Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Traditional Catholic Tutorial: Dress like a Lady. Chapter One: How to enter a room gracefully and modestly.

"Oh... this old thing?"

As modeled by Loretta Young.  (She was a devout Catholic who went to daily Mass - with my Aunt and Uncle.  I know!)
"...Clothes to be modest need not only to cover the body but also not to cling too closely to the body. Now it is true that much feminine clothing today clings closer than do some trousers, but trousers can be made to cling closer, in fact generally they do, so the tight fit of such clothing gives us not less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body. So the immodesty of men's trousers on women is an aspect of the problem which is not to be left out of an over-all judgment upon them, even if it is not to be artificially exaggerated either." - Cardinal Siri
Another example hereWhat?


  1. Oh Terry thank you for gracing us with Loretta Young! I'm sure Cardinal Siri would approve!

  2. The twirl with a quick glimmer of the back of the skirt is rather appealing and fun. But rather difficult to execute with a babe in arms.

    I don't recall ever watching Audrey Hepburn enter a room, but I can imagine her method would be quite demure, which I always find attractive, as well as working well for that same babe in arms, children in tow the like.

  3. I used to watch "The Loretta Young Show" when I was a kid; thanks for the blast from the past.

    And ... RIP, Amy.

  4. I guess all the women I know and have known - five generations will burn in hell, then.

    You know I am only half-joking here. This kind of stuff drives me insane.

    I don't know if I can ever marry again, now that I seem to automatically judge women by the trad standards. Since 99% of even devout Catholic women wear pants, none of them are "good enough" ...

    I am so sick of it all.

    1. I am a traditionalist and I do not wear pants! Fear not good sir - there are few out there but there are still some left! The battle is difficult but to see and hear men talk about truly MODEST women is worth it. May God bless you! :)

  5. Tune it out Merc - they're the ones going to hell, not you.

    What Would Putty Say?

    (I'm kidding!)

  6. You mean the women I know or the people who keep making up rules?

    I know IM not responsible what people wear, but I'd like to think women who wear pants - and even, oh no, shorts - can in fact be pleasing to God and go to heaven.

    1. I'm just kidding.

      I wonder what Siri thought about the Renaissance when men wore tights with cod-pieces? None of these modesty rules ever seem to apply to men.


    2. There seems to be something wrong with focusing on the details. I'm not saying the Cardinal was wrong in addressing his time, but the result for me is that I see things as "sexual" and immodest now that I would have never even given a second thought to even back when I WAS trying to ogle every woman I saw.

      A priest once told a story about a woman who was proud of her son because he was able to notice how immodest the dresses are in the old Little Rascals films. Yes, a 5 year old boy in the 2010s is judging the clothing of a 5 year old girl in the 1930s as immodest. That's healthy. The priest was unimpressed and prayed for the poor boy.

    3. And that son will probably turn out to be a fashion designer.

    4. Now, *that* was hilarious, Terry!!

  7. I just SO wanted to plunk a Dick van Dyke ottoman in her path.

  8. Women have a very sacred role. We cover what is sacred.

  9. I don't know why the talk regarding what constitutes Catholic modesty is always shifted to women wearing pants or not or about people going to hell for wearing pants. I've never heard any "Trad" say such a thing. Cardinal Siri never said such a thing. The thought never crossed my mind. I'm in no place to consign anyone to hellfire. I resent being made out to be some kind of Pharisee because of my love and respect for Cardinal Siri as well as being a traditional style Catholic. I most certainly am not. It would never occur to me to make judgement calls on individuals. There are plenty of "mainstream" priests and Catholics are rightly concerned with what they see as a lack of modesty among Catholics today. This isn't a "Trad" issue. http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=647

  10. Not making a point here nor there on this one nor adding to trying to make it a radTrad (or whatever label) issue but as to "people going to hell for wearing pants. I've never heard any "Trad" say such a thing."

    I have, truly.

    Heard it in person. Seen it online a couple of year ago. In one case, not the precise words but the intent left nothing to the imagination.

    As for me, I'm a guy so I'm feeling a little squeamish about dawning a dress.

  11. Owen,

    I'm sorry that you had to read such a thing. I've been fortunate that I have not. I guess I just take issue that all "Trads" are somehow pharisaical or would all take this line of thinking. As Monsignor Mangan states in the link above,

    "To dress modestly is to avoid deliberately causing sexual excitement in oneself or one’s neighbor. One who dresses modestly shuns clothes that are known or reasonably expected to effect sexual arousal in oneself or others. Modesty is dress pertains to both genders."

    I can understand your squemishness about donning a dress :)

  12. Servus I never said YOU or ALL trads.

    Since my experience with trads is mostly online, I will say MANY of them exhibit such attitudes. I didn't make it up.

    None of that is aimed at YOU. I've been dealing with this kind of stuff long before you came along.

    Besides, you are quite frankly one of the friendliest, most charitable, and delightful traditionalists I have ever "met" online. I certainly hold nothing against you.

  13. Just that single turn towards the door would have sent me down to the floor in dizziness. I'd as soon slam the door behind me. But she's beautiful and graceful, absolutely.

  14. Mercury
    I know you weren't directing your commentary to ME in particular. I know that it is common for many "main streamers" to see "trads" in any other way. I find this very sad. Because as a "trad", I don't think I espouse anything other than what the Church has always consistently taught regarding modesty/faith/morals etc. I see being a "trad" as following in the footsteps of most of the canonized and uncanonized in heaven. I'm a sinner working out my salvation in fear and trembling.

  15. And that is sad, servus. It's because of the minority of traditionalists who run blogs.

    But I will repeat again that there is no universal "rule" for what is and is not modest in the objective sense. Nor has there ever been. Saints and holy men have addressed the issue from time to time in the context of the culture they lived in. And that's it.

    Catholics are only responsible for what is in the catechism in this regard, and the catechism has nothing to say on objective guidelines, other than "do not wear what is likely to cause undue sexual curiosity or arousal in the opposite sex" - and this varies wildly not just from culture to culture, but from context to context.

    It does not surprise me that churchmen were against women wearing pants when it first started. But I live in a time when it was normal for my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to wear pants. Things have changed.

    Do you know I never saw anything especially sexual about pants on women until I started reading about it on traditionalist Catholic sites?

    1. Mercury

      My argument is that Cardinal Siri was not referring to women and pants as being immodest or sexual perse:

      ...Cardinal Siri’s argument is that “male dress tends to vitiate relationships between men and women”; when women wear trousers, it flattens out the natural distinction between the sexes and thus helps “to pull down the vital defence-works of the sense of shame”. He believes, in short, that “the changing of feminine psychology does fundamental, and in the long run, irreparable damage to the family, to conjugal fidelity, to human affections and to human society.”


      I found this quote from the article below enlightening:

      ...What the Holy Father said in 1957 is still pertinent: “ . . . no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger; style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.”


  16. Servus - this is what I said when you posted that quote in another post, but I do not know if you got it:

    Yes I have read that quote. But the "absolute norm" is that "style must never be a proximate occasion of sin" - the absolute norm is that one must not dress in a way that causes undue sexual provocation in one's neighbor. It does not mean that "what was considered modest / immodest in Italy in 1957 is binding for all time under pain of sin."

    What causes sexual provocation is what varies. A dress cut right below the knees would have been an absolute scandal in 1900, and led men into sin. The low necklines of the 18th century which were designed to show femininity and motherhood would be entirely inappropriate today.

    Clothing designed to cause arousal is always bad, but clothing not *designed* for that purpose - it depends, it depends, it depends.

    Are you willing to consider it indecent for a man to wear a t-shirt? Or do we want to forbid women from doing so? Because it WAS very indecent at one time.

    And Pius XII was well-versed in moral theology and the consensus of his day. He knew exactly what the orthodox moralists at the time were saying (and they did their best to keep in line with the Holy Father, and many knew him personally), which was "you cannot make up rules that will apply in all times and places and contexts". The "absolute norm" really is just "do not dress in a way *likely* to provoke your neighbor to sin".

    1. what did you think about Monsignor Mangan's article?

  17. And servus, I seriously do not care what anyone said about women and pants. Whatever they said, the fact is that I have known 5 generations of women wearing pants. It is not seen as male attire anymore.

    I think it is a blind alley to even try to walk down, and accuses people of sin and infidelity to the Gospel when there is none. Were women in the 1930s who wore pants pushing it? Yeah, probably.

    But my mother's generation, my own, and the one after me have grown up with pants as a standard item of women's attire.

    John Chrysostom thought women should always veil in public. Other saints thought they should even cover their faces, and they gave good arguments. Should we follow them now?

    The fact is that trousers are no longer a "male" garment, as they were in 1960s Italy. They are simply no more "male" than a "shirt" is.

  18. Mercury, I will respectfully disagree with you regarding whether or not pants are considered a "male" garment. I tend to agree with Cardinal Siri's thesis. That said I do not believe it sinful for women to wear pants. Imprudent perhaps but not sinful. I am personally of the opinion that women look better in skirts and dresses more feminine if you will. I do not believe it is sinful for women not to be veiled in a Church though I agree with the longstanding tradition in East and West of the practice.

    I have always said the only absolute norm in modesty is not being an occasion of sin to others in ones dress.

    Were bikinis, thongs or undergarments to become more main stream standard attire for women would that then make them modest? Just a question because it appears you are saying its situational and conditional based on time and place.

  19. Servus, to answer your last question - I simply do not know. I know now that many many women wear bikinis at the beach, and I do not judge them as sinful. I would prefer women I know not to wear one, true, but it's not my call to make. My wife wore one in Germany, but everyone did - it wasn't *intended* to arouse.

    That said, is it immodest for women in third world countries to breastfeed in public? For Japanese people to attend mixed bathhouses? For Germans to go to the sauna? In all these cases, the people in those cultures would think it absolutely mad for anyone to even think there was anything sexual about it.

    Any garment *designed* to arouse sexual curiosity is obviously wrong.

    How do you come off saying that pants are male attire, other than the fact that it was longstanding Western tradition for a few centuries? The fact is that currently there have been three of four generations where pants were seen as nothing other than a possible female garment to be used for more practical tasks where dresses and skirts are a nuisance. The changing of how women deal with menstruation had more to do with this than any desire to be like men. Once the menstruation problem was solved, women started to wear pants for the same reason men did - because hanging garments are a nuisance.

    I resent that you think that my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and sister are imprudent in that pants are part of their wardrobe. This is true of 99% of even devout Catholic women, except for a subculture that is very strong on the internet. I have literally NEVER IN MY LIFE met a woman who did not wear pants ever, or who saw pants as a male garment.

    I know I shouldn't take it personally. I am sorry.

  20. Servus - can we please, please, please end this discussion?

    You do not, and cannot understand how deeply troubling this issue is for me. There may well be nothing else that draws me away from God, strikes morbid terror in my heart, causes me to be judgmental, causes me to worry for the souls of those I love, and causes me to do NOTHING but fear and even almost resent God (not that I DO, but the temptation is there).

    Before I started discussing modesty with traditionalists, I would have NEVER worried about such things - modesty was common sense. Now I evaluate every garment a woman wears, wonder if it could be sexual, wonder if she is sinning, wonder if I am sinning, wonder if blah blah blah. Things that would have never caused a temptation to lust now do because I am so focused on it. I HATE THIS.

    Do you realize that even if my marriage were annulled, I am afraid to ever get married again, partly because of this? What if my wife does not fit Cardinal Siri's modesty standards? What if she wears pants, or even, horror of horrors, shorts? Will she be good enough? I don't believe it, but there is a feeling that unless she is one of these skirts-only kind of women you seem to be surrounded with (good for you) but I have never met in real life, then she will not be good enough.

    If I have daughters I would be in constant hyperactive fear about what they are or aren't wearing.

    This whole subject is literally a mire of misery and fear, absolute mortal terror and scrupulosity. I wish I had NEVER come across any Catholic website trying to make rules for everyone, and just followed what the Catechism says. Too late for that.

    And the worst is that I cannot even draw closer to God on these things because I think "well if all these holy people are so strict and judgmental about fashion, including some saints, what chance do I or the women I know even have?"

    You're talking to someone who finds it hard to even pray or remotely trust God, who has no idea what it feels like to love God, who has no idea what it means that God loves him, - someone who thinks that to be holy means to be an absolute puritan, to follow orthodox Jews and Muslims on fashion questions, etc.

    It's insane, but I tell you - this whole issue is a REAL spiritual quagmire. Do you know how it feels to be beside yourself wondering if your dead grandmother was displeasing to God because she almost always wore pants and occasionally wore shorts? Do you know what it is like to spend hours worrying about such issues until it actually consumes time you could be spending for other things?

    So if I sound confrontational, remeber that it is not you. I hate the entire "Catholic modesty rules" culture because there is literally no way of knowing for sure, and each person has even stricter sets of rules.

    Not that I hate modesty, but I think modesty is simply COMMON SENSE. And that's it and that's all.

  21. And to answer your bikini question - the moral theologians even in Pis XII's day would say that if such garments no longer posed a proximate occasion of sin, then they would not be sinful in themselves - perhaps imprudent, but that even in such cases one could not make the case for sin. this is true even of nudity itself, as the case of bathing in other cultures, or doctor's exams in our own, shows. Context does matter. A German woman may enter a mixed sauna, but would be appalled at appearing nude in the public square. A one-piece bathing suit is nice for the beach but would be scandalous in church.

  22. Oh, and servus - please udnerstand, I never read the articles you post regarding this topic. All it does is drive me insane, makes me think that I or someone else is sinning. That that is not what the article intends simply does not matter. I know Cardinal Siri did not intend to make a binding rule for all time under pain of sin.

    But the effect is the same - despair.

  23. also wirklich Mercury ich verstehe diese Reaktion deinerseits ueberhaupt nicht. als erwachsener Mann hatte ich ehrlich gesagt mehr erwartet. du fuehlst dich irgendwie angegriffen jedes mal wenn ich meine meinung erwaehne. ich erwarte nicht das du meine meinung teilen sollst. ich hatte eigentlich gewuenscht nur eine offene diskussion darueber haben mit anderen Katholiken. aber bei dir hoert man immerwieder die gleiche Antworte....als ob du dich davor bewehren musst oder sowas. ich verstehe dies nicht. meinerseits es geht ueberhaupt nicht um ob frauen die hosen tragen in die hoelle gehen werden.. meine eigene verwandten tragen hosen usw und mache keine gedanken darueber. .ich denke du weisst das wohl. trotzdem regst du dich darueber auf. Ja, ich lass das Thema wirklich aber auch andere Themen mit dir zu diskutieren. du wirkst eher high maintenance zu sein wenn ich ehrlich bin. werde dich beim Gebet einschliessen. ich wuensche dir alles gute und Gottessegen!


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