Written July 2007 and published in my newsletter "Servants of the Queen"
Here in the midst of the summer months seems to be an appropriate time to address the touchy but nonetheless very important issue of modesty. I hope to show you some interesting points on this topic that you may not have considered before.
Modesty, as we all know, has a lot to do with what we wear, especially among ladies. It is important to realize that why we dress modestly has a lot to do with respect. We want to respect our own bodies, and not leave them on display for anyone and everyone to see. We also want to respect men, who see and think differently from women when it comes to certain things. They respond more then women do to visuals, and it is important to realize and respect that, and not make it any harder for them to safeguard their purity. Any sin against purity is very grave, and we certainly do not want to be the cause of someone’s mortal sin and possible loss of Heaven!
This may seem harsh, but it is true! That is one of the reasons it is so important to dress modestly and appropriately. But dressing modestly certainly does not mean wearing a sack or looking like a slob! To do this would, in fact, not be dressing modestly at all. The Vatican’s guidelines for decent dressing are that the neckline should not extend more than two fingers’ breadth beneath the pit of the neck (the little dip in the center of your collarbone in the front) or on either side of the neck, the sleeves should cover the upper part of the arm, and the skirt should reach at least two inches below the knee. These are really quite sensible and doable guidelines. Of course, we must also be careful to not wear clothes (skirts or shirts) that are too tight and revealing. These are not only inappropriate looking, but also uncomfortable!
A word on pants – I personally find nothing wrong with wearing pants on some occasions (i.e. when you’re going to be playing some sort of game that requires running, when doing outdoor work, etc) when a skirt would be down right impractical and possibly immodest. However, they should be modest, nothing like the skin-tight jeans common today. One kind of pants I’ve found to be both modest and to look nice is cargo pants, which are quite easy to find at pretty much any store. But for the most part, skirts are preferable. Not only are pants inappropriate for the reasons mentioned earlier in this
article, they also de-feminize women when they wear them. It is very interesting – you really do feel different, more feminine, when wearing a skirt! In our culture, which is attacking and demeaning women on all sides, all under the cover of “women’s rights”, “women’s liberation”, “feminism”, it is very important to maintain who we truly are – women, what and who God made us to be!
Upholding the dignity of humans and showing respect for all life is a big part of modesty. The point of being modest is not only avoiding making ourselves into near occasions of sin (although this is a big part!), but also to show respect to the fact that we are women, human beings with dignity, and not objects. When we dress in an appropriate manner, we are showing that we respect our body, we respect others around us, and we respect God Who made us.
So, please consider these thoughts. How you choose to respond to them is up to you, but I do think that if we bring back more wholesome styles, one person at a time, we will begin to see a difference in our world. People will recall the sacredness of their bodies and we won’t see so much blatant irreverence for God’s gifts to us. Women will recover their lost femininity – in essence, who they are, and perhaps, someday, the world will regain some of the order it lost towards the middle of the last century.
One last point. It is well put in something that champion boxer Muhammad Ali once told his daughter: “Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them… Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered, too.” (I found this quote in “Dressing With Dignity” by Colleen Hammond) By not showing very much of our bodies, we are showing how much we value them. I repeat, this does not mean wearing sack-like clothing. That would not look nice, and wearing beautiful clothing also shows great respect to our bodies – another important thing to remember. But rather, our bodies should be hidden like the great treasures that they are. Look in our churches; the greatest of all Treasures is hidden – within the tabernacle. Our bodies are one of the most precious treasures that this great Treasure has given us, and we should respect them.