Ditching Bikinis

I´m a student at a public college, so modesty is not something I frequently hear talked about in a positive light. Nor did I initially think of it as something good. Something that I fought about with my mom? Yes. Something that I should do as a good Catholic? Sure. But something awesome and to be embraced? Nah, modesty is just an annoying set of rules on how to dress, right?

Over the past six years, my opinion has changed quite a bit on modesty. Don´t get me wrong, I never dressed incredibly scandalously; I usually tried to follow the rules. But now I view modesty as more than just a set of annoying rules. I have come to realize that modesty is a virtue that I want to be striving for. Modesty is something beautiful that can show off my femininity. Modesty can even be stylish!

So how did I come to change my mind? It started with this book that I read at the end of my sophomore year of high school called For Young Women Only. It´s a cute little book, and it´s all about how boys think and how their brains work – fun stuff! And it turned out to be full of information I´d never heard before, important information to know if you have to deal with males on a regular basis, which almost every woman has to do. I learned that boys are incredibly visual and that their temptation to lust after a woman is almost automatic; they have to try extremely hard to control this urge. Well, that was a bit hard to believe, but when I talked to my guy friends about it, they confirmed that it was true. This was something that my friends, really great Christian men, struggled with whenever they came across an immodestly dressed woman. And to think that I had been adding to this temptation!

I remember shortly before I read this book, there was this really nice guy in my high school who came up to me one day (when I was wearing a rather short pair of shorts) and asked me in a kind of frustrated and confused tone of voice “Why do girls always wear such short shorts?” At the time, I didn’t get why this was a problem, but looking back, I understand. He was trying to be a good guy and show women the respect we deserve, and I was unintentionally making it harder for him to do so. I finally understood why modesty was a good thing and short shorts were the first thing to be purged from my wardrobe.

My freshman year of college, I was blessed to find a wonderful group of friends in the Catholic Campus Ministry. The upperclassmen girls quickly became my role models, and they helped me to learn and grow more in the virtue of modesty. From their examples, I saw that it was definitely possible to dress in a way that was both attractive and modest. One girl described her reasons for dressing modestly in a spiritual way that really moved me: Mary carried Jesus in her womb and in doing so, sanctified all wombs. We veil things that are holy and beautiful, like a bride on her wedding day or the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle. And since our wombs are so beautiful and awesome, we veil them in the way we dress. This particular example was especially helpful when I made the decision to ditch bikinis in favor of classier one piece suits. (And there actually are some really cute “vintage” one pieces out there!)

I dress modestly to respect myself and the men that I know, but more importantly, I dress modestly to respect God and the dignity that He gave me. I don´t claim to have it down 100%. If modesty is a virtue, all we can do is to continuously strive for it, and sinners that we are, we´re going to mess up. Sometimes I want to wear a dress or pair of shorts that are a little too short for me. But that´s why I´m grateful for the community of girls I call my friends and sisters in Christ. We´ve got each others´ backs; we are all striving together towards holiness, and we consider modesty to be a part of that. We pray for each other, advise each other, and charitably call each other out when necessary. We´re all women and we´re all in this together. We can show our love for ourselves, men, and God all through the way we dress! Isn´t that both crazy and wonderful?

Hemlines & Necklines

My realization of the importance of modesty came at the beginning of college. With God’s grace I was able to fall into a great group of friends at school, the majority of whom were involved with Catholic Campus Ministries. With their encouragement I became even more involved in learning about and living out my faith.

One day a group of girls were all discussing sexual ethics and the topic of modesty came up. I looked around at the junior and senior girls in the group and I suddenly noticed the care that they put into how they dressed. The hemlines, the necklines, the tightness of the clothing— I had never noticed it before, they had just looked normal and cute to me, but their outfits were all carefully selected to cover what needed to be covered. They didn’t look unfashionable or strange in any way, like many people seem to think modest girls must look and the way some do. I realized then that I had to make a change in how I viewed fashion and the way I dressed.

Change is never instantaneous and I still had a lot more to learn. My friend gave me a book which discussed how men were more visual than women and that what we wear can be seriously distracting to them— things that are not unknown to the general population but that can be often overlooked by women who are not as visually affected, and don’t have as many opportunities to see men scantily clad either. But what really clinched it for me was a frank conversation with one of my guy friends. When asking him about modesty he mentioned things that we don’t think about when getting dressed or when shopping, like that tight leggings or a midriff is distracting or that as a tall guy he often can see down girls’ shirts, whether he wants to or not. He and many other men take seriously Jesus’ command to not lust after a woman in your heart, but that’s especially difficult to do when the more intimate parts of our body are exposed. He never judged women or acted like it was all their fault—he fully acknowledged that men are responsible for their thoughts and actions. But he also expressed that women can help them with that responsibility.

Modesty isn’t always easy or fun. It’s hard to explain why I’m wearing a one-piece suit when hardly anyone my age wears them, or some of the other fashion choices I make that are not exactly common. But I still am able to wear cute, trendy things and shopping is still just as fun. Perhaps it’s even more fun because now there’s a new challenge—I know I can look attractive in a lot of outfits, but what can be flattering and modest too? Since the switch I’ve never regretted not buying a low-cut or short dress; I feel way more comfortable knowing I can bend over or lean forward without worrying about my skirt riding up or my bra showing—modesty is freeing. When I’m at home I have no problem hanging out in a cami and yoga pants- but when I leave the house, like it or not, I’m dressing for other people. What do I want my clothes to say about me? Furthermore, what can I change in the world just by changing the way I dress? That’s the secret power of modesty.

submitted from Virginia