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Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Apostolate to the Immodestly Dressed Woman

by Susan Fox

Well, sisters, this was the way it was. 

Cone-shaped lamps mounted on a fake brass pole spread their light over our cozy 1960s living room in Southern California. My grandmother was visiting and telling us about her trip to the beach.
She was wearing her usual shapeless grey dress, and only women were present (my mother and I), so she felt emboldened to tell us the shocking tale. Women were going to the beach in something called a bikini. “Grandma,” I said innocently, “What is a bikini?” Sort of like, “Grandmother, what big teeth you got.”

But this was no wolf in Grandma’s clothing; this was the real enchilada, my Grandmother. So she cut a line on her shapeless grey dress to show me exactly what was and what wasn’t covered by that little piece of cloth called the bikini.

My mother and I were truly shocked. (Although I am laughing at this moment.) And we had no idea someday I would have a son, and he would have to quit going to the pool – by his own choice -- because of that inviting piece of cloth!

But really, nowadays the poolside attire has moved into the Catholic Church, and my son and husband must hang their heads and cover their faces when they attend Mass or stand in line for Confession, which we do weekly. 

Shocking, but true. And if I had never married I would have no idea that anything was wrong.  Maybe other women look at women’s clothing, but I mostly think  ... about other things. But that was before I was married. My husband taught me that men are sight-oriented and if they are chaste, they don’t want to see women in the current “bikini” styles.

I love to eat out, and unfortunately, some of the restaurants with good food also have female waitresses with extremely short skirts. My husband would not go back there.  Life with a chaste man is difficult when you are a glutton.

Now, decades after my husband got me to stop wearing Southern California attire to daily Mass (long modest shorts and sandals) -- now I notice it all.  I was standing in line for Confession a couple of years ago and I noticed a man with two gorgeous women standing in line behind me. I thought they were his daughters. Little was covered in their attire.

My conscience bothered me. Should I say something or shouldn’t I? Luckily, I was in line ahead of them, so I asked the priest. He gave me an answer I didn’t understand at the time. He said, “You must follow your conscience.”  That’s the same thing Pope Francis said recently, and I noticed that many traditional Catholics were upset, thinking that he was promoting relativism.

Luckily, my husband is studying theology so I have since found out that St. Thomas Aquinas was the one who said that originally.  He said we must always choose the good, and he assumed we had a well-formed conscience. Well, the priest just heard my confession so I guess he concluded I had one of those.  But at that point I didn’t understand it, so I said to Jesus, “Well, he didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it.”

Back I went, looking the father in the eye because I knew he knew they shouldn’t be dressed like that. And I said, “Sir, you have the most gorgeous daughters I have ever seen.” Wow, was that ever the Holy Spirit! Only one was a daughter, the other was his wife!

Anything, I said after that was going to be okay with the Missus, and she apparently ruled the roost. So I told them they needed to cover up because there were chaste men here and it was hard for them to keep their focus on Jesus with them dressed as they were. They nodded smiling.

But really, it’s more than that, sisters. Sometimes it’s seems like today’s fashions use the same lures as the clothing of the hookers on the street corner. We have to remember that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:18-20)

I’m not recommending this apostolate to everyone, especially if you look down on our immodestly dressed sisters. I can’t look down on anyone because I had no father, and no one told my mother how I should dress when I was in high school. That was the early ‘70s.  I wore a mini-skirt with my hair down to the end of my skirt. But one Sunday, I distinctly remember wearing it in the Communion line on the way up to receive Jesus, and I felt ashamed. I never wore it again.

So for the guys, let me explain. Women do not understand what they are doing ... when they dress like that. They can’t. I’ve seen them as Eucharistic Ministers, handing out Communion, wearing the new princess style -- a see through skirt – long in the back and very short in the front. There is a mini-skirt sized slip underneath, so don’t worry. It covers the essentials.

Male and female, God made us to complement one another.  My husband and I recently discussed marital relations, and I asked him what it meant to him, and he answered “bone-deep consolation.” Well, it isn’t that for the woman, it’s attention. Men are wired to look, and women are wired to be looked at.

So women dress, wear perfume, put dangly earrings on, pink hair clips, and even late in life religiously get their hair done for male attention. They bat their eyes for the same reason, and move their hips. Notice me! That is being female.

Unfortunately, in the fatherless society that we live in, that makes life hard for the chaste male. And women don’t even realize the great harm they are causing others, and themselves if their dress makes an unchaste male draw the wrong conclusion about their character.
I think I might just print a copy out of this article and keep it in my purse to hand it out next time I run into a sister who has not been informed of the dangers of immodest dress. It will save me and my dear sister a lot of personal embarrassment.

In fact, I think I’ll start by giving my pastor a copy.

FANTASTIC VIDEO: Actress Christian Jessica Rey gives a beautiful perspective on modesty.


  1. This is a very thought provoking article. I must confess that I have always had difficulty in believing that women have no idea what they are doing...they must be aware that they are displaying themselves. After all, why all the effort to dress up etc.?

    Now a related issue as to the cultural change. I've watched a number of old films lately which highlights the sudden change in fashion. A woman from 1935 would be able to pass in 1960 without match of a glance. But consider 1960 to 1966 or 76. Then, consider the late 60s to the early seventies. Suddenly you had an explosion of immodesty, and vulgarity. A different form of degradation is the "ditch digger" attire of so many women. A glance out of my window, and women strolling up the street in casual clothing, would, not a few years ago, be gravely suspect of having a mental illness. Dirty jeans, ragged cloths - all this is trotted out as "normal". Why do women wish to parade in public in cloths fit for digging potatoes?

  2. Sad thing really, Took a Course in Costume History for the Theater, and odd thing is that Every time there was a Crisis in the Church, it coincided with a Change for the better or the Worse in Womens Clothing due to Wanting to Attract a Man and thoughts on "Fertility" was the biggest influence on it. which also had a Side effect on Architecture structures at the same time. Had to have Wide Steps to get some of those ridiculous 6 Feet wide Dress and have the steps long enough in order to make sure they didn't Trip all over themselves.

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  4. Barona, I ask myself the same thing when I see young men dressed in similar attire. There seems to be a gang element to the dress. But it was interesting when I was looking for art for this piece, I had a choice of the old 1950s fashion I chose and the Kardashian sisters. This is a Catholic blog, I simply could not put the Kardashian sisters attire up as an example of female's trying to draw attention to themselves. But I badly wanted to compare their attire with the 1950s one. It was a big change! Thank you for drawing attention to this fact.
    Dan, Yes, I was thinking the loss of morals in our society coincides with the decline in female fashion.
    God bless you both. Susan Fox