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?