Is It Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes? | The Catholic Thing

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This particular pair of “distressed” jeans is only $19.97 at the website “Zulily“; many are much more expensive. Young women (and some young males) are paying good money for clothing (?) that looks like they rescued it from the dumpster.

Is It Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes? Short answer: yes. Deliberately ripped garments work against the purpose of clothes. They are caricatures of clothing.

Source: Is It Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes?

This article, the link to which appeared in my email in-box this morning, is timely. I had just been thinking, over the last week or so, about the difference in attire between “my generation” in middle and high school, and what I am seeing now, at the high school where I teach driver education.

In some respects, high schoolers are dressing, at least in school – whether voluntarily or due to imposed dress-codes, I do not know – in a way that is less overtly revealing or provocative they they did in my day. (I am addressing primarily female students’ attire, as I have never had, and still do not, any interest in inspecting males or their clothing! But many of the same problems and principles apply equally to popular contemporary male attire.)

At any rate, there are fewer bare midriffs, nowadays; fewer if any camisole tops and not many tank-tops. Shorts (if worn at all) are, for the most part, not particularly short. Skirts of any sort are rare, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a miniskirt (wail and gnash your teeth, women for whom the “right” to wear a miniskirt was a political issue in the 1970s). And while there are “skinny jeans,” there is something decidedly less attractive about the way they hug the form than I recall of the Jordaches and Calvin Kleins of yesteryear!

In that sense, I suppose it could be said that young women are dressing (at least while at school) more “modestly” than they used to, “back in the day.” That is good, to a point. The problem is what they’re replacing it with.

Back in my day, high school girls may have dressed a bit more provocatively, but at least they dressed to impress: the late ’70s and ’80s may have been nowhere close to the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s when it came to classy, yet alluring, femininity; but nonetheless, young women of the time still looked and acted like they cared about their appearance.

We may laugh, looking back, at the “big hair” and overdone makeup of the ’80s… but at least girls took the time to fix their hair, put on makeup, and generally make an effort to look both nice, and female. There is a lot to be said for that!

Now, hairstyles are nondescript (except for some African-American students, for whom they could perhaps be best described as “outlandish”), or simply involve the use of unnatural colors. Unnaturally “vivid” hair – blue, green, pink, fire-engine red, etc., used to be rare enough that I could at least think, “well, that’s… interesting.” Now, it’s more like “oh, good heavens, not again…” Makeup, if used at all, does not in most cases enhance the feminine beauty of the subject.

And clothing is just supremely generic and uninteresting, for the most part. Pretty, feminine blouses, with embroidery and buttons? Nice skirts or dresses? Don’t make me laugh! Sweat-clothes or even pajamas (the latter, at least, can sometimes be cute) are fairly common, as are the completely execrable yoga pants or leggings, which despite (or maybe because of) looking like opaque or dazzle-printed pantyhose, do nothing to flatter most physiques.

[Update, in the interests of fairness: Now that the weather is warming, I have actually seen a few – though only a few – girls actually wearing dresses or skirts and attractive tops. Though still rare, it is refreshing!]

And “distressed” jeans – otherwise entirely forgettable garments, distinguished only by the amount of damage done to them – are so common as to be almost in the majority. Sometimes the “distressing” is so massive as to leave significant sections of leg uncovered (in which case, why not turn them into cutoffs, which are at least a complete garment of themselves, rather than incomplete pants?); but even if not, it’s almost rare to see jeans that don’t have some ripped, torn, cut, or artificially threadbare element to them.

What the wearers don’t seem to realize is that it doesn’t make them look “edgy”; it certainly doesn’t – with so many people wearing the style – make them look unique. It just makes them look sloppy and slovenly. Or like everyone in the school has somehow gotten in a fight with a barbed-wire fence! Between that and the other non-styles in vogue today, it just seems as if there has been a collective decision to give up caring if you look nice, or even decent. And it’s a darned shame.

As the linked essay points out, there is a general notion – operative in many areas of life, in today’s world, not just clothing – that “People should do that which makes them happiest. Therefore they should wear ripped clothes so as not to worry about their appearance or condition. It is all about comfort.” But this is not in fact the case, as the essay continues:

“While clothing should be comfortable, the purpose of clothing is not comfort but protection. Clothing exists to protect and adorn the body and modesty of the person. To claim that comfort is the purpose of clothing is like saying tastiness, not nutrition, is the purpose of food. It is like saying relaxation, not rejuvenation, is the purpose of sleep.

These things – comfort, relaxation, tastiness – are not irrelevant or unimportant, of course. We are, after all, physical beings. But they are subsidiary purposes, not the essential purpose, of the things to which they apply:

“Deliberately ripped garments work against the purpose of clothes. They are caricatures of what clothing should be. Far from adorning the body, the process of ripping turns that which should be strong, beautiful and orderly into something weak, ugly and frayed. Tattered attire is disordered and therefore should not be worn.”

But this is only the tip of the iceberg! Read on, to find out why tattered, “distressed” clothing is immodest – even if it “covers the essential bits,” as it were – and on an even more fundamental level, what modesty is and why it matters. A most interesting and (if you will pardon the word-play) “revealing” essay! As I have said on more than one occasion, “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest”…

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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