What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Women these days

“Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend my Son very much. More people go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” - Our Lady of Fatima

One of the most obvious signs of cultural degeneration in the West is the ubiquitous immodesty of women and, to our greatest shame, even innocent young girls. From the university campus to the supermarket, contemporary women have decided that the main purpose of clothing is not to conceal, but to reveal as much skin as legally possible to as many strange men as possible, making 19th century harlots look shockingly prudish by comparison. Some of the best-known "conservative" women are the worst offenders, dressing so provocatively that their grandmothers would blush. If you haven't already had the pleasure, consider attending a GOP fund-raising dinner for an eyeful of what passes for "conservative" fashion nowadays. On second thought, don't: custody of the eyes and all of that.

Things are so bad that modest, feminine clothing is almost impossible to find on the racks of clothing stores. Like many traditionalist families, we have been forced into exploring alternatives. Fortunate is the man whose wife is competent with a needle and thread ... and blessed are his daughters, who will be taught a valuable craft. In addition to making clothes, we also haunt the thrift shops and second-hand stores in which some beautiful "little old lady" clothes are reclaimed for a new generation. For others, there is a booming cottage industry of modest clothing online, although going this route can be expensive.

It seems a contradiction, at first, that at precisely the moment of history when feminism is at its peak, women in feminist-drenched societies are dressing with such brazen immodesty. Isn't feminism all about doing without men? Why should women be dressing as though they are desperate for male attention of the lowest kind? But I think if we look deeper, we will see that the correlation has internal coherence.

Ideological feminism is not chiefly about doing without men, despite the protests of some feminist leaders: rather, it is ultimately about power over men. And female sexuality is the most effective tool in the feminist toolbox when it comes to exercising this power. Secondarily, feminism is also about the sexual liberation of women, both physically and in the realm of imagination: dressing immodestly is seen as a victory over the the oppressive restrictions of yesterday's patriarchy. Although the preponderance of today's indecently clad females have inherited their situation and are not making any kind of statement - at least not consciously - they have also inherited the attitudes just described. The difference for the latest generation is that these attitudes, which form their only intellectual justification, are combined with their inability to inspire long-term loyalty and commitment from men. And so there is, I think, a real angst and alienation there, manifested in a desperation for male sexual attention alongside an implacable fear of traditional relationships and the loss of "freedom" and power such relationships mean for women. (If you understood that last sentence, you have my sympathies.)

In any case, what is to be done? I don't know what can be done on a grand scale, but certainly the first thing is for men to stop approving. Silence is consent, so drop some discreet words from time to time. Mention the magazine covers to the clerk at the supermarket. And - this seems like a no-brainer - don't keep indecent company yourself. If you have any authority in the workplace, don't hire women who dress indecently. Better yet, institute a dress code and enforce it. Avert your eyes when necessary, and make sure the women notice your discomfort. (Surprisingly, perhaps, many women will take the hint and show up the next day decently covered.) If you're a father, keep a close watch over your daughter's friends and influences. And consider homeschooling, if you can. If you have any doubt about what "modest" means, I recommend the following video:

Comments (132)

Jeff, I hope you don't mind if I insert here a plug for Lilies Apparel, which I wrote about several years ago.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/06/something_right_with_the_world.html

Somewhat expensive, though, as you say.

For women and teenage girls tall enough to wear women's sizes, many of the clothes available from Blair are also modest and quite pretty.

www.blair.com

To your point about men not remaining silent, at the risk of introducing a touchy subject, I want to add that men should *at a minimum* speak to their own wives, fiancees, and girlfriends about this matter. And they should do so even if the women are not dressing *as* immodestly as some other women, but are still showing cleavage, bare midriffs, or wearing exceedingly tight pants.

Again, I know that's touchy. I know it could cause tension. That's why, I _think_, the sooner the better. If after twenty years of marriage a man suddenly starts telling his wife that he would prefer she not wear such low-cut clothing, she may be irritated at the about-face and wonder if he's going off his rocker or turning into a crank. I suppose, on the other hand, that an established marriage would have some resiliency that a new engagement wouldn't have, so that's a consideration on the other side.

There are also clothing websites for orthodox Jewish women and girls that feature modest yet non-frumpy clothes. I can't remember them offhand - they came up in a discussion on a Catholic homeschooling list years ago when ours were still young.

Lydia, thanks for mentioning those modest clothing sites. Good stuff! As to men speaking to their wives, fiancees and girlfriends, I absolutely agree, especially with your addendum "the sooner the better". Best to get this straightened out before marriage. After marriage, things can get a little complicated. :-)

I spent a class hour trying not to be distracted by two girls on the front row of my freshman class whose blouses were cut so that, from my vantage point standing above them, I could see just about everything. If *I* was distracted, I can't imagine their poor *male* professors, especially as they like to sit on the front row and be involved in discussion (they are good students, too, with good ideas to add to a discussion; you don't want to completely ignore them).

I asked them to stay after class and explained the problem to them, reminded them they would be working with young men in peer review groups or projects while they are in college, and told them they shouldn't be displaying to everyone what should one day belong to one man only. I told them that, yes, men are to keep their eyes pure -- and that our job as their sisters in the Lord is to help them to do so. Then I told them I don't expect to see cleavage showing in my class, ever again.

I have no idea how they took it; they listened and understood, were polite. I saw one of them later that day. She'd had plenty of time to change, but was wearing the same top. It was interesting to see her immediately lift up the folder she was carrying to cover herself when she saw me . . .

My male colleagues, of course, don't dare say anything. I prefer to speak when I've had a chance to develop something of a relationship with a young lady, because they take it more to heart. (I thought one poor young thing was going to come completely apart with shame when I pointed out what she was doing to her fiance by dressing as she was -- I think she skipped her next class to run to her dorm and change.) But sometimes it's so bad I just have to exercise authority. I've even had to speak to instructors in our department about it. I extol the virtues of safety pins, broaches, scarves, and layering. :)

But it's true that many of the ones in my classes really have no idea what they are doing in dressing this way. Everyone does, it's all you can find in the stores, what could possibly be the big deal? It's hard to get through to them, often, because of that.

Great post Jeff and I especially liked Father Dominic Mary's sermon. On a related subject -- I just took the girls (with their friends) to a local water park during a work day. Let's just say I'm glad I brought my book* with me so I could attempt, at least, to avert my gave when appropriate (which was basically all the time). The young mothers there left nothing to the imagination and many had tattoos and some were obviously artificially enhanced. These were young mothers! I almost couldn't believe my eyes, but as readers of this blog know, when it comes to our depraved culture, just about anything is believable at this point.

*Ironically, I'm reading The Confessions, so it was nice to have Saint Augustine as a companion when I was struggling with temptation.

Beth Impson: My male colleagues, of course, don't dare say anything. ...
And that would be part of the deeper problem, wouldn't it?

What would happen should a man dare to say something? We all know he'd be viciously attacked ... by most of the women (including those who were just thinking to themselves, "Someone ought to tell these poor girls that they are dressing like they are prostitutes") and at least half the men.

True, Ilion, but the main constraint is the fear of a sexual harassment lawsuit. If a man in a position of authority "notices" and then, for any reason whatsoever "comments on" a young woman's attire, he is, truly, in grave danger of losing his job and his reputation. And yes, even in the Christian college where I work, because not all of our students/parents are Christians and even many who are buy into the world's thinking on this issue.

Why not buy a burqua instead? Say what you may about these jihadistas, but they know what decent clothing looks like.

On the temptation issue ... I know I'm a bit odd, in that I don't fit the stereotype of an American man (for instance, I have zero interest in watching sports, especially on TV); nevertheless, I am close to flabbergasted when I read/hear men going on about what a great temptation scantily clad women are to them.

Really, this is temptation to you? Women whose chosen behavior says, “I respect neither you nor myself”? Women who are so covered with paint that you can’t even see them? Women with so many earrings in their ears (*) that they look like Ferengis from StarTrek? Women who look hard and “used up” long before they are 30? Women with “tramp stamps”?

I don’t know, maybe I don’t fit the mold because I figured out *before* I was far into puberty that women try to use sexuality to control men, and I had decided when I was very young, after watching my uncle who was controlled by alcohol, that I didn’t want to be controlled by anything.

Women who carry on as is being discussed here do not tempt me, they merely annoy me. Might I suggest to other men that it would be to their advantage to cultivate a similar attitude?


(*) Isn’t it odd? Within living memory, most American women did not have pierced ears; and the reason they did not is that in the OT pierced ears were a mark of slavery.

... but the main constraint is the fear of a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Yet, is that not part of the deeper problem?

Both men and women (as men and women) have their proper roles and proper authorities. "Liberalism" advances by disrupting the proper roles and proper authorities of both sexes, and by making it near impossible for us to deal with one another as persons, rather than as representatives of a class.

Several weeks ago, I was waited on (at a McDonald's or a Taco Bell) by a young woman who was *not* dressed like a tramp, who had not covered her face in paint (if she was wearing any makeup, it was so subtle as to be invisible), who wore no earrings (much less the Ferengi-style), who had not bleached her hair ... and I could have watched her, studying her beauty, in fascination all day. Mind you, objectively she wasn't what everyone calls at first sight beautiful (*), she was moderately attractive, and a great part of that was her youth.


(*) I have cousins who take a man's breath away; I know what "drop-dead gorgeous" looks like.

including those who were just thinking to themselves, "Someone ought to tell these poor girls that they are dressing like they are prostitutes"

Ilion, I don't think _that's_ correct. If a woman was thinking that, she probably wouldn't blame the man for saying something, as long as he didn't do it coarsely.

Why not buy a burqua instead? Say what you may about these jihadistas, but they know what decent clothing looks like.

Grobi, you're always trying to tell me that I'm smart enough that my comments and posts which you regard as stupid or crazy are a disappointment. Well, take that here. What a particularly dense comment. It implies that _any_ concept of modesty _at all_, _any_ implication that women should cover up anything, might as well be considered equivalent with Muslim attempts to cover a woman's entire face, etc. I mean, that's just dumb. It's unworthy of a philosopher. There are lots of things in this world that come on a continuum but are nevertheless meaningful concepts. A philosopher should know this and should also be capable of making the common-sense observation that there is a lot of "space" (both conceptually and literally) between wearing a burka and walking about half-naked. _Since_ our culture has gotten to the point that women are, often literally, walking about half-naked, this common-sense observation shouldn't even need to be pointed out. But apparently to a liberal commentator dying for an opportunity to make a snarky comment, it does.

Why not buy a burqua instead? Say what you may about these jihadistas, but they know what decent clothing looks like.

First, I am glad to see that you recognize that Muslims who say that women must wear a burqua are jihadists. I would assume you have not problem with us deporting them.

Second, modest clothing does not require a woman to dress in a sack. My daughter, who is in her teens, wears clothing that isn't extremely tight or low/high cut. It doesn't mean she need to be formless. She also is on a swim team and like most of the girls, once out of the pool, she puts on either her warm-up suit or shorts and shirt when out of the pool. I hope you can understand the difference. Otherwise I have to assume you are just trolling. Or are you saying that unless we let people walk around in public naked, Christians are just like jihadists?

I don't know what problem there is about small, tasteful earrings, Ilion. I can remember being a little girl (and let's just say that was more than a couple of decades ago, without getting more specific!), and lots of women at my church had pierced ears, but only once, of course. Blue-haired grannies had their tiny little shell-shaped earrings or whatever it might be. So it just doens't seem correct to me to say that "most American women" didn't have pierced ears. Was it more than 50%? I would say, at my very conservative fundamentalist Baptist church in childhood, it could well have been, and that often included teenage girls. People definitely had opinions about what sorts of earrings were appropriate, but it could look pretty and feminine.

I never had any desire to do it, because I didn't like the stories from my friends about infections and the like. I'm a wimp. But I think the present phenomenon you are describing and that we have all seen (multiple piercings, deliberate ugliness) is really of quite a different order from Grandma's pretty little diamond earrings. One difficulty, of course, is that the present generation of young women probably don't know the difference, having been born into a different world.

I don't know what problem there is about small, tasteful earrings, Ilion.
I didn't venture any opinion about there being a "problem" with them; I explained *why* they were not commonly worn by American women even as recently as 40 or 50 years ago. Most American women, if they wanted to wear jewelry on their ears, wore clip-ons (which were quite painful), rather than piercing their earlobes -- which was seen both as mutilating their bodies, and as indicative of slavery.

I would say the chief result of ideological feminism was not so much the sexual liberation of women but the exponential increase in sexual opportunities for all men without the attending responsibilities of actually growing up, raising a family, etc. So much so, that I would venture that feminism is the intellectual spawn, not of any group of women in particular, much less of this or that woman, but of libertines of French provenance acutely aware of the economics of sexual offer and demand. I do not have a penchant for conspiracy theories but I do offer this suggestion in all seriousness -- and at the same time, wish I had the intellectual resources of an Umberto Eco to actually write the corresponding novel.

but of libertines of French provenance acutely aware of the economics of sexual offer and demand.

American, as well. Look up the name "Gershon Legman" some time. He was more influential than his bizarre and in many senses failed life would lead one to believe. One might call him "the Morning Star of the sexual revolution"--a shameful title, to be sure.

There is a chapter on Legman in a book called "Representative Men." The author tells (apparently thinking this rather amusing) of how young men in, I believe, the 1950's would take their girlfriends to Legman's apartment (in New York, IIRC) where he would regale the girls on sexual liberation and their duty to give the men what the men wanted. The young men used this deliberately as a device for seducing their girlfriends.

Why not buy a burqua instead? Say what you may about these jihadistas, but they know what decent clothing looks like.

I am embarassed for you, Grobi. What a predictable, thoughtless, and indeed even mindless reaction. From where I sit, that comment is yet another vivid illustration of how flabby and feeble most "educated" liberals' minds are, and how utterly incapable they are of dealing intelligently with genuine dissent from the right. You can't even wrap your mind around a sexual morality to the right of Western libertinism but which stops short of sharia and the burqua? Really? I'm sure the folks over at slate or crooked timber would think that sort of comment just nailed us to the wall, however.

Concerning feminism, I think Thomas Fleming hits the nail on the head:

Let us never forget that white males created and promoted feminism, that feminism is a male ideology. The women feminists were inconsequential eccentrics–compare the negligible influence of Mary Woolstonecraft with that of her lover Godwin, for example. Elizabeth Caddy Stanton and the other harridans they cite so often were regarded as freaks by both sexes.

Why did men create feminism? If we put the question to Godwin, Laclos, and Sade, they would say–if they were honest–that liberating women from control of fathers and husbands made them more vulnerable to seduction and exploitation, and that was certainly the foundation of the Playboy philosophy, and it has been said explicitly. Capitalists would have added that by liberating women, they could lower wages and make more money–remember it was the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce that came up with the equal rights amendment and “Equal pay for equal work.”

But libertinism and capitalist exploitation are not the root of the problem. Feminism is an outgrowth of Renaissance anti-Christian individualism that makes of every son, daughter, sister, brother, wife,. parent nothing more than an interchangeable algebraic entity. Throughout the 18th century, the unreflecting encyclopedists and their disciples asked stupid questions like, “Why should one religion be preferred to another,” and “Why should aristocrats have social privileges not enjoyed by peasants,” and “Why should men have rights that women don’t have?” The most obvious answers are the ones we give to children when they ask why they can’t stay out till midnight or eat in the living room. BECAUSE YOU CAN’T. Why, daddy? BECAUSE I SAID SO.

In other words, challenges to the natural order of things must be met with exertions of authority, not with ingenious arguments. But, no, stupid white European males who could not see beyond the end of their nose–or perhaps another organ would make a more appropriate metaphor–destroyed, one by one, the foundations of a decent and normal social order. So-called conservatives were content to wring their hands or, more often, go with the flow which they tried feebly to slow but never halt, much less reverse course.

C. Rodrigues, interesting comment. Speaking of French libertines, Michel Houellebecq [sp?!] disagrees pretty strongly with you on the economy of sex. He ruthlessly attacks the whole "free love" idea of the Sixties. His idea, as put forth in the novels I read, is that sexual liberation is another aspect of the neoliberal free market, where a few alpha males and attractive, young women get all the action, and the rest are left with little or nothing. So sexual liberation is a conspiracy not of men in general, but of alpha males. Houellebecq is nostalgic for what he calls the "socialism" of monogamy, where everybody's guaranteed a mate, but only one. You've probably read him already, but for those who haven't, he's worth a read.

Thomas Fleming is always worth reading, but I think he misses the nail on this one. I don't know about early feminists like Wollstonecraft, but it seems kind of strange to look at today's bourgeois feminism, and it's radical roots in the 1960s, without looking at changes in what Marxists call the modes of production. Ideas are always floating around the aether, but they were less applicable back when the household was an important unit of economic production. Modes of production had changed by the 1950s. The 1950s housewife ideal was unsustainable.

Fleming's "I told you so rhetoric," to the extent he means it to be taken seriously, is dead wrong. That's what's going on in traditional Islam right now, and we see how well it's working for them. It also happens to go completely against the views of some of paleoconservatism's intellectual ancestors, for instance Allen Tate, "Remarks on the Southern Religion."

Correction: I meant, Fleming's "because I said so" rhetoric. Also, I do know the difference between "it's" and "its."

Aaron: Given his association with Allan Carlson, I don't think the economic changes you mention is something Dr. Fleming is unaware of. And he alludes to it when he writes, "Capitalists would have added that by liberating women, they could lower wages and make more money–remember it was the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce that came up with the equal rights amendment and “Equal pay for equal work.”

@Aaron:

Speaking of French libertines, Michel Houellebecq [sp?!] disagrees pretty strongly with you on the economy of sex. He ruthlessly attacks the whole "free love" idea of the Sixties. His idea, as put forth in the novels I read, is that sexual liberation is another aspect of the neoliberal free market, where a few alpha males and attractive, young women get all the action, and the rest are left with little or nothing. So sexual liberation is a conspiracy not of men in general, but of alpha males.

I suppose if one views sex as a service -- whether one thinks this abstraction is justified by theoretical considerations (you are an honest scholar trying to grapple some socio-cultural phenomenon) or practical ones (you are a sex traffic mogul) -- then its economics is vulnerable to the kind of Marxist analysis M. Houellebecq performs, with the alpha male playing the role of the Dickensian capitalist. While I do not have any doubts that there is much more loneliness and sexual misery than the cheerleaders of our current moral dregs are prepared to admit, it seems likewise undeniable that there is a real democratization of the sexual opportunities. Or to put it in other words, M. Houellebecq's thesis is falsified by reality much like Marxist thesis and eschatological hopes was.

Whaaa...whaa..

You people have left me nothing to say,

I would say the chief result of ideological feminism was not so much the sexual liberation of women but the exponential increase in sexual opportunities for all men without the attending responsibilities of actually growing up, raising a family, etc.

Contraception, anyone?

Second, modest clothing does not require a woman to dress in a sack.

Give me a month and in today's impoverished aesthetic climate, I'll bet I could make a go of Sackwear.

The Chicken

There is a pervasive opinion that sexual modesty is associated with shame. In other words, a woman who dresses modestly does so because she has been taught to be ashamed of her sexuality.

One of the last things many young women want to be called is a "prude". So they dress in such ways as to exhibit the contrary. Fashion and the celebrity culture are to blame insofar as they are warped by a so-called feminism which encourages women to show, in public, that they are "comfortable with their sexuality" etc.

Even within the privacy of married life, there is a lot to be said for the ways in which modest clothing and a polite demeanour can sustain a couple's desire for each other.

I should also add I think the expression "sexual liberation" an oxymoron, in fact, oxy-moronic (cheap pun I know, just couldn't resist it). If I use it myself is simply for the bartering of information in the most efficient way with the least possible hassle.

@Aaron:

I forgot in my previous post to say that I have not read M. Houellebecq and do not have the least intention to. Time is finite and one has to make choices. My younger self, who was entirely oblivious of such things as prudence and modesty regarding aesthetic matters, might; and while I still have a strong stomach, if, a very big if, I am going to pummel my Christian sensibility then the aesthetic rewards had better be uncommonly high. James Joyce is a true genius; the Marquis de Sade cannot write his way out of a paper bag.

and I could have watched her, studying her beauty, in fascination all day. Mind you, objectively she wasn't what everyone calls at first sight beautiful (*), she was moderately attractive, and a great part of that was her youth.

Ilion, I have a hypothesis about attraction that would fit in with this: To some degree (different degrees in different men) our damaged male human nature is damaged particularly in regards to our sexual aesthetics: we SEE mere physical beauty and are drawn to it AS IF it constituted (important, core) human goodness. When you posit this as an actual statement, of course, it completely falls apart, because physical beauty is superficial, and can subsist in a person who is wholly corrupt, or (more usually) in a person who is good in some ways and bad in others. But our feelings and appetites are not subject to reason as they ought to be, and thus we have a built-in disconnect. Our male response to the stimulus is to be attracted as though the (mere) vision of this pretty girl represented a real human quality of goodness, as though her being pretty was both a guarantee of her being a worthwhile person AND that her favors might well be available to ME. Add in immodest attire, and the second facet - her availability - becomes virtually proclaimed as not merely a remote possibility, but rather an announcement of probability, of just waiting for me to gather in.

But some men even from a young age, and more men who have attained a measure of chastity, are more attracted to a woman who exhibits by her outward behavior interior virtues: self-confidence (especially, not having to rely on revealed-skin-produced attention from men to feel worthwhile), grace, and attention to pleasing others in ways that are wholesome and intelligent, rather than base and mindless. The man who habitually looks past the superficial level and asks himself "what might God enjoy in this person" is well on the way to being able to enjoy a deeper beauty than that which stops at the skin. But most men have to work long and hard to even begin to get there, and our social mores of the last 65 years have not been helpful.

I am pretty sure that it is not true that 60 years ago most women were against getting their ears pierced. Certainly in my experience as a child most women over the age of 30 and below 70 had their ears pierced. Maybe you were in an unusual environment? I would suggest, also, that if wearing "real" pierced earrings were at that time felt to be a culturally connected throwback statement relating to the ancient practice of putting earrings in slaves, then wearing "fake" clip-ons would be unavoidably a manner of simulating the exact same cultural statement. No decent woman would want to simulate something that is viewed that way.

One of the last things many young women want to be called is a "prude". So they dress in such ways as to exhibit the contrary. Fashion and the celebrity culture are to blame insofar as they are warped by a so-called feminism which encourages women to show, in public, that they are "comfortable with their sexuality" etc.

Quite true, Alex, quite true. I had an experience several years ago in speaking with a young woman who was raised somewhat carefully, that surprised me. It seemed (though it is possible that I may have misunderstood her) in discussing fashion that she viewed virtually ALL clothing that was more covering as being more "fuddy-duddy" than fashions that were more revealing. It went beyond any specific style, or any color/fabric grouping. It was the mere fact of covering more skin that made it socially unpalatable: it was old-fashioned (in a very pejorative sense) simply because ALL current fashions dictate less covering, more revealing.

I don't think the woman was speaking about her conscious choices of what clothing to wear, she was speaking from her sensibilities - it just felt overly burdensome to consider clothing that covered up as much as was the norm, say, 30 years ago. In that environment, I would venture, choosing to dress "modestly" meant something substantially different from what the sort of decision-making process had meant to women only a generation ago. Not, for example, asking "what effect does this sort of style have on male libido around me", but something like "is this in the middle-range of what other girls are wearing, not too much toward the vampy-slutty, but also not too much toward the granny-esque."

There is a pervasive opinion that sexual modesty is associated with shame. In other words, a woman who dresses modestly does so because she has been taught to be ashamed of her sexuality.

A shrewd comment, Alex. My impression (though I have not checked my OED on this) is that the very word "shame" once had a richer constellation of possible meanings, so that it actually could _just_ be used to mean mean something akin to "appropriate sexual restraint and innocence." Even if I am right, though, that was a long time ago.

I think there is a bridge to present uses in this: A woman who dresses very immodestly _should_ feel shame in a contemporary sense. That is, she should feel acute embarrassment. She should "wake up" and feel as though she has been in a bad dream in which she has been terribly embarrassed through not having enough clothes on. A woman who would feel shame (embarrassment) in this sense if she were to dress immodestly is a woman who has "feminine shame" in a somewhat older sense--a woman endowed with the appropriate "set of brakes" as regards what she talks about, how she dresses, how she behaves, etc.

Not, for example, asking "what effect does this sort of style have on male libido around me", but something like "is this in the middle-range of what other girls are wearing, not too much toward the vampy-slutty, but also not too much toward the granny-esque."

Bingo, Tony. Dressing modestly is for most young women not even a category. Being like other people, as you say, somewhere in the middle range of what other women are wearing, is everything. That is, of course, a completely sheep-like attitude and means that the clothing manufacturers will in essence be able to dress women in whatever way they please. The young women will simply buy what they see and wear what they see other people wearing, full-stop.

The most important thing we can do to fight this is to teach our girls independence of mind in this area. If they go to the store and pick up a top with a huge scoop neckline (I just saw these at our local superstore on what used to be the more "conservative" racks), they should do a double-take. They should say, "What? No way! Think how low that would come! I'm not wearing that!"

Sometimes I honestly think people buy clothes without thinking this through, then feel uncomfortable with them, but don't want to waste the money, so they force themselves to get used to them and to continue to wear them. I cannot count the number of times I've been walking behind a young woman and have watched her incessantly pulling down her blouse to try to cover up the skin exposed by low-rise pants. She obviously feels uncomfortable. The blouse isn't doing the job. But she just, in a sense, suffers with it. Evidently she hasn't said to herself, "I absolutely must either get extra-long blouses so that I don't have to think about this or shop for higher-rise pants or wear dresses instead or something. I'm not going to live this way." Instead, she just lives that way.

It's a passive attitude that I deplore, but on the other hand, it is angering that the vast majority of people, who don't have the explicit principles or the time or energy to be fighting the culture constantly, should not be able to buy modest, comfortable clothing off the rack. Why should Jenny College Girl _have_ to be shopping at special sites, spending (or asking her parents to spend) extra money, etc., just to get clothes that she can wear with minimal decency and comfort? The majority of people aren't cut out for that kind of never-ending battle, and life is short. It's a darned shame that it should be this way.

Let me add a warning to women who might be reading this: Low-waist skirts have come to town, in case you haven't noticed. I bought a couple of long, pretty skirts off the rack a couple of months ago for myself and one daughter and had to take in the waists (and heaven knows, I'm no seamstress) so that they didn't slip down. This isn't just a matter of extra-slim wearers, either. The waists were extra-large, though it was difficult to tell this by eye-balling at the time of purchase. I think almost anyone who was not overweight would have had to take them in so that they could be worn normally. It was still worth getting them, and I was glad that _something_ nice could be bought conveniently at the store, but it wasn't just a matter of buy-and-wear. You still had to do something to them to make them decent and comfortable.

I always dress modestly (or what any sane, non-Muslim extremist would consider "modest"). Yet as a young, attractive woman I constantly get crude looks and remarks.

The author of this article probably did not mean this, but these types of articles always seem to imply to me that if women only dressed a certain way, men would stop staring at them in a sexual manner. I do think women should dress in a way that is not overly revealing. However, in my experience, if a woman is attractive enough, many men will stare at her, and likely think (or say) sexual things.

I "liked" the neologism that someone came up with, for the suggestively-dressed pre-teens we see nowadays: "prosti-tots".

There is a pervasive opinion that sexual modesty is associated with shame. In other words, a woman who dresses modestly does so because she has been taught to be ashamed of her sexuality.

The irony is that this is exactly backwards. The word, makarios in the Beatitudes is usually translated as blessed or happy. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God," is from the Greek [transliterated]: makarioi oi katharoi tē kardia oti autoi ton theon opsontai

Notice the alliteration of katharoi and kardia (clean, heart). This alliteration is characteristic of the Beatitudes as it was a help in remembering them.

Kenneth C. Hanson wrote a paper in 1997 arguing that a better translation than, "blessed," for makarios would be, "honorable". This, he says, fits in better with the Semitic idea that holiness is honorable and sin is shameful. It is a tribal legal idea.

Katharoi means free from admixture or legally allowed for use because of its purity. A woman who was katharoi was a woman who was not only honorable among her kin, but also a pure vessel, free from any stain, that could be legally used for a good and holy purpose.

Thus, shame is only to be given to those who are not pure or modest.

Now, kardia means, "the heart," but this is often misunderstood by people who see this Beatitude. In the semitic mentality, the heart was not the seat of feeling, but the seat of the will and reason. Thus, to be pure of heart means, more properly, to be honorable in reasoning and will. How many women realize the dishonor they do to their minds, their will, their bodies, their clan (including, he who would be her husband) by the way they dress? It is not the passions which are seduced, first. It is the reason and the will - the real hearts of purity. I strongly suspect that it is not pimps, but academic, who are the cause of the immorality, today.

Dress is not the problem, though, is it, really. A nude woman is less shameful to the extent that she is helpless. To be pure is to be without any recourse from others of the same nature. It means to be totally dependent on God. It means that there is no relationship between the pure and something else other than that which is not like itself by nature. The pure at heart see God because there is nothing else to see. It was no accident that Christ was crucified naked.

We can argue culture and dress all day, but in the final analysis, concupiscience is at fault. Woman and men simply do not see these days, in a real sense. They view the world, but do not see the world. They view their sexual conquest, but they do not see her/him. To see, in the sense of the Beatitudes, is to see by the light of a holy fire, a holy other.

Those who dress immodestly are seeing by the light of an unholy fire, a desire to own the other rather than to love the other, a desire to lead them down into the pit rather than to fly them to heaven.

There is no correcting modesty in dress without correcting the dress of the heart. Dress is a part of the sacred. We know this because the man at the Heavenly wedding feast was thrown out for being without the correct attire.

I am sad to say this, but few women really know how to love, these days. Indeed, they don't even understand what it means to love. They have a duty to protect their husband's honor by showing the world the beauty of holiness, but they have no concept that there can be anything other than themselves and thus, no concept of holiness. No wonder divorce and teen pregnancy is rampant. They go into marriage, they have sex, without realizing the holy acts that they are because they have lost the light to see the holy. They see these acts as animals see them - merely as passions to be satisfy.

People dress up when they go to Church as a reminder of the white garment they were given at Baptism, which is a bestowal of the Heavenly wedding garment, if only for a moment. If they would realize that how they dress in public reflects their desire for Heaven, perhaps they would dress differently.

As strange as it might seem, modesty in sight must begin long before modesty in dress. If the light in the eyes is darkness, how terrible the darkness.

While dress must be judged according to the prevailing culture (so says, St. Thomas), I think he might not have realized that when a culture become driven from the bottom up, that cultures become layered and then there is no stable or definable culture and judging what is modest must resort to other means.

I cannot see how the dress battle will be won, today, with so many people misunderstanding theological anthropology. Sin follows a predictable path in destroying the image of what it means to be human in a man. Academics have tried, subtly and not very subtly, to change the nature of what it means to be a man or woman. How much they have won is shown on every street corner and classroom. They have re-made the image of man into the Darwinian animal they always though it should be, while in realms unseen, the angels shudder.

I can't offer any real concrete thoughts on the subject of the downfall (or is it the rise) of woman's fashions other than to say that a man should always dress, each day, as if he were to be buried in it that night.

The Chicken

The Chicken

The author of this article probably did not mean this, but these types of articles always seem to imply to me that if women only dressed a certain way, men would stop staring at them in a sexual manner.

No, he certainly didn't. But I'll go this far: If we had certain fairly widespread cultural changes, including _all_ women dressing modestly, _most_ men (even those not naturally given to self-restraint) would learn to keep their remarks to themselves. Of course, I'm talking about a global return to being "ladies and gentlemen," which requires changes on all sides and is, unfortunately, not likely to happen.

It would also help if there were a certain...latitude in society vis a vis a man's being allowed to biff another man who speaks nastily to a woman, especially one's own wife, sister, daughter, mother, etc.

I was just reading on another blog the saying that dueling is barbaric in a civilized age and civilized in a barbaric age. A lot of truth in that.

CR, re sexual democratization, I agree that pretty much everyone can probably get some kind of sex now, without the social stigma as in olden tymes. What I think Houellebecq means is that now that the market has been deregulated, most people can't get the kind of sexual relationship they want with a partner they really want.

I just looked at the Wikipedia page for Houellebecq, and it said his writings echo some philosopher and sociologist I'd never heard of, Michel Clouscard. I clicked, and came across this great formula: All is allowed, but nothing is possible.

Aesthetically, the two novels of Houellebecq's that I've read were good, but nowhere near great. I think he's sometimes a better writer than Celine, to take someone maybe in the same category.

As far as pummeling one's Christian sensibility, I don't know. Houellebecq is often labeled a reactionary; I'd label him a Catholic-nihilist. Houllebecq's enemies are the contemporary enemies of Christianity (specifically Catholicism) as well - sexual "liberation," commercialism, and others - but he's attacking those enemies from a nihilist, not a Christian standpoint.

I actually think some of Sade's writing is pretty good, Justine for example, if you take it for what it is. (Analogously, some of Philip K. Dick's writing is pretty good if you keep in mind that it's pulp science fiction.) But some of Sade's writing was literally unreadable, at least by me.

Tony: Ilion, I have a hypothesis about attraction that would fit in with this …
Of course.
Tony: I am pretty sure that it is not true that 60 years ago most women were against getting their ears pierced. Certainly in my experience as a child most women over the age of 30 and below 70 had their ears pierced. Maybe you were in an unusual environment? I would suggest, also, that if wearing "real" pierced earrings were at that time felt to be a culturally connected throwback statement relating to the ancient practice of putting earrings in slaves, then wearing "fake" clip-ons would be unavoidably a manner of simulating the exact same cultural statement. No decent woman would want to simulate something that is viewed that way.
Clip-ons paved the way for piercings.

"Oh, [Daddy/Momma]! Don't be so (18)80's! I didn't get my ears pierced, these are just clip-ons."

I am pretty sure that it is not true that 60 years ago most women were against getting their ears pierced. Certainly in my experience as a child most women over the age of 30 and below 70 had their ears pierced. Maybe you were in an unusual environment?
Perhaps it was your environment that was unusual. Did you grow up in a Catholic environment? If so, that might explain what you saw -- pierced ears were accepted among Catholics long before among Protestants (and among the “no-religion” with Protestant backgrounds; for instance, my mother, who was not raised as a Christian, wouldn’t wear even clip-ons (nor any makeup) after she became a Christian.).

For most of its 400 year history, and especially before the Civil War, American Protestantism has been strongly influenced by Judaism, what we might these days call Orthodox (or even Hassidic) Judaism. Until quite recently, Protestant preaching and teaching placed at least as much emphasis on the OT as on the NT.

Thus, the original wide-spread disapproval of pierced ears was stated in Jewish/OT terms: it was bodily mutilation, on par with scarification, *and* a sign of slavery. Later, the “social” reason for the disapproval moved (for a while) to “pierced ears and lipstick are signs of ‘loose’ women.”

And now, America having socially accepted pierced ears, pierced ears are not “enough.” Now we need a dozen piercing in each ear, and in our lips and noses and anywhere else we can stick a piece of metal, and we need to permanently disfigure our skin with tattoos.

I don’t know: maybe those old Jews were on to something?


Certainly in my experience as a child most women over the age of 30 and below 70 had their ears pierced.
*Think* about that, in light of what I have been saying (not just in this post.)

Even among Catholics in the US, pierced ears were not always considered acceptable. An old Catholic divorcee (thus, she was an outcast in the parishes), who lived with us for the last few years of her life, had an extensive collection of clip-on and screw-on earrings; but no piercings, not on your life! “Wild” women pierced their ears!

Even in Hollywood (at any rate, in the movies it churned out), within living memory, “good women” didn’t pierce their ears. Pay attention to any older movie, from the 30s up to late 50s or early 60s, if the movie shows a character taking off her earrings, she is almost always taking them off, not taking them out.

Actually, Ilion, I just think your statistics are all wet when it comes to women and earrings. I grew up in an aggressively Protestant environment, and statistically, I'd say it was pretty similar to what Tony saw in a Catholic environment. And if and when mothers did argue against it, even in my Baptist environment, where, yes, the OT was taken very seriously, I never, ever heard anyone mention slavery. That was obviously something from a vastly different culture.

Not, I imagine, that Jeff wants us to go on and on about this. I just think you're mistaken.

I didn't see pierced ears among parents. Perhaps, I did among younger girls. The trend definitely started in the 1960s. I have Ozzie and Harriet to back me up!

That being said, I don't think trends in clothing are going to change until changes in sexual habits change.

The Chicken

FWIW, some historical trivia about piercings:

Believed to be originally used for magic, earlobe piercing is the most common piercing performed today. Sailors used to pierce their ears to improve their eyesight, and it would pay for a burial in case of a shipwreck. Before this, ancient tribes believed evil spirits could enter the body through the ear canal. Because demons and spirits were thought to be repelled by metal, this type of piercing was used to keep them out.

Tribes in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Irian Jaya historically practice septum piercing, usually with a large piece of bone or tusk, to give their face a fierce look.

Mummified bodies with piercings have been discovered, including the oldest mummified body discovered to date, that of Otzi the Iceman, which was found in an Austrian glacier. This mummy had an ear piercing 7-11 mm in diameter.

Nose piercing was practiced among the nomadic Berber and Beja tribes of Africa, and the Bedouins of the Middle East. The size of the ring denotes the wealth of the family. It is given by the husband to his wife at the marriage, and is her security if she is divorced.

But some men even from a young age, and more men who have attained a measure of chastity, are more attracted to a woman who exhibits by her outward behavior interior virtues: self-confidence (especially, not having to rely on revealed-skin-produced attention from men to feel worthwhile), grace, and attention to pleasing others in ways that are wholesome and intelligent, rather than base and mindless. The man who habitually looks past the superficial level and asks himself "what might God enjoy in this person" is well on the way to being able to enjoy a deeper beauty than that which stops at the skin. But most men have to work long and hard to even begin to get there, and our social mores of the last 65 years have not been helpful.

When I read Illion's comment about beautiful (*) women and this response, cinema popped into my mind. There are only a few really beautiful cinema actresses today; I will forgo to name them. The most beautiful actresses can all be found where one would expect to find them, in the classic period of American cinema: Greta Garbo, Gene Tierney, Ingrid Bergmann, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Maureen O'Hara, etc. The latter has entered in many of the movies directed by the great John Ford, and of those "The Quiet Man" is my favorite. The small Michael O'Flynn, played by Barry Fitzgerald, describes the character Mary Kate Danaher played by Maureen perfectly: "And her with her freckles and her temper. Oh, that red head of hers is no lie." The first scene in the movie where she talks, she is feeding everyone at the table and chiding the little squints for the time they loose in the pub. When Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) first kisses her, she gives in but then punches him hard on the face for taking such liberties. You go girl! The fondest memory I have of the movie is not the final, Homeric fist fight, nor the much anthologized kissing scene in the graveyard -- the one that a mildly drunk E.T. watched on television -- but the scene just after the marriage, where she speaks of her lost dowry: the spinet, the table, her own china, her things, her home, her very independence and freedom, the stuff of her very dreams. Or a little later, when she is discussing in a very plain, matter of fact way about agricultural stuff with Sean, an ex-boxer from Pittsburgh, who was using the acres of green land to plant... roses. Not a single cabbage or potato.

Sigh. When I grow up I wanna be like John Wayne. Have to go see the movie again, darn it.

(*) Beautiful, not "sexy" or "hot" or whatever other similar vulgarities are common today in English (not my first language, thus my ignorance of them, but my language has its own exact counterparts). It is even more baffling, and a true sign of the times, that many women actually view these as genuine compliments.

Several weeks ago, I was waited on (at a McDonald's or a Taco Bell) by a young woman who was *not* dressed like a tramp, who had not covered her face in paint (if she was wearing any makeup, it was so subtle as to be invisible), who wore no earrings (much less the Ferengi-style), who had not bleached her hair ... and I could have watched her, studying her beauty, in fascination all day.

Ilion, I know exactly what you mean here. Feminine beauty is easily obscured by excessive adornment, accentuation of physical traits, and over-exposure of the body. The eyes, the smile, the cheeks, the lips, the voice - together with the mysterious language of physical movement, countenance, and disposition - all of these contribute far more to feminine beauty than jewelry, cleavage, and exposed midriffs.

But even these don't tell the whole story. Feminine beauty is almost impossible to define with any kind of precision. Edmund Burke tried valiantly in his essay On the Sublime and Beautiful, but I think he failed to capture its essence. There's actually something metaphysical about it. How is a plain, unadorned, unexposed (but pleasingly dressed) woman going about her business capable of conveying such an indescribable beauty? You have all heard of the "maternal glow" or radiance that an expectant mother sometimes possesses. I had the pleasure of experiencing its warm presence again just this afternoon. It's very real, but I can't begin to describe its physical dimension. The same is true of feminine beauty in general.

From whence comes this knowledge, received by mere sight, that a woman in view is tenderhearted, devoted, and loving or willing to love? The vulgar exposure and desecration of the female body that we see everywhere in our society today is, perhaps, meant to distract us from the fact that the natural, inner beauty of women has been extinguished.

I'll tell you something that I'm seeing a lot of lately: men are fascinated by women who dress and behave conservatively. Today's men are starved for true feminine beauty and are astonished when they encounter it. And when they are in its presence, they are reverent, or at least try to be. They are inexorably drawn to it but tend to keep a respectful distance from it, at least for a time, waiting for some kind of permission. They don't exactly know what to do with it, but when they see it up close, even in this barbarous age, most men realize instinctively that a woman is something infinitely precious.

I always dress modestly (or what any sane, non-Muslim extremist would consider "modest"). Yet as a young, attractive woman I constantly get crude looks and remarks ... in my experience, if a woman is attractive enough, many men will stare at her, and likely think (or say) sexual things.

Sadie, I have to admit that I find this hard to believe, at least as far as rude behavior is concerned. I've worked around plenty of male vulgarians who leer, gawk, and make sexual remarks to women (and more often, about women). I still do, in fact. But I've never seen this kind of behavior with respect to attractive women whose conduct is modest and who consistently dress like this:

http://www.catholichomeandgarden.com/Modest%20Clothing/Cotton%20Patio%20Dress%20Modest%20Clothing.jpg

I don't know, perhaps today's young men are even more hopeless than I thought.

Beth Impson: "My male colleagues, of course, don't dare say anything. ..."

Ilíon: "What would happen should a man dare to say something? We all know he'd be viciously attacked ... by most of the women (including those who were just thinking to themselves, "Someone ought to tell these poor girls that they are dressing like they are prostitutes") and at least half the men."

Lydia McGrew: "Ilion, I don't think _that's_ correct. If a woman was thinking that, she probably wouldn't blame the man for saying something, as long as he didn't do it coarsely."

Two things:
1) Really? (see below)
2) I get it -- "You men can speak the truth ... as long as we women approve of you how you tickle our ears when you say it." Oddly enough, God sometimes uses very crude language.

Sadie: "The author of this article probably did not mean this, but these types of articles always seem to imply to me that if women only dressed a certain way, men would stop staring at them in a sexual manner. ..."

Now, Sadie hasn't been vicious, but she *is* playing the "How Dare You (you mere man)!" card and the "You're blaming the victim!" card.
==============
Lydia McGrew: "Actually, Ilion, I just think your statistics are all wet when it comes to women and earrings. I grew up in an aggressively Protestant environment, and statistically, I'd say it was pretty similar to what Tony saw in a Catholic environment. And if and when mothers did argue against it, even in my Baptist environment, where, yes, the OT was taken very seriously, I never, ever heard anyone mention slavery. That was obviously something from a vastly different culture."

Again, two things:
1) You seem not to have really attended to what I said ... and probably were not helped by the fact that it was said over several posts, in response to others' comments, rather than as a carefully composed and edited essay.

2) Forgive me if I am wrong, but as I understand it, if you're even as old as 40, you're only just in that age range. The societal and attitudinal changes I was describing happened in my youth, before you were born.

Women, for their part, should display their beauty by dressing modestly and decently in appropriate clothes. 1 Timothy 2:9

Regardless of the spirit of the age, modesty in women has always been valued by men. The lack of modesty we're talking about is driven to some extent by 'philosophy', but emulation and competition among women also seem to be important considerations. This explains the 'clone' like appearance of so many young women which the idle (male) observer sees all over the place.

I'll tell you something that I'm seeing a lot of lately: men are fascinated by women who dress and behave conservatively

True, dat. The hottest thing I ever saw in college, at a highly regarded party college no less, was my ex-girlfriend's roommate (who was a swarthy skinned half-Mexican, half-Russian Jew) walking around in an authentic kimono. My male friends' jaws nearly cracked like glass on the floor when I told them about it.

(*) Beautiful, not "sexy" or "hot" or whatever other similar vulgarities are common today in English (not my first language, thus my ignorance of them, but my language has its own exact counterparts). It is even more baffling, and a true sign of the times, that many women actually view these as genuine compliments.

I had a post on this, Mr. Rodrigues, that I think you would appreciate.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/07/on_being_ladies_and_gentlemen.html

I am a professor at a fairly well-known Christian university. Several months ago we hosted a major academic conference that had attendees from a variety of schools including BYU. I had a lunch with one of the BYU profs who commented to me that he was shocked at the type of dress that our female students were sporting. He went on to say that BYU simply does not tolerate immodest or sloppy attire by either female or male students. I was so embarrassed, since he had told me prior to his arrival on my campus that BYU looked up to my employer as a "model Christian institution," one that BYU seeks to emulate.

A woman who can expose her cleavage to get a man's interest has no more skill with men than a man who uses the trappings of wealth and power to get female attention has skill with women. On some level, I think a lot of women know this but are afraid to admit that they don't really know how to get the interest of a man through subtle means like body language. If a woman can seduce a man and win his heart while dressing modestly and not being overtly sexual, she'll likely have far more security in her relationship than she otherwise would.

On the point about pierced ears I know that most of the Old Hollywood Movie Stars wore clip on earrings in there films because essentially none of them had there ears pierced. It was like this all the way up until the very late 50's and early 60's when the studio system fell apart. I read a book which discussed the film studio's fashion designing process that pointed this out.

See, the problem is, I have still never come across a site for modest clothes that don't look frumpy. And that includes the site linked in the comments. Those were still excessively frumpy. Sorry! Maybe if someone actually made modest clothes that weren't icky I would buy them.

Although, I feel like I've done fairly well at stores like Target and various consignment shops in my area. I don't think I'd be termed immodest. But you are right, sometimes I do sort of stare at girls (and guys to be fair) my age and wonder what on EARTH they are doing to themselves. (Though I do not take issue with make-up...one of the comments mentioned make-up and I feel that is drawing a line that the bible never drew. I'm always highly uncomfortable with putting more rules on the Christian life than God has)

On the women required to wear the burqa...some of those women actually WANT to wear them. And also, "Jihadist" is not a real word. What would that be? A strugglist? I mean, I realize this isn't the forum for this conversation, but really? Perhaps, Mujahideen is the word you were searching for?

On a more humorous note...has anyone seen the Burqini? Google! It's SO worth it.

There's a big difference between the two sites I linked. Blair is a more ordinary store and sells casual clothes, including shirts, pants, jeans, and shorts, as well as dresses.

As for Lilies, they sell only dresses, and the styles of the skirts, for example, are very long. I have particular styles there that I think are lovely, especially in the girls' dresses. For girls, the "Sally's dress," the "Elizabeth dress," and the "Felicity." For women, check the "ladies' formal," for example. I don't know why one would call either the "ladies' formal" or the identical "girls' formal" "frumpy." They're just lovely formal dresses of a style that was worn proudly not all that long ago to church, banquets, etc. The girls' dresses with names might be rather young styles for a grown woman but look wonderful on a girl, even on a teen. The "Elizabeth" is a dress style I imagine any feminine little girl would give, figuratively speaking, her eyeteeth for. But one isn't wearing fancy formal dresses all the time, of course.

The Blair clothing is definitely more mainstream. If you browse the site extensively, I think you will definitely find things that could not be called "frumpy" at all, unless, as Tony said above, "frumpy" simply _means_ "not showing cleavage" and the like, in which case--well, the word is just being way overused. Most of the clothes are simply ordinary and pretty. They have an extensive line of feminine T-shirts and other shirts that I always wish I could justify spending money on.

The three biggest challenges in buying off the rack now are a) not showing cleavage (or coming so close that one is afraid to breathe), b) not showing skin at the waist because of low waisted pants and shortened female-style shirts, and c) not wearing either tops or bottoms that are really tight. That's just for starters and not to mention mention see-throughs, halters, and other issues. If you can buy your clothes from Target and avoid all these problems, Heather, I take my hat off to you, because I don't think I could accomplish that for myself and/or my girls.

Just took a look at Blair, Lydia -- thanks for that link! With myself as the only female to dress now, I can afford to spend more than when the girls were at home, and I saw a bunch of nice tops for under $20 that I would love to have. I see an order going out tonight . . . :) (I would love to get some of their jeans, but I can't possibly buy that type of clothing online, as what ought by rights to fit never seems to feel quite right.)

Re "jihadist," I think it's a perfectly good English word, a translation of mujahid. It doesn't mean "strugglist" because jihad doesn't mean, simply, "struggle."

My pet peeve is the fake-Arabic word "jihadi," which if it existed in Arabic would mean a person who comes from a place called Jihad.

I think the worst translation, though, is translating shahid as "suicide bomber." That's just way out there. "Martyr" or "martyrdom bomber" would be objectively correct. Or if that's too suggestive to use in the media, then simply use the Arabic word shahid.

Many of the Mennonite-owned sites sell dresses straight out of Little House on the Prairie. Nice looking but too costume-like. I think they can draw attention in a different way by sending the message "look at me! I'm REALLY modest."

Vessels of Mercy dress shop has some nice designs that aren't too "costumey." Don't have the link but you can google it. You can send the seamstress who runs it your own fabric and her prices are very reasonable.

My wife bought my daughter some dresses from Gehman's Country Fabrics but we caught flack for the Little House on the Prairie look.

Not to threadjack, but this is a fascinating look at prostitution ...

[Sorry, Mike, but this isn't the time or place. - JC]

I wonder to what extent the impersonal design and mass production of clothing has adversely affected style. The clothes are not fitted for the customer and the tailor or dressmaker is not vulnerable to angry family members or disapproving looks and whispering. And the low cost means clothing does not need to be durable or usable in four seasons, or even three. Maybe that doesn't matter though. Even the priest has to sound like a kid talking about dating: what about this? or this? or this?

I think they can draw attention in a different way by sending the message "look at me! I'm REALLY modest."

I hear this complaint a lot. I think it's off the mark. Drawing attention is not wrong in itself: drawing the wrong kind of attention is the problem. With the "prairie look" there's no danger of being an occasion of sin for men. And there's little danger of feeding anyone's vanity, either. The woman who dresses out of pride or display is, I think, far less likely to be found in a prairie dress than in more mainstream choices.

Jeff, I'm not necessarily saying that they're "too modest" if that's how you're interpreting me. Just that the style draws attention like you're going to a costume party or participating in a civil war reenactment. THere's more modern styles that are just as modest.

I agree that they're much better than modern immodest dress. My wife and daughter have worn the "costumey" dresses so I hope I didn't insult you if your wife and daughters choose that type of dress.

I don't see how any pro-modesty initiative wouldn't devolve into a mass of hopeless subjectivity. Consider that 100 years ago ankle length skirts were pushing it and sleeveless anything was a no-no. Standards have changed so much in such a short time that there's little solid ground anymore.

I wonder to what extent the impersonal design and mass production of clothing has adversely affected style.

Timon, I think the modesty issue really is separate. I say this on the basis of having been involved in buying clothes for three daughters for quite a long time. Children's clothes were just as much mass-produced and impersonally designed fifteen years ago as they are today, but they were just much, much nicer. The ideas about style that came out of the heads of the people doing the designing were not hideous, falling off, and immodest.

What has changed is not mass production but what the producers choose to make.

Nowadays, if you even go to a fabric store to look for a pattern to have someone hand-make a dress, it's nearly impossible to find a decent pattern.

In other words, styles nowadays truly stink, and it isn't because of impersonal production. You should have seen the clothes JC Penney sold for little girls fifteen years ago. You'd hardly believe it. Now I would never buy anything for girls from JC Penney.

There was a noticeable downturn some time around a decade ago, and then in the years after that the women and girl styles fell off a cliff. I remember quite distinctly suddenly realizing approximately eight years ago, possibly nine, that the waist-lines were dropping precipitously on girls' pants. I thought, "What in the world is going on?" I discovered that I _could not_ find decent jeans except for very, very slim girls. Since I knew that not all of my girls would end up very, very slim, I ran out to the local superstore, found a sale on boys' jeans (with adjustable waistbands), which at that time were not yet made to fall down (!!), and stocked up on every "regular" size I could find up through size fourteen. I remember thinking, "Will any of my girls ever wear these?" Well, they have. One of the smartest things I ever did.

Standards have changed so much in such a short time that there's little solid ground anymore.

Oh, well, heck, then, how about if all the women just walk around topless. We're nearly there already, and this is all just subjective anyway. How could anyone say that was immodest?

See, Matt, the problem is that when you take that kind of "absolute relativist" position you end up with, well, absolute relativism. We might as well all be naked, the term "modesty" has no meaning, and no one has any reason to object to anything. Anything goes.

One would think that now that we've gotten as far as we have culturally--I almost literally do see women half-naked or more than half-naked during the summer months, in public, and not only on the beach--this type of "continuum" argument would be revealed for the fallacy that it is.

Not _everything_ that can vary from place to place and time to time, not _everything_ that has different levels that come on a quasi-continuum, is therefore purely subjective and limitless.

By the same token, what sort of punishment is "overly harsh" is also somewhat culturally and temporally variable, yet any sensible person ought to agree that, say, making a child go without any food for days on end as a punishment is wrong.

Standards have changed so much in such a short time that there's little solid ground anymore.

Standards? What is this Standards of which you speak? Don't you know that there are post-Modern fashions for the post-Modern mind? Everyone defines his own truth, er, hem length.

Don't fashion trends go lock-step with sexual mores? Is it a coincidence that the Pill and the minskirt came at the same time? How is a woman going to want to dress modestly if her sexual behavior is still wild?

Woman dress the way they do because they are not afraid of sin, anymore.

The Chicken

Standards have changed so much in such a short time that there's little solid ground anymore.

In fashion perhaps, the basic attitude has been around for close to a century.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flapper

Feminine beauty is almost impossible to define with any kind of precision.

I don't know either, but a captivating voice is part of it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qGz26T_zz0

Jihadi may be fake-Arabic but makes a perfectly good Hindustani/Urdu word. Perhaps the usage came from Pakistan?

Last summer in San Diego I was parking the car on a street near the beach around 10pm. As I stopped at a red light, two girls in their twenties crossed the street in front of me wearing almost nothing - tiny shorts, skimpy bikini tops and 4 inch heels. I was startled at first since both were very attractive with much flesh on view. But my surprise turned to sorrow...not outrage... since I have daughters the same age and these beautiful young women had turned themselves into sexual bait for the musclebound tank topped men awaiting them at the club down the road. There was no real reason to do so since both were beautiful women and probably even more attractive if they covered up a bit. I do not believe in extremes in fashion - our great grandmothers would have been appalled by the fashions of the 1920's or even 1950's - and while it may work for a few women who are inclined to do so, the overwhelming majority of women do not want to be viewed as unfashionable or dressing like grandma. BTW, my Muslim friends say your head would spin if you could see what some young women were wearing underneath the burqas! It appears that in my parish all the women dress in such a manner that is not distracting to the men in the pews at Mass. They don't look dowdy or unfashionable but just use common sense and sense of place. You don't win many converts by being too judgmental or exclusionary especially if a majority of young women and men today are virtual pagans governed by the Zeitgeist.

You can just arbitrarily declare that we'll stop at e.g. the 80s or something, but why? At some point an argument must be made, and the pre-20th century is no help as they never had to answer the question. Are knee high skirts ok? Why? If you have a standard you have to defend it, and the inability or unwillingness of past generations to do so has contributed to where we are today.

Matt, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Again, as I said, yes, these things do come on a quasi-continuum, but that cannot possibly mean that there are no limits or that all limits are arbitrary, or we all might as well be walking around naked. The phrase "stopping at the 80's" is a little prejudicial, because it implies that one is picking a time period rather than something else that makes more sense--such as not showing female breasts, for example.

If you have a standard you have to defend it, and the inability or unwillingness of past generations to do so has contributed to where we are today.

Matt, there is the standard issued by the Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI in 1928:

“in order that uniformity of understanding prevail in all institutions of religious women ... we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper ...”

This is, admittedly, more rigorous than even most traditional Catholics observe today (my own house included). But it's there!

And of course there is Cardinal Siri's famous notification:

http://olrl.org/virtues/pants.shtml

"The wearing of men's dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children's eyes. Each of these points is to be carefully considered in turn:--"

The problem is not that it's arbitrary. The nudist's belief isn't arbitrary, he has reasons for thinking that nudity ought to be socially acceptable. But among the mass of people who have a general feeling that immodesty in dress has gone too far, I don't see this same sort of thinking at work. If you want to say that skirts should fall below the knee, you have to say why you think this if you want it to be any more than a personal preference. If it is just a personal preference, then you can't really complain when others don't abide by it.

An idea of modesty has to be tethered to something other than the subject, or nothing will prevent it from becoming a hopeless mass of subjectivity. That isn't any different than the 'whatever you want' norm that we have now. Jeff provided one example; church authority. That works for the Catholics, now what will everyone else do?

That works for the Catholics, now what will everyone else do?

Convert

The Chicken

That works for the Catholics, now what will everyone else do?

A little common sense goes a long way. There are standards of dress, but they depend greatly on the context. You don't wear a business suit to do physical work or play a sport (well, maybe Jeff does). You don't wear skimpy clothes at church or other formal occasions. The only difficult thing is deciding where to draw the line between casual and formal dress for everyday activities like shopping. Some conservative think there should be no such thing as "normal" casual wear but they are clearly wrong.

Convert The Chicken

Sure, convert the chicken into what?

That works for the Catholics, now what will everyone else do?

We might try some common sense and ask normal questions and draw conclusions about sexual arousal, particular parts of the female body, and the like.

You don't wear skimpy clothes at church or other formal occasions. The only difficult thing is deciding where to draw the line between casual and formal dress for everyday activities like shopping.

How long has it been since you've been to church?

But this isn't even what the topic is about. The issue at hand is not in what circumstances one should wear casual vs formal dress, it is about what form casual dress should take.

Common sense tells us nothing beyond the extremes. Ok, so we're against public nudity and the burka. Great. Despite the slackening of the age, nudism has never caught on. So I guess we have nothing to complain about?

Now how about, say, tube tops? Skirts above the knee?

Despite the slackening of the age, nudism has never caught on.

Oh, come. Don't be willfully dense. Even read Patrick's comment just above. You don't think something akin to a bra and a pair of shorts that are pretty much just glorified underwear is maybe _close enough_? You ever go outside during the summer? Get a clue: Things are _extreme_.

Perhaps part of the issue here is the delicacy of the people you are talking with on this thread. After all, the people calling for modesty are the people least likely to get highly explicit, but surely you _know_ what body parts are being flaunted in everyone's faces.

Women wearing bikinis are not naked...I'm not sure how I'm supposed to read minds to decipher what exactly is 'close enough' to naked according to someone else. My whole point thus far is that 'close enough' differs from person to person, and does so in part because no one will ever actually be specific about what they're talking about or tie it to something outside their own 'common sense'. I'm not sure why it is too racy to talk about shoulders, midriffs, or knees, but fair enough if it is.

This:

“in order that uniformity of understanding prevail in all institutions of religious women ... we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper ...”

is specific. So maybe start here? Is a skirt that shows the knee ok? How short can the arms be before it is indecent? Any specifics at all? We know what you're against, now what are you for?

How long has it been since you've been to church?

About a year ago, nobody was wearing anything I would call skimpy.

Now how about, say, tube tops?

If it shows the navel, that is more like beachwear. If it conceals the midriff it can be fine for many public places, although it is too skimpy for a business setting. On the other hand, covering the arms and shoulders with a light sweater could make it acceptable there, depending on the relative formality of the customers.

Skirts above the knee?
As a general rule not for a business setting. A skirt that covers at least half the thighs is fine for other public areas. If it is shorter than that, it should be limited to sports activity or beachwear.

You ever go outside during the summer?

Yes, and some people are trying to get a tan. You expect them to cover up while they do that?

My whole point thus far is that 'close enough' differs from person to person

Yeah, it's all relative. When I see a girl in a bikini, I always think, "She's either relatively naked or relatively clothed. In my eyes she's nearly naked, but in her own well-covered. The fact that the only things hidden from view are the tips of her breasts and the V of her pubis is inconsequential. That vastly more skin is showing than not does not mean that she is immodest, since she doesn't think of herself as nearly naked. She certainly doesn't want men to find her desirable, or to look upon her with lust in their hearts (that's their problem), nor will she be blamed for rending the veil of a young boy's innocence. She just wants to be left alone to get a good tan."

Besides, what's so bad about lust? And boys, after all, have to grow up sometime.

About a year ago, nobody was wearing anything I would call skimpy.

Damn, Step2. And here I'd been thinking you were a weekly matriculator.

Bill,
If you changed it to weakly matriculated you'd be right :)

@Bill Luse:

Yeah, it's all relative. When I see a girl in a bikini, I always think, "She's either relatively naked or relatively clothed. In my eyes she's nearly naked, but in her own well-covered. The fact that the only things hidden from view are the tips of her breasts and the V of her pubis is inconsequential. That vastly more skin is showing than not does not mean that she is immodest, since she doesn't think of herself as nearly naked. She certainly doesn't want men to find her desirable, or to look upon her with lust in their hearts (that's their problem), nor will she be blamed for rending the veil of a young boy's innocence. She just wants to be left alone to get a good tan."

Bingo. Modesty is also about *other* people's rights, not leading them into temptation or gaining power over them by sexual attraction. In a word, Love. From the Gospel of Luke 17:1-2:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

These are very harsh words. I will leave to everyone's judgment as to how fitting they are for the situation under discussion.

I certainly agree that immodesty is a terrible problem these days, but here is an interesting comment thread that attempts to trace the history of the statement attributed to Our Lady. Someone with the handle of "Suburbanbanshee" claims (unfortunately with no footnote, but with the original Portuguese provided) that the remark was actually made by the seer Jacinta on her own authority and not attributed to Our Lady.

http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2011/04/certain-fashions.html

Yes, and some people are trying to get a tan. You expect them to cover up while they do that?

Step2:

1) If they want to tan _that much_ skin, to the point where they are mostly naked, they should do it in some private location (like a privacy-fenced yard) or in a tanning salon. "I want to get a tan" is not a quodlibetal excuse.

2) They're trying to get a tan in the grocery store? Because that's where I see them. I don't go to the beach.

To my fellow fellows, concerning the all-too-common immodesty of "Women These Days" ... if it makes you feels any better -- or, one hopes, make you any wiser -- this immodest behavior isn't about you, for it isn't about men at all, it is about competition with other women. Such women are playing "I'm 'Hotter' Than You", and in that game, men are just the chits or tokens by which they keep score ... that's one reason they get so annoyed when we indicate that we notice their dress and demeanor, or, heaven forbid, "judge" them on it; for the game requires us to be depersonalized (else we can't be used as chits), and we've reminded them that we're still persons.

Well, I give up. Thanks to Step2 for actually answering a question, and not trying to psychoanalyze my hidden radical relativism that I was unaware of.

The Chicken: "We can argue culture and dress all day, but in the final analysis, concupiscience is at fault. Woman and men simply do not see these days, in a real sense. They view the world, but do not see the world."

Amen, brother! Your commentary on "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" certainly helped me to better understand the root of this rot.

Matt: "Women wearing bikinis are not naked ..."

She's not nude, but she is naked.

@Lydia, I must have missed the Blair site! Re-link please?

@Aaron, Jihad does indeed mean struggle. Either against believers or against the sin in oneself. Anyone who uses the term Jihadist is not really looking for conversation, just to poke at people.

@Jeff, You said "With the "prairie look" there's no danger of being an occasion of sin for men." This is incorrect because a man could sin in this way if you looked absolutely dowdy and drab. Please don't blame us girls for others' sins.

From what I can see, I'm with Step2 overall on this. I'm probably a LOT closer to the "modest" side of things than most women of my generation. But, I am not sure where the line of modest can be drawn. Unfortunately, I think relatively in things that are relative, and objectively in things that are objective. Modesty in dress tends to run a little relative. I mean, one can't really say (outside of the Burqa and fully unclothed) THIS is right and THIS is wrong. The bible never really gave us a graph that shows what we must keep covered and what we are allowed to expose. I mean, I personally think we can all use common sense. String Bikinis for example...come on! But, what about Tankinis? What about one piece? What about a one piece with sleeves and shorts? What about a wetsuit? I don't know. I don't believe anyone here knows.

Here's the Blair "women's favorites" page, just for starters. Of course it's fall clothes just now:

http://www.blair.com/category/Womens/Customer-Favorites/pc/2/20.uts

Here's the beginning of their T-shirts and turtlenecks listing:

http://www.blair.com/thumbnail/Womens/Tops-Sweaters/Tees-Turtlenecks/pc/2/c/19/126.uts

"I'm probably a LOT closer to the "modest" side of things than most women of my generation. But, I am not sure where the line of modest can be drawn. ... I don't believe anyone here knows."

Translation: I'm not modest, and HOW DARE you notice that I am not.

But then, I'd expect such of someone who'd go out of her way to express this howler:

... Anyone who uses the term Jihadist is not really looking for conversation, just to poke at people.

===========
Here is a good rule of thumb for everyone, including those who claim not to know where modesty lies -- if you tend to get indignant when persons who are "not cool" (for example, mature persons of either sex, or most men in general who cannot offer you some material or social advantage) question the appropriateness of your attire, then it's close to a 100% probability that you do not dress and conduct yourself modestly.

I mean, one can't really say (outside of the Burqa and fully unclothed) THIS is right and THIS is wrong.

Heather, first you say that the "prairie look" can be an occasion of sin for men, and now this. Please - don't feign ignorance here. It doesn't fool anybody. You know exactly what men in our culture find sexually provocative. If you don't take that into account when you dress then you either a) don't care; or b) are pursuing the social benefits of immodesty. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you just don't care. Fine, but that's not the same as ignorance. And if you truly cared but were unsure, you would err on the side of caution.

The phrase "occasion of sin" has a specific meaning, Heather. It doesn't just mean, "Someone could commit sin in this circumstance." It means, "This is definitely raising the odds that someone will commit sin in this circumstance."

It's a little bit like being grumpy with one's spouse. Certainly, one's spouse could be grumpy even if I'm an angel of sweetness and light. But if I'm grouching at him all over the place, I know this raises the odds of occasioning grumpiness on the other side. That's just one of many reasons not to act grouchy to one's spouse.

I don't know. I don't believe anyone here knows.

I do and I'm willing to give you the answer for a modest fee, but, then again, what is a modest fee - something not too small and not too large? Have you noticed that the word, modest, means exactly the opposite for money than it does with dress? Everyone hopes for more with money, but less with clothes. This should tell you something about the direction of disorder in the passions. The whole point is that sin begins in the imagination. Imagining what one could do with more money or less clothes is the way to sin because the imagination loses track with reason. Man is a projective creature. How short is too short? Well, you are your brother's keeper. Get to know what is good for your brother and that will tell you. People are constantly inside of other pepole's heads in their imagination. Thinking about how clothing might affect your brother is no different.

The Chicken

None of use have actually addressed her examples:

"But, what about Tankinis? What about one piece? What about a one piece with sleeves and shorts? What about a wetsuit? I don't know. I don't believe anyone here knows."

There are things that are obviously immodest others are harder to tell. Personally I don't consider a one piece to be immodest as long as one is at a beach or a swimming pool.

As the years have passed I've become more and more supportive of separate male-female group swimming, especially for people from puberty on up. (I have no problem with mixed swimming or swimming classes for children.) It's unlikely that we'll have a chance to return to that, but it makes a lot of sense. I tend to think that once a girl has reached puberty and begun to develop, even quite modest (as such things go) swimsuits should make her feel uncomfortable around boys and men. For one thing, they will be tight when wet and will show things underneath that she would be embarrassed about under all other circumstances. It is not as though people's eyes change structure and become unable to see certain things when near large bodies of water.

I tend to think that once a girl has reached puberty and begun to develop, even quite modest (as such things go) swimsuits should make her feel uncomfortable around boys and men. For one thing, they will be tight when wet and will show things underneath that she would be embarrassed about under all other circumstances.

Quite true. I generally think that that modesty does allow a modest (ha ha) loosening of SOME rules due to changes in conditions and circumstances, but that only goes so far. A formal dress occasion may permit a lady to wear something a little more attention-gathering than when she is going to church, for example. Likewise, playing baseball or frisbee would suggest (long) shorts or capris for a girl, yet even if long those shorts are not adequate for some other occasions. But even one-piece swimsuits for women are skin-tight. I have purchased shirt-and-short type bathing suits for my girls a couple times, and they at least are not skin tight when dry (and require much less sunscreen, to boot). But they are hard to find, costly, and harder to swim in, so there remains a trade-off.

I have hesitated to impose a total "no mixed swimming" rule on my family, because it would effectively ban my boys from interacting with some good neighbors half the summer. And these neighbors are, generally, well dressed (as the culture goes). But the problem is real: even a full-cut bathing suit is more like underwear than any other regular clothes, and this has an impact on the imagination.

Some of you may find this survey interesting. It asks guys all sorts of questions about modesty in the form of "agree/disagree" statements. A lot of them have written text responses. It's very informative:

http://www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey/browse

The Elephant

Very interesting and useful survey, M.E.

The one set of text responses (on a quick browse) that surprised me and that I felt a little sad about, in a way, were from the young men who said that a V-necked shirt is always immodest and then clarified this by saying they know in theory that it needn't be but have never seen one that isn't immodest.

Now, that's an honest answer, but given the age that I am, I've seen _many_ V-necked shirts that aren't immodest at all, for which it's literally just a minor variation on the neck shape--no plunging, no problem when bending over, nothing. It really showed me how much styles have changed and how fast, because I'm sure they are right: They never _have_ seen a V-necked shirt that wasn't immodest. In other words, they've never seen one such as was around say, fifteen-sixteen years ago, and even more, twenty years ago. Or perhaps they were only three or four years old at the time and didn't notice!

My wife and daughter have worn the "costumey" dresses so I hope I didn't insult you if your wife and daughters choose that type of dress.

Bruce, I forgot to respond to this. Rest assured: no offense taken. The Culbreath ladies do wear the "prairie look" now and then - it tends to be easier to make at home, and we do live in the country - but most of what they wear is more stylish. Judging by the amount of time they spend fussing over fabrics I would guess that style is a concern with them. :-)

it tends to be easier to make at home, and we do live in the country

That surprises me, because I would think long sleeves that are gathered like that would be hard to make. I speak as a non-seamstress, however.

Lydia, I have been astounded at the change in womens' blouses, in that many of them that are shaped the exact same way as a button blouse of 20 years ago, but now are missing the top button (at the collar) AND the next button down (in some cases, even the 3rd button!!!). The fashion-commissars insist that you don't dress modestly, even when the cut of the blouse is unchanged. They don't bother making a new fashion in the sense of a new cut or new color combinations: the change in fashion is simply, solely, SHOW MORE SKIN, dammit, or we'll rip your shirt off.

Which was more or less explicitly stated recently by the fashion-gestapo when a famous Brit gal went to the Australian beach completely covered, head to toe: she has an OBLIGATION to show more skin, is what some people actually said. They were outraged that she simply chose not to, in spite of the clear social expectation that if you are going to the beach, you are committing yourself to an event of objectification, you are supposed to be ogled. How DARE she do otherwise! How dare she pass up an opportunity to be a thing for other men! I am sure that the women saying this had made the exact opposite choice, and felt their outrage that she did not submit to the same evil that they chose to submit to, even though they did it of their own (free?) will.

Some of those blouses you mention, Tony, are very lovely. What the designers can't prevent one from doing, if one wishes to be modest, is adding a brooch, or using a safety pin and wearing a pretty choker necklace, or using a scarf, or wearing a pretty sleeveless top beneath them . . . Some of the blouses that don't button can be made quite modest with a scarf or a brooch or safety pin, also. It all depends on what one wants to look like . . . and sadly, many of my young students really don't understand the issues involved -- they don't change the look because they think "everyone dresses this way; it must be attractive" or they don't want their girlfriends to laugh at them for being "prudish," etc. I know that a significant number of them are not trying to be provocative and some even feel uncomfortable in these styles -- but the world has a firm hold in fashion ideas and they stifle their natural reluctance.

For many, the problem really is they have never been taught what modesty and chastity are all about. And so they are able to numb their conscience because it seems so out of synch with all that they see (yes, even in church on Sunday mornings; I was utterly appalled at the strapless, above-the-knee dress a not-so-young mother wore just last week) that they can't let themselves believe their own better instincts. Some of us are doing our best to help them, but it's a genuine battle to reach through all the cultural messages. (The feminist-derived "if a man is bothered it's his problem for being a lout" mantra doesn't help, either.)

For many, the problem really is they have never been taught what modesty and chastity are all about.

They have been taught, if at all, that it has something to do with not having babies. This is a lousy reason because those urges are there for a reason and are good. Chastity is badly framed in modern culture because liberal churches and theologians threw in the towel with regards to sexual issues back in the 1930s and it flowered in the 1960s. If God's love is unconditional (a favorite trope) then he will bail you out of anything. Love is a feeling, right, an affirmation of the Other. No matter that the affirmation might be a lie; no matter that the feeling might be no more worthy of humanity than any other high that life affords.

I will keep repeating it: how one defines love is a reflection of what one thinks of God and humanity. Does no one stop to think that after Adam sinned, the first think God said to him was: Where are you, not who told you were naked? To be naked apart from God is not to be seen by God at least in terms of what is most important to him: relationship. Not to be seen by God...what a frightening thought. Tell kids that and it might be worth buttoning up that top button.

The Chicken

I've been wondering about these button-less blouses myself lately, Tony and Beth: Is it possible simply to sew additional buttons on at approximately the right places? Or is the spacing of the remaining buttons off at that point? Or is the problem that one would have to create buttonholes to go with the additional buttons, and most of us don't have the know-how and equipment to do that?

MC: absolutely, and beautifully said. These are the things I try to tell my young women.

Lydia: most of the ones I have would not work with added buttons because they actually don't come straight up from that now-top button; they are just enough of a vee from there to make buttons bunch up the material on either side. But really -- get some pretty brooches from your local thrift shops and you can pin the blouse tops together just fine, high enough to feel very comfortable. (You don't have to overlap the sides very far to "connect" them.) My mother-in-law gave me some that I just love -- a pewter rose, a shamrock, a colorful butterfly -- and I have one that belonged to my mother's grandmother that I save for extra-special occasions.

As for making buttonholes, it's a pain, unless you have a good buttonholer on your machine. (My Singer is excellent, but it's the first one I've had that worked well.)

Beth, you're right - it is easy to turn some of the stupid styles into something modest with a slight effort. If only the girls knew something about what modesty and chastity actually mean.

My pastor has been fighting this battle for 3 years now (that's when he came to this parish), and about 2 years ago he decided to turn the thermostat down. Standard temperature is now 66, sometimes it has been 64, and virtually everyone knows they will freeze to death if they don't wear something that covers. When I go to daily mass I bring a heavy sweatshirt, and my kids have at least one (sometimes more) sweaters secreted about the van. Amazingly, I do sometimes see young women wearing off-the-shoulder styles, and I can't imagine how they can stand it, but it is not nearly as often.

Beth Impson, on Sept 10, at 2:14 pm,

One of the things you're pointing out, whether or not meant to do so, or even understand the poiunt, is that women tend to be creatures of the herd.

About brooches, I would think a nice brooch would really hang heavily on a nice blouse front, making it feel dragged down/forward and making me worry that it was pulling too hard on the fabric. Perhaps if it were pinned quite high up on an Oxford cloth shirt this would work, but I would think not with anything silky. I've never tried it but did have one blouse I finally gave up on and gave to Goodwill because of this problem, and I don't think a brooch would have worked with that.

Ilion, human beings, especially young ones, are creatures of the herd. Not to change the subject too much, but this helps to explain why young men get tattoos (which they sometimes later regret), wear earrings (which look effeminate and stupid), or wear ugly hair styles. And this can include young men who at least wear pants that are not falling off.

Ilion, I'd have to be pretty dense not to realize that. That's just human nature. I'm interested in the particular ways that human nature plays out in the people I am to some degree responsible toward. Telling someone to "fight the herd" doesn't do much good if she doesn't know how or why she should.

Lydia, of course some blouses lend themselves to use of a brooch more than others, but you can find some lightweight ones that work on a lot of fabrics. Not the really thin ones, no, but I love to wear scarves and have found ways to use them with many of my blouses, and some I just pin together with a safety pin. Usually I can keep it from showing by pinning through the plackets and not going all the way through the upper layer. No one notices that there aren't buttons, and a necklace draws attention away from the blouse, too.

women tend to be creatures of the herd.

...and men tend to be creatures of the scene...

Okay, I just had to say it...

The Chicken

@Ilion: Excuse me? Do you know me? Absolutely you do not. I suggest you cease making filthy accusations of me. Neither my pastor nor my father (who I would definitely accept suggestions from) have suggested I change anything about my appearance, and I frequently ask my father. So perhaps you'd like to message me privately and I can give you my father's email address and you can talk to him instead of publicly libeling a lady you don't even know. How dare you indeed!
I stand by my "Jihadist" comment.

@Lydia: Thank you very much for the Blair site. I'm eager to look through it. :-) I do agree with your "occasion to sin" assessment. I do find it unfair to wear super short skirts and think "WHY are you lusting, you horrible man?" I absolutely agree.

@The Masked Chicken: Yes, this is what I try to do. I do think of others when I dress. And not, "Boy I bet this ONE guy would like this outfit." More, "is it fair that I am wearing this around my brothers in Christ."

@Jeff Culbreath: Is that so? So, ok, will jeans cause men to stumble? If not what about skinny jeans? What about bootcut? What about low waist? What about mid-waist. I'm just saying a man (or woman) can be tempted by someone of the opposite gender whether they are wearing a bikini or a burqa. Now, would I use my common sense and eschew plunging necklines? Absolutely! But if I do wear a "prairie muffin" outfit and some man still somehow lusts, am I still at fault? Should I put on more clothes? How many more before he will actually have to answer for his own sins?

@Lydia, Praise the Lord for you! That website is great!! Pretty clothes without looking silly. Thank you SO much! I am (I deeply regret) not a seamstress. This website is a lifesaver!

I'm just saying a man (or woman) can be tempted by someone of the opposite gender whether they are wearing a bikini or a burqa.

Few men are tempted to lust by seeing a man wearing a burqa :)

Heather - it was obvious to me that you are trying to be modest, but I am guessing that you are still young and haven't really learned that men are weaker than you think.

***************************************************

[Setting up a folding stand]

Okay, little lady, just for you. Yes, I'm talkin' about you...have you ever wondered if the man in your life is also the letch in your life, oggling you like a tempting skinned chicken? Can you help it if you were born with a centerfold shape and a perfect figure? Do you wonder if men in the office are really reading the form letter you sent them or looking at the letter of your form?

Well, little lady, I have just the thing for you. From a secret lab in Uzbekistan, we announce the release of "Invisible, You." Yes, that's right, the first apparel for women that don't want to "apparel" too much. This little blouse, for only $19.95 (U. S currency, only and no checks) will make your midriff drift away. Put on the matching skirt and never worry about modest, again. You say he never looks at your face, well, with a dress from IU, all he'll see is your face. Yes, that's right little lady, a walking, talking head that he'll be forced to deal with. It's the ultimate feminine apparel for the ultimate feminist. With this optional head cover, you can walk around without worrying about prying eyes. Quickly, you will captivate your man by the haunting qualities of your suddenly-there voice.

Buy, today, and at no extra charge, we will throw in a sample of Scents, When?, the new fragrance that makes fragrances go away. Have you ever been worried about men attacking you in a dark alley, well, with Invisble, You and Scents, When? not even the Maryland state police with full pursuit hounds will be able to track you.

Many of these items have been sold, overseas (I'm told we are very popular in Russia), and for a limited time, they can be yours. Step right up and let the search for modesty end.

**********************************************

There are some days I wish someone would invent the cloak of invisibility. That would solve a lot of problems.

The Chicken

Well, maybe few men in the West. But I think the answer isn't to put women in a burqa (which I believe MOST people on this site would agree with). It's to suggest to women that they consider their brothers in the Lord more than they do AND to give the guys some "Hey! Stop looking!" talks as well. I just think there are definite problems on both sides, and it's usually the gals that get blamed.

Heh...I'm not that young. I'm fairly aware. I'm glad you've assumed that I am trying though. Because I am.

LoL! This is why I need to read comments a little slower. (still flustered by above negative comments) Few men would lust after a MAN in a burqa! hahahaha!

Yes, my original statement should have been. "I'm just saying a man (or woman) can be tempted by someone of the opposite gender, whether the woman is wearing a bikini or a burqa. And...I don't know. I can't think of an example for what a man could be wearing. I guess shirtless or something."

Sniff, sniff...it's lonely in this comment box. I've actually managed to keep people from commenting for a whole day. Do I win a prize? It's my vacation and I'm sitting here with no one to talk to. I might actually have to do some work.

Seriously, I was reading a book, today, that is relevant to this topic and a book I highly recommend. It is Archbishop Fulton Sheen's book, Three to Get Married. He has a very good analysis of these issues.

The Chicken

"Seriously, I was reading a book, today, that is relevant to this topic and a book I highly recommend. It is Archbishop Fulton Sheen's book, Three to Get Married. He has a very good analysis of these issues."

That book has been on my reading list for a long time, MC. Thanks for the reminder. Funny, I was just reading another book touching on the usual dismissals of modest feminine clothing as "frumpy" or unfashionable - "Happy Are You Poor" by the recently departed Fr. Thomas Dubay. Here's one passage:

"The New Testament twice speaks of exaggerated feminine adornment, and in our day the admonition needs likewise to be addressed to men. Possessing in their baptismal consecration a far greater beauty, Christian women are not to adorn themselves in a showy splendor by doing up their hair, wearing elegant clothes and fine jewelry. It is salutary for all of us to realize that primping prettiness is ultimately a losing battle. A woman's imperishable attractiveness rises from her heart, for inner goodness and a sweet disposition are precious to God and to men (1 Pet 3:3-5; cf. also Prov 31:10-31 and 1 Tim 2:9). This inner grace it is that will cause the final splendor of the risen body. Poverty beauty is permanent.

... Saint Alphonsus Liguori observed that 'every vain ornament of dress shows that he who wears it is puffed uo with vanity', and he cites Saint John Chrysostom to the effect that a 'religious who attends to the decoration of her person manifests the deformity of her soul'. One may quarrel with these ideas if he operates on the world's premises, but it is difficult to imagine a plausible argument stemming from Gospel presuppositions."

@Jeff Culbreath: Is that so? So, ok, will jeans cause men to stumble?

Good grief, is this a serious question? Jeans will absolutely cause men to stumble. They even write songs about it. An innocent google search with the right terms would answer your question in a heartbeat (but please don't do it).

I'm just saying a man (or woman) can be tempted by someone of the opposite gender whether they are wearing a bikini or a burqa.

Except that the burqa has nothing to do with it, and the bikini has everything to do with it.

@Ilion: Excuse me? Do you know me? Absolutely you do not. I suggest you cease making filthy accusations of me. Neither my pastor nor my father (who I would definitely accept suggestions from) have suggested I change anything about my appearance, and I frequently ask my father. So perhaps you'd like to message me privately and I can give you my father's email address and you can talk to him instead of publicly libeling a lady you don't even know. How dare you indeed! I stand by my "Jihadist" comment.
Indeed, I do know you -- as do all here who have read your comments with open eyes: you are a person who has chosen the wilful disinclination to reason properly.

And, how totally droll that you seem to imagine that getting hysterical will serve some purpose (I guess no one has told you that hysteria doesn't really work in this medium) ... and that you call on Daddy; for, after all, you are a "strong, independent" "woman".

My "oppressed by The Patriarchy" grandmothers would have had quite a chuckle.

Masked Chicken: ...and men tend to be creatures of the scene...
Have I ever said or implied that the male sex is not flawed?

Both sexes have stereotypical strengths (or positive character traits) and stereotypical weaknesses (or negative character traits). And, generally, those weaknesses can be seen as the mirror-images of the strengths.

AND, when a person tries to exhibit or model a given positive character trait in the mode that seems to come naturally to the opposite sex, that person tends to display not the strength, but the weakness. Thus, women who try to be strong in the way that men are strong, rather than in the way that women are strong, tend not to be strong at all, but simply to be head-strong and argumentative [*]es. Thus, men who try to be nurturing in the way that women are nurturing, rather than in the way that men are nurturing, tend not to be nurturing at all, but simply to be vacillating (and, sometimes, passive-aggressive) wimps.


[*] a word that Miss Grundy has decreed may not be uttered in polite company to refer to the sort of human female of whom it is the appropriate English word.

Ilion, I'd have to be pretty dense not to realize that. That's just human nature.
My purpose was to make explicit the meaning (and importance) of what you'd said.
L.McGrew: Ilion, human beings, especially young ones, are creatures of the herd. Not to change the subject too much, but this helps to explain why young men get tattoos (which they sometimes later regret), wear earrings (which look effeminate and stupid), or wear ugly hair styles. And this can include young men who at least wear pants that are not falling off.
Even in this debauched age, in which the "goal of life" has become to Never Grow Up, what is the proportion of 50-year-old (so-called) men trying to conduct their lives as though they were still 15-18 compared to the proportion of 50-year-old (so-called) women doing likewise?

... just to be clear, Miss Grundy also gets antsy when the word [*] is used in its original, canine, context.

That surprises me, because I would think long sleeves that are gathered like that would be hard to make. I speak as a non-seamstress, however.

Lydia, I couldn't tell you how difficult it is to make long sleeves and keep forgetting to ask my wife. Anyway, I'm thinking of what they call "jumpers", which are worn with a shirt underneath.

@Ilion: Did I ever mention that I was a strong independent woman? Here let me scan my comments....oh yep, I didn't. Do you have a problem with strong women or something? Are you talking physical strength? Emotional? Spiritual? The last time I looked those are all pretty positive traits. As far as independence let's see. Uhm, I live at home, and I depend on the Lord for everything, and I view my father as my protector (from men like you!). Sounds like someone has a teeny bit of a misogyny issue, yet I like how you don't take me up on talking to my father.

@Jeff Culbreath: Oh, you have a problem with jeans. Ok, well, my pastor and my father don't. So, we just parted ways on this one. It's alright. I've read much of what you have to say and I agree wholeheartedly with much and respect a lot! This one I'm going to have to respectfully disagree on. Please note underlined respect. I really do respect you....just disagree

And @Ilion, you are wrong. You don't know me. Just had to get that one out of the way.

Lydia -- as to making gathered sleeves: I never found them very difficult, just a little tedious -- but I had a superb seamstress who taught me how to do these things as soon as I was old enough to hold a straight pin without drawing blood and keep my fingers out of the way of the sewing machine needle. :) I wish I had had time to sew when my girls were young. Right now I'm trying to find the energy to just pull out the current needlework project and put a few more stitches in it.

Touching on claims of 'frumpiness' and the herd mentality ... what do you think are the odds that the same young women who refuse to wear actually modest clothing due to alleged frumpiness will eagerly wear eye glasses with frames such as these, (most of) which are both ugly and frumpy?

...remember it was the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce that came up with the equal rights amendment and “Equal pay for equal work.”

-Thomas Fleming (as quoted by "Daniel")

Alice Paul was "the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce"? I disagree.

I'm sorry but something must be said about your statement that feminism is "ultimately about power over men." The dictionary definition of Feminism: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women EQUAL to those of men. While it's totally understandable how you and so many others have got the impression that your definition is in fact what feminism is all about, the truth is that until we start recognizing the importance of honoring both genders (and all races/cultures/classes for that matter) EQUALLY, we, as a society, will continue to pursue power and position over others rather than unity, a trend which is a root cause of the current chaos taking place throughout the world. Your heart is in the right place but please, for the benefit of your readers (and that of the human race), please look up definitions more carefully before throwing them around. I'll end with a quote form Jimi: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." :)

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