Part 2: How to be Feminine
a) Cultivate the Soul
St. Padre Pio wrote in a letter to a noblewoman: "There are, moreover, three virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses. These are : modesty, continence and chastity. By the virtue of modesty the devout person governs all his exterior acts. With good reason, then does St. Paul recommend this virtue to all and declare how necessary it is and if this were not enough he considers that this virtue should be obvious to all. By continence the soul exercises restraint over the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. By chastity, a virtue which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to that of the Angels, we suppress our sensuality and detach it from forbidden pleasures. This is the magnificent pictures of Christian perfection. Happy the one who possesses all these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens." (Padre Pio, Volume II- Letters, Correspondance with Raffaelina Cerase, Noblewoman (1914-1915).
A real feminine soul connects virtue with the senses. Flowers, ribbons and lace, beautiful antiques, delicate food, soft materials, pretty scents, fine craftsmanship, and good music help us to understand God through all of our human senses. It is the job of women to surround themselves with beauty! Here are some tips:
-Pray to Our Lady, study and meditate on her life and imitate her virtues.
-Read about great saints and role models; remember femininity does not have to be soft as most of these women were not! Magazines like Victoria and Southern Lady can also be nourishing to the feminine soul!
-Clean and decorate your home in a beautiful way! Ambiance is very effective on character formation. (If you want to feel extra feminine, wear an apron while you're at it!)
b) Cultivate the Body
"It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people. But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization." Pius XII, 1957
There are three things to consider when choosing attire: modesty, style, and function.
Modesty is in itself a great apostolate. A Catholic lady does not stoop to gaining attention with her body! If a dress is questionable attire for Church then how can it be appropriate for other respective gatherings?
As for the style of a lady's clothing, a Catholic lady delights in demonstrating her femininity in the outward expression of her body, which is after all the direct representation of the soul. As an old philosopher said, "The habit does not make the monk, but identifies him." A lady must be convicted of what she is saying with her clothes. Feminine dress, hairstyles, accessories and movements can all be cultivated to a fine art. And really, doesn't that sound enjoyable?
The function of clothes must also be carefully considered since some clothes will be appropriate for gardening and others for Church. This is probably the most neglected aspect of fashion and it is necessary for a lady to study. It is often difficult to decide what is appropriate to wear in this day in age when almost anything goes!
Feminine dress does not require much money either. With a little ingenuity, it is possible to be beautiful and feminine without being expensive!
c) Cultivate the Spirit
"It takes a real lady to get attention through the sweet mystique of femininity," says Dr. Hyles (What in the World Should I Wear? by Mrs. Cathy Corle, pg. 36-37)
"The sweet mystique of femininity" is a beautiful way to describe the spirit of a lady.
A modest spirit is rare. Women are taught to get what they want with the "I am woman hear me roar" attitude. It doesn't work. People don't know how to respond. Men especially are affected adversely by this attitude. (This could possible be why men are becoming more feminine by the generation.) We live in an epidemic of feminism!
But a woman possessing a "modest and quiet" spirit (1Tim 2:9-10) appeals to the higher nature of men and is mysteriously attractive! Wearing a mantilla to Church is an example of this sweet mystique of femininity.
This does not mean a lady must be shy, just conscious of her femininity. This means being cheerful, helpful, well-mannered. St. Francis de Sales says, "I would have devout people, whether men or women, the best dressed of the company, but the least pompous and affected. I would have them adorned with gracefulness, decency, and dignity."
There is no prudishness for a Catholic lady. Rather, modesty is the trademark of her spirit.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series: Our Great Apostolate: Femininity!