy? “Sexually suggestive or stimulating ” and “of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire“.

So how can a young lady conform to standards of propriety, good taste, and morality–whilst at the same time being sexually suggestive? Can’t happen.

Here’s something else: not defining what is right and what is wrong, but doing “whatever works for you”.

“The role models we have out there right now – Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan – it’s just a very narrow notion of empowerment,” said (Wendy)Shalit in ABC. “If that works for you, great. But for a lot of women, this is inauthentic.”

“If that works for you”?!?!? It’s not about what works for your or what doesn’t–it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. There are absolutes. And Truth “works” for everyone. Trashy isn’t authentic because it’s wrong for women.

But is dressing modestly about “fitting in” and “being cool”? Or is it about virtue, morality, not being an occasion of sin for our brother, and honoring God? Following the fashions so that you don’t draw undue attention to yourself is just fine. It’s humble, in fact. But wearing things that will draw undue attention to yourself shows a lack of humility, Pius XII said:

The trend of fashions is not in itself evil. It flows spontaneously from the social nature of man, in accordance with an impulse which inclines him to keep in harmony with his fellow-men, and with the way of acting of those amongst whom he lives. God does not ask you to live outside your times, so careless of the exigencies of fashion as to render yourselves ridiculous, by dressing in a way opposed to the common tastes and practices of your contemporaries, without considering at all what pleases them.

In following fashion, virtue lies in the middle course. What God asks of you is to remember always that fashion is not, and cannot be, the ultimate rule of conduct for you’ that beyond fashion and its demands, there are higher and more pressing laws, principles superior to fashion, and unchangeable, which under no circumstances can be sacrificed to the whim of pleasure or fancy, and before which must bow the fleeting omnipotence of the idol of fashion.”

So, what are the guidelines? You’ll find that they’re nearly the same for most religions.

(NOTE: Readers, please send me your religion’s ‘modesty guidelines’ and I’ll include them here.)

Mormon: Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. (Thanks to RG).

Jewish Women: Elbows, collarbone, and legs should be covered. Sleeves must cover the elbows at all times, even when the hand is raised. Skirts must cover knees completely, even while sitting. Materials may not be see-through (caution must be taken with light summer shirts). Clothes may not be tight-fitting, provocative, loud in color, or display texts. All slits in skirts must be closed. (Thanks to EW).

Islamic Modesty Guidelines: Clothing must cover the entire body, only the hands and face may remain visible. The material must not be so thin that one can see through it. The clothing must hang loose so that the shape / form of the body is not apparent. The female clothing must not resemble the man’s clothing. The design of the clothing must not resemble the clothing of the non believing women. The design must not consist of bold designs which attract attention. Clothing should not be worn for the sole purpose of gaining reputation or increasing one’s status in society. (Thanks to MA).

And here they are for Catholics:

“A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper.” (Guidelines developed and released by mandate of Pius XI by Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Council under Pope Pius XI).

Until Rome changes them or says otherwise, those are the guidelines. That’s it. Pius XII said that, “To say that ‘modesty is a matter of custom’ is just as wrong as to say that ‘honesty is a matter of custom’.” There are absolutes. And the Catholic Church has continued to talk about modesty since then (see pages 63-74 in Dressing with Dignity), and has never once abrogated those guidelines. See my other Blog, where I show pictures of the fashions that designers are showing in Paris and Milan that fit the Vatican Guidelines.

When the morality of women declines, the entire culture implodes around it–so it’s essential that women embrace their God given feminine role, or all of society will suffer. And reports indicate that since more young girls are embracing “modesty”, abstinence has increased. Coincidence? Maybe.

I just glanced at the clock and must close. Those are some streaming thoughts for this morning. I’ll probably come back and edit later, but it’s time to move on to family matters around here.

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8 responses to “Are More Girls Going ‘Mild’? Is there a "Modesty Revolution"?”

  1. avatar

    If more girls are “going mild”, let’s hope they stay mild. Let’s start by getting rid of cleavage-revealing tops, too-short skirts and dresses, and pants and shorts. Let’s not stop there.

    1. avatar

      I dread the day comes when I have to face this. I’m lkooing forward to reading the comments above and any other replies.

  2. avatar

    Colleen, I read some of the articles you wrote on your blog, and LOVED what I read! When I get married, I want Mrs. Dwayne to share a lot of your characteristics(you are that great a lady).

  3. avatar

    Colleen, if your interview in the Philadelphia press means a thing, you are such a poster girl for things taking a turn for the better, I’d love for you to come to Los Angeles. I wish more gals were like you!

  4. avatar

    Proof that a “modesty revolution” is in our midst is the fact that more females only, or at least mostly, wear skirts and dresses, and of appropriate length. Still, the time to celebrate is a thing of the future; thus, the problems that have beeb plaguing society for decades still have their influence, and we have to work until these problems are gone.

  5. avatar

    Colleen, reading this article brings to mind a phone converation I had with a gal volunteering for a Catholic apostolate I talked to on the phone. She(born a year after my birth) said she did not let her daughters wear pants. The preceding year, I talked to someone on the phone from the same Catholic apostolate who said she raised 5 daughters to ONLY wear skirts and dresses! My heart warmed at the sound of that.

  6. avatar

    Colleen, the fact that this was brought up in a Philadelphia newspaper makes me want to add Archbishop Charles Chaput to the list of prelates I want to contact to recommend skirts-only rules for females. Fortunately, he’s one of the Church’s better prelates, so I have confidence in His Excellency.

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