Catholic Activity: Importance of Modesty in Dress
Teaching children the importance of dressing modestly is an essential task that has been greatly neglected by parents.
When your son and daughter begin to date, they will almost certainly be exposed to influences which encourage immodest dress. Such influences are almost unavoidable in today's world. Actresses on television and in motion pictures appear in garments designed to reveal every contour of their bodies. Newspapers publish pictures of semiclad women and discuss them in admiring language. On the beaches and athletic grounds, contestants almost invariably wear a minimum of apparel.
When the young girl observes that the scantily clad woman seemingly evokes the greatest admiration, it is perhaps natural for her to want to dress in a similarly daring way. She should be taught the truth that men do not want their own loved ones to appear in public in this fashion. Moreover, the immodestly dressed girl who attracts the attention of males usually soon discovers that their interest is entirely selfish and that they lack respect for her as a person. It is the girl who dresses and acts becomingly, and who is attractive in a pleasant and unoffensive way, who wins lasting respect and affection. Your daughter will form a true judgment as to where the lasting values lie if she realizes that the so-called "glamour girls" — those who appear in public in revealing costumes — usually are failures as women. Their record of divorces proves this fact.
Many girls also must be told that their daring dress might be an occasion of sin to boys. They should know that boys naturally are more excitable, and may harbor sinful thoughts at the sight of an improperly dressed girl.
Boys also can commit offenses against modesty in dress. A present fashion among adolescents — the practice of wearing trousers that are too tight and emphasize the contours of the body — may be an occasion of evil thoughts by girls.
Does the Church's continued warnings against immodest dress mean that she expects men and women to dress somberly and without attractiveness? Not at all. A young girl need not walk about with stringy hair, a plain, pale face, or in the clothing of a widow; she can make herself attractive, using appropriate cosmetic aids and colorful fabrics. Above all, if she has a smiling, friendly disposition, it will be reflected in her appearance, and will make her more attractive than any product from the beautician's laboratory.
For modern dress, these standards may be a helpful guide: Dresses should fully cover the upper arm, shoulders, bust, chest and midriff. They should have sleeves extending at least halfway between the shoulder and elbow. If they have leaves, nets, or other transparent material, there should be full cloth coverage beneath. Skirts should extend to below the knees, and dresses should conceal the outline of the breasts and other parts of the body.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959