Modesty in dress?

My wife and I have been watching that show “19 kids and counting” and they’re Christian but not Catholic.

One appealing thing about them is that they have a well-defined idea of modesty. For example, the women/girls in their family wear their hair long, and the men/boys wear their hair short and always remain clean-shaven.

So I was wondering, does the Catholic Church have any standards of modesty? My wife and I discussed it, and my main belief is that modesty is way more about actions/attitude than looks. But even after addressing actions/attitude, we still have to consider looks.

Simple answer? No, the Church does not have standards of modesty like the Duggar’s. St. Peter’s in Rome and individual parishes may have a dress code but it would be difficult for the Univeral church to have one.

The Duggar’s dress code originally was defined by the influence of Bill Gothard (who has some really strange and perverse ideas) but has evolved since they’ve been on TV.

And you’re right that modesty is way more about actions/attitude than looks. I apologize for singling out a CAF poster who is not (yet) replying to this thread but Cat made some good points on this thread:

I think it’s wrong to spend so much money on a “wardrobe.” We need to have enough articles of clothing to be able to wear something clean each day (and since most of us wash our clothes in an automatic washer, it’s no big deal to do a small load of laundry every few days).
But I see no reason to have multiple pairs of slacks, skirts, tops, blouses, sweaters, shorts, and especially shoes. I think that’s materialistic, and if I sound like I’m judgmental, then I am guilty as charged and not ashamed of it.

I think American Christians need to take a hard, honest look at their 'wardrobes" and cut way back on their clothing expenditures. There are many parts of the world where people still own only a few articles of clothing. We really don’t need to wear a different “outfit” every day.

I would not apply this approach to someone who is a fashionista and has a gift in that area and might be inclined toward design or other arts, but if you are looking for standards, this is something to consider.

For some context, the question originated when my wife and I were discussing whether I should grow my beard and mustache out, and whether I should keep my hair short or grow it down to my chin.

The main thing is that we’re trying to set good examples for them, so that they know what modesty looks like, both in dress and in action/attitude. That’s why we’re trying to figure out what modesty in dress should be.

For our girls it’s very simple, and we’ve already concluded that the main thing is to not show a lot of skin: long dresses or knee-low skirts, no low-cut shirts, no shorts. Unfortunately the stores sell unbelievably sexualized clothing for all girls, even as young as preschoolers!

But for our boys, it seems less clear. They can’t go topless, even when swimming. And no skin-tight clothing (for either gender). And nothing with pictures or words on it (for either gender), unless it’s rated G. But other than that, they don’t really sell immodest clothing for boys. And the last thing is hair (and soon facial hair).

No, the church doesn’t dictate that. Some religions do and are pretty hardcore about it. But the Catholic church is neutral on facial hair and hair length. Societal norms are more likely to be experienced. For example, a man with long, beautiful, shiny hair. Drummer in a rock band, gay guy or a Catholic Native American/First Nations?

What about women with short hair; stylish pixie cut, butch lesbian or religious sister (you don’t think they have super long hair under their veil do you)?

I think it’s time for me to bow out of this thread. I am understanding of wanting a standard or well-defined guidelines. It really makes things kind of a no-brainer. However, these standards you are setting up are defined by man and not God and the harder some people embrace those standards the more likely they are to judge those who do not conform to those man-made standards.

Full disclosure: I have a short (first time in 30 years), asymmetrical cut with an undercut on the sides and back which I’m growing out so it’s more Mohawk-esque. And it’s blonde with purple/magenta layered in. I’m probably the last person you want “modesty” advice from so I’m out.

If you want to force your family to dress a certain way, fine. Just don’t say it is rules from the church.:thumbsup:

Sounds to me like you would do best leaving it EXACTLY how it is! That is perfect!

I’m pretty sure that hair size, shape, length, etc. is a cultural question. Then again, according to the Church, modesty is also a cultural question… to an extent.

Nevertheless, I can see why you would say that a parent would be setting a good example by not being overly revealing in their dress, but I don’t get the part about the hair.

Because the culture we live in blurs the lines between genders (no doubt due in part to the devil’s influence who wants to destroy or at least hide the image of God in us) and it’s more and more common to see men who look like women or women who look like men. My wife and I have agreed that we should make a point of it to look and act our own gender to set a good example for our children and to combat this culture of gender-less-ness.

Just remember that you don’t have to grow a beard or moustache or make your girls wear only dresses or skirts to set a good example of acting one’s own gender. Your girls are aren’t likely to be mistaken for boys even if they are wearing jeans or pants, since pants made for girls look different than those made for boys. Even if you are wearing a dress, I doubt you will be mistaken for a woman, whether or not you have a lot of facial hair.

Be sure in your enthusiasm to embrace your gender, you don’t rely on a group that is most decidedly not Catholic to become your fashion or lifestyle role model.


I’m kind of insulted by the insinuation that we’re blindly taking ideas from a family on TV. They had an interesting idea so my wife and I discussed it, and now I brought the topic here for further input. That’s all.

Don’t be insulted. I was only responding to your referencing of the Duggars and how the choices you listed as what you decided your children should wear mirrors what the Duggars do wear. You might be surprised at how many Catholics come onto the forums thinking that the Church dictates certain things they may or may nor wear…and aren’t pleased to find that the Church doesn’t require women to wear only skirts or men to refrain from certain hairstyles.

Seems to me, the quest to find out exactly what modest should look like is just like those people addicted to plastic surgery trying to find out exactly what beautiful looks like on them. They have like hundreds of surgeries but each one leaves them looking more unnatural and false than before. There was nothing wrong with their features in the first place. Like beauty, modesty is a matter of the heart.

This at least was what I learned from my own modest quest… I don’t think I was immodest in the first place. In the process, I did find out I wanted to wear more feminine clothing though.

I should say that I respect the Duggars a lot. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a family dress code. I would just hope that if one of the children wanted to express themselves that leniency would be given. Its a part of forming identity.

Except the Sisters of Social Service. Until the late 60s they were not allowed to cut their hair & had to put it up in a bun (which is what I do now.) Sister F (now deceased - she was a good friend) said that when standards were relaxed and many sisters started to grow their hair out, most of the SSS sisters cut theirs.

You sound like my daughter. Same color scheme, too! :smiley:

I think what should guide modesty in our lives is to ask yourself If I was looking at myself would I lead myself into sin. especially women, think if a guy were to look at me would he lust after me. The reason we should dress modestly is to protect ourself from being objectified (we can’t fully avoid it).

I could go into this further, but I think a very simple rule to follow is as follows.

The way we dress revels on the external what kind of person we are on the internal.

If a guy wears wrinkled clothing, doesn’t keep a clean shaven face or if he has a beard he doesn’t from it. He comes off as someone who lives in vice, who is unorganized, slothful, and not really Christian.

but if a guy has clothing that is not wriknled, hair is neat and tidy. He is either clean shaven or his beard is nicely trimmed. He never smells nasty, he has nice teeth. You see someone who is morally upstanding lives in virtue ect.

Modesty goes beyond sexuality, and looking lustfully at others. Modesty is also how present ourselves. Someone in a coat and tie can dress immodestly if they don’t keep their things clean and pressed.

So, wait a second-you’re mirroring it on the Duggars, but not Duggars? so your dress code is DuggarNotDuggar? :hmmm:

I think it really depends on the culture. Some things are basic and easy to figure out, while other things concerned with modesty are determined by cultural norms.

Jesus would have had long hair, probably a pigtail, and maybe a beard too. I can’t see why men can’t have a long haircut, or a beard. What would you say to an Eastern Rite priest? They tend to have very long hair and beards :cool:

I can understand modesty, but a family uniform is kinda creepy…

Depends on what you mean by “modesty”.

It could be argued that modesty is relative; that is dependent on the norms of a culture at any given time.

At one time, what is considered modesty by today’s standards, were offensive to God:

Genesis 3:11 - Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked?

Now here’s the conundrum:

Cultural norms change over time. “Modesty” is a cultural norm.

God never changes.

If hiding one’s nakedness was offensive to God at the dawn of humanity, why is it not today?

The answer might be because of the lack of humility in mankind. Because our sensitivities are offend, we assume God’s must also be.

Its almost like we are telling God what he should think, or how he should feel, because we know best!

Well, even the Duggars have evolved. When the show first started , and when they had fewer than 15 children, the girls and Michelle all wore jumpers and blouses and the boys were never permitted jeans, and wore polo shirts, never T-shirts, and never sneakers.

Now, the girls wear long denim skirts, and polo tops and sandals, and the boys wear jeans and usually polos but also T-shirts.

I grew up in a “girls in jumpers” family and frankly, I have a hard time saying that my little daughter in pink ruffly pants and pink long sleeved shirt is boyish because it’s pants not a skirt. Also, my girls all had short “page-boy” hair (despite the name, it can be very feminine).

Really, why boys in shirts at the pool?

We have two priests at our parish. One is clean shaven, the other has a full beard. They are both manly. My husband has a mustache.

I have toyed with the idea of going back to an “all dresses all the time” mentality but really, I just can’t. It’s so protestant, so “I am what I wear.”

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How so?

Im not challenging you, as you certainly are allowed to wear pants if you want, but why do you say that the “all skirts and dresses” idea is protestant? I think, on the contrary that it is VERY traditonal

The length of one’s hair is a personal preference and has nothing to do with the culture trying to blur the line between the sexes. I wore my hair long almost my entire life until i cut it when I was about eight months pregnancy. It’s very soft and lacks body so I had to wash it every day and spend hours drying and curling it. Once I had a baby, that was not going to happen so I cut it and it’s been short or shortish ever since. Am I less feminine now despite becoming a mother? I don’t see how any rational person would think that.

Raising a child to become a good Catholic and a good person takes a lot of effort. I think that focusing on something so mundane which has absolutely NO moral implications is futile and a waste of time. If you’re doing the parent role right, you have bigger fish to fry and battles to fight. Once a child is old enough to take care of their hair and keep it clean and tidy, they should have autonomy over its length and style, as long as it confirms to the standards of the school they attend. It’s their hair.

And I’d think twice about how much I was going to emulate the Duggars. Their view that girls don’t need education and Michelle’s willingness to surrender the care of the younger children to the older ones are not positions I find admirable.

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