Modesty is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, an outward sign of God working within us. As with other fruits like patience and charity, modesty is manifested in what we do -- in our works, the actions we seek to perform that help us recognize the presence of God. It’s not always easy.
Anyone who strives for modesty and also has a daughter over size 6X will lament with me the lack of appropriate clothing choices at most mainstream shopping venues. You see, I adhere to the sensible modesty guidelines set forth by Pure Fashion. Most retailers do not.
I discovered Pure Fashion when my oldest daughter was five. As we began to venture into the size 7 – 16 clothing section, I was relieved to have found practical guidelines that other Catholic moms use with their daughters. Pure Fashion’s emphasis on modest clothing is a huge step in the right direction for our culture, and accolades for developing a system for clothing selection are well deserved.
But as I gained more exposure to the organization, I realized that the “fashion” aspect showcased at its events showed an incomplete understanding of the multi-faceted virtue of modesty. A girl on a catwalk, no matter how pristinely clad, is still a girl on a catwalk—expecting eyes centered on her, seeking the attention of the crowd, and imitating an industry that emphasizes appearance as the sole measure of a thereby disordered femininity.
While Pure Fashion aims to teach girls to be poised, graceful, and confident, they do so through modeling. Poise and grace do not celebrate self. They are humble. And as Catholic women, we should beware the phrase “self confidence.” Our confidence, the “bold confidence” of the Little Way of St. Therese, should remain solely in Him.
There is much to like about the Pure Fashion philosophy and its desire to teach girls to value modesty in dress. Adult leaders explain modesty as it reflects on the dignity of the human person using the CCC as a resource. But the program’s final celebration, the fashion show, reflects an emphasis on a narrow definition of modesty. Modesty as a virtue is much larger than clothing selection.
Fashion, by its very nature, is of this world. Without extensively defining the virtue of purity here, to me the phrase “pure fashion” seems an oxymoron.
Copyright 2013 Sharon Rayner
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