Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life

TBM Topic 15: The Feminine Genius – The Dress

“Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life” by Julie Robison
“Dresses & the Apostolate of Beauty” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Month of the Dress” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

I’ll never forget standing in line for dinner at college. First of all, I’m in line for food I pre-paid for but did not want at present, minus the cereal bar (which I could have eaten in my dorm room).

Secondly, I was standing behind a girl and her boyfriend. The girl had been on the hall I was an RA for; the boyfriend was Trad-Catholic. She said hi and introduced us. I was wearing jeans. He told me girls shouldn’t wear pants. I asked him where Jesus forbade women from wearing pants; was it before or after he gave us the Golden Rule to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Our relationship, as you can guess, did not blossom.

Females hate being told what to do. That is our job, to boss the rest of the world around!

Another reason that particular male upset me is because I actually prefer dresses and skirts, but I also like that I have the opportunity to wear pants (especially in college, while trudging through feet of snow), just as I like that I have the opportunity to vote, hold a job and make my own life decisions.

Females have not only the ability to wear pants, but to look nice in pants, especially if the pair fits well; if the pair also happens comes in a fabulous color, more power to pants!

Would I look cuter wearing pants in this picture? Dubious.

These opportunities, sadly, are few and far between. As Fall approacheth, women ask the big question: where have all the good pants gone? With a decline in tailored clothes, pants now fit awkwardly in order to appease the masses. My sisters and I lament: The butt is too big. The legs are too skinny. These hips don’t lie.

Hence, I love wearing dresses and skirts. There is true genius in this for-female-use-only attire, and here are my top TEN reasons why I think so:

10. Wearing a dress makes girls feel put together and confidant! No matter a girl’s size, few people look dumpy in a dress. Dresses have the ability to make you feel pretty.

So many beautiful girls in beautiful dresses!

9. God made us women to be the most beautiful creatures on earth, inside and out. If we want to show our inner beauty, why not show off our outer beauty too by wearing dresses? Heels are optional; I prefer kitten heels or ballet flats myself.

8. To look (and want to look!) pretty is not vain, unless you only care about your outer appearance. Remember in Jane Eyre? When Jane’s friend had her beautiful curls cut off to keep her from becoming vain? Unnecessary, according to Roman Catholic theology. Beauty is a reflection of God’s goodness in the world.

7. Dresses and skirts help draw attention to the waist, not the hips, unlike pants. More proof that pants are not your friend.

6. Dresses flatter the body much better than pants ever could. Also, you are fully clothed if you are wearing a dress. If you only wore pants, that would be indecent!

5. Dresses are versatile! They can be dressed up and down, based on accessories, fabric and style. You could wear the same dress for a week and look different every day. If boys can wear the same pants every day, why can’t girls wear the same dress? They can also be worn year-round and in any weather, unlike pants and shorts.

Isn’t Bear gorgeous? And her dress? Divine!

4. The colors, Duke, the colors! Not to mention, the patterns, the fabrics, the styles and the occasions that all help make a dress great. Pants can have all of the above too, but the effect would not be the same. Dressing up is like becoming a work of art, and more fully shows your womanly beauty in a wholesome way.

3. Dresses require more effort to be modest. If one is wearing a dress, a lady must cross her legs or ankles. If one’s dress has no sleeves or dips a bit, then a lady must wear extra clothing to cover her shoulders and/ or chest area. A lady loves sundresses, but not short dresses.

2. Dresses are not just for girly-girls. Dresses are for all girls! Dresses are a distinct style that no person can imitate. No girl wears the same dress the exact same way. As Lilly Dache said, “Glamour is what makes a man ask for your telephone number. But it also is what makes a woman ask for the name of your dressmaker.”

1. Dresses are classy. Catholics are classy. Ergo, Catholic girls wear dresses!

Grace Kelly: Catholic, classy and fellow dress wearer

There are, of course, perks to wearing pants too. This is the only one I am willing to concede:

Happy Tuesday!

Bright Maidens: Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought

 The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!
Topic: Catholic Modesty
Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought

I’ll be honest: I get nervous when I read about modesty on Catholic blogs.  It often seems women stop talking about the beauty of modesty and go straight to a list of rules.  Suddenly, I must decide what my stance is on the pants vs. skirts debate, the sleeveless vs. sleeves conundrum, and grow a love of cardigans because one must be thrown over every outfit I wear. 
One of my favorite shows is “What Not to Wear” on TLC.  Women are provided a fashion and beauty makeover after receiving encouragement and love from their family and friends.  The hosts, Stacy and Clinton, teach the women how to appropriately dress their bodies, often in shapes, fabrics, and colors they wouldn’t have previously considered.  During the last minutes of the show, the women unveil their new look to their family, usually gliding into the room with their heads held high and huge smiles on their faces.  They have gained confidence, reassurance of their beauty, and delight in their appearance.  When I think of this show, I wish we could do “Modesty: What TO Wear” for our culture.     
The Catechism has a very simple guideline for us regarding modesty and fashion:  “(2524) The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.”  Instead of a fast-and-hard rule, the Church leaves this decision to us and our formed consciences.  No need for all the in-fighting and warring I mentioned up above.  Wear clothing that fits you properly.  Wear clothing that flatters you. Wear clothing that makes you feel beautiful!  Because you are beautiful!
We live in an immodest culture.  I think this stems from two things: unease/disbelief in personal beauty and failure of the fashion industry.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to live in a culture where women are confident of their beauty?  Many women believe that they are not beautiful because they don’t look like supermodels or actresses who work out three hours a day.  We don’t look like the standard of beauty, so we must “rank” lower.  To make up for this lower “ranking,” women try to look sexy at all times.    

In addition, there is no uniform shape or size to women, yet we shop at the same stores where clothing, made with a generic, one-size-fits-all-mentality, is supposed to fit our different body types.  This doesn’t work.  I see a lot of women in ill-fitting clothes: tops too tight, shorts too big, shoes too clunky.  Their bodies look disproportionate.  I see women who have given up on their femininity.  From behind, they look exactly like men, dressed in men’s clothing.  When clothes were made in the home and tailored to the body, I think modesty and beauty were easier to achieve and believe.  Now, we must shop with a trained, discerning eye, knowing what fits us well and flatters our figures.
The Catechism says modesty “protects the mystery of persons…”  It encourages patience, time, effort, and commitment in relationships.  It curbs unhealthy curiosity, and makes ones discreet in manner and behavior. (2522)  In my opinion, as it protects the heart of a woman, it also slowly unveils the true beauty of her, and makes her makes her confident and relaxed in this.  She no longer has to fight to make rank or compete with others to affirm her beauty.  
I love this quote from Eva Luna by Isabel Allende: “I stopped examining myself in the mirror to compare myself to the perfect beauties of movies and magazines; I decided I was beautiful – for the simple reason that I wanted to be. And then never gave the matter a second thought.”  Modesty allows a woman to recognize that she is beautiful because God made her the way, and then she never has to give her beauty another negative thought. 

Men, you can help us in our quest to dress modesty.  If our beauty inspires your senses instead of assaulting you, let us know.  Give us that compliment.  Affirm our beauty and our dignity.

Check out the Bright Maidens on Facebook for other posts on this topic!