What a long and sad and unfortunate road we have traveled to arrive at this profligate state of mind today, regarding modesty in women’s clothes. Our Blessed Mother warned us of this danger when she appeared at Fatima and said unambiguously that more souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than any other sin.
The standards of modesty in women’s clothes have been challenged for many decades, in the beginning by a relatively few filmmakers and other exploiters. However, people in those arguably simpler times recognized these challenges for what they were – deliberate titillation by evil people. And this defiance of traditional norms was always (rightfully) considered as sinful and unacceptable to public morality.
The entertainment industry was possibly the greatest promoter of the slide into public immodesty. The shockingly revealing gowns that actresses wore were viewed with a wink and a nod; but of course, no decent woman would have thought of wearing them.
Possibly as a sop to mild disapproval of this trend, Hollywood created a Censor’s department, called the Hays Office, which was charged with overseeing costumes and dialogues and situations that might offend public decency. It would be hard to pinpoint exactly when the Hays Office gave up on enforcing its mandate, but the standards of modesty were relaxed, probably in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and then all but done away with in the following decades.
The Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency held on and held out a little longer. This organization was responsible for directing Catholics to avoid certain movies, whether for immodest costumes or for plots that contained issues contrary to Catholic doctrine, e.g., approval of divorce, suicide, abortion.
At this point, there were still some who were trying to stem the tide of liberalism. For example, in the early ‘50s, the good nuns in the Catholic high schools were trying to hold the line and protect young girls from veering off the road of virtue by wearing more revealing prom dresses. The nuns actually stood at the doorways of gyms decorated for proms and checked the girls as they entered with their dates. If a dress was too bare, they were given a little (frilly or lacy) jacket to wear. Or at least a stole.
But sensitivity to virtue and morality was allowed to fade out of existence, presumably because the conciliar church itself was less interested in holding the line against the rising tide of immorality. As our society, in general, became more licentious, it was easier for the church to relax its vigilance than to have to fight the popular trend – toward more daring women’s clothes, for example.
This disturbing trend persisted into the ‘60s (roughly the onset of Vatican II), when those standards began to nose-dive. Women were encouraged to “express themselves” and taught that short skirts and abbreviated clothing were the best way to get men’s attention, and a short-cut to a date, a job, or whatever. (And the “whatever” was not necessarily a stroll through the park.)
In today’s world these aberrations occur at every turn, not only in the media, the entertainment industry, the fashion world, and advertising in general, but also in the grocery store, the high school football game, the girl next door walking to the mailbox, the waitress in the restaurant, the teller at the bank – pretty much everywhere. A person is hard pressed to avoid it. That is a sad indication of how far society has left commonsense and moral standards behind.
Another major player in furthering this disintegration of morality has been the media. In its many diverse forms, the media reaches into the homes and minds of millions of people every day, not the least of which are the young people who tried to emulate what they saw on the old MTV shows, or Dancing With the Stars, or even the pretend “athletes’ competitions” (which are mere excuses to show the scantily-clads).
The advertising industry, too, must share the blame for its creating more and more explicit ads, with clever ways to attract people, particularly young impressionable teens. They have no shame when it comes to appealing to prurient interests. (Many years ago, I walked in the door of a Penney’s store and was faced with a manikin dressed only in skimpy bikini underwear. [Is there any other kind of bikini?]. I thought sadly of any young boys [or worse, older ones!] who would unavoidably face this model when merely trying to buy some athletic socks. I went to the Manager and told him how strongly I objected to this – it wasn’t even as if it were in the Lingerie Dept.—but money speaks louder than morals, and it accomplished nothing. However, we must try, right?)
Another point to be considered is that our society has been brainwashed in so many ways that beliefs held not so long ago have softened to the point that people no longer object to things that our common sense tells us are of course wrong, (read immoral). For example: People generally understood that there was a direct correlation between how you were dressed and how you were treated. If you were dressed like a tramp, you might be treated like a tramp. But along came the Feminists who stridently insist that women have a right to dress as they want, and are not to blame if men see their tight, low-cut dresses as a come-on. They demanded that foolish men who succumb to their temptations be held to account for acting on these weaknesses and be subject to the law. Well, of course they must be accountable to the law! But oh, what hypocrisy to pretend that women are innocent in this little charade!
One of the saddest parts of this is that society has allowed itself to be bullied into accepting this situation. By loudly demanding the “right” to wear what they want to wear, the Feminists shout down anyone who objects, and the mainstream media tamely goes along with this. And worse, the conciliar church fails to mount any sort of effective opposition.
So, it is clear that Catholic parents can no longer look to society’s fading standards to help instill the virtue of modesty in their children, nor to the human element of the Church for forceful support in inculcating purity into their sons’ and daughters’ hearts and minds. Even the N-SSPX is not very vigilant in insisting on modest skirt lengths on their girls’ uniforms. The idea of uniforms is a good one, but the Society fails to demand that hems be universally set at a modest length.
Short skirts can easily lead to other compromises with modesty; for example: skirts that seem to be at a modest length but that ride up when the girl is seated. Or skirts that might be long enough but that are too tight. These can be a step toward off-the-shoulder and see-through blouses, low necklines, and too-tight knits.
These styles are so common and our senses so dulled that people must be reminded that they are sinful styles. People have become so conditioned by television and movies and the print media to accept them. And almost nobody is stressing to women and girls that whether or not they are affected by what they are wearing, males definitely are. Which leads to the unavoidable point that such immodesty may be a mortal sin not only for the girl/woman, but may be responsible for mortal sins of any and all boys/men who succumb to impure thoughts or actions because of them.
So, we can see that immoral dressing is sinful on multiple levels:
➢ It leads to other sins, e.g., pride, vanity.
➢ It could very likely be the cause of sin for boys who witness her sinful dress.
➢ It most certainly can cause scandal.
➢ It sets a very bad example for others, particularly younger siblings and/or classmates.
Often a girl begins to dress immodestly because she thinks everyone is dressing like that, and she wants to be popular. Her parents must help her to understand that no matter how other girls dress, and no matter what other people do, she must be true to her Faith and to herself. She couldn’t do better than to model herself after Our Blessed Mother.
If parents are consistent in their rules and requirements, and these are presented with obvious love and the best intentions, children are much more apt to accept them. Resignedly perhaps, but trusting that their parents know better.
One of the most important words in that paragraph is the word consistent. It cannot be stressed enough that parents must be consistent. They must be true to the directions, rules, and restrictions that they have laid down for the family. They can’t discipline a son for missing his deadline one time and then let it slide the next.
They can’t guide a daughter to modesty by letting her buy the shorter skirt “just this one time” because “it’s such a cute pattern and it looks so cute on her.” Children aren’t ignorant; they can easily see through the inconsistency in the rules, and it merely sets the stage for next time getting away with it. This, not so incidentally, will eventually lead to the demise of family rules. It is merely the first step into the liberal quicksand.
Children aren’t ignorant; they can easily see through the inconsistency in the rules, and it merely sets the stage for next time getting away with it. This, not so incidentally, will eventually lead to the demise of family rules. It is merely the first step into the liberal quicksand.
Therefore, the single most important point of this article is that parents must re-claim the role of defender of modesty, arbiter of “fashion,” and guardian of purity.