We are not called to be mimics of the Blessed Mother, dressing as would be appropriate for a first-century Palestinian peasant woman (e.g., long veils, skirts to the floor, sandals). We are called to imitate the Blessed Mother in her virtues. In terms of modesty, that might mean dressing in a way that is appropriate to one’s culture and circumstances, not drawing undue attention to oneself either in one’s dress or undress, remaining circumspect about one’s own choices, and not denouncing the reasonable choices of others.
Overall, I agree with this article of Michelle Arnold. However, what tends to happen in discussions about modesty is that those on one side of the debate tend to present a caricature of the other side or generalize too much about the habits of the other side. In particular, I disagree with her remark about Fatima. I believe it is pretty clear what fashions Our Lady was referring to: the ones that lead many souls to hell. Enough said.
But I believe she is spot on with the last sentence in the quote. Modesty is both objective and subjective: it has to do both with the manner of dress and behavior of the one who is looked at, and the internal dispositions of the one who looks (or doesn’t look). Continue reading