Sunday, September 2, 2012

Challenges to Changing

The past two blogs have been about dressing modestly. Now for the nitty gritty. Finding modest clothes these days is no easy task.

More than once I've approved buying something for a teenage daughter only to wonder later, What I was thinking? After seeing a couple dozen very immodest options, I guess by comparison and out of sheer exhaustion, that one didn't look too bad. Not until we've bought it and I see her wearing it outside the dressing room....
It’s not an easy thing to change how we dress. It can be inconvenient; it can be difficult for those who can't afford it. Where can I find clothes that are modest? What about being fashionable? Do I have to look totally out of it? What if my husband or boyfriend objects?

But it's not impossible. There are companies that sell—some even sell only—modest clothes. You may have to go online, which has the advantage of ease, but the disadvantage of not offering the opportunity to try things on. There are also usually some modest options at most retailers. If you can't find them, ask. Sometimes they're grouped together in a certain section; if the store doesn't have any modest choices, your asking will raise awareness.

If buying a lot of new clothes is not an option, there are cheaper possibilities. Many schools and churches nowadays host second-hand sales to raise funds. You can also find some very nice second-hand shops; once for $10, I bought a new skirt which still had the price tag: $115. Outlet stores are another fruitful source.

One can also work with or supplement one's wardrobe to make it more modest. If you realize a pair of pants are too form-fitting, you can wear it with a top or sweater long enough to cover the seat, or add a long vest. If you're handy with a needle, you can try buying a bigger size and altering as needed.

All of these options involve a lot of hassle, I admit.

It may not seem worth it. It's easy to get discouraged and want to give up. 

We need to remind ourselves of the bigger picture. We need to think of more than our vanity, our pocketbooks, our convenience.

There are three good reasons why women and girls should take the trouble to dress modestly: for our own good, for others, and for the Lord.

For our own sake. Now that we realize what effect dressing (even somewhat) immodestly may have on the men we encounter, don't we want to watch what we wear? It's one thing to want to be attractive; it's another to conjure up intimate details about oneself potentially in the mind of any man one meets. Granted, if a man wants to lust after a woman, he can do it even if she's dressed modestly. But why make it effortless for him? Why seek to be viewed as an object? Immodesty draws attention to only one aspect of a woman, while the rest of her richness as a person is overlooked.

Moreover, immodest clothing puts us in some danger with aggressive males who think, if you put a pie in an open window, you're asking for someone to take it.

For the sake of our own dignity, we should dress modestly.

For the sake of others. Jesus revealed lust to be a serious sin when he said, “Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). Dressing immodestly can tempt men into this serious sin. But women must also beware: recall Jesus’ warning, “Woe to the one by whom temptation comes!” (see Mt 18:6-7).

Jesus said we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Our moral standards must differ from the world’s. What that means in daily life requires prayerful reflection and constant vigilance to make sure we’re not adopting the wrong cultural norms. Though some are called to be radically countercultural, like St. Francis, most of us are called to dress well—we’re more appealing to others if we’re not too weird. But we’re never called to compromise Christ’s standards.

To be “salt for the earth” means we should stand out in some ways. When we dress modestly, we remind men of the dignity and the inner beauty of women. We have a positive effect on those we meet, both male and female. And we are examples to other women and girls. People notice how we dress, and it says something about our beliefs and values.

For the sake of the Lord. We should be concerned most of all about what our Lord thinks. If we wish to follow Jesus, we must imitate Him in everything and obey Him. ("If you love me, you will obey my commands" [Jn 14:15].) Being a Christian means wanting to please Christ. In everything, even in the little details of daily life, we should think about what He wants us to do. So we must ask: Lord, how do You want me to dress? Are You calling me to change, to be an example, even a trend-setter?

Nuggets on modesty
from the Catechism 
of the Catholic Church

“The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man” (2524).

“Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies” (2523). 
“Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love” (2522).
The Lord is calling males not only to guard their eyes, but also to speak up: boys and men to challenge their peers, husbands to ask their wives to save certain outfits for their eyes only, and fathers to teach their daughters how to attract attention to their inner beauty.

And He wants Christian women to set an example for the world. There is a growing modesty movement in our country. Imagine the impact we can have if as individuals we dress modestly and if we band together to demand more modest fashions from the clothing industry.