Friday, July 21, 2006

Dressing with Dignity

My daughter, Michelle, was recently accepted to summer program at a Catholic college. Along with her acceptance package she received something I hadn’t seen in a while: instructions for dress. It struck me enough to want to share it with you. Here it is:

The dress code
for classes, Mass, and lunch during the week is as follows:
The Dress Code requires a dress, or a dress skirt/dress pants and blouse, and dress shoes. The
neck of all dresses/blouses must not be lower than one and a half inches below the collar bone. All skirts/dress are to be no shorter than the crease of the back of the knee. If a skirt/dress has slit in the front or sie, the slit shall not be more than one inch above the knee cap. If the slit is in the back it shall be no higher than two inches, measured from the crease of the knee. No form-fitting dresses, skirts, tops, or pants are allowed at any
time.
At all other times:
Properly modest and dignified attire is not only a trait of Christian people; it is essential for the high school program morale, to show respect for oneself and others. At all times, dress must be modest (i.e. not tight nor too loose, no low cut in back or front, not too short, no spaghetti straps, etc.) and respectful. All shorts must be long enough so that the
wearer’s fingertips do not go past the hem of the shorts. Women’s swimwear must
be modest one-piece. Clothing must be worn over the swimsuit when walking to and
from the pool.

If you have any questions about this dress code, please contact us prior to your arrival.
The last line is amusing. It sort of hints that if you don’t like it, don’t bother coming. I happen to know that they have no shortage of applicants.

These days, Modesty is not spoken of much, but it is still one of the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is also included under Temperance which is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues. These virtues are called “cardinal” because, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, they are the virtues “upon which the rest of the moral virtues turn or are hinged”. It’s not hard to understand how Immodesty can lead to more serious sin.

Given that so many of our social ills have their roots in un-chastity and by extension, immodesty, perhaps it would be good to turn our attention once again to our Church’s wise and eternal teaching on this matter.

An excellent resource for a renewed examination of this neglected virtue is Colleen Hammond’s book: Dressing with Dignity. A couple of bullet points on the back cover caught my eye: “How to talk to teenagers about the privilege of femininity so they will want to dress with modesty and dignity”, and “How to awaken chivalry in men and be treated with respect”.

As a father of five beautiful daughters I am intensely aware of how important it is to ward off problems before they are problems. Addressing the issue of Modesty is a lot easier than addressing the issues that inevitably come from not addressing it. Dressing with Dignity will help you do that.

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