False Modesty. False Choices

Bikini or Head Scarf?  How about old fashioned Modesty?

I just discovered that CNN has a religion blog (H/T  Get Religion )  It has some thought provoking articles. Great. Just what  I need; another rabbit hole for me to get lost in.

Krista Bremer writes for (shudder) oprah.com. Yes hell is freezing over yet again. Krista  is a Christian married to a Muslim and they have a nine year old daughter. Krista and her husband are letting their daughter decide to choose whose religion and/or culture to embrace:

“We named her Aliya, which means “exalted” in Arabic, and agreed we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our dramatically different backgrounds.

I secretly felt smug about this agreement — confident that she would favor my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing.”

Well Aiya, it seems, is identifying with the faith of her father. She wants to wear the headscarf. Mom is having a hard time. But Mom  is learning that, perhaps, modesty is more freeing for women than the less is best fashion mentality of today. Read the full article here.

FYI: There are days that I wish that I could cover up in the burqa. Oh vanity, vanity. Yup that’s me. Even at my age. At least I am in good company. Teresa of Avila was likewise afflicted, and she is a Saint.

Although I found the article interesting, I think that it makes a false choice. Bikini or headscarf. Really? We can only choose from extremes. How about just dressing modestly.  Snark alert: how about dressing period!

What does it mean to dress modestly?

The Church holds a deep respect for the uniqueness of each person. The Church also teaches that modesty is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and that “Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person (Catechism of the Catholic Church #25234).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church further defines modesty as:

Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (2521)

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (2522).

It seems that the concept of modesty has long been forgotten.  I am continually shocked at how parents let their daughters dress. Very little is left to the imagination. Very little is left of their dignity.

Back when I was a Director for Religious Education at another parish, I issued a dress code for confirmation. I learned that this was necessary after my first year. A girl lectured at confirmation wearing a low cut blouse and a skirt that was a belt. It was not a pretty sight.

Well you would have thought ,when I established a dress code, that I was invoking sharia law. A parent actually shouted out: why don’t you have them wear burqas?

I was speechless. Yup me speechless.

The lack of modesty in our culture really has concerned me. Believe it or not, Europeans do not dress quite as scantily as Americans.

The manner of dress, or lack thereof, is particularly revealing at mass. Many people, male and female, dress as if they were going to the beach.

I often ask, how would you dress to meet the President? The Queen of England?  We go to Mass to meet and receive the King of Kings. So how should you dress?

So. What do you think? What is modesty? How should you dress?   Discussion please. Just observe the rules.

Update: It is worse than I thought.

Immodesty is a crisis in our culture today. I issued a dress code for Vacation Bible School for adults and children!

The above comment was left on the rules page. Scary isn’t it?  What do you think? Please leave comments on this post (see below)

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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3 Responses to False Modesty. False Choices

  1. Kathy Thompson says:

    God bless organizations like Pure Fashion and places like Catholic Youth Camp in our diocese. Just the other night, I enjoyed helping my 10 year-old step-daughter pack for CYC as I read the requirements: one-piece bathing suits only, no SHORT shorts, no tight tops, no strapless or tank tops, etc. It was a thrill packing a suitcase for a week knowing not only would she be wearing lengthy gym shorts and t-shirts, but so would her teenage and young adult counselors. What a wonderful example those older ladies will be setting for our little one thanks to a simple, modest dress code!

    A month or so ago, I was venting over the dinner table about our parish’s Confirmation difficulties in getting students to follow the dress code. My husband whole-heartedly agreed and the 1o-year old step-kiddo piped up, “I’d tell them to go home and change and if they don’t make it back in time to be confirmed, TOUGH.” God bless you, Saffron. I hope in two, three, and five years as your dad and I still encourage modesty in dress, you respond in the same manner.

    My lovely Saffron spends half the time at our house and half the time with her mother. Her mother dresses her in mini skirts, knee-high boots, and plasters on glittery make-up. On our 10 year-old! Her mother works for a clothing store known for it’s risque, revealing clothing which is what her mom wears a lot. Saffron’s 16 year-old half sister just took a job at Hooters, so I don’t have to tell you what her outfits look like. And the child comes to our house, grudgingly removes the make-up, nail polish, and dangly earrings at dad’s and my insistence. Then, she spends the week dressed like a 10 year-old and not complaining about it one bit.

    Her body, and all of ours, are temples of the Holy Spirit. When she’s at our house, we make sure she dresses as such and my husband and I try to follow the example. It’s been an on-going issue since before my husband and I were married . When planning our wedding, I asked if James had any opinions before I started dress shopping. “NO STRAPLESS DRESSES!” he lovingly demanded. “This is a church ceremony. Even with wraps, I want all the women in sleeves.” I had no problem with his prayerful, modest request. Two of my bridesmaids balked. “It’s YOUR wedding.” It was OUR wedding. I found dresses with sleeves, found 2 new bridesmaids who understood my future spouse’s modesty request , and walked down the aisle looking gorgeous- sleeves and all.

    We’re stuck today. Clothing companies don’t make things as modestly as they used to. Tops are always low cut and this weekend while shopping for summer clothes, a company’s Bermuda shorts were advertised as “now shorter”. I buy Bermuda shorts because they go to my knees, not my mid-thigh. UGH. We can try our hardest to boycott companies who make skimpy clothes, especially for young girls, but then one is extremely limited as to where to shop.

    Men, especially young men, are full of raging hormones. We need to respect our bodies as women and, in turn, force men to respect us as well. Do I have a magic answer? No. But I do believe that we, as parents, have an obligation to monitor how we dress and help our children, especially girls dress modestly. As for the fashion industry, I don’t have a magic answer. Do you?


    • Susan Kehoe says:

      Yes it is a challenge, and if you think that is hard now wait until you are my age! I am five feet two and shrinking. The fashion dictators seem to think that if you are short you are either 20 or eighty. Geesh.

      That said, my daughter has taught me a few tricks. Wearing a blouse backwards under a jacket, cropped pants and skirts instead of shorts, camisoles under plunging necklines, for example.

      Oh and I once had a young man ask in frustration, “I know that I have to work to not give into lust, but can’t I have a break at Mass?”


  2. Kathy Thompson says:

    Your daughter is wise. She must have had a smart mom! I’ve used many of those “tricks” myself and, I understand, those hints are the type of things Pure Fashion teaches.

    Do letter writing campaigns like people do for politics, work with fashion? If we write Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, and Calvin Klein would we get results? What passes for modest today is much less clothing than even what was considered modest 10-15 years ago.


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