Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Speaking on Modesty: Dignified Modesty: the fun, the fashionable, the sensible

Thanks for joining this Lenten discussion! I'll be posting weekly thoughts by Catholic women and men who have something to share on modesty: what it is, how it's lived out, why it's important to them. I don't agree completely with all of these people, and I don't expect you to either; but I do want to open up a conversation. To make it easier, I've turned off the Capcha (you know, those horrible little letters and numbers you have to type to post a comment), so share your thoughts freely.

This week's post is from Sia Nickelsen, a woman whose sense of style is enviably good! Enjoy!

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Marilyn Monroe said: "Your clothes should be tight enough to show you're a woman but loose enough to show you're a lady." Now, I know Marilyn Monroe is not exactly the role model we all want; she was basically the sex idol of her generation. But I love this quote! Though I don't think we should be making love to the camera or wearing pointy bra cups or push-up bras, I am strongly convinced that our figures need not be covered up for us to be "modest"; I think finding clothes that bring out our womanly beauty is a good thing. God made our bodies and He has sanctified our physical lives. We live Incarnationally. We are not Puritans. I think we need to ask ourselves what being modest means. Does it mean that your neckline should never go beneath three finger-widths from the collar bone? Does it mean that your skirt should never be higher than exactly one inch from the bottom of your kneecap? Or does this term "modesty" reach completely higher, more important levels like modesty in bearing? After all, we all will have our own standards of what being modest is; measurements will vary, styles will vary, and cultures will vary!
All sorts of classic
When we get dressed and look into a mirror, we should ask ourselves whether we are dressing to flaunt our beauty & sexuality or to present ourselves, to our neighbors and to the world, with dignity and grace. This may include fashion, or it may not. This may be a simple outfit or it may be like a fun costume, for such is the fun river of fashion... Saint Gianna Molla loved life and had so much fun living it. She liked to peruse fashion magazines. How fun it is, I think, to find fashionable, fun clothing that doubles modest, dignified and lovely. On a practical note, I try to be careful with the clothing that I choose, purchase, and find for my closet, and when I try them on for the first time I think, "Is this me?" "How do I feel in this?" And often it's a colorful, fun pattern or a practical outfit with a flair. I like to wear shortish skirts (knee-ish length) and a fitted shirt. (Not skin-tight, but not too loose either-) I LOVE scarves, and I use them to cover up my breast area if I am wearing a tighter shirt and it is cold that day... you know what I mean... haha! This helps me to feel confident. If we're dressing to spend the day in the garden, and we prefer to do that in jeans and tank, I think we should go for it. A sunhat and a scarf will add that ingredient of dignity we need. If we're snowshoeing or swimming,I think we should wear what we feel comfortable and practical. I personally love bikini tops with those fifties bottoms that cover all of my bum, or a swim-skirt. I like to combine practical and fun!

No matter what, when we look into the mirror in the morning, I think that if we listen to our conscience, and are self-aware, we will know whether or not we are trying to flaunt a beautiful God-given form or simply celebrate, in a dignified way, the figure God gave us as Woman.

St. Gianna Molla
Now, there is charity to be considered. When we reach across the table for the salt and pepper, or bend over to tie a child's shoe, or lean over to get something, we should, for sure, be careful to do it in a graceful manner and to watch out for cleavage. This is called loving our neighbor (ahem, our neighbor-MEN.) We should not do these things to attract unnecessary attention, but, once again, do them with grace and dignity, as a beautiful woman who is sacred, loves herself, belongs to a man, or who may belong to the Lord in a special consecrated way. But heavens, we can't be too preoccupied with what other people think of us or with thinking about what they're seeing, because that can get borderline ridiculous.

 At a certain point, we need to just chill out, stop worrying, and do God's work.This is precisely why, when we get up the morning, we should take great care in what we put on. That way we can confidently go about our day with pride in our choice of clothing, knowing that we are beautiful and dignified. I think it is important not to be too dogmatic about measurements or details that just would make our lives a huge headache or, worse yet, cause us to become so preoccupied with modesty standards that we cannot be as attentive to the duty of the moment, or to listening to God, and talking to God throughout the day in prayer.

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Sia is artist, writer, teacher and head wrangler of all things domestic at her little house in the Pacific Northwest. Mother of five, she doesn't find it too hard to dress modestly when she's got a body that has borne and nursed five children... she's actually more concerned about sparing the world then tempting the world.... 
She occasionally blogs over at pebblesandquilts.com 

...To which I must add that she also co-edits a lovely journal for Catholic mothers - Soul Gardening.  A "homespun, independently-printed journal created by mothers, for mothers" Soul Gardening is a ministry, completely dependent on donations. Receive it absolutely free by subscribing here! or take a peak at their facebook page. I've found Sia's journal nurtures my own little soul abundantly and look forward to settling down with the Easter edition as soon as possible!
If you've missed our earlier conversations:

Read Kate Madore's opening post on Modesty

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