Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Modesty and Order

The apostolate of femininity is very noble.  It is made noble by the fact that feminine women seek excellence in perfectly being themselves.  But there is a fine line...

That line is between femininity and showiness.

Since I am not a princess, the wearing of a crown was an act of egalitarian pride
and an offence against modesty.
Feminine clothing is generally pretty, colorful, soft, flowy and often inclusive of many accessories.  These qualities, when they are used to make the outfit appropriate and beautiful are good.  But St. Francis de Sales warns against excessive adornment.

He says, "External seemliness is a sort of indication of inward good order...For my own part I should like my devout man or woman to be the best dressed person in the company, but the least fine or splendid, and adorned, as Saint Peter says, with 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.'  Saint Louis said that the right thing is for everyone to dress according to his position..."   What does this mean?

Once when we were little girls my sisters and I were encouraged to wear tiaras to a party.  We obliged and even had our hair cured to the point where we were quite obviously overdressed.  It was awkward the entire time since the other children at the party considered us snobs.  And although being different should not bother us if we are correct, there was a sense of being inappropriate that disturbed my feeling of order.  This was because the crown I wore was not genuine.   Although the traditional dress of little girls is feminine and beautiful for rich and poor alike, it must also represent truth and be appropriate to our state in life.  Since I am not a princess, the wearing of a crown was an act of egalitarian pride and an offence against modesty.

This is a delicate subject.  There are no rules that say a woman cannot be showy, it is instead a matter of good taste.  To cultivate a disgust for showiness, know your place and consider the humility of Our Lady.  She did not wear glorified clothing even when it was justified.  Instead, the Queen of Heaven preferred to be hidden inside her home.  She was surrounded by Angels who adored her and her Divine Son who treated her like a Queen.  And this was enough.

Modesty is a beautiful virtue and one chosen on this blog as a motto for the Catholic Lady: Modesty and Elegance.

St. Francis de Sales says, "Do not wish to be anything
but what you are, and try to be that perfectly."
Modesty is worth exploring because it is the trademark of a person who lives suitably and properly, seeking after and loving order.  We ask: who are we?  And we look around us to family, heritage, personality, trade, talent and ultimately vocation- and find the answer.  It is ridiculous to think we can be any exotic thing we decide.  There are limits to identity that the wise man decides will make him strong.  But to build identity takes perception and a desire for order.  This virtue should be great in anyone who meditates on the hierarchical creation of God.

St. Francis de Sales says, "Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly."

So it would be an attack against order for a woman to wear clothes like a man, a gentleman to wear the rough boots of a worker, or a girl to wear a crown if she is not a princess.  It would be pretentious for me to wear pretty white gloves everyday because I am a working mother.  Some things that are elegant, that we admire and marvel at, we should not covet- because for us they are immodest.  St. Therese said in her book that she marveled at the life of the peasants as she drove through the countryside, but she did not leave her place to become them because that would be a perversion of God's order.

St. Thomas Aquinas lists the natural virtues which seem to be related to modesty:



  1. Very good post. Women (but also men) when they wear clothing, they should match thee wearer's position, age, social level, and occupation, as well as fulfill the requirements of Catholic modesty, with the added consideration of actively fighting and resisting the ugly, degenerate fashions of our times. Moral decency is only one aspect of what constitutes good fashion.

    It isn't easy, especially for women.

    As you say, beautiful, tasteful, modest fashion has to reflect virtues and good principles. A big problem with 20th century fashion is not only that it is indecent, but that it is EXTRAVAGANT. It draws exaggerated attention to itself with its breaking of fashion rules and taste, chiefly to satisfy the wearer's egoism. Clothing that chiefly serves to advertise one's wealth or body, even when they aren't immoral, fall into this category.

    A woman (and man) when putting on a garment should ask themselves, "Is this extravagant or not?" If there is any nagging doubt that it might be extravagant, then it should be ditched.

    Ultimately, good fashion should serve not to draw exaggerated focus to the wearer, but to lift the observer to the consideration of higher, metaphysical, and spiritual things. A well-dressed woman inspires the observer to admire not exclusively the woman herself but the consideration of grace, charm, and classic femininity. A well-dressed man inspires the observer to admire strength, stability, authority, seriousness, manly charm, and the masculine virtues.

    1. Yes, you make a point in describing extravagant fashion. This is what I notice in modern women who think "femininity" and immediately wear flamboyant designs, feathers, crowns, flashy artificial jewels... This is not a genuine expression of spiritual truth, but instead a whitewashed, false beauty pageant version of "femininity.

  2. Really interesting about the crowns, I haven't even considered that before. What do you think about a little girl choosing to wear a costume that includes a crown? Like a costume of Our Lady? (Our Lady with a crown I mean!) Or maybe even a Disney princess?

    1. Since a costume is clearly not meant to be genuine, I think that is different. The Disney Princess message, "Every girl is a princess" is romanticism though which is an enemy of truth.


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