If we find ourselves being attacked from all angles when we defend modesty and purity with our actions and principles, there is a reason for this. Our modern world has been so plagued with immodesty that any remnant of tradition and good morals needs to be snuffed out according to the modern man. Especially for the young, these new ideas of “body positivity” and “self-expression” are meant to destroy their appreciation of modesty and grow their desire to dress improperly. How then should we defend our rights and duty to dress modestly when these arguments come up?
We should first be clearly confident in our mind that modesty is the right thing to do. If we are doubting, for example, wearing skirts all the time, and deep down have a desire to wear skinny jeans, how are we ever going to properly defend the virtue of modesty? Modesty is a beautiful virtue where we set guidelines concerning proper dress, action, and speech, in order to be respectful to God, ourselves, and our neighbour. Once this beauty is established in our minds, it will be much easier to defend when we are being questioned about our choices. Below are a few common arguments that can be easily worked out if we have the confidence and knowledge we need.
“It’s my choice, and if people don’t like it they don’t have to look.”
This argument has become stronger and stronger as feminist ideas poison our world more every day. They argue that it is their choice to dress however they want, and if men have a problem with it, they simply need to stop looking and objectifying women. What feminists don’t realize is that they are the ones who are objectifying themselves. Immodesty takes away the beauty and sacredness of the human body, and makes it into an object for lust. If this is the “empowering” choice they want to make, how are they doing a service to women?
If we ever come across this argument, we should use the beauty of modesty as a counter. When we dress modestly it is far more empowering because we are not only showing a respect towards ourselves, but to those around us. We are choosing not to show our bodies, because as humans with eternal souls, we are so much more than that!
Also, the idea that people can look away is a very uncharitable argument. Do we also ask people to look away when we are committing other sins, like theft or murder? We should take into consideration the effect we have on others, especially if we are a young girl around men. They are not objectifying us if they feel tempted towards us, it is simply a natural trait that humans follow. And because it is natural and can be a temptation, we should be considerate of this and show our beauty through modesty rather than by showing too much. Modesty does not mean not beautiful, it simply means dressing properly and appropriately in order bring out natural beauty in the best of ways. Those who are against such principles should be distant from us in order for us not to be influenced in a poor way.
St. Francis de Sales once said: “Frequent not the company of immodest persons, especially if they be also impudent, as is generally the case; . . . these corrupted souls and infected hearts scarcely speak to any, either of the same or a different sex, without causing them to fall in some degree from purity; they have poison in their eyes and in their breath, like basilisks. On the contrary, keep company with the chaste and virtuous; often meditate upon and read holy things; for the word of God is chaste, and makes those also chaste that delight in it.” Let us then not be deceived by arguments that try to blanket the things that harm us as liberty, for it will only lead us to unhappiness and emptiness in our heart.
“I need to follow fashion trends, and modesty takes away from my style.”
If we think that modesty will take away from our style, we need to rethink what modesty is. Modesty is not defined by overly long skirts and baggy sweaters that hide our figure completely. It is not the absence of color or expression, but really the true definition of beauty and style.
Coleen Hammond, in her book Dressing with Dignity, speaks of the effect of modesty and how it brings out the best in ourselves and others:
“In the past, I have found that when I am dressed in a neat, modest and feminine manner, men will hold doors for me, help me find things in the store, and offer to carry the items to the car for me. However, if I run to the store dressed in my ‘work clothes’, I am treated as ‘just another one of the guys’. No one holds the door for me. No one helps me find what I need. No one offers to carry the wood to the car for me. So, before going to get the saw blade, I put on a nicer dress, a quick coat of mascara, and fixed my hair. Guess what? The guy at the hardware store helped me find the saw blade. Not that I was fishing for his help or was trying to manipulate him, but more that it feels good to be able to help bring out the best in someone else. Isn’t it nice to see men who still have a sense of chivalry and treat women with respect.”
The idea that modesty takes away from your fashion or style is then simply ridiculous. Is it easier to be fashionable with short shorts rather than a skirt? Let us then defend our ability to be creative and fashionable when people argue that we can have no sense of style with modesty. Through modesty we return the value of beauty to ourselves, and this form of beauty can easily be built around our fashion style and preferences of color, material of fabric, etc. Nothing is stopping us from being fashionable; all we must do is set guidelines for ourselves and all will fall into place.
“I will wear a skirt for church, but the rest of the time does not matter.”
Many traditional Catholics can fall into this error of modesty. They believe that they should be modest in church and around their fellow Traditional Catholics, but as soon as they go back into the real world they no longer need to dress the same way. If we begin thinking this way, perseverance in the Faith will be extremely hard, if not impossible. Because as we grow older and begin making decisions on our own, modesty will begin to become farther and farther away, until one day it disappears completely.
As Catholics we need to decide what side we are on: the side of modesty, or the side of immodesty. There is no middle ground where God says it is ok to dress in revealing clothes in this circumstance, but not in that one. When we begin thinking this way, other aspects of our Faith fall into the danger of being compromised as well. Perhaps impurity will be okay sometimes, or drunkenness occasionally is permissible – we will begin finding ourselves in a variety of pitfalls that will compromise our Faith. As Catholics we must be firm in our beliefs in principles, or there is no point at all.
These few arguments are just the beginning to what we will hear by worldly people when we decide to be modest. Yet we should not be afraid of such questions, but see them as opportunities to stand up for the Faith and deepen our confidence in our principles and standards. Asking questions is part of life, and should not be something we run away from. If we ask ourselves these tough questions, it will deepen our confidence and prepare us for when others wonder about our way of life. If we pray for this confidence, modesty will turn into a life-changing virtue, rather than a burden.
With St. Padre Pio, let us pray for this confidence in God’s holy ways:
“O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Thy Divine Mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Thy Church. Help us to love Thee with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Thy Cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our crosses that lead to heavenly glory. May we receive Thee with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow Thee to act in us as Thou desirest for Thy greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Thy heavenly Father. Amen.”