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Modesty: Living in Balance

It isn't easy for a father – or mother – to try encouraging modest clothing and behavior. The culture we live in seems to reward immodesty. And, it is not easy to remember that modesty is not staying covered up: it is a matter of living in a balanced way.

A few years ago, young men were wearing trousers that looked like they were about to fall around their ankles. Occasionally, they did.

Recently, young women have been wearing pants that start a few inches below their navels, and tops that don't go quite that far down.

And it looks like styles may have finally hit bottom. On January 25, a fashion model waltzed down a runway with about half her rump hanging out the back of her pants. This happened in Brazil, in Cavalera's 2005 Fall/Winter collection show at the Sao Paulo Fashion Week.

Lack of modesty has a few benefits. Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl ensured that she would get more exposure than just the song-and-dance number she had been booked for.

That bare-butt fashion model in Sao Paulo, Brazil, put Cavalera's 2005 Fall/Winter collection show and the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in the faces of people around the world.

The problem with immodesty is that it makes people into less of a 'who. and more of a 'what.. Immodest clothing focuses attention on a person's appearance in a way calculated to turn on sexual passion at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

Today's low-cut, skin-tight, see-through styles give us an eyeful of what immodesty is.

Saying what modesty is may take a little doing.

First, modesty is not prudery. Modesty in dress, speech, or behavior, St. Thomas Aquinas says, means moderation: doing something in a thoughtful, balanced way that avoids extremes. Prudery or shameful inhibitions and shamelessness are both "immodest." Both extremes are out of balance.

Modesty, according to the tradition of the Catholic Church, is one of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, and chastity.

Modesty is a part of temperance. It "protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden…. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity."

"Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discrete." (Catechism, 2521-2522)

A teacher at the Franciscan University at Steubenville, Benjamin D. Wiker, suggests avoiding clingy clothing and having a knee-to-neck rule for people at Mass. His guidelines would guard us from distractions like miniskirts and bicycle shorts at Mass, and sound like a good idea for most occasions.

Giving good advice about modest behavior and clothing wouldn't be worth much if there were no way to find decent clothes. Happily, enough folks have been looking for an alternative to tube tops and hot pants for at least two stores specialize in modest women's wear:

Modest Apparel USA
166 Westfield Ave
Ansonia CT 06401
Toll free 1-866-269-0907
A family owned home-based business
offering women an alternative to today's
promiscuous fashions.

Modest by Design
252 East 6400 South
Murray, UT 84107
Toll free 1-888-756-0944
A clothing company specializing in a
variety of fashionable modest clothing
at reasonable prices

Quotes are from Catechism of the Catholic Church, English translation, Ligouri Publications, 1994.

Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin

February 2005

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This page last updated December 19, 2010