Before I start my rant, let me explain a few things:
-I collect vintage clothing - specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. I especially like dresses from this period, which is a good thing, given that dresses were the main staple of women during this range of years, making them the most available item to find.
-I sell vintage clothing on Ebay and have for years. Again, specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. In order to successfully sell these items, I have to know something about what I'm selling. Proper identification of the decade the clothing originates from and all that.
-I own and have read numerous books about vintage clothing, style, and design.
-I make it a point to see movies that are "period" pieces. You know, those movies where entire research teams painstakingly develop costumes and sets that are exact to the years portrayed in the movie. Ditto for period TV shows, say for example, Mad Men.
-I religiously read Reminisce Magazine for numerous years now. That's the magazine that publishes people's original photographs and stories from the 1900's through the 1970's. Most of the stories are from the 1940's and 1950's.
-I am our family's unofficial genealogist and historian. Which means that all antique and vintage photographs end up in my care. Like hundreds of them, spanning from the middle 1800's to the 1980's. I look at and study them all.
Why am I explaining all this? Here's why:
To postulate the very obvious fact that American and western European women in the 1930's through to the present day (and in some instances, including the late 1920's) never, ever wore skirts or dresses that went to their ankles! (Noted exceptions made for 1950's ball/ballerina skirts and 1970's prom/formal dresses, which were not considered every-day wear anyway. Also hippie clothing, which I assume we'll just ignore.)
What precipitated this bold statement? The local Catholic homeschool conference I stopped in to last week. Yes, here we go. Ready?
So, OK, I was only there for an hour. Not exactly a scientific sample, I admit. My short visit was due to the rather lacking quality of the conference. (Note to the IHM Catholic Homeschool Conference people - it was TERRIBLE! Ten booths of vendors in a dark dingy auditorium does not a conference make. Especially when three or so of the vendors are poor, pitiful souls trying to sell their own homemade curriculum. But I digress.)
Anyway, of the women and teenagers I saw there, about 1/2 were wearing skirts. Impressive to see the other half wearing pants! I was encouraged! But those wearing skirts?
Every. single. one. ankle. length. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Even my husband noticed, which is unusual for him, because he hardly notices what women are wearing at all.
Let's face it: If you questioned these women as to why they're wearing what they are, one of the oft-cited reasons would be that they are dressing more in line with an older time when woman were dressed more modestly than today. OK, fine, I'll accept that reasoning. Except in those older times, women weren't wearing drippy, droopy, long skirts down to their ankles. (Oops, sorry, yes they were - about 100 years and more ago.)
My point is this: Do these women actually KNOW how women dressed 40, 50 or 60 years ago? If they answer, "Yes! Modestly!," they would be correct. But that's only half the answer. The other half of the answer they are making up and imagining.
I've said it before and I'll say it again (and will probably say it again and again and again): The women who insist on LONG, modest skirts as the Catholic Uniform of Holy Correctness have taken their cues from Protestants, specifically puritanical, Calvinistic Protestants. Which is understandable, given that for so many decades conservative Catholics had no decent leadership or guidance to show the way to live a holy life. So they looked around and saw conservative Protestants engaging in this long skirt practice, amongst other practices also copied, and decided it was better. Except no where in Catholic teaching does it dictate to dress like this.
Wake up, ladies! The only women back in the good old days of the 1940's to the 1960's who were wearing long skirts were ancient grandmothers whose birth date started with the number 18! Why is this important to point out? Because God didn't put you on this earth to live in the past! If you're trying to emulate the 1800's prairie lifestyle or the 1910 fashion ethic, something is very, very wrong.
I have no beef if you want to wear a skirt all the time, whether it's for modesty or because it makes you feel feminine or because you think guys aren't looking at your butt because you're in a skirt. (Actually, they ARE looking at your butt, long or short skirt, but that's a different blog post). If long skirts peel your banana, fine with me. But I do have an issue when ALL OF YOU are wearing what amounts to a UNIFORM. Isn't there a wild-and-crazy personality out there that says, "I'm gonna be daring and wear a skirt that goes to my knees!"?
And another thing. If you're gonna stick with the long skirt schtick, why do you insist on just throwing a plain old t-shirt with it, along with hippie sandals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes? I cannot think of a more UNfeminine look at all, and yet you all claim you're dressing feminine and teaching your daughters the same. I know I'm gonna ruffle some feathers here when I say this, but I'm gonna be me and just throw it out there: You don't look feminine or attractive at all. Rather, you look like someone who just rolled out of bed and couldn't find the right top or shoes to go with your skirt, so you just put on whatever you could find lying around. (Note for those who like and understand the hippie/peasant look: You seem to get it right with the long skirts.)
This is not t o say I advocate women dressing like ho's, sex goddesses, or in an immodest manner. Hardly. If those new to my blog think that's what I stand for - wrong-o! What I stand for is dressing like it's 2014, in a relevant way that really shines to others. I say that a Catholic testimony is only relevant if the people giving the testimony appear to be, well, relevant. Why would I listen to a homeschool mother wearing a frumpy jean skirt down to her ankles tell me about why contraception is wrong? Nope, not gonna be moved.
And while we're at it.....
I subscribe to a few Facebook homeschooling groups. Some are local, some are national with even international members. I'd like to note that I subscribe to learn about homeschooling, not to engage in moralistic discussions, but I've figured out that's too much to ask and those discussions are the price to pay in order to also get commentary on the pros/cons of certain books and curriculum.
As ALWAYS, there has to be ongoing modesty discussions ala, "Help! I don't know what kind of swimming suit to buy for my five-year-old daughter! What did you buy?"
Here's an idea, lady: Use your God-given brain to think it through and figure it out yourself, like generations of women before you have. After that, try to have some modicum of self-esteem and purpose and stick with your decision. Stop worrying about whether or not other conservative Catholics will judge you for putting a modest two-piece tankini on your kid or letting your son swim without a swim shirt. Live your life in the freedom God gave you. Don't turn your kids into body-hating head cases at the age of innocence believing that you're instilling in them all-important concepts of modesty. BACKFIRE ALERT!!!!
Additionally, believe in yourself enough that when the time is right - and you'll know when that time comes - that you'll have the ability and resources to have discussions with your kids about reasonable, rather than oppressive ideas about modesty and clothing selections. Alongside discussions about peer pressure and resisting the urge to do what everyone else is doing just to fit in. (Which is sort of ironic, given that so many conservative Catholics just do what all the other conservative Catholics do. I often secretly laugh to myself about this sort of thinking/behavior. Thinking they're all counter-culture, and yet they're just sheep in a different pasture.)
It's not that difficult, people! I swear that the internet has made people into insecure idiots. Way too many discussions out there about morals and conservative living, which confuses people or puts ideas in their heads with no authoritative basis of need-to-do.
There are people who will walk away from this blog post thinking I'm a judgemental bitch. So be it. There are some who will point out that I've only written this to justify my own discomfort at not fitting in with the local conservative Catholics, and that too would be partially true. But still, I think my observations need to be aired and discussed in terms of my ultimate, larger point, which is: Are you making certain decisions about how you dress as a Catholic woman on your own, free from undue influence by those around you or not?
Like so many other things I see Catholics around me doing, I don't "get it" and swear I didn't get the memo.