Nobody Tells Me What to Do!

Have you ever tried having a normal dialogue about modesty and fashion?

After about two sentences, you will hear...

"Nobody tells me what to wear!"

"The Vatican can't tell me how to dress!"

"How dare they! They're blaming/shaming me for...{wearing pants, wearing shorts, wearing a tank top, wearing anything other than a tent...}"

A dear friend shared a teaching video by another mutual friend, the lovely Colleen Hammond. Now if you watch all 16 minutes of this video, there are a few things you can glean from it.

Here's what I learned from this video:

  • Until the 1970s, women throughout the ages (even as far back as Greco-Roman times) wore loose, flowing garments cinched at the waist, with arms covered, and something on the hair.
  • Only servants and slaves wore low cut garments or less clothing.
  • The Vatican gives us modest guidelines...pun intended. Here are the guidelines for women: knees covered when seated, nothing sheer or clingy, and neckline two finger's width below the pit of the throat. And although skirts are recommended for ladies, there is nothing prohibiting wearing trousers if one's station in life calls for them, as long as they are neither tight nor revealing.

So what happened when my friend share this video? Women immediately leaped all over it, feeling blame/shame....

  • "No Vatican is going to tell ME what to wear."
  • "I can't wear skirts all the time. They're so uncomfortable and I HATE wearing pantyhose." (Notice how no one, neither Colleen nor the religious guidelines, mention hosiery.)
  • "What you wear shouldn't matter!"
  • "What you wear isn't important."
  • "What a lot of nonsense."

I had to sit back and re-read the comments a few times, then watch the video again. Because there is absolutely nothing in the video that imparts blame, shame, guilt or condemnation for wearing slacks!

If you listen to what Pope Pius XII had to say at the start of the video (Colleen reads one of his messages), he clearly acknowledges that Catholics are allowed to follow fashion trends, within reason. He's not suggesting we wear old-fashioned garb like the Amish or the Shakers of New England so that we stand out. He is, however, suggesting,a long with the very open and accommodating guidelines, that we Catholic women start dressing in a manner befitting our status of Daughters of the King. (That would be Jesus, folks.)

Today at Mass we had a wonderful visiting priest. Father Tony talked about acting like Jesus and how you start taking on the qualities of the people you hang around with the most. If you hang around with people who swear a lot, you pick up their habit. If you hang around with generous people, you become generous. The idea is that you spend a lot of time with Jesus, you will become more Christ-like.

He gave us this little exercise to do during the week, which I thought was very powerful: pretend that in the morning as you step out your door, Jesus is there. He says to you, "I'm going to walk alongside you all day today, but I have laryngitis so I can't speak. You'll have to speak for me. If you get into trouble, just turn to me and I'll help you know what to say, but it's you who have to be my ambassador to everyone we meet today. Okay?" Whooo boy, don't you think you'd behave a little differently?

Now think about this, ladies: if you stepped out your door and Jesus waited for you on the front steps, how would you want to greet him? In tiny short-shorts and a tank top with your tattoos showing, or in something a bit less revealing?

It's true that Jesus is going to love you whether you're wearing a a lovely dress or a bikini, but the point is, wouldn't you feel a tiny bit uncomfortable dressed in the bikini and meeting Our Lord?

If you were going to visit the White House by special appointment and were going to meet the President, wouldn't you put on your nicest dress? And if you were going to England and you ran into Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, or perhaps Duchess Catherine and Prince William, wouldn't you want to be dressed your best?

So why do you we fight so hard when the church very gently offers guidance on modest fashion? Keep in mind, it's guidance - there's no fire, brimstone, no anger attached to those guidelines. It's guidelines for how to live your life dressed as a Christian woman, no more, no less.

This is one of those things that puzzles me all the time. We can and should be doing better, ladies. Nobody wants to take away your favorite pair of jeans. And no one is suggesting you wear clothing inappropriate to the situation. I wear jeans while doing farm work; I'll wear them to clean the house. That is situational-appropriate attire. On Sundays, it's inappropriate to wear the same jeans I wear to do masonry work to church. 

What we wear tells the world who we are and sends strong subliminal messages. Why else are shows like "What Not to Wear?" and makeover columns in magazines so popular? It's because we do understand that what we wear matters. It gives others an impression, right or wrong, about who we are, our station in life, our beliefs and our work.

So what's your work in life? What's your belief about yourself? 

Do you believe you are indeed the Daughter of a King, or are you trying so hard to fit in with the world you're getting lost in the crowd?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord...whether in jeans, pouring cement on the farm, or in a dress on Sunday.