WE SHOULD DRESS IN IMITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
In my first post on this site I explained how being a true lady is more about internal qualities than external ones. Yet, I have now come to see that it’s also important to address external conduct and attire. For, our outward appearance is a reflection of the inner depths of our souls. A quote from the Bible concerning this comes to mind:
"The attire of the body and the laughter of the teeth and the gait of the man show what he is." (Ecclesiasticus 19:27)
There are many people who argue, debate and set rules as to how women should dress. Some say that it does not matter what a woman wears, and that if someone is offended by our clothes, then that person just has a bad imagination. Yet Muslims so far as say that a lady must wear clothes so that only her eyes may show, if even that. Both extremes are exactly that: extremes, and so the Church, and those who have led holy lives, have given us guidelines to follow.
Perhaps the most clearly-stated standard of dress that the Church has officially promulgated is the following:
Standards of Modesty in Dress
Imprimatur dated Sept. 24, 1956
"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 materials are improper."
The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII
It is recorded that Padre Pio had a sign put up outside of his confessional for all women to see, which said:
"By Padre Pio's explicit wish, women must enter the confessional wearing skirts at least 8-inches below the knee. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them to confession." (Dotorhy Gaudiose, Prophet of the People: A Biography of Padre Pio)
Padre Pio also forbade women to wear pants. There was a lady who once came to him, all the way from Canada, to have him hear her Confession. He refused to hear her sins and give her absolution until she would first return home and close down a factory that she was in charge of (which made pants for women). The lady did so, and upon returning to Italy, Padre Pio heard her Confession. Here is the exact quote of the end result which
his spiritual daughter, Anne McGinn Cillis, wrote down in her book about the situation:
Arrivederci, Padre Pio “A Spiritual Daughter Remembers”:
“He commanded her to return home to Canada and dispose of all this stock, and not to give any of the items to people who might wear them, and if she wanted his absolution, she could come back to Italy and receive it, only after she ruthlessly carried our his orders.”
Many people argue that it is too "old fashioned" to wear long, modest skirts or dresses, and that these standards certainly do not apply to our day and age. For them I ask the question: Did not Our Lady of Fatima warn that terrible fashions would come when she said, “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.” What could be a worse fashion than that which is a total breech of all modest dress-codes from the past millennia of Church history? Since when did the Church condone women wearing pants or clothes that did not properly cover her body?
Did not Saint Joan of Arc get persecuted and ridiculed in her trial because she did not wear a dress when she was in battle? Yet, we know that she certainly never would have dressed immodestly. It was just that she did not dress as a woman should have. That is how ingrained modest dress was into society in those days.
Yes, there are rare exceptions, but these are not to be taken lightly.
I will admit that it took me a long time to accept all of this, and so I really do not expect anyone to make these changes in a day. I took it all in little steps, slowly giving up more and more of my self-will, and my strongly-held opinions. At first I was a nervous wreck about it, and was constantly self-conscious thinking, "What will everyone say if I dress like this?" Many women struggle greatly with the fear that others will think negatively of them. For those who struggle as I have, here are some things to consider, which may console you if you are ridiculed...
I have noticed that when I changed the way I dressed, it affected those around me. Men treated me better, and acted more like gentlemen. In fact, I was walking past a construction zone once and some men were using foul language. One of the men saw me and immediately rebuked the others saying, "Watch your language! There is a lady here!" Men need to be encouraged to be “men” which means that they need to start living the role of protecting women and respecting them. They will have a harder time doing this if we act in a way that merely tempts them. If we act and dress like ladies, then they will treat us that way. It is very simple.
In fact, I have begun to notice that since I started to wear long dresses, everywhere I go I am treated with a certain respect. Now, I am not saying that you should dress this way just to be praised, but it is a very positive side-effect, and may help encourage you to persevere.
There are those who may argue, "But we are not able to do things in skirts, and certainly the Church does not wish to restrict us!" I thought the same thing at first, but over time I have come to realize that dressing in this manner does not actually prohibit me from anything that I might need to do. I ride a horse side-saddle in a skirt, ski in a skirt, hike in a skirt, play certain sports and games in a skirt, paint in a skirt, etc. Women wore such clothes all of the time for many centuries, so why have we begun to think it impossible all of a sudden?
Finally, and most importantly...We should make the Blessed Mother our absolute model in our efforts to dress modestly. The more we become like her, the more we will increase of chances of reaching paradise. When I was still struggling with the whole modesty issue a friend of mine who was trying to convince me of the truth said something to me that I will never forget. He told me, "Look at Our Lady...Did she ever wear pants? Did she ever wear mini-skirts? Did she wear sleeveless shirts?..."
It is my daily prayer to God that I may continue to strive to dress, look and act more and more each day like Our Blessed Mother. May she forever be with us and guide us on the narrow path to heaven!