What are the appropriate motives of taking care of your appearance?

I think most people would say that taking care of their appearance, by combing their hair, trimming their nails, or washing their face, are not immoral things. But when can greater changes to appearance (reduction or increase in weight, changing hair style, purchasing suits or dresses) be considered immoral? I am interested in people’s opinions on the matter.
The following questions will help discussion, and are of interest to me:

  1. Is working out for the purpose of looking better, and not for the purpose of being healthier, immoral?
  2. Is purchasing a suit or dress for the purpose of looking more professional in a business or social setting immoral?
  3. Is purchasing nice looking casual clothes because you ‘like’ to look ‘beautiful’ yourself, even when no one is around, immoral? Pretend the person in this example is an artist of some sort, and greatly cares about their own ‘aesthetic’.
  4. Is increasing or decreasing eating amounts (within healthy recommended limits) to gain/lose weight for the purpose of looking better immoral?

In each example except the third, the purpose of looking better is always instrumental, and not an end in itself; for example, the businessperson wishes to dress more professionally in order to maintain or increase his income in order to support his family or give more money to the poor. The person working out or increasing/decreasing eating amounts is looking better in order to increase their physical attractiveness for their wife/husband or potential wife/husband.

I would not like to discuss potentially dangerous or very, very expensive variations of this problem here (piercings, tattoos, plastic surgery).

Well, today I was in a restaurant and there was a humongus lady trying to thread her way among the tables. She was dressed Ok, but in dire need of weight reduction. That was my JUDGEMENT at the time, but your post made me think about it. Perhaps the lady had a health problem and just could not lose or control her weight. I know that I too am a little heavy because I am lazy and enjoy eating out. Your question made me remember, “There, but for the grace of God go I.” :confused:

Unless you’re doing things to attract sexual attention to yourself, unless you’re obsessed with your vanity, and your nature is now vain, and unless you’re trying to attract attention to yourself in a misanthropic little universe; it is neither sinful nor imperfect to look good, respected, attractive, clean cut, and proper.

It is never a sin to admire what is truly beautiful. It isn’t sinful to enhance that beauty either, so long as it’s not in vain and with a lustful/evil intent.

Laymen don’t take a vow of poverty. We don’t have to necessarily dress poorly. Dress to what you can afford, and follow the rules of modesty.

If you should eventually take a vow of poverty, as a religious and you have a habit, that’d be even better. I’ve never seen an unattractive, or spiritually dangerous habit. Sometimes I wish the Church was like the Boy and Girl scouts, with a uniform :stuck_out_tongue:

God knows we need it with the state of fashion and modesty these days.

Eat as you like. It’s perfectly fine to care for your health in regards to food. Hilaire Belloc says “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine”. It isn’t sinful to take care of your nutrition, rather is virtuous. It’s okay to lose weight, and vice versa. It all boils down to one thing: are you doing it to attract attention to yourself, rather than to God?

Our bodies are temples, remember. Temples of the Holy Ghost. Your parish church is well maintained. Let us not hesitate to maintain our own. It’s good for the body, good for the mind, and wonderful for the soul.

I don’t find anything inappropriate or immoral in any of the items you’ve mentioned here. If we’re using your example of an artist, let’s say an actress in Hollywood, I would anticipate that she might spend many times the amount of time and money on her appearance, clothes, physical workouts, that a woman with a job as a teller in a bank would spend, but I wouldn’t ascribe an inappropriate motive to the actress simply because of that.

Like a surgeon: do no harm when operating in society.

Thanks to all for their input!

To LoyalViews:
Could the argument be made that any improvement in physique or “sharpness” in dress would invite sexual attention? That is, does the improvement of appearance (bodily and in clothing) for the purpose of inviting romantic attraction not also invite sexual attention? I find that infatuation is typically the beginning of romantic attraction, and I am not sure how different infatuation is from sexual attraction. [While obviously, if it is a degree of sexual attraction, it is a less degree of sexual attraction than would be invited by a scantily clad attractive person, or a strip club].

In an article by Edward Feser, Professor Feser quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein as follows:
“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”
edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/06/body-movin-mind-thinkin.html

I find this quote apt to the topic, particularly in the situation with the artist’s concern for her own beauty.
Since beauty is good, and matter is good, and our bodies are good, could it be considered immoral to take no interest in maintaining our own physical beauty, if we have the opportunity?

Unless you are standing in front of a mirror most of the day it is not a sin to look tidy.

Wanting to look beautiful for its own sake is no more sinful than, say, admiring natural or man-made beauty such as sunsets, flowers, paintings or sculpture. Remember Jesus praising the beauty of the lilies - flowers which seemingly were not created for much if any other reason than to be beautiful.

Yes, we can go overboard with our focus on any of the above, and need to be more careful with things that directly impact our bodies such as plastic surgery, but that doesn’t mean these things are automatically wrong.

I do not think that seeking to look attractive to the opposite sex is morally wrong. It would be a sad world if all women wore the muslim veil. God would not have made women attractive to men if He did not want them to attract men and vice versa. I think we can be too scrupulous in addressing the obvious lack of modesty in today’s society. I am assured that most women dress for other women but I am sure that few would reject a complimentary look or comment from a stray man once in a while.

So why is it a sin looking at a good-looking woman? I mean, if there is lust in your eyes it is a sin, but just looking? And why on earth do women get angry if you look at them? They dress sexy (even “good” Catholics) and do what they can to be pretty, and then when you look they get mad. Makes no sense, non what so ever.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.