“On Women�s Clothing and the Dignity of Woman”

Aimee at Historical Christian has a great reflection on my long time nemesis: clothes shopping,  the fashion industry, and the difficulty of finding modest, flattering, feminine attire. I’ve read many, many good reflections on this subject by Catholic women; but this one is the best I’ve seen:

Why is this?  Because, some years ago, clothing designers left me.  They decided that some other woman, some other audience, was fit to be designed for � but not me.  My figure, my shape, my size, my age, my kind, is not worth designing clothes for, and so they don�t bother.  The only thing I can reliably find to fit me is a tee shirt.  So I have lots of tee shirts.  But jeans, slacks, skirts, dresses, and suits for years have been out of my reach � except for the odd thing here and there, usually from a middle of the road catalogue company, rarely from a store.

And it does something to me, over the years, trying again and again to find a flattering pair of slacks, a pretty dress, a good-fitting suit, but always seeing in the mirror an image that appears � there is no other way to describe it � deformed by the very fit and style of the clothes.  It does something to me.  Interiorly, though I know I am not unattractive, and my figure is quite normal, I begin to feel ugly.

I think Aimee is not only able to express the frustration that so many of us feel eloquently and thoroughly, she’s also got some wonderful insights into why things are as dismal as they are:

I remember a couple of years ago watching the show Project Runway, a reality show about upcoming fashion designers competing to win on the runway.  At one point the judges, all models and fashion industry executives, were gushing about a particular dress coming down the runway, �Now, any woman with any figure could wear that!  It�s beautiful!�

Any woman?  Excuse me?  The dress was of thin white silky material, with a short, pencil-straight skirt, sleeveless and backless, neckline plunging down to the navel, and the sides of the (braless and hanging) breasts exposed.  It had less material than a slip.  How could anyone in their right mind believe for one moment that any woman could wear such a dress?

. . . In watching the show over a couple of seasons (I enjoyed the creativity of it, though not, for the most part, the designs), it occurred to me: many top fashion designers are gay men.  Having been close to many gay men in my life, I know that they for the most part don�t, shall I say, find a woman�s body attractive.  Among some I�ve known, quite the opposite.  Some refer to women disdainfully as �breeders,� with clear contempt for our reproductive capacity.

It occurred to me, as I watched the tall, skinny models make their way down the runway, that they bear a certain resemblance to adolescent boys.  Gay men do like adolescent boys.  So perhaps gay fashion designers, who in many respects drive the fashion industry, are not really designing for women, but for boys, consciously or no � leaving real women in the lurch, feeling inadequate, deprived, ugly, because of our shapely, curvy, soft, unpredictable bodies, designed for giving life.  And that does not even begin to address what contraception, abortion, promiscuity, and pornography have done to our view of a woman�s body, its meaning, purpose, and dignity as image and likeness of God.  Feminism was supposed to free us from such degradation – but it has not.  It is worse than ever.

Thanks, Aimee, for voicing what I’ve wanted to say so many times.

Read the whole blog post here.

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