How Small Can I Go?: Modesty and Summer Fashion

As summer approaches, the clothes of winter are put away and the light, airy clothes of summer are put on. The hotter it gets, the more pressure there is to dress in short dresses and low tops. After all, don’t you want to show your friends the tan you got this weekend at the beach? You may be considered “hot” in that dress with that tan, but are you beautiful?

We know from our own experience that women want to be beautiful, loved, and to do something great in this world. This desire for beauty, love and greatness includes but goes beyond exterior. When we see a person like Blessed Mother Teresa our hearts swell in love for her. In her, we see a kind of beauty that surpassed cosmetics, a love that reached beyond the body and cared for the soul and a holy greatness packed inside such a tiny woman.

Nevertheless, somewhere along the way we have forgotten who we are and with it, our greatness and feminine beauty. And so, the world offers us their version: a manufactured type of beauty based solely on consumerism, lust pretending to be love and achieving greatness has been confused with getting the perfect tan.

So, we know that we desire beauty, love and greatness, and we get a hint from our reaction to Blessed Mother Teresa that there is a deep beauty and love that exists and is possible for us. But, what is it?

French philosopher, Simone Weil, gives us another hint. She wrote, “In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God.” From this quotation from an insightful woman, we can see that what we identify as true beauty is nothing other than the recognition of God’s presence. God is beautiful. We should strive to be truly beautiful so that we too can stand as witnesses to God’s presence in our souls and in the world.

In order to be truly beautiful, women must be modest. But what is modesty? Modesty is not an invention made by a group of celibate priests or knitting grandmothers. It is a virtue – a virtue so broad that it branches out to attire because clothing veils the body (aka: the temple of the Holy Spirit) and the intimate center of the person. Modesty is not disdain for the body or an attempt to cover up all skin. Modest fashions are an authentic expression of true beauty.

The best common sense definition of modesty is from the Catholic Church, which says, “It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden”. Not only does dressing modestly protect our brothers in Christ but it also protects our heart! No one wants to be used and modesty is a defense against use. Modesty is not a limitation on beauty but frees beauty from a utilitarian attitude; an attitude that desires to possess, dominate and seduce.

As it turns out, immodesty is an abuse of beauty. It places sexual values over the value of the person. Sadly, immodest fashions turn women into beggars – the outfits beg for attention from all the wrong people who desire to use a woman rather than love her.

Dressing in a way proper to our feminine dignity means steering clear of fashions that accentuate a part of the body over the whole person. Shirts that reveal cleavage, short skirts and dresses that reveal upper thighs, bikinis that reveal entirely too much and saran-wrap outfits that leave nothing to the imagination – all these do more than turn heads; they turn hearts away from the pure and beautiful and ultimately away from God.

Women can do so much to help mankind in not falling but we can’t do it undressed. What we wear sends a message. And so, let us do something beautiful for God.  Let’s offer the world an expression of feminine beauty that reflects God rather than wearing outfits that “rekindle desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others”. Be brave, allow your clothing to represent the King of Kings instead of the prince of this world.

You are beautiful, loved, and your greatness is the result of that. Remember – your greatness is not due to your own merit, but you are great because you are loved by Him and because you are a witness to God’s love for the whole world to see.

Be great, be beautiful.

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