Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dressing with Dignity: An Open Letter to Young Ladies

*The following is a guest post written by a kind friend who sent it to me to be published on The Catholic Lady blog.*
I'm everyone's adopted "auntie" - a childless, fun-loving middle aged Catholic woman who enjoys mothering the daughters of friends.  I've reached the age when those young ladies are starting to become engaged and married. A recent party for a young bride prompted me to write this open letter to young ladies.

Dear 20-Somethings,

Congratulations! You've reached the age when your friends - or maybe even you! - are getting married. And with the oohing and aahing over engagement rings and the joyful perusing of bridal magazines, the inevitable arrives: the bridal shower. Whether held at home, in a rented hall or in a restaurant, the bridal shower is traditionally an all-female event celebrating the bride-to-be.

Traditional bridal showers range from the very formal catered party to an informal gathering in someone's living room, but all boast a festive, feminine feel to the event.  Although time has worn the formal edges off of the traditional bridal shower, there remains a spirit of tradition over the event that begs to be honored.

It is in this spirit of honoring tradition that I write to you, my young friends, for I saw something at the last shower I attended that made me sad.

At a recent bridal shower I attended for the daughter of a friend, those wearing appropriate attire - nice pantsuits, dresses, skirts and sweaters - were either above age 40 or below the age of 10. The teens and 20-somethings looked like they didn't know or care about what they wore, and most sported ripped jeans, dirty toes peeking out from thong sandals, and oversized, unisex hoodie sweatshirts.  There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the elders dressed to honor the occasion, while the youngster dressed to please themselves.

Were they at their friend's bridal shower or changing the oil on their cars?

It's one thing to feel comfortable in your clothing. I get that you want to be comfortable. I do, too. Clothes that bind, chafe or itch are never appropriate.  But clothes communicate important non-verbal messages. They communicate first and foremost respect, both for yourself and for those around you. 

Do sweat pants, blue jeans, sneakers or flip-flops convey respect for your dear sister or friend, the bride to be, or for the institution of marriage?  Wearing ripped, faded blue jeans, sweat pants, hoodie sweatshirts, sneakers and flip-flops to your friend's wedding shower gave me the impression that you didn't care about your friend, her family, or even about yourself. 

There's a time and a place for everything.  The young bride wouldn't wear her satin and lace dress to scrub the toilets at her daytime job as a housekeeper, nor should she.  Yet her young friends shouldn't have dressed like they were ready to scrub toilets to attend a formal high tea in honor of their friend.

My dear young friends, I exhort you: Dress for the occasion. Give some thought not merely to your own comfort and convenience, but to the message your attire sends to the world.  If you care about your friend and her family, if you wish to honor her happiness, then wear a neat, clean, ladylike outfit. 

I'm not suggesting you wear pearls and satin slippers to mow the lawn, but sitting at a table drinking tea with me seems like the perfect occasion to wear feminine finery.  You will send a message that dressing with dignity dignifies not just the wearer, but the occasion, the honoree and the honored guests.

With much love,
Everyone's Adopted Auntie


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  2. I think that the importance of dressing with dignity, and with appropriateness for the occasion, is an essential skill, and one that the generation now in their twenties has never learned (not all of them of course). This is true, I think, as much for young men as for young women. An experience I had yesterday perfectly illustrates this.

    My husband’s aunt passed away over the weekend, and we attended her funeral service (she was Lutheran, so no Mass) yesterday. As the family processed in, I could not help but notice three of her great-grandchildren, two young men and a young woman. All three were in their late teens or early twenties. All three were dressed in jeans, and the young woman wore a top that was partially sheer, while the two young men wore t-shirts and windbreakers, and it was clear that neither of them had bothered to shave. They were dressed this way to attend their great-grandmother’s funeral! Worst of all, one of them was openly carrying a coffee cup. His own comfort was so important to him that he chose to blatantly disrespect his great-grandmother rather than go without coffee for an hour. I was frankly appalled.

    My husband grew up in a small, rural community as the son of a farmer. Simplicity and practicality have always been a part of their way of life—it simply wouldn’t be practical to plow a field or feed livestock wearing a three piece suit. And yet, my father-in-law told me that when he was growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, every man and boy wore a suit and tie to church every Sunday, and every woman and girl wore her nicest dress and gloves and hat. This included my husband’s late aunt. And now her great-grandchildren cannot even be bothered to shave for her funeral! Our country has worshipped at the altar of comfort for several decades now, and what I saw yesterday is the result.


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