by Leane VanderPutten
Part One is here.
Let’s talk about the beauty of modesty.
Here are a couple of definitions of beauty from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
“The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
Pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit….Can you imagine a tight pair of jeans exalting the spirit? What about a low-cut blouse….does that exalt the mind or spirit?
Here’s another definition of beauty:
“A particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality.”
Sounds quite lovely, doesn’t it?
Here’s some synonyms of beautiful. Makes us think Of Our Lady maybe?
“Bonny, comely, fair, good, lovely, exquisite, decorous, charming, seemly, appealing, favored.”
And it was interesting to read the VERY FIRST example of a sentence in the dictionary when describing beautiful:
“The Vintage Clothing maxi dress is beautiful in its own right with over 40 gorgeous prints and summery colors.”
Hmmm….seems Merriam Webster knows the definition of beautiful, and uses it to describe a piece of clothing…a dress, at that!
Every woman loves beauty. We admire beautiful homes, beautiful flowers, beautiful pictures, etc. We all long to be beautiful. Even if we don’t know it, we do. Those days when I was the “toughest” girl in the class and could outrun any boy….I longed for a different respect but I couldn’t put my finger on it because no one…and I mean no one….was teaching girls the beauty of modesty and femininity.
And just a note to all of us….
We don’t need good looks to be womanly and feminine and to gain the respect that those qualities gather up.
As Mabel hale so aptly puts it….
“A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. A woman who is not beautiful cannot properly fill her place. But, mark you, true beauty is not of the face, but of the soul. There is a beauty so deep and lasting that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it comely. This is the beauty to be first sought and admired. It is a quality of the mind and heart and is manifested in word and deed.”
Do we want others to see THAT true beauty? Of course we do! Then let’s not distract them by something we are wearing that draws undue and wrong attention to our bodies. We want friends to love us for who we are.
We realize that the womanliest, most beautiful, feminine woman in the world, the Blessed Virgin Mary, would want us to dress like a woman…a modest, graceful lady.
And this femininity shouldn’t shine forth only in church or outside the home. We must be an example for those around us. And most importantly, dressing modestly needs to become part of who we are…whether at home or abroad.
We need to seek goodness and purity first, then strive to keep the body in harmony with the beauty of the heart. And if we are struggling with that goodness of soul, let’s begin with our externals. They will help to change us on the inside.
When we make our changes, we do it with humility and charity…not looking at others and their choices. We do it for God, not for human respect. We will be blessed.
From Beautiful Girlhood…
“A fad that is causing strong comment today may in a few years be forgotten, but this principle always holds good: that our girls who are striving for a beautiful girlhood and a clean and useful womanhood should always dress so as to appear modest in their environments.”
Here’s a little story in my own life about the power of femininity…
I was a young lady and I had a crush on a young man in the neighborhood. Please keep in mind that I didn’t have a lot of guidance at that time in my life.
This lad didn’t give me a second look, I was boisterous and rather unruly.
This young man….I will call him Tony, liked another girl. I watched that girl. She certainly was different from me. She was more refined, had a sense of subtle modesty about her. She wasn’t odd, just had more grace and culture. Although she wasn’t real different in her clothing, in hindsight I could remember she definitely dressed more modest than most of the girls in my circle.
So, I , being who I was at the time, set my cap to learn her ways. I studied her mannerisms, her gestures, her femininity. I started to practice them….which was definitely a challenge for me.
The end of this segment of that story is this….Tony asked me if I would go out with him. I had gained his notice, not by being more in his face, but by practicing femininity.
I think this a bit of a silly story, although it was at a different time and place in my life…BUT…
I did learn a few things from this experience. Femininity can be learned, and modesty can be practiced, even if we didn’t start out on that path….or even if we were the opposite of these virtues.
Also, femininity is appealing. This particular young man was popular and could have had almost any girl. He preferred the modest, more feminine ones. Of course, this is often not the case…but with good men it is.
This was a very important experiment for me and I carried its lesson throughout my life.
It was a benefit of femininity purely on the natural plane. How much more is the spiritual benefit of femininity!
Here’s a benefit of modesty that we have found…..
We have an open house to the friends of our children. We monitor it closely, take part in their games, etc. The young men who tend to come over regularly are men who are striving for goodness. The other ones don’t even make an attempt at an invitation….you know why?
They see our girls and how they dress and their deportment and they know, without a doubt, that they have a code of conduct, it is obvious.
Their clothes…and also their speech and mannerisms….tell them that. That eliminates a lot of heartache for the parents and for the girls. It’s like their lovely, modest way of dressing is a billboard that says….I want a man who respects me, who is wholesome and striving for goodness, who will fulfill his role with responsibility and care.
Whoa! Can clothing really say that to a guy? In most cases, I think it can!
On a side note…there wasn’t a lack of suitors. Being modest did not mean my girls were not fun-loving and attractive.
Here’s an objection we run into….If our clothing causes a man to sin, that is his problem.
Is it really? If I knew someone who was a recovered alcoholic (and I do) and I knew that it was very hard on him to have alcohol around him, because it may cause him to stumble and fall, would I not do my utmost to protect him from that? Would I keep the alcohol out of sight while he visited? Would I refrain from having that glass of wine while he was over? Of course I would.
Why would I not dress modestly then, to protect the minds and hearts of the men around me?
A quote from Dressing With Diginity:
“To wear the kind of clothes that can arouse unchaste thoughts or desires in others is to present them with a near occasion of sin. To wear that kind of clothing, knowing it has this potential, is a sin (either a mortal sin or a venial sin, depending on the degree of the immodesty and the other circumstances.)
So, for example, do low-cut blouses, skin-tight jeans on women and teenage girls present an allurement to unchaste thoughts and desires for the average male?”
Colleen has had many men, young and old, write to her with the answer to that question…yes it does.
There is a certain exchange that happens when two people interact, even for a brief moment. What is the “residue” you are leaving behind you throughout those hundreds of interactions, whether at home, at the workplace, on the street, in church, during recreation, etc.
J.R. Miller says
“There is a powerful, silent, personal influence, like a shadow, which emanates from everyone — and this influence is always leaving results wherever it touches another person. You cannot live a day — and not touch some other life with this influence. Wherever you go, your shadow falls on others — and they are either better or worse for your presence.”
A young man says…
“It’s a circular thing. When women dress modestly, men are more able to treat women right. A woman who dresses modestly is more attractive to me than a woman who dresses provocatively to catch a man’s attention.”
Have you ever heard the term social modesty? Social modesty may be defined as a virtue which seeks to protect the chastity of other persons, or at least not to endanger it. It is ever careful to avoid anything that is calculated to excite bad thoughts and desires in others or to lead them to sinful actions.
What the Holy Father said in 1957 is still pertinent:
” . . . no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept; style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.”
This life is short. As a young person, the changes we make now, in our first 20 years will so greatly affect the next 20 years and this goes for any age we are at! Let’s have the foresight to move forward with this.
It was not easy for me to make these changes as a young woman. I was surrounded by the total opposite values and I was stuck in the middle of it. I got a hold of some very good books…old Catholic books, the kind I promote on this website….and I began to make the changes. They were radical changes for the time and the place that I lived. Oh! How much God has rewarded me. It was like a domino effect on my life. Slowly, slowly uphill.
A new respect for myself emerged. And those around me began to respect me more, too.
Sure, it was lonely at first. But I eventually found myself gravitating towards like-minded people ….and it became a part of life.
When I made my “re-version” to serious and what ended up being Traditional Catholicism, I had an open heart and was just ready to do what I needed to do to make changes in my life. I wanted changes. I wanted happiness. I wanted a future where I could get married to a good man and raise Godly children.
The good priest I was working for had modesty rules and he laid out the reasons why. This priest helped me so much in learning my faith. He knew his stuff….he himself was a convert from Lutheranism so if you had a question about faith…he could answer it.
So when I learned about how dresses make a woman more womanly, how it raised us up on a pedestal, how it made good men look deeper than our curves, how it pleased Our Lady and Our Lord….I was sold! And I never looked back! It was as simple as that. Modesty was on the menu!
Here are a few points to ponder. In 1927 Mary Immaculate Training College in Ireland created a Modesty Rule… It was part of their Modesty Crusade.
Now, you may say, wait! That’s 100 years ago! My objection to that is….has human nature changed, somehow? Are guys less susceptible to impure thoughts these days? Are women not affected by what they dress now?
No, these types of temptations, etc. are timeless. They remain.
Here are a couple of their rules that really say it all:
“Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders and back.
The clothing conceals rather than reveals the figure of the wearer; they do not unduly emphasize parts of the body.”
And I want to bring to your attention this excerpt from the International Review of Freemasonry, 1928. Freemasons were using the corruption of the times to try and destroy the Church but they didn’t find success. So here was their plan…. They knew they had to go slow or the women would not go for it. This quote is from the early 1900’s:
Religion does not fear the dagger’s point; but it can vanish under corruption. Let us not grow tired of corruption: we may use a pretext such as sport, hygiene, health resorts. It is necessary to corrupt, that our boys and girls practice nudism in dress. To avoid too much reaction, one would have to progress in a methodical manner: first, undress up to the elbow; then up to the knees; then arms and legs completely uncovered; later, the upper part of the chest, the shoulders, etc. etc. (International Review of Freemasonry, 1928)
And now… a word about sewing…
You may not be a sew-er. A couple of my girls are, the rest…not really. But we have a sewing machine and the girls at home can sit down and sew a seam if they need to.
Thrift shops are our friend but oftentimes we need to let down a hem or add lace to a sleeve.
Sewing is not as complicated as learning how to use a cell phone, so it is something that is worthwhile learning…even just the basics. In your modesty journey, a sewing machine is very helpful.
I have watched my oldest daughter, Virginia, take some curtains that she found at our favorite thrift store and turn it into a lovely skirt. When we need 3 or 4 inches added to a skirt, she always has material around to help in that area.
She gets sheets to line her aprons, lace and lovely vintage buttons to embellish her creations, and so much more! This makes it fun and exciting!
Sewing also helps if you have a more uncommon shape as a girl/woman.
I’d like to reiterate some things.
As a family, we come to you with the underlying theme that we are a dress/skirt family. There are some modesty guidelines that are set out for us by different groups and saintly people that we should follow. Do they say that you HAVE to wear skirts or dresses. Not necessarily but usually it is implied. It is more feminine. It fits who she is as a woman.
We must always strive to be modest no matter what the baseline of our outfit is.
If we wish to take it to the next level, to express to others and to feel deep within ourselves the gift of our femininity we may want to try the skirt/dress thing for a while. Notice the difference it makes in ourselves….and maybe even in those around us.
Here is a list of a few suggestions on raising your girls up to be modest, young ladies….
Be careful of the friends your girls have. Remember, you become like the people you associate with….and that goes for the movies they watch and the books they read. High caliber is what we are to strive for.
Be an example of modesty yourself. At all times.
Start young with the girls. I always strove to keep my girls modestly dressed. Right from the get-go.
Explain to them why you are dressing modestly. At the appropriate age, tell them of the temptations that can occur in men when we don’t dress modestly.
Keep the modesty issue positive. Shop for lovely things. Teach your girls to sew. Allow them the freedom to enjoy their clothes and to look attractive.
Praise them for their efforts.
A note on keeping modesty positive…
All my girls are so different, they have different personalities, different tastes, different styles. Being modest does not stop them from expressing their styles in the clothing they wear. They also tend to dress for their body types.
For example (Keep in mind these were photos I had on hand so they might not reflect exactly the style, but you get the picture)…
My daughter, Theresa, likes the Bo-Ho Chic style…straighter skirts and flowy looser cut tops…
My daughter, Gin, likes the Vintage 50’s look….belts, wide skirts, detailed and frilly blouses…
My daughter-in-law, Z, likes the casual, country style…leathers and denims….
They have fun with this and are still modest and classy. It’s a joy to see!
So we don’t have to squelch our own particular style…just funnel it into a modest fashion to make us look lovely as we express our own tastes and personalities!
May God bless all our efforts in our journeys to become more feminine, joyful, Catholic women!
You can’t help but feel more feminine in a dress! It’s a beautiful thing to look and feel like a woman, whether doing chores at home or out and about. Dress for your role with joy! ~Finer Femininity
A little encouragement in your search for modest blouses for the hot weather along with a little tutorial on shortening and hemming your blouse sleeves…
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