There’s been a bit more “coverage” of the issue of modest dress with regard to girls and ladies of late, which is really good to see. It’s nice to see that more and more people are considering it an issue at all. As fashions get more and more revealing, something eventually has to give, and it likely won’t be any concession on the part of the garment manufacturers. One particular article that recently surfaced by Melanie Pritchard addressed a certain facet of solving this issue that is extremely crucial. She says “"Fathers are by far the ones who cringe the most when they speak to me. They know teen-age boys. Every father was a teenage boy once. They cringe at the way their daughters are dressing, but the fight is so big, they often back down and let their girls wear what they want."
Before I address that statement I’d like to look at the issue itself and the reason it is so important. Let’s look at contemporary Church teaching to give us some background. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which we Catholics are to obey, ¶ 2521-2523
“Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness.… Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet…Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.” (emphasis added)
Church teaching here is placing a responsibility on females for the possibility of provoking males to lust. We should all be familiar with the scripture where our Lord deals with the issue of lust "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28). One thing to note here is that there is not a conjoining assertion of women toward men. Because of the way God has wired us, men are much more susceptible to lust than women are. Women and ladies must be aware of this, and it should guide them in the way they dress as per the above excerpts from the Catechism. The Catechism here clearly is anticipating and denying the exception we so often here today that females can dress however they wish and any lust is merely the fault of the male who makes the observation because he is lacking in purity. There is at least equal responsibility here. But if a man has to turn away from someone who may draw him to lust how is he to go about his life and business. There is clearly a reciprocal responsibility, and the more liberal of today’s fashions do not assist in upholding this responsibility.
As a father, I have always clearly understood this issue and have anticipated it all along the way because I as the author of the article about stated was once a teenage boy. Likewise, I am still a normal man. I know the things in a female that will capture a male’s attention, especially in an impure way. The article rightly pointed out that it’s almost too late to try to start a formation of modesty in dress by the time a girl could begin to provoke attention to herself. It almost has to start before a girl enters puberty. I say almost for those who are beyond that point because you still have the responsibility of training your girls in modesty even if you were unaware of this when they were younger. It just may make it a bit more difficult.
One thing about the article I really couldn’t identify with though was the existence of parents having “knock-down-drag-out clothing wars with their teenage daughters.” The article (partially) accurately points out that this is due to the parents springing this on the child after allowing immodest dress through childhood. I say partially because that is only part of the problem. The main issue here is a lack of respect of the child for the parents and the lack of obedience. This one also needs to begin at a very young age with training in discipline and obedience. It should be as simple as whatever the parent says goes. The child at whatever age should be expected to obey.Also, what helps with regard to the issue of modest dress especially, but also in other issues of discipline, is the submission of the wife to her husband. I will often see what appears to be mothers who are not quite as astute as the lady that wrote the article. They seem to be more than happy to allow their daughters to wear very revealing and accentuating fashions. I say “seem” because in all actuality they may have had one of these “clothing wars” that the mother lost. In either case of the mother being for or against the immodest fashion, the father knowing the provocative nature of the garment should step in and not allow the garment to be worn. The age-old scene of the father saying “Young lady you go right back upstairs and change that outfit” comes to mind. Here the important thing is that if the mother didn’t see the garment as unacceptable should defer to the father’s guidance. On a more practical level, with a daughter who has been raised and formed with modest dress if she happens to buy something that is a bit “over the line,” the father can discreetly tell the mother to tell her to get rid of the item or to return it. It is good for the father also to see what the daughter has purchased before she wears it publicly.
In ages past parents and educators would exercise more caution with these issues under the pretext of avoiding the near occasions of sin. We don’t provoke; we take precautions. The wisdom of old actually prudently had boys and girls in separate classrooms for this reason. Couldn’t we at least today exercise some caution by having our daughters dress properly? Dad’s, it is our duty to protect our daughters in this way. This is an approach that assumes “all boys are bums and after only one thing.” It is an approach that assumes that most boys are normal and shouldn’t be placed into a situation where they are highly likely to fail. We wouldn’t do that in regards to situations where they could be in danger, so we shouldn’t here either. I’ve seen way too may “good kids” make life-altering mistakes because proper decorum was not followed by the parents and parental authority was diminished. We should want better for our own children.
God bless you+