Volume > Issue > What Are Clothes For?

What Are Clothes For?


By Inez Fitzgerald Storck | April 2003
Inez Fitzgerald Storck is a writer and stay-at-home mother and grandmother living in Greenbelt, Maryland.

[Fashions] express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization. — Pope Pius XII

The female sex has, generally speaking, always been extremely interested in every aspect of clothing. Women enjoy everything from planning purchases to ornamenting or accessorizing items in their wardrobe and, especially, talking about clothes. Tendencies to excesses in style and quantity have always existed. Today as never before, though, we see misuse of women’s attire in three main areas: lack of modesty, immoderate quantity well beyond the realm of need, and use of clothing to escape reality. In view of these excesses it is important to examine the purpose of clothes in order to discern a reasonable approach.

What are clothes for? Pope Pius XII in his 1957 address to the Congress of the Latin Union of High Fashion enumerated these purposes: (1) hygiene, which refers primarily to protection from the elements; (2) decency and modesty, which protect the body from becoming a source of disordered sensuality and sexual desire; and (3) adornment.

With regard to the first of these, there is not much cause for concern in our country. Even the poor need not endure the cold because of lack of warm coats, with free clothing readily available from numerous charities. With decency and modesty, it is an entirely different issue. Any mother who has tried to find an appropriate graduation or prom dress for her daughter knows that low cut, immoderately short, and tight dresses are the rule.

Apparently many women do not realize the effect of even the clothed female body on men. I remember the puzzlement of a college friend when a young man asked her, “What does it feel like to be wrapped up in that beautiful form?” Most of us women walk around not realizing that we are like magnets, always potentially drawing gazes of admiration — or lust. It is up to us to eliminate the latter by avoiding provocative apparel. Do we want to be the cause of impure thoughts, or, worse, come-on comments or conduct? For we have it in our power to be a near occasion of sin incarnate. We must care enough about men, even those who are strangers, not to put them to the test. Single women who are dating need to be doubly careful to dress modestly, as we are the guardians of purity. It behooves mothers to set a good example for their daughters.

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