Friday, August 5, 2016

Why I Love Modesty More Than Fashion

“Society speaks through the clothing it wears…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 to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization. 
-Di gran cuore - an allocution of Pope Pius XII to a Congress of the "Latin Union of High Fashion” on November 8, 1957

Madame Elisabeth of France, beautiful
example of modesty, martyred by the French
Revolutionaries at only 30 years old.
Fashion is fickle.  Fashion comes and goes.  One trend is popular for awhile and then another comes up to take the stage.  Fashion changes- either quickly or gradually- with the moral fiber of a nation.

At the heights of Christian civilization women wore beautiful gowns like the one in the first picture you see.  The abundant, carefully arranged skirts give an impression of inviolable elegance while the intricate bodice artistically directs attention to the woman's head, face and eyes.  The head is the most noble part of a person and the eyes are said to be a window into the soul.

Modesty is a virtue where we recognize the frailty of our human nature before God and so dress and behave in a moderate way to avoid impropriety or indecency.  It is a notable virtue, especially in today's world of seemingly unlimited vice and promiscuity.

The distasteful colors and unsuitable styles
of modern fashion are a result of chaos
without the balance of the Christian Order. 
Happiness comes from self-possession through temperance, not from self-expression through license," says Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  But the fashions of today become more and more extravagant, obscene and distasteful as society heads towards chaos without the balance of the Christian order.

The second picture is of a modern fashion runway where the model is seen to be wearing a shockingly bright yellow coat over an unattractively colored tight masculine looking outfit.  The fault is primarily against modesty since there is no tastefulness or restraint in either the color or design of this ensemble.

Do we want to show purity and modesty with our clothes?  Or do we accept modern fashions which very often express the opposite?

This is why whenever I enter the dress stores to see what is new I try hard to keep a very important reminder in my mind: I love modesty more than fashion!



  1. I agree modesty is much more important than fashion. Whenever I go shopping I keep in mind biblical modesty standards. Fashion definitely does not come first for me!

  2. Looking at these two examples is helpful, showing a clear illustration of your point. But it is also helpful to remember the subtlety with which clothing designers steal a woman's modesty. A neckline just a bit too low, a hemline a tiny bit too high, or an attractive, feminine pattern on a pair of skinny jeans. A key-hole neckline that peeks into the bodice while the rest of the blouse is seemingly modest. A long pencil skirt that leaves little to the imagination of your silhouette. Even otherwise perfectly modest clothes that are just drab and ugly which I think are clearly meant to steer you into the prettier, less modest choices. Once you start seeing all the little things clothing designers get away with to chip away at your modesty, it becomes quite the challenge to go shopping. Especially with a friend who isn't as aware as you are! As an aside, I recently (a few months ago) cleaned out my closet, of everything that was either worn out, too young, immodest, or just never worn, and I ended up with very little. I've found a few very nice things at thrift stores, but going shopping for new, modest clothes is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But it's not all bad, having just a small wardrobe actually makes laundry and picking outfits much easier.

    1. I feel like I should add, I still have a few things I mostly wear around the house that aren't quite as modest as I would like them to be, so I'm still working at it.

    2. This is a great point and I agree we must be very critical of modern fashion since it is designed by the enemies of Christian principles. I rarely find anything suitable in the stores anymore!

  3. "Fashion" today is very different from a true fashion in a Christian society. Today's "fashion" is conceived in some design studio in Milan or New York by some self-appointed arbiter of taste and imposed on the whole world like a Muslim Fatwa.

    True Catholic fashion would never be global, but rather very local. Good elites of a region would perceive how the local people like to dress and perfect that. This is why in Europe (until the middle of the 20th century) you had a such a beautiful variety of regional dress, from Sicily to Norway, and each one at the same time reflected the qualities of the local people while respecting the rules of Christian modesty.

    1. This is a crucial point in the modesty vs fashion topic. Most people today are either exclusively in the modesty camp or exclusively in the fashion camp. They fail to realize that both are necessary. Fashion- or the representative style of our clothes- is more important than ever to keep society alive in culture and tradition.

    2. OK, but what exactly are "good elites"?
      I'm afraid I'm a bit lost...

    3. Good leaders. Every society -- every single one -- has men and women who play a leading role in forging the culture and setting the tone of that society. Not the jet-set scum that you see in the tabloids, but the local business owners, teachers, veterans, town government officials, clergy, military officers, etc. George Washington and many of the founding fathers were examples of a good elite. If you dig deeper into American society, peer through the false egalitarian veneer, you will find an abundance of elites.

  4. I’m always inspired by your commitment to elegance over fashion! It’s something I’m working on in my own life. However, I'm a little confused by your examples. While Madame Elisabeth is obviously more elegant and has a more concealed figure than the woman in the other photo, I wouldn't consider her modestly dressed. This outfit would have been very fashionable in her time, and certainly expensive. As for the runway photo, I think the colors are just a matter of taste. These are the same colors found in a sunflower, and actually make sense together from the principles of color theory. While I agree that we should be more aware of the motives of fashion, I think there is room for personal preference within the realms of modesty.

    1. There is definitely room for preference in what we wear and that's an important point! However, our clothing should express who we are which is objective. This goes beyond just men and women to countries and regions, age and status. Therefore, Madame Elizabeth's dress is very appropriate considering she was the sister of King Louis XIV. Modest dress does not mean cheap but rather appropriate. The runway outfit is not expressive of Christian modesty because it is neither feminine or beautiful (according to St. Thomas' attributes of beauty).


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