Pants: A Manifesto – COMMENTS CLOSED

Consider the following food for thought, and not a hard-and-fast directive.  So in case you were under the bizarre impression that some random essay written by a layperson has some moral force, then rest at ease.  I repeat, this is not a directive!  But you better listen to me, or you’re going to hell.

Top ten reasons I wear pants

1.  I live in NH, where winter happens.  Pants.

2.  My husband finds most women’s pants to be more or less neutral, as far as their power to affect him in a masculine way.  But he finds that most women’s skirts  . . . affect him.   So unless it’s the most wonderful time of the cycle for me:  pants.

3.  Three of my children are ages 4, 3, and 17 months.  They basically live on the floor.  To care for them, my choices are either (a) sit on the floor to be with them, or (b) bend over a lot to deal with them.  Yesterday at library story hour, my little girls felt shy, so I sat on the floor to be with them.   I was comfortable, relaxed, and modest.  Pants.

4. Motherhood is a blue collar job.  I don’t care what style of dress or skirt you’re wearing, there is no way to be modest while dealing efficiently with the routine emergencies that normal children engender —  children who, as a normal mode of expression, flail their limbs around like some kind of oversized, malevolent eggbeater, right at your hemline.  Today, I had to lunge halfway across the room to rescue my toddler, who had launched herself from an armchair at a glass gerbil tank.  I was able to lunge without pausing to consider whether my movements were graceful and feminine; and I didn’t worry, while lunging, about flashing the men in the room.  Pants.

5.  Traditional nuns manage to work in skirts, and so do men and women in the middle east.  So what?  Their lives are hard; mine doesn’t have to be.  Pants.

6.  My husband, being heterosexual, does not actually want to spend his free time browsing around Dress Barn with me.  Unfortunately, being a drooling idiot (that’s traddie talk for “woman I honor and respect”), I am utterly, faintingly, femininely unable to pick out modest and appropriate clothing for myself.  What ever shall I do!  There’s clearly only one option left for poor silly old me, and that’s to keep on safe ground.  Pants.

7.  When I show my husband a piece of clothing that I just bought, he admires it — but only because he loves me and knows I have no female friends to show it to.  In reality, I might as well be holding up a coupon for fig newtons, or a vacuum cleaner filter:  he just can’t see it.  When I put it on, then he can see it.  At this point in our marriage, I know what he’s going to like, so that’s what I buy.  I dress to please him, not other men who might pass me on the sidewalk.  Pants.

8.  Why do I get the distinct impression that some guys, demonstrable experts in marriage though they may be, are being a teeny bit disingenuous when they couch their views on modesty in terms of respect for women?  Why do I get the impression that if most women wore skirts, this type of fellow would suddenly be campaigning for more pants?  Why, in short, do my spidey senses tell me that this is not about modesty at all, but about control?  “Wear what I say, and I promise I’ll start respecting you.”  Pants!

9.  If you are so concerned about how I think about myself, then why don’t you ask me what I actually think, instead of telling me what you know I will think if I only listen to you?  Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you how I think about myself:  I think that my life got a lot better when I started making reasonable decisions for myself, instead of always wondering if I’m going to disappoint some hypothetical man.  I care profoundly what my husband thinks about me, and naturally that affects how I feel about myself.  Pants.

10.  You give the game away when you start talking about femininity and end up complaining about fat butts.  That makes you less of a moral leader and more of an asshole.  Pants.

Women, if you want to wear skirts, and it means something to your husband, then go ahead and wear skirts.  Skirts are not a sign of oppression and misery!  I wish I could pull off the look, and to those of you who do wear skirts:  I think you look nice.

But it’s not a moral issue.  At all.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried so hard.  I thought I had to make up for everything wrong I had done, and I thought I had to be a good example for everyone else who was still doing everything wrong.  I scrubbed my floors on hands and knees, I made crepes from scratch, and I wore skirts every day.  In other words, I made everything a lot harder than it had to be — and wasted lots of valuable physical and emotional energy in pursuing these ideals, while letting other, more useful virtues slide.  Virtues like kindness, flexibility, and common sense.

I had three kids in diapers, and I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere.  Wearing skirts did nothing for me but make me awkward, self-righteous, and cold.  I guess some men find that appealing, but I’ve never heard my own husband pining for those days (the skirts were my idea, not his).  Many women are able to wear a skirt and function well.  I could not, and people who pressured me to try harder were doing me harm.

I think I’ve gotten beyond this phase, but the issue of skirts was a red herring that did a lot of genuine damage to my marriage, my self-respect, and my attitude toward other women.  That’s why messages like this anti-pants one make me so furious.  Yeah, lots of women dress immodestly — but  lots of other women are treated like retarded pets by their Good Catholic Husbands, and I’m sick to death of it.

I’m sick to death of messages like the one I linked to gaining any kind of legitimacy among otherwise intelligent men and women. Some women like to wear pants, and some don’t.  It’s not a moral issue.  If it’s a moral issue in your marriage, than your marriage has serious problems that a change in wardrobe will not heal.

Skirts won’t change the world.  I’ll tell you what will change the world:  men loving their wives — their actual wives, not some bizarre, imaginary amalgam of the Blessed Virgin and Grace Kelly.

So, ladies, if your priest friend forwards the anti-pants email to you, please remember:  one of the great strengths of the Catholic church is that it invites all sorts of men into its holy priesthood.  One of these men is infallible — but the one who sent you this email is not.  And the man who wrote the original message is not even a priest.

Pants, pants, pants!


UPDATE:  Okay, ladies and gents, we just passed 300 comments.  Thank you for making me laugh so hard today and yesterday.  I’m closing comments now because I think everything has been said that can be said — although I really love the idea of Padre Pio duking it out in the confessional with Gianna Molla.   I realize that closing comments make me “mean and nasty,” but what can I say?  Pants will do that to a gal.


    • You should read the fabulous short book on modesty called DRESSING WITH DIGNITY by Colleen Hammond– a Catholic and former model. It offers a brief history of women’s clothing and the motivation for why it has changed so much over the years. It may change your mind…or at least shed some light on why so many women love wearing skirts.

      Our Lady of Fatima also warned us that many fashions would develop that would offend Our Lord very much, which is why some women are wary of pants as many of them can be immodest.

      Padre Pio, the stigmata-ed friar, would not allow women to enter his confessional unless their skirts were well below the knee. The man is a saint. Food for thought.

      I look at wearing the skirt as a beautiful way to show God how much we love Him. Pants can be more “convenient, ” but I think we can all agree that we could use more penance in our life.

      • J. M., I also love wearing skirts….sometimes. I just don’t think it’s a moral issue. It’s a practical one. There are modest skirts, as well as modest pants for women. I am absolutely certain that some fashions are offensive to God–modest pants are not. I know Padre Pio is a saint, but his practical decisions are not some kind of dogma for anyone (and frankly, I think that a priest refusing to hear a confession because of what a person is wearing when that person could be in mortal sin is far more questionable morally than wearing even a mini skirt). I agree that I can use more penance in my life–that’s why I read the original email that Simcha linked to! 😉

      • It’s been a few years since I read Dressing With Dignity, but doesn’t it advise women to dress like Marian apparitions? Doesn’t it say that pants are a plot by the mustachio-twirling Masons?

        My pants are always below the knee. 😉

  1. You are wonderful.

    I’ve never understood the skirts-are-more-modest thing, especially after having children. The only times in my life when I have been in danger of flashing my underwear in public have occurred while wearing skirts around small kids. Plus, I clearly remember a girl I knew in high school who started wearing skirts all the time specifically because her boyfriend liked the “easy access.”

    On another note, I also used to scrub my floors on my hands and knees until I realized that I was doing it significantly less often because it was such a pain in the neck. Now I just make my kids do it, which is no skin off my back at all!

  2. Dude! Thanks. I’ve always found this “debate” baffling because it’s so obviously a false premise- that skirts are more modest and feminine. HA! Maybe, maybe not. Your designation of the debate being a red herring is right on.
    I also loved how you shared your experience of being distracted and judgemental of other women by being drawn into that lifestyle choice. It can very often lead to women to competition with each other, which is the death knell for true Christ-like fellowship and support. Women are the HEART of the family and the Church – if we are all looking askance at each other (for whatever reasons) then we have put all of our husbands and children in much greater peril then if that happen to see that we have a crotch. Thanks for the excellent response.

  3. “4. Sadly, and we understand you may not be aware of this, but almost every style of pants reveals private information about your figure (by way of contour) what only your husband (and if not him, no man, including your sons, if you have sons) should perceive.”

    I’m puzzling over this one. What makes the contour information of a woman’s backside private, but not a man’s? I’ve stood behind plenty of men, at Mass even, and wished the contours of their backsides (and frontsides, and sidesides) had been made more private so I could stop giggling and pay attention.

    And I guess this means no leotards or bathing suits either, huh? At least not ones without knee-length skirts. That also means no watching circuses or Olympics, because that would mean gazing upon other women unwitting revealing private information. Or wait, no being around other women even wearing pants! Because they are simply screaming personal factoids to scandalous for any man to hear!

    Hang on, I’ve got to grab a roll of duct tape and bind my husband’s eyes before he goes off to work today…

  4. If I let my father pick out my clothes, I’d end up wearing some weird geometric pattern that reminded him of a circuit board. Once he commented on a skirt that I was wearing – that it looked like fruit salad.

    Strange that the other article can’t decide if one should wear skirts because they accentuate the body or don’t accentuate the body. He goes back and forth – and the kilt comment, is just creepy.

    And if husbands were to pick out their wives clothes, a know a bunch who would have their wives looking like teenagers. And how is that a good idea?

    • Picking out a wife’s or daughter’s clothing is one of the silliest ideas I have heard in a while.

      My wife, as I think most wives do, has a much better sense of style than I ever will.

      And if you ever find a man who insists on picking out your clothes, run. If you had the misfortune to have married him first, get to counseling. There are serious control problems.

  5. Thank you for this. I like skirts and I wear them a lot, but it’s more a matter of personal taste to me than it is to do with modesty. Ever tried to walk down the street in a pleated skirt when the wind was blowing? Not doing that again.

    And that whole argument about revealing the contours of your body… UM. NO. Unless your pants are so tight that you have a camel toe, the gender with the external organs of reproduction has more to hide. (Here I would like to add, for all the guys who think shrinkwrapping their package in denim is hot: It’s so gross. Put it away.)

  6. “My husband finds most women’s pants to be more or less neutral, as far as their power to affect him in a masculine way. But he finds that most women’s skirts . . . affect him. So unless it’s the most wonderful time of the cycle for me: pants.”

    Me, too, me, too! And this point always rings in my mind when I hear these skirt conversations and how pants entice men to think unchaste thoughts. My husband’s thoughts are the most unchaste when I’m wearing my Sunday best: skirts.

  7. I was through the intro and all the way to #2 before I realized that this article was not, in fact, by the Jerk. I thought it was going to be about why he had resolved to start wearing pants when he drives.

  8. And to think…Catholicity was founded by Bud Macfarlane…the swellest of swell guys who abandoned his wife and 4 boys. Primarily because she refused to move to Canada with him so they could join a group of fringe Catholics in a new school venture, and because she insisted on homeschooling the children.

    The summary…

    The court case…

    Click to access 2006-ohio-3155.pdf

    …really ugly stuff in which neither of them come out smelling of roses. But suffice it to say, this is a guy and a group that I would not want to take advice from regarding anything having to do with marriage, women, and family life, let alone what one should wear.

    • And speaking of judging other by what you see….wait, you must have some inside information on someone else’s marriage or you wouldn’t be sharing this right??? But isn’t that spreading scandal???

      Common people, agree or disagree with the man’s opinion, but leave your assumptions about his marriage out of it!!

      • That is why I posted the link to the court case (did you read it?), which is in the public domain, and freely available. I said, or referred to nothing other than what was factually presented in the court proceedings, which I read in full before posting.

        No assumptions were made on my part about details inside their marriage that were not part of the public record.

  9. Skirts totally provie easy access. And I agree with how it is harder to be modest in a skirt when caring for small kids. I’m so glad I watched my mom go through that whole phase so I can reject it right away instead of trying to achieve holiness in dress instead of behavior for half my life.

    • I think this is really mean and rude what you just said about watching your mom and so you can reject it. So, what do you say about me? I wear only skirts and dresses and have three children.

  10. I’m pretty sure that the only reason we ever had the pants-male/skirt-female dichotomy in the first place is so we could comfortably pee in the woods.

  11. Thank you for writing this! I needed to hear this. I showed the CatholiCity article to my husband, and he asked if it was written by a Muslim. No, I said, it is posted on a Catholic blog. He said that was ridiculous and that he thought the Catholic Church was above trying to control women in such menial issues as whether or not they choose to wear pants. Plus, he agreed that skirts are much more enticing to men than pants. He feels that is the true reason this person is pushing skirts, for his own viewing pleasure.

  12. Simcha, I’m confused. Why was it that you had decided to wear skirts in the first place? This is fascinating, and I have never even heard of this as a topic amongst Catholics. Is it one that I have overlooked?

    • Rebekah, you’re lucky that you haven’t had to deal with it! Some women are under tremendous pressure to wear skirts all the time, believe it or not, and it really is presented as a moral issue.

      I don’t actually remember why I decided to – I was horribly insecure and suggestible when I first got married, and a single article or email would have been enough to convince me that this is a Very Important Issue.

      I have also heard people argue that the origin of pants for women is Marxism, so therefore they’re immoral. Seriously. Also, that women didn’t want to get into politics until they started wearing pants, so YOU do that math. Gag.

      Some of this stuff is just silly, but there are whole communities where, for instance, daughters are not allowed to leave the family home for reasons other than getting married — and this anti-pants nonsense goes along with near-cultish thinking in some Catholic circles.

      • Thank you for sharing this and enlightening the rest of us. I have considered myself orthodox Catholic since I was about 14 and my father has been a professor at a Catholic university all 35 years of my life, and I have never run across this issue.

        In something as Big as the Catholic Church I suppose it is inevitable that different, and perhaps harmful, ideas can creep up that gives us an opportunity to set ourselves apart from this world. It sounds like you, a young mother and wife, were searching for a way to speak both your differences with the popular world and your sameness with others who live the same as you in a manifestable way, and the skirt uniform offered you this opportunity. Perhaps this is one reason why some “near-cultish Catholic circles” have promoted this.

        Not in defense of this, but I know from personal experience that I wish I had a ready-at-hand way to explain my world-view to the dental hygienist or the lady behind the counter at Dairy Queen why it is that we have five kids and am pregnant “again?” To say something like, “Well you see, we are practicing Catholics who do not use birth control, but instead believe that it is between me, my husband, and the Good Lord to determine our family size.” It is awkward and doesn’t quite explain things. I know that were I wearing an Amish bonnet (not sure of the proper terminology) they would most likely respect my decisions and lifestyle without trying to extrude some meaningless explanation from me.

        I am not defending this “no pants” policy, I am just seeking to understand what it is that elicits such movements in the first place, other than just plain control, for if that were so, I don’t believe you would have had your own skirt phase.

    • I felt the same way after reading this — wondering what prompted it. I guess I should be lucky!

      I have been wearing skirts lately, but that’s because I’m post-partum and feel like skirts look better on me than pants. Also: South.

  13. Ha! I thought the original “list” was a joke. Is he not busy? I’m doing good to have clean clothes to wear. It’s a rare day that I have a choice of two (arguably) suitable for public consumption ANYTHING. And I defy anyone to suggest my 10 year old yoga pants reveal anything, except when they fall down because the elastic in the waist is shot and I can’t find the drawstring. But that’s never happened (sorry, lady walking your dogs when I was getting groceries out of the car, it was nothing personal).

    My husband would die laughing and then ask if I was alright if I asked him what he wanted me to wear. It’s happened, actually. While I know what piques my husbands interest, and he’s quick with a compliment and a come on if I spiff up, his idea of respecting him is to be grown up and put on some clothes already, and quit asking him stupid questions – and please don’t wear that lipstick that tastes like old bubblegum – unless it makes me feel really good about myself, in which case just don’t kiss him while I’m wearing it.

    I will see if my husband will take me shopping, though, that is really good advice. He’s a get whatever you want so we can get out of here kind of shopper which can work to a gals advantage. New yoga pants, here we come. Do they even make a yoga skirt?

  14. lolololol I love the mysterious “pants reveal intimate things about you” bit. So. funny.

    I’d like to see this guy nurse babies in a dress. Hm. But that might remind him that women have breasts. Scratch that.

    • Now, Anne, that was plain old mean! You can very easily nurse a baby in a skirt – skirts and dresses are the same in this regard! I am a married woman who wears only dresses/skirts and I have three children all of whom I have nursed (actually currently nursing the third one).

      • I didn’t mean to be mean 🙂

        I know I can nurse in a skirt….Pretty much I’ve only been able to wear skirts for the past 3.5 years if I am going to dress up, so I can still nurse the baby.

        Mainly, I think I was(am) annoyed at some guy telling the rest of us mothers how to dress, when he clearly is not taking into account the things we might need to do in the course of the day….like nurse a baby or get down on the floor or not have our clothes get yanked off by the kid who’s trying to get our attention 🙂

        But nursing in a dress…..some dresses I can swing it, but not usually out in public 😉

        I went to a wedding with JUST my husband a few weeks ago and probably the most exciting part was that I wore a dress, that ZIPPED UP THE BACK. It was wild lol.

        • I rarely wear dresses when I am breastfeeding, it’s usually only skirts. I love dresses and jumpers too; it just can’t really work with nursing though. 😦

  15. This makes my blood run cold: “Do this for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation.”

    I think I would rather be looked at by Hugh Heffner than by a man who thinks that because of his chastity, he merits the gift of enjoying my beauty.

    • Right on Abby. “Dress the way I want you to so I can stare at you, but it isn’t sexual – trust me.” Not really convincing.

  16. I love this! I was just having this conversation with some of my girlfriends the other day, we could not figure out what was so great about skirts either. I am passing this on to all of them! Pants!! 🙂

      • Margaret, unless you live in the DC metro area and we are acquainted, probably not anyone you know. 🙂 We were not demeaning those who do want to wear skirts/dresses (and we all wear them sometimes – a lot of the time in the summer!), we just couldn’t quite put our finger on the moral imperative.

  17. Funny thing is, I wore a skirt with an elastic waste on Easter one year. My youngest tugged it pretty hard and gave the people behind a flash of my undies. That has NEVER happened when I have worn pants.

    And the guy in the article seems to spend a lot of time looking at women in pants. I think pants affect him, like skirts affect your husband.

  18. I think the most obvious point that everyone misses whilst attempting to construe what to/not to wear is common sense!!! You can look like a prostitute whether you’re wearing pants or a skirt. Seriously, people. Common sense. And yes, I’m on a skirt rampage at the moment, but DO have to seriously question those moments when the wind catches my wrap skirt, sending it flying sideways, and giving all of the parking lot a view of my undies and upper thighs. With pants, not so much.

  19. Don’t hate me:

    actually, he isn’t infallible. Only his teachings and pronouncements “ex cathedra” are infallible.

  20. Rebekah said:

    “I am not defending this “no pants” policy, I am just seeking to understand what it is that elicits such movements in the first place, other than just plain control, for if that were so, I don’t believe you would have had your own skirt phase.”

    Rebekah, you are right that it’s a comlicated issue. I’d like to come back and respond more fully when I have more time (right in the middle of “short e” at the moment).

  21. Wow! Thank you! My mother was commenting that while helping my cousin move into a large state university at how man young women are wearing skirts. And don’t think these are Donna Reed/June Cleaver skirts. No, they aren’t mini-minis either, but hardly what one would refer to as modest. And the only pants I have ever seen that were way too revealing on a woman were made of leather, plastic or tight enough to be painted on. So, honestly, would those women be wearing more modest skirts? Come on get real.

    And totally with you on the being cold thing. No amount of tights have ever warmed me like pants.

    • Why not wear the pants underneath your skirt then? I have done that, including going to work out! 😉

  22. Apparently, if you wear pants, you’re too dumb to figure out what he was really saying:

    Dear CatholiCity Citizen,

    There was an atypically negative reaction from a sizable minority of our readers to an item in our previous message regarding female fashion (along with positive feedback). We are truly grateful to those of you who took the time to send in criticisms–they help us more than you can possibly know. There is no doubt that your author failed as a writer because a good number of you clearly mistook his tone or meaning on an issue that is very personal, and for his part in failing to communicate and edify effectively, he sincerely apologizes. If your feelings were hurt, please, find it in your heart to forgive.

  23. This is great! That article was awfully creepy and I am surprised, as a brand new Catholic, that there are Catholics out there who obsess over the women-in-pants issue. I grew up evangelical and had to watch my poor jeans-wearing mom get chastised by fellow homeschool mothers for not sporting jumpers and tights. Could someone fill me in though: is there a particular “kind” of Catholic that gets hung up on this? Are there any “marriage experts” or authors that preach skirts only? Like I said, this is all new to me.

  24. I’m not an anti-pants groupie, but I think more women should wear skirts/dresses more often – at least to add some beauty and femininity to the world. I often wear pants at home because my acitivities can vary greatly, from passive to highly active. When I leave the house I almost always wear a skirt – I look better in one and our winters are mild enough that a longish skirt and boots are fine. My husband also prefers skirts – he doesn’t think pants are immodest, he just thinks skirts are more attractive (being of the poetical sort, beauty is important to him). If I were going out for a walk or hike, then I’d wear pants (learned that after getting burrs in the bottom of a skirt and having my legs scratched up by bramble). And gardening or taking care of animals in a skirt is just asking for trouble.

    Modesty is the moral issue, whatever is being worn. And I think we women should always consider the impact our clothing has on men in general, not just our husbands. Afterall, our husbands get used to us – fatrolls, cellulite, stretch marks and all. Dresses (chosen properly) hide a lot more imperfections and would make public life a lot more visually palatable. Modesty and beauty. And I’m with Dostoevsky – “Beauty will save the world”.

    • “Dresses (chosen properly) hide a lot more imperfections…”

      Clearly, I am choosing improperly. I can wear a nice pair of jeans and a slightly (slightly!) oversized sweater and look pretty good (if I do say so myself!). Dresses, if not form-fitting (and, therefore, exposing every bulge), tend to exaggerate the size of everything underneath. I end up looking pregnant (something I try to avoid on the few occasions I’m actually not) or just plain FAT. These dresses that “hide” imperfections are more commonly known as “tents” and I refuse to wear them.

  25. One more thing – I think it’s also important that a man dresses attractively. I hate seeing grown men in little boy outfits – shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap. There’s a place for that kind of outfit, but it should not be the ubiquitous male uniform. I want to see a little manliness when I’m out. Are a pair of cotton pants or jeans with a buttoned-down polo or Oxford too much to ask? And baseball caps are meant for sporting events. Get a real hat if you need to protect yourself from the sun. Dress like a man, not like your 7yo son!

    Done with the rant.

  26. Simcha, you’re my hero.

    As a convert, I’ve often wondered if there’s some sort of secret “Trad-Cat” club that I can’t join until I start wearing skirts and stop cutting my hair, but every time I’ve tried, I’ve wound up angry and on the wrong end of a bottle of wine.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason, and a champion of the pants-loving masses.

  27. Simcha,

    I’m so with you: not a moral issue. Modesty, yes. Whether that’s pants of skirts, well it sort of depends on the woman in question and the particular garment in question, now doesn’t it. Use your judgment.

    I tend toward wearing skirts about 95% of the time myself. Right now. In this time of my life. For style mainly. For comfort too (except when doing things which are more comfortable done in pants) And also because I hate pants with elastic waists. And, well, ever since I got married my waistline keeps expanding and contracting for some reason about once a year or so and my budget can’t keep up with half a dozen size of pants whereas I’ve finally acquired a few skirts I can wear through thick and thin if you know what I mean.

    I am also super dubious about the proposition that turning control over my wardrobe to my husband would result in more modest clothing choices. I think rather the opposite is true. His preferred tops are the ones I think should probably be retired because they cling a bit too much. I wear those around the house for his benefit. Not so much to Mass.

    • Definitely don’t turn over control of your wardrobe to me, Melanie. That would be like going out of town and giving the keys to the liquor cabinet to the teenager. Plus you’d look like you were dressed by a herd of blind monkeys who didn’t know whether blue plaid went with orange stripes.

      If Catholicity guy thinks husbands would be any more “moral” in deciding their wives’ fashions than the women themselves would be, then he doesn’t hang out with many real men. Or real women, for that matter.

      As for taking me shopping with you, I will remind you of what happened when I, the boyfriend, dutifully accompanied you shopping for the dress to wear to Paul and Rose’s wedding in September 2004, during game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Yankees. We won’t speak of it again.

      • Melanie & Dom,
        I am seriously laughing out loud. He remembers which game it was???? 🙂 Best comment here.

        (and also, shopping with your wife/girlfriend seems to be penitential for every man I know. My husband doesn’t even like to shop for himself, and I learned a long time ago not to ask him if 2 items of clothing went well together.)

        • Martha, all true Red Sox fans remember that game as it was the turning point from when all seemed lost (the Yankees were about to sweep the Sox from the playoffs) to the greatest comeback in sports history resulting in the Sox winning the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

          And while the heroics were going on, I was sitting outside a dressing room in Macy’s, trying to get scores on an ancient cellphone, the only man within 200 meters except for a British chap following his wife about.

          It was that moment that I knew I truly loved my wife. You may now pause to wipe a tear.

          Also, my fear of clothes shopping began when I was a wee child, dragged into the likes of Lane Bryant by my mother. I amused myself by hiding in the racks and scaring poor women trying to find pants that didn’t accentuate their flaws and tearing the price tags of off those dastardly slacks so as to save women’s virtue. I was a virtuous child, as you can see.

          My “joy” at clothes shopping has followed me into adulthood. Thankfully the iPhone was invented for men like me to have something more interesting to occupy ourselves when forced into it.

    • Yes. If my husband dressed me I’d wear tops that are even more low-cut and clingy. And I’m a convert who’s still getting over her goth/industrial clubbing stage.

      I like the idea that women are just pulling other women down in their clothing choices because we’re too stupid to understand modesty.

    • If someone asked my husband what I should wear, he would tell them I should decide for myself, but he’d prefer me naked.

      • LOL, Tiffany! Same here. 🙂

        Chastity and modesty, related as they are, seem to be understood only in extremes by many people. I’m sorry, but pants worn under skirts look ridiculous. They just do. I’m not all about making myself look like a frumpy boxy tent, nor do I want every angle and contour of every single aspect of my body (because it is HOLY and precious, not because it is BAD) to be shown to every guy around. There’s a balance, people. Our clothing should reflect the beauty of our created bodies – not hide it in shame, or flaunt it for sex appeal.

        Meanwhile… I can understand a husband asking his wife to wear something more flattering because he doesn’t find jean dresses or skirts very flattering on her….. or asking her to wear something a little less revealing because, as much as he enjoys seeing her like that, he knows that other guys will be thinking less chaste things about her…… But a husband who demands that his wife wears what he wants her to wear (whether it’s loose or tight or skirts or pants or whatever) has a serious problem, and no sense of the true role of a husband. Dictating what your wife wears, etc., doesn’t fall under the whole “giving yourself up for your bride” thing. 🙂 It’s not about control… it’s about leading your family to Heaven through your SERVICE and EXAMPLE. Obviously parents have the repsonsibility to make certain and specific rules for their children, but a wife is not a child and should never be treated as such.

      • Haha! I was wondering if anyone else had a husband like this! I was telling my hubby about this and he said ‘I would love to take over your wardrobe! The theme would be nudity…’ Any input on my wardrobe by him generally does not help the modesty level.

  28. I thought the whole point behind encouraging skirts was not modesty but sexual differentation. That pants-for-everyone was a sign of creeping genderneutralism.

      • In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis refers to a couple who were both so “trousered, slender, and giggly” (or something close to that) that you couldn’t tell which was the male and which the female…

        But anyway, the ability of most people, your husband included, to identify the different sexes of pants-wearers doesn’t by itself undercut the argument. I could wear a dress and my wife wouldn’t mistake me for a girl. But I shouldn’t wear dresses, even if I secretly love the lace frills and puffed sleeves.

        I’m just saying that I think this argument has more weight than the modesty argument, is all. Especially in an age of fashionable androgyny.

        • Yeah, but Todd, the people who actually have some difficulty understanding the very important differences between the sexes are NOT the ones who are dressing immodestly (whether in tight pants or short skirts). There IS a large portion of the population who have lost a basic understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman — just check out, I don’t know, the NYT or Salon or Slate. It’s so oppressive to say that men and women are different, right? But the anti-pants essay wasn’t addressed to those people — it was addressed (based on where it appeared — I mean, I’m not even on that list) to Catholic women who are already fairly conservative. Which makes me think that these arguments are usually disingenuous. The most charitable thing I can think is that men who insist on skirts for all women have succeeded in hiding their true motivations even from themselves.


          • Right: we who understand the importance of sexual differentation don’t necessarily need the reminders that sexually appropriate dress provides. But *the world does*. So if we’re not doing it for ourselves (at least not primarily), we might do it as a witness.

            Them’s fightin’ words. I’d hate to hear the least charitable thing!

            • I agree with this, but I disagree that there is only one kind of witness. Like it or not, there are people — people who need Jesus — who find skirts off-putting. These are people who could only be evangelized by people who wear pants. I’m not saying that’s WHY I wear pants, but think about what you’re implying: that I can’t be a witness to Christ if I wear pants.

    • But why does a divorced father of only boys need to be encouraging women to wear skirts? Why not encourage his fellow men and sons to wear neckties? Or football helmets? or some other masculine article of clothing?

      I’ll tell you why – because that particular push for skirts and dresses was about control. It was not about making the world more beautiful and filling it with lovely flowers in delicate dresses, la dee dah.

      That essay reeked of the same rationale a Muslim uses when describing the burqa or hijab as “freeing.” The whole anti pants section of that essay was nothing short of creepy. Pants.

    • And if I saw men regularly in women’s jeans or yoga pants, or women regularly wearing carharts, tuxes, etc, I’d think you have a point. But you look at the women’s section of the clothing store, and then the men’s, and I see little similarities.

      Maybe Catholic women shouldn’t wear t-shirts? Those are far more gender-neutral. Yet, I see no campaign against T-shirts, polo shirts, button down work shirts, blazers, tennis shoes, socks. Only against pants.

      Or, we could encourage all Catholic men to wear kilts and cassocks, and women to wear pants. I would vote for that.

  29. “Of course, we defer and appeal to our male readers to make clear your moral clothing preferences to the women and girls within your realm of responsibility or influence.”

    I’ll have to tell my husband he has “moral clothing preferences”. I’m sure he was unaware of that particular attribute. He actually picks out some of my favorite clothes, and many of them are dresses or skirts – not because he’s trying to make me more modest, but because he knows I’m a helpless slob who would wander through life in jeans and a white t-shirt without his assistance. His picks are much better than mine would be, and I get to enjoy the blank stares from women when, upon complimenting me on my attire, I respond with “I like it too! It was a birthday gift from my husband!”

    What on earth would that writer think of women in shorts? I hope he never comes south in the summer; it might burn his eyes out.

  30. Ugh and double ugh!! I have received (and deleted) several emails of that ilk over the course of the last 10 years. I own skirts, I wear skirts and I too have a husband who can’t keep his eyes off me on Sunday (skirts) rather than Monday through Saturday (pants).

    I have had the added misfortune of knowing the kind of people who compose and who forwards such “missives”. In the spirit of the linked to article’s generalizations about pants and skirts (and their wearers) I will briefly describe the two most vocal anti-pants people I know assuming that their lives may provide insight into those of other hardcore sola skirtura advocates.

    Sally* is a Traditionalist catholic mother of many. She declares that no mass not in Latin is valid and would rather go to a schismatic mass in Latin than an approved mass in English. After daily (Latin of course) mass she removes her lengthy and beautiful mantilla and compares the holy medals and various colored scapulars she is wearing with the other ladies in hushed tones. She might also chance to discuss how many bottles of holy water, jars of blessed grapes for the chastisement or rolls of heavy black plastic and duct tape she has in storage (or the gun she keeps to shoot people who want some of the food she also has in storage).

    In her free time Sally enjoys romance novels and capitalizing on double entendres while enjoying a glass of wine with priests, men from the latin mass community and their wives. Her children do all the work in her home while she lays around (literally eating bon-bons). Sally homeschools to protect her kids from the world so naturally they sneak 8 hours of tv a day while she sits around surfing the net, watching her own tv (usually EWTN) or reading. In her home chapel there is an altar with a hidden nook because Sally is convinced that the pope (or at least a traditionalist bishop) is going to be arriving any day to hide in it during the great persecution. For Christmas the children receive big fat dusty old Catholic books that are promptly whisked away to the library. In this library Sally has great things like 3 copies of the full Summa Theologica but no one is allowed to touch them lest they be damaged and not make a good display when important visitors (aka priests, bishops…the pope) are around.

    While Sally exerts great care not to be seen in anything but a long skirt outside the home at home she wanders around in underwear (or less) in the middle of the day in front of her grown sons and their friends. Some family members after seeing Sally’s behavior towards her sons consider calling child protective services but she insists that she is a great Catholic and they merely want to persecute her.


    Brian* is also a Traditionalist catholic and was a seminarian for many years. He recently decided that the priesthood isn’t his vocation. To start his search for a wife he placed an ad on a catholic singles site. After talking to one promising young lady for a few days he invited her to move several states away from her friends and family to be near him so they can discern marriage. He promised to put her up in one of the many forclosure properties he manages and help her with her job search. After she arrives communication with family and friends becomes near non-existent and eventually it comes to light that Brian has the young lady living with him and working for him while discerning marriage (in a Traditional Latin Mass parish of course) with him. Friends contact the pastor of said parish worried about the situation and he is so upset that he refuses to perform the ceremony. Thankfully they find someone else who will celebrate the Latin Mass and marry them on their chosen date.

    Brian is known for his charming behavior when with friends including such things as quoting at great length from the writings of various saints and theology to prove his points in arguments, pulling out and playing with large wads of cash, snickering while making sotto voce derogatory remarks about his latest “customer” (who is on the phone) to other people, commanding his wife to come pray with him in the middle of a public event. He also makes use of modern technology emailing women whose immodest attire he noticed to tell them that they are hussies with a quote from some saint for good measure, emailing families if he thinks their children need improving and emailing young college bound women essays about how college gives women ideas and certain (schismatic) Catholic bishops think women should only study care professions like nursing. Brian also believes that most people should refrain from listening to non-church music and deprive themselves of things like viewing sunsets in the spirit of mortification.

    Brian’s self-employment history reads like 101 ways to scam, swindle and take others for a ride. He won’t let his wife provide anyone with their home mailing address and he tends to pack his wife and kids up every 6 months or so and move to a new town. The only requirement of the new town being a nearby latin mass community and no one who knows him in the area.

    Now I admit, these two individuals are pretty awful and I really don’t think most hardcore skirt advocates share any of the more awful behaviors of the two I have described. I think it likely that the dichotomy between outward appearance and inward reality/hypocrisy may be a shared trait. As to regular folks who give the skirt only thing a try in the hopes of improving their life, marriage, etc…they are likely pretty innocent unless the skirt wearing becomes a matter of spiritual pride in which case it becomes moral issue.

    (*names have been changed to protect the guilty)

    • Katharine,

      There’s a book here that very much needs to be written. A novel, I think. Think about it.

      • Novel about dysfunctional freaks…sounds like fun. People may accuse me of being too autobiographical though.

        • “Sola skirtura” is *brilliant*, Katherine. Your description rings true. My parents met a “jumper wearing” family that turned out to be…home nudists. Literally.

          Simcha, wonderful post!

  31. Intead of my rear, try looking at my eyes, the contours of which, since I’m near-sighted, are not enhanced by my glasses. (Of course, far-sighted men and women should switch to contacts so as to avoid anyone from gazing lustfully into their large, accentuated eyes.)

  32. Thank you, Lord, for warm pants (we used to say slacks) in the NE USA winters, and with which I can wear clunky boots and warm socks.! (cause I’d look like a hillbilly in my clunky shoes with a skirt, and I’m self-conscious enough already.)

    In Jesus’ time men and women had similar dress didn’t they?

    Thanks for this.

  33. Hilarious!

    I had the pants-vs-skirt/dress argument all the way back in 4th grade. Decades before I became a Catholic. One of my best friends was Pentacostal, and was not allowed to wear pants because it was ‘wearing men’s clothing’ and ‘against Bible teaching’. I went home crying to my mom and she said, ‘No respectable man would be caught dead in pink and white striped pants with lace on the pockets, honey.’ So true. Hahaha.

    I do love wearing skirts, but not when it’s cold in NYC. NO THANK YOU. Pants!

  34. I should clarify that I went home crying because my friend told ME that I was going to hell if I kept wearing pants, a.k.a. dressing in men’s clothing. I had zero emotional investment in HER sartorial choices.

    • Plus, don’t all kids go through a phase where it’s fun to crawl up under their mother’s skirt?

    • Don’t agree with either of you as far as skirts not being good in these situations. I have a four year olds, a two year old and a 5 month old! Believe me, I have delt with the going under my skirt and tugging at my skirt, I just tell them not too! They will learn and if you are wearing a modest, good length skirt, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  35. Wow. The fact that this is a real concern/grievance among orthodox Catholic women (and it must be given the response), helps explain why we poorly evangelize and so why there are so few of us. In our attempt not to be “of the world”, we often render ourselves irrelevant to the concerns of the average Catholic or agnostic (basic concerns of trusting Christ and the Church given the problem of evil, the apparent “silence” of God, etc.). These effects of original sin (in this case, a darkening of the intellect leads to a naive sentimentality that places an undue focus on skirts) give genuine “comfort” and intellectual cover to those bishops and priests who cringe at all things orthodox and traditional. And so they attempt to suppress us, and reassure themselves that we are anti-modern fundamentalists.

    When I converted from agnosticism 3 1/2 years ago, I vowed that I wouldn’t lose the ability to dialogue with people like my former self (a secular academic). That self would have immediately tuned out Christians who started insisting on skirts. Here’s praying for me and all of us, that we remain relevant.

  36. First, Simcha, you’re hilarious! I felt almost bad that I was wearing a skirt as I read this. (Which I do when it is warm because it is cooler. Only reason.)

    Second, I sort of love it (in a ‘can’t stop looking at the road accident’ way) when self-appointed Catholic experts decide to be more Catholic than the Pope. Or any bishop who has ever lived.

    I just want to growl, “Seriously? Get a life.” Pants.

  37. Nice thread. I live in New Hampshire too. Being a man, I also wear pants, all kinds of pants. But when I go to church, even for a downstairs meeting I wear long pants that or not or could be construed to be jeans. I also wear shirts with collars.

    I realize that the coat and tie people will call be a heritic, and I don’t condemn those in shorts, jeans, or teas to hell; I just wish that most would dress at least as nice as I try to do.

  38. This is wonderful. I was under the impression that the modesty issue was primarily a fundamentalist protestant thing. Then I read a thread on Faith & Family Live that blew me away. There were commenters there who thought that women should wear BLOOMERS under their skirts. That’s how whacked out the discussion got. The editors had to shut it down.
    Right on Simcha!

  39. Well, because I love taking the popular position I have to say (I am a man, for the record) that I thought the original article made some good points. And no, I did not find it “creepy”. I don’t necessarily agree that men need to make clothing choices for women (unless you happen to be married to Valentino). However, I did agree with this point:

    “2. Do this for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).”

    I have noticed that one is able to appreciate a woman’s beauty without it being lustful more easily when the woman is in a skirt or a dress. A dress tends to highlight the overall beauty and femininity of a woman while most pants tend to draw attention to specific body parts.

    At the very least, hopefully discussions like this will get the younger generation of women thinking more about what they wear. As of now it seems that many are oblivious to the effect of what they wear has on men.

    • Brennan, thanks for your civil tone – it’s not easy to jump in and disagree with the majority. I wanted to repost an earlier comment, which addresses the very passage you agreed with. Abby said:


      “This makes my blood run cold: “Do this for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation.”

      I think I would rather be looked at by Hugh Heffner than by a man who thinks that because of his chastity, he merits the gift of enjoying my beauty.”


      My husband read that passage (in the original, I mean) and beat his breast, repeating, “I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve anything.” The author sounds like he thinks he’s owed something from womankind for the incredible feat of being chaste.

      I fully agree that women should think carefully about their dress, and about the effect their appearance has on men – who, I understand, have a real uphill battle maintaining custody of the eyes in a truly debauched world.

      But when a man is obsessed with sex, it’s not a woman’s fault if he can’t think of her in any other way. It’s her job to be modest — it’s NOT her job to make it impossible for him to be lustful.

      • Aw, heck, Simcha – I hadn’t seen your reply. Now it looks like I was just piling on. My apologies – go ahead and delete me.

    • Brennan,

      Bravo to you for being willing to go contrary! But still:

      Imagine a woman saying this to you: “Are you one of the minority of chaste men? Excellent! Then you merit the gift of enjoying my beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation! It is good for you to look upon me! It would be a tragedy to require you to look away! So I will not wear pants!”

      Not creepy?

      I would argue that being chaste does not merit any gift from any particular woman. That touches on the issues of control cited by many commenters here, I think.

      I would also argue that even a modestly dressed woman does not elicit, from even the most chaste man, praise and thanksgiving to the creator. I would argue that the man, if he is busy admiring a woman’s beauty, is busy admiring a woman’s beauty. This may be done lustfully or chastely. But it is rarely done in such a way that the woman becomes transparent, and points only to the goodness of the creator. Such a vision is well outside the normal course of things for even the devout. It’s not impossible – viz. St. Francis – but it ain’t the norm.

      As for dresses v. pants – it very much depends on the dress and pants in question. Hello, Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. Lots of rather, um, remarkable dresses. Very few pants. (That said, the question of where the eye is drawn is probably one worth considering.)

      And actually, I think an article like this would tempt a member of the younger generation to dismiss ortho-Caths as nutters, and to reject their counsel (and pleas for modesty) out of hand.

      • I agree with Brennan and Simcha and feel it is very sad for women who just push what some of them have to say away. What is wrong with a man looking at a woman and wanting to enjoy her beauty as God made us? Therefore it is good for us women to dress in a way that they can look at us without worrying about thinking lustful thoughts about us. They both had very good things to say.

  40. My 14 and 12 year old daughters had a young girl at our parish tell them they were not good Catholics if they wore pants or jeans. So, I guess we are not good Catholics. I think I used to care if people thought we were “holy” enough. Now I don’t give a damn. I’ve stopped trying to fit in and I’ve stopped looking at other people’s lives. I have standards for our family and that is that. We dress nicely in skirts and dresses for mass. In our daily life we wear modest( I think modest) clothes. Pants or shorts for me and my girls( I have seven children…five of them are girls).
    Don’t You think it is all in the intention of the person wearing the clothes? Sleazy is as sleazy does. And what about the men? Can they avert their eyes or are they all helpless fools who can’t control themselves? I find men in nice pants,shirts and ties very attractive. I seem to be able to control my panting and wandering eyes at mass though. I think my veil helps me conceal my flushed face. That’s it…men should wear veils or masks to church with lift the flap eye holes.

    • Men should learn to control themselves, but women should also help them in controlling themselves. Women just want to get away from how they can be at fault for a man’s lustful thoughts.

    • I’m sorry about that young girl your daughters ran into, but not all pro-skirts/dresses only are that way. Why do people like to clump us all in one? There are also some mean, nasty pro-pants only too. Just because I am pro-skirts/dresses only and I think it is better and women look more feminine in skirts, it doesn’t mean I think women who wear pants some are evil and bad and a horrible female either. Of course, I might think differently of any woman I see dressed immodestly in skirts or pants.

  41. My wife sends me the most intriguing links. Pants, skirts –she looks good either. I would argue that any good man does indeed understand that a good wife is a combination of the Blessed Mother (a good Christian) and Grace Kelly (ask my wife about my “get in the car” when picking me up after a long trip — a long story and she loves telling it). If you don’t see your wife as the best woman on the planet, why ever did you marry her?

  42. I love skirts. Long skirts, circle skirts, short skirts, kilts, tea length, a line, the super convenient garment that combines shirts and skirts: the dress, etc. No skirt I have is consistently more modest than well-fitting pants. Ok, if you have super extra-low-rise jeans with rips on the thighs and rhinestone words across the butt, sure, that is less modest than most skirts (but not all!).

    But even the flounciest of skirts gets picked up in the wind if you are not careful. Or is in your way when running up stairs and makes you trip, showing your behind to everyone. Or, has you calculating viewing angles as you step into the 3 storey-super-steep escalator with your A line skirt. Or is a danger with the cellphone-cam pervert on the subway.

    And you can see the “contours” of my butt just fine in a skirt. But I’m hispanic, maybe that is the problem (maybe he will be advocating hoops and bustles next!). The only thing pants reveals that a skirt doesn’t is the fact that my legs meet at my crotch (but, given I’m a human and not a dolphin, I assume this is common knowledge). But you can see a lot more of my legs in a skirt than in the super wide cut pants I need to wear to accommodate my thighs.

    • “The only thing pants reveals that a skirt doesn’t is the fact that my legs meet at my crotch (but, given I’m a human and not a dolphin, I assume this is common knowledge). ”

      That was awesome! I laughed so hard the dog came over to see if something was wrong with me.

  43. Rebekah,

    “I am not defending this “no pants” policy, I am just seeking to understand what it is that elicits such movements in the first place, other than just plain control, for if that were so, I don’t believe you would have had your own skirt phase.”

    In my experience, people who go for a “no pants” policy are usually seeking some sort of identity to define themselves by. Our society has multiple gender-related issues on which there are various conflicting attitudes – for example, homosexuality, transgenderism, stay-at-home-dads and stay-at-home-moms, porn, and women’s self-respect in relation to body images.

    Wearing skirts instead of pants becomes a way, or part of a way, to handle all that, by preferring (or insisting, depending on how controlling the people involved are) on traditional roles – or possibly a romanticized version of them. A “no pants” policy may easily be accompanied by a policy of mothers staying at home, and possibly of wives submitting to their husbands, too. Also I think this is often from the same people who are bothered by people not dressing up for Mass. Being something of a fan of the Myers-Briggs personality test, I tend to think that the appeal of what they see as traditional ways of doing things is particularly strong in those with SJ personalities. 🙂

  44. I just want to say I am sorry if I hurt your feelings when I told you that you write shitty novels.

  45. this post is awesome. it rocks. thanks. i have back and forth on this issue and have tried to look at all sides of it. the thing that just never made sense was the whole revealing your private parts issue. how is it not okay for women, but it is okay for men?

    and i’m sorry, but i can’t consider the gorgeous ballerina dancing the part of the black swan to be ‘immodest’.

    thank you! i am so glad there are other people in the world who take the time to think about the same types of things i am dealing with. yay!!!!

  46. I got Lyme disease from wearing a skirt–tic bit me on the back of my thigh, just above the knee. Wasn’t out hiking in the woods, either. Pants.

  47. Simcha and Lickona,

    Thanks for your response. I agree with your points that a man does not “merit” enjoying a woman’s beauty because he is chaste (if he really is, which is another question). I realize I can’t stop a woman in a dress on the street and say, “Hey, I’m chaste. Now will you just stop right there while I look at you? After all, I’ve merited it!” And yes, that would be creepy.

    My point was really what I already said, that I do think dresses and skirts more readily enable a man (even though he doesn’t deserve it) to appreciate a woman’s overall beauty without lust.

    Another thing I liked about the original article was that the author (or authors) were not coming at it from a Puritanical, “Let’s dress like we just came off the Mayflower” attitude. I think fashion and style, which themselves can be a type of beauty, are good. In fact, it would seem to me that dresses and skirts would give women even more of an opportunity to express their own style, probably over and above the regular pants and shirt combo I usually see at work.

  48. Someone made a good point way back in the comments that in Jesus’s time weren’t men and women dressing pretty similar to each other. In response to the androgyny issue. And CS Lewis and his pals, God love ’em, were dealing with the women-in-pants issue as a very new thing, which naturally required an adjustment period, especially for conservative dudes like him (nothing against him, he’s great of course). I think if Lewis were around today he’d be way past the pants issue and if he decided to address the issue of women’s clothing, maybe he’d discuss, I dunno, a slutty meat dress or something. (
    Thank heavens for those trailblazing women because my life is much more comfortable in pants, which I think are pretty modest and feminine. I do like to wear skirts sometimes but for all the reasons mentioned above, pants win in the day-to-day life of a busy mom. The article is creepy and that author has some issues obviously. Thanks to the internet he still gets his soapbox though. And thankfully Simcha gets hers!!! Well said Simcha and a helpful discussion.
    I wonder how that guy feels about the pale green pants with nobody inside.

  49. Such a bizarre discussion. Who are the Catholic people who are telling women not to wear pants? I’ve never met any.


    1) Brennan: Why are you wanting to run around appreciating the beauty of women you’re not married to?

    2) But if skirts lead to appreciating the beauty of a woman you’re not married to more than if she were wearing pants, shouldn’t she wear pants so you won’t think she’s so beautiful?

    3) Does anyone here have mothers who are Catholic? Who grew up, in says, the 40’s and 50’s? Did any of your old-school Catholic mothers ever stress about this? Certainly, in the culture, it took a while for pants to catch on, (Thank you Katherine Hepburn!), but by the 40’s, it was certainly socially acceptable for women to wear pants – not to church (I have a friend whose mother left a Presbyterian church in the late 60’s because she wanted to wear pants to church and was forbidden), but in many other settings. I have photos of my mom, a Serious Catholic, looking quite chic in pants (even jeans, since she lived out West!) in the 50’s.

    I think she would read this and shake her head in disbelief.

    • Okay to start off with. God made women attractive physically in general, so if a man wants to be able to look at a woman, whether he knows her or not, in a chaste matter there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be able to. Elaine, your number two thing makes no sense at all. A woman should want to dress in a beautiful manner, so she is attractive to the opposite sex and doesn’t cause the possibility of lustful thoughts. We should all (men and women) want to dress beautifully and attractive to the opposite sex always whether we are married to them or just not know them at all. It’s amazing the amount of respect you get from that too. 😉

      Also, about the whole thing of pants becoming more popular in the 50’s and 60’s, doesn’t this just follow along with what our Lady toward Jacinta of Fatima about not very good fashions. Do you realize that pants have become more popular a couple decades after our Lady said it. Come on…this is what our Lady was referring to: “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.”

  50. Oh, lordy, thank you so much!I am so sick and tired of self-righteous guys trying to tell me what to wear. It’s not about morality. It’s about control. These are the same “gentlemen” who hold doors open for me just to stare at my ass (even if I’m wearing a floor-length skirt). These are the same guys who want to teach me things I already know and who feel comfortable telling me to shut up if I’m laughing. These are the same guys who can’t look me in the eyes because I’m a woman. These are the same guys who think that because THEY like the female body, the female body is automatically more sexual than the male body. (Uh, no. It’s just that they aren’t attractive guys, and so I’m not looking at them. Attractive guys are every bit as sexually enticing for hetro girls as attractive girls are for hetro guys. Believe me, we’re looking, too.) It isn’t about modesty. It’s about making women less than men. It just makes me angry. Women have legs for walking. Just like men do. They’re natural. They aren’t genitalia. Why all the fear? Oh, because women must be controlled. I get it. 😛
    I remember a deacon telling a little, seven-year-old girl that she couldn’t be in the (unnanounced) Mary procession because she was in (perfectly modest) overalls. She was excluded and made to feel like her child’s body was dirty. Well, my thought is that if the deacon had an issue with little girl legs, he was probably a pervert. I feel the same way about all those who are obsessed with female modesty. Oddly enough, most of those I have known who are so obsessed actually did turn out to be perverts or porn addicts or something. Nice.

  51. I’m just so glad someone brought up the meat dress! I’ve been wanting to talk about the meat dress all day!

  52. Okay, so I’m not reading any of the comments, because I have a feeling (a spidey sense, if you will) that I will only get mad.

    But THANK YOU, Simcha, for writing this! I’ve been to far too many churches (usually traddy, sometimes charismatic-style) and been stared at and criticized for wearing pants, usually by beardo-the-weirdo type men, sometimes by their wives or camp followers. I like wearing skirts, but when I wear skirts in a “pants are the devil” environment, they’re too short-even at knee-length. The only appropriate lengeth for some people is trailing along the ground. Some women carry this off and look good doing it. Most can’t. Short women and most women with young children, who may have to drop to the floor at any given moment, or have the little darlings pick up mummy’s skirt and flail it around, really can’t. Modesty can’t be boiled down to a uniform; it is a virtue to cultivate. Like any virtue, the exterior proofs follow the interior conversion.

  53. I’m way too sexy in a skirt and it causes men of all ages to sin. Pants.

    Just to be safe, make that Snowpants.

  54. That was….quaint. I like how he gave permission not to take it as a directive. I wonder if he has any idea how silly he sounds especially after admitting he wears kilts. Because kilts give me naughty, immodest thoughts in a Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show-is-he-really-not-wearing-underwear kind of way, so double plus kinky ungood.

  55. I just showed that article to my husband and he smirked and in his best Old Spice Guy voice read out loud, “Ladies, please, discard your pants.” and said, “I can agree with that.” But I don’t think he was encouraging skirt wearing.

  56. Thank you, Simcha! I’d die without my jeans. I wear girl clothes to Mass, but never otherwise if I can help it!


  57. I’m surprised no one mentioned that the supposed greater beauty and feminity of the skirt-only ethos pretty much vanishes during the week when comfort-craving homeschooling moms don denim skirts with knee socks and sneakers. I was part of that crowd for a while until I realized that pants were more comfortable and less frumpy.

    • Pants more comfy? I have worn both and I don’t agree with that… It is true that some skirts can be not as comfy, but there are also ones out there that are very comfy to wear around the house during the week.

    • I do realize that sweats can be very comfortable, but you can fine skirts just as modest and comfortable.

  58. “Such a bizarre discussion. Who are the Catholic people who are telling women not to wear pants? I’ve never met any.


    1) Brennan: Why are you wanting to run around appreciating the beauty of women you’re not married to?

    2) But if skirts lead to appreciating the beauty of a woman you’re not married to more than if she were wearing pants, shouldn’t she wear pants so you won’t think she’s so beautiful?”

    Elaine, 1. I believe it is possible to appreciate the beauty of a woman without it being lustful. Women are beautiful; that’s the way it is. Hence I simply believe skirts and dresses in general are more conducive to noticing the beauty of a woman without lust entering into it.

    2. As I said previously, pants tend to focus a man’s attention on body parts rather than the overall beauty and femininity of the woman. Hence I would say lust has an easier time to enter in.

      • Hi Julie,

        Interesting point. However, I would point to fine art as another example of being able to appreciate the beauty of a woman without lust entering into it. Looking at great art involving women is just not the same as seeing women in pants.

    • A man is going to be drawn to the looks of a woman whether it is their wife or someone they don’t know, so dressing in a modest a beautiful way is going to help men having less lustful thoughts. No matter how a woman dresses a man is going to look at her….

  59. I’ve always said that pants can be just as modest as a skirt, and a skirt can be just as revealing as pants — it just depends on the style and the figure.

  60. Fudd, you are clearly a misunderstood genius. Also, I am a woman and have an important business meeting tomorrow. What do you recommend I wear/say?

  61. […] September 14, 2010 by lydiacubbedge You know those guys?  The ones who are icky, never look women in the eyes and like to speak in Latin? Poorly?  The ones who think that women should never wear the devil’s pantaloons? Well, the incredibly wonderful blogger Simcha Fisher has a Pantifesto over at I Need To Sit Down. […]

  62. Well, having read most of the comments, I’ll add mine. I’ve never seen my wife in pants. Her choice. She always wears a dress, even to clean the hen house. I’ve suggested she get some pants for such purposes, at least, but she won’t. I’m not sure if it’s a modesty thing with her or not, or if she’s afraid she won’t look as good in pants.

    There are immodest dresses and skirts, and there are immodest pants. Some women look really good in some dresses, and some look really good in pants, and are perfectly modest. It’s possible to be modest, and comfortable, and attractive whether you’re wearing a dress, a skirt of pants. It’s really a matter of common sense.

    I don’t tell my wife what to wear. Once in a while she’ll ask me which dress she should wear, and once in a greater while she’ll send me links to some dresses she’s found on eBay. I don’t think she’s so much interested in finding out my preference, as in me paying for a dress.

    I work on a college campus, and what amazes me is the numbers of young women who wear sleeveless, skimpy tops with very, very short shorts, or very mini mini skirts, even when it’s cold out. I shudder to think of them sitting in an air conditioned class room dressed like that. I’d be freezing.

    And most of the guys are wearing short sleeved shirts and baggy shorts down to their knees, or long pants. My wife thinks the young women feel compelled to dress like that to attract the guys, the culture makes them feel they won’t be attractive unless they show a lot of skin.

    In my parish, no one is telling the women how they ought to dress, except simply, to be modest. Most of our friends wear dresses or skirts, but I don’t think any of the husbands are forcing them to, yet these same women also sometimes wear pants, and there is no uproar.

    Finally, The whole MacFarlane case is really, really sad. I followed it for a while, and I read the pdf linked above. I think the two of them have made some big mistakes, although for a while I leaned toward Bai. Unfortunately, I think the biggest losers are the children. Somehow, the parents really went off the wrong way. It’s tragic.

    However, even before the divorce, I can’t say I felt terribly comfortable with Bud. He sort of gave me a bit of a creepy feeling.

    • Robert,

      I also work on a college campus, and frequently feel more like gynecologist than instructor. Pierced navels are exposed, and often the hip-huggers reveal the thongs and more! Skirts are worn so short they barely cover or reveal the lack of underwear.

      However, as dreadfully as the young women dress, the young men are as bad, including the multiple-piercings. One more pair of exposed and unwashed garish undershorts and I’ll take out my pinking shears! I don’t want to see men in the classroom without shirts, in micro-mini-running shorts, or in other costumes suitable only for the clothing-optional beach.

      Informality is fine, but at least wear as much clothing to class as fast-food employers require for work!

  63. I’m still getting over Catholicity’s appeal to Braveheart, where men wearing kilts proved definitively that wearing a skirt is the most efficient way to bare all.


  64. Has anyone EVER seen a picture of our Blessed Mother in pants? EVER?? No, as far as I know. Please show me one if there is one. So, since we all know the blessed mother is a very important person and the holiest human (who was not God as well) ever, than don’t you want to imitate her? Do you think she would rather or mention at all about wearing pants to make something more convenient or comfortable? I don’t care how our culture dresses, I doubt she would appear in pants! Therefore, showing the beauty and good of dresses/skirts. I am a married woman with three children. I only wear skirts/dresses (only skirts when I am breastfeeding) and I love it! I have done it in every way possible, so all of your excuses are just stupid and meaningless, since it can be done, even if it doesn’t seem like the most pleasant or comfortable thing to do. I’m sorry how I am acting about this, but after reading that long comment that one lady wrote and then all of you ladies (and maybe guys?), I find you all very irritating and offensive to people like me who have decided to wear only skirts/dresses! Please be a little kinder in your comments and speak a little more positively about skirts even if you don’t really like them! Thanks!

    • I never saw Jesus wear pants either…. so I declare pants in and of themselves to be sinful…. for men and women. Period!
      Is there and online store where I can buy long robes for me and my family? That’s what all the holy people wear!

    • Margaret, Mary wore the clothing that was feminine and modest for her time. So do I. Nobody is saying skirts are bad. Just that the skirts/pants thing is not about morality. Take a deep breath! Nobody is attacking you if you like to wear skirts! Go for it! Just don’t look askance at me in my jeans, that’s all.

      • Elizabeth, I have so many friends who wear pants, I’m not going to look negatively or bad at you if you are wearing them; though I will think it is better, but I won’t think you are a bad person, of course, I may think a bit different if they are immodest though. 😛

        However, are you going to tell me that Our Lady would appear in America in pants?? I would be shocked to see that one!!

  65. Wonderful, funny, and so true!
    I like this one especially:
    “Skirts won’t change the world. I’ll tell you what will change the world: men loving their wives — their actual wives, not some bizarre, imaginary amalgam of the Blessed Virgin and Grace Kelly.”

    I read trad-Catholic blogs regularly, and I often wonder (I don’t live in USA) why are you Americans so obsessed with clothes, with skirts and mantillas. Is this really your most important problem? Wearing Amish-like dresses won’t make you saints, you’ll only look weird. And no, I don’t wear mini-skirts, cleavage and so on. My goal is to make people to look my face, not my clothes.

    For Margaret: Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus in pants? Of course not, because in those times people in Middle East didn’t wear them.

    • But I am referring to our lady’s dress attire throughout centuries since the church began. Can you guys really see our lady appearing in pants? really?

      • Sure, I can.

        I have no trouble imagining her putting on a pair of jeans to go tend to some outdoor work, or to play with young children in a playground or park.

        And maybe I’m venturing into completely degenerate territory here, but it wouldn’t bother me if she looked good in some comfy, modestly-cut jeans either. Our Blessed Mother, ever Virgin is chaste and modest…but that doesn’t mean we have to completely desexualize her and confine her to a Catholic version on the burqa.

        • This doesn’t made sense at all! You can imagine seeing her in pants? That’s crazy!!! Also, how are we desexualizing her and confining her to a Catholic version (did you also forget that her son founded the Catholic faith?) of the burqa? Please explain.

  66. Margaret,
    If you read the post and comments carefully (or even skimmed them carelessly) you would have realized they were not anti-skirt. We like our skirts. We like your skirts. Don’t get your knickers in a knot over knothing.

    • Oh, JS (are your initials caps or not!), I actually read that lady’s comment very carefully as well as all of your comments and I did not get a sense of much of positiveness or open to skirts! A lot of negative feedback about, explaining why pants are so good, which is not true.

  67. Would the fashions Mary said offended her Son also include the blouse showing Grand Canyon cleavage on one of our eucharistic ministers?

    I like skirts for mass and pants otherwise.

  68. I just want to make sure I understand this pants thing aright, because it seems both arcane and bizarre.

    These zealots are against pants because they find women sexually arousing in pants, is that it? So they urge women to wear skirts — NOT because it makes women look attractive and feminine, but because skirts cover the parts of the female form which they find so disturbing? So in fact it has nothing to do with enhancing the attractiveness of their spouses or potential spouses, but rather with obliterating, or at least hiding, that attractiveness? So it’s not really about Our Lady crossed with Grace Kelly, but about Our Lady crossed with a burka? I’d love to know what is Catholic about that. I’d say the men who would cover women need to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and not make pronouncements like this.

    I lived in a large urban area for most of my life where just about everyone routinely dressed their best, because life was lived to a large extent in public, and people wanted to look good, especially if they were hoping to attract members of the opposite sex. I almost never wore pants then, because I thought I looked hotter in a skirt; even modestly cut ones show your legs, after all. But I have seen the gunny-sack-wearing trad ladies at the Latin Mass, and I find the look baffling. It’s clear that the ideological thrust of the anti-pants faction is just this side of the Taliban.

    I went to a Latin Mass once recently where the young priest admonished women from the altar that the Vatican had prescribed that necklines at Mass be no deeper than two fingers below the collarbone. I measured mine, and figured he must have been talking to me, because I was by far the least covered female there, and my neckline was four fingers below the collarbone. Try that out for yourself — unless you are somewhat freakishly endowed, well, it’s still entirely modest. This priest added that the men who’d been consigned to hell because of lust were “standing on the shoulders” of the women who had tempted them with immodest dress. To which I say, “How do you know?” Oh, and I looked up that alleged Vatican directive and found it nowhere.

    • Have you read St. John Chrysostom on women leading men to hell and being at fault too? If you dress in an immodest way and a man lusts and sins because of your immodest attire, how can you not be at fault? He probably would have not lusted after you (at least not likely) if you were wearing modest clothing. Now if you are dressed modestly and he still lust after you, how can you be at fault? If you are dressing in modest clothing and trying to protect and help him from sinning by dressing in a way that would not affect him? Well, you can’t help that and that is on his shoulders, not yours.

      Quote from St. John Chrysostom:

      “You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”

      A church father too!

    • Pentimento
      “I just want to make sure I understand this pants thing aright, because it seems both arcane and bizarre.

      These zealots are against pants because they find women sexually arousing in pants, is that it? So they urge women to wear skirts — NOT because it makes women look attractive and feminine, but because skirts cover the parts of the female form which they find so disturbing? So in fact it has nothing to do with enhancing the attractiveness of their spouses or potential spouses, but rather with obliterating, or at least hiding, that attractiveness? So it’s not really about Our Lady crossed with Grace Kelly, but about Our Lady crossed with a burka?”

      I’ll answer this since it seems as if you have not read the original article or the comments of the “pro-skirt” people.

      Women are actually more likely, not less, to look attractive in a feminine way (with less chance of lust entering in) in a stylish skirt or dress. It doesn’t hide their beauty, it enhances it in a good way. Dresses and skirts can easily be more fashionable than pants. So this argument has nothing to do with women wearing the equivalent of ugly burlap sacks.

  69. Hey, Margaret: The day your husband starts dressing like Jesus is the day I’ll dress like Mary. No one has ever seen a real “picture” of the Blessed Mother, ever. You DO know that your image of her is formed by mostly renaissance artists and their conception of what a Jewish woman circa 1st century would wear, right? And she didn’t really walk around in blue all the time?

    Now, as far as no good Catholic woman can wear pants, I offer you my saintly friend, St. Gianna Molla, a mother and a physician who worked outside the home and wore PANTS

    Pants aren’t less feminine or less Catholic or less approved of by the Blessed Mother. Keep in mind that St. Gianna had heard all those supposed “warnings” about the Blessed Mother and dress…and went out in public in pants anyway. And then got herself canonized.

    • I am referring to the apparitions, such as Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe pictures. We are females, we don’t look to Jesus to imitate in our clothing, but to our Lady. Plus, pants usually brings out your figure a lot more in the wrong way than a modest skirt or dress does.

      Also, I used to wear pants and one of the reasons I decided to switch over to skirts, which I decided to do on my own and was already contemplating before I even met my husband, was because I had tons of guys hitting on me, not acting in a very polite non-lustful way, which I did not like at all! However, when I started wearing skirts (and they are always modest ones, below my knees and usually to my ankles) it was amazing the attitude change in men I saw on the streets. It really was so amazing and the way I felt when I started doing, which is why I have become more of an advocate for it. Oh yeah, I grew up in Portland, Oregon, which is a very liberal and not so good of a place morally too!!

  70. I have found that a skirt means a lot to a lot of people. I try to dress out of respect for those around me. So if I think the event calls for a skirt I wear one. I read Dressing with Dignity, Colleen writes that wearing a skirt is more feminine and will bring more respect from men. It seemed like a good idea…I am not headstrong about my attire. But when I started wearing skirts regularly my husband said, “I like you in pants.” So I stopped wearing skirts around the house, and went back to wearing them for the events that seemed to call for them.

  71. I’ve been following these comments, and have held off commenting — out of fear mostly. That should tell you something. I agree with the commenter who has found many of these comments rather biting. Judgement can move both directions. It’s not only “trads” who can lack charity in the expression of their thoughts and hearts.

    Look, I understand that the MacFarlane article is off-putting and really offensive. (My husband gets annoyed when I ask his opinion on clothes and tells me to go find a girlfriend!) I hate when articles like this get circulated because this is all some folks see re: pants vs. skirts. For many of us, this isn’t an issue of modesty so much as it is one one of beauty and femininity. Not all of us wear burlap sacks or “Amish” clothes, either.

    What we wear is important when it is an expression of an internal disposition, or if it helps to effect an internal disposition. (In addition to its being appropriate to the situation.) My closest friends don’t wear skirts – *shrug*. They know why I do, but I try never to express my choice in a way that says it’s the only one for women.

    I often see pants look very unflattering on women. I feel really awful for them because I know they don’t know how they appear. Yes, there are some dresses that are equally unflattering. Usually, though, if a woman is aiming at modesty in her bad dress, she at least has that working in her favor. Not so much with the bad slacks.

    Simcha – you give a tip of the hat to ladies in skirts, but just barely. The overall feel of your post is that we’re idiots for doing it. I would say I was overly sensitive given my choices, but I had a non-skirting friend read the post, and that was her impression as well.

    Look, I grew up in Maine. We get winter there, too — for 6 mos. out of the year. Whoopee! I was always warmer in my tights, long skirts and long dress coat than I ever was in a pair of jeans. (Then again, I never tried the flannel-lined jeans from LLBean.) I have a two-year-old, I play on the floor comfortably and modestly. I have to save said two-year-old from all manner of precarious situations. And, I find my dresses and skirts far more comfortable than pants, any day of the week. I would just hate to see anyone who wanted to try a mostly skirts lifestyle from being discouraged.

    To each her own – but in pants or skirts, let us be kind to one another — even when we’re not addressing anyone in particular directly. Gentleness is beautiful and feminine.

    • Very nicely said, not just for the pro skirts, but just for kindness to each other no matter what another woman has chosen. Yes, I think women are better in modest skirts/dresses, but it doesn’t mean I think you are bad or evil for wearing pants either. I won’t be rude to you whether it’s modest or immodest as well, though I would at least prefer a modest pants. I have just really felt an attack against pro-skirts only!

    • Speaking for myself, Mrs. McG, I have trouble not with women who like to wear skirts and do so frequently–I’m one of them!–but with women who make “skirting” a verb that means “to wear skirts (only).” The verb “skirting” has a perfectly good meaning already. 🙂

      In all seriousness, I think the pro-skirts crowd needs to realize one thing: the rest of us aren’t objecting to your skirts, dresses, etc. We’re objecting to being told that pants are not modest and suitable attire for women, when women have been wearing them for eighty years now. Oh, and when the Vatican will let in women in slacks, but not women in too-short skirts.

      I have no problem with a woman deciding to wear skirts-only as some sort of private mortification, of course; but when she declares that it is virtuous and holy for all women to do so–and opposed to virtue and holiness for women to wear slacks–she has gone a bit too far.

      • And women really started wearing pants around the same time our lady said this “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.” to Jacinta! How interesting is that….it all happened right in line to everything.

      • Erin – I thought my post was clear when I said I don’t care if you wear skirts all the time or not. I care whether or not we act like ladies when we speak of the “other people” with whom we disagree.

        Perhaps, it is not reasonable to say that all pants are immodest, but let’s have intelligent and reasonable discussion about it, not “I’m so sick of those people” diatribes. It’s okay to disagree, but respectful disagreements or statements are more in keeping with our Christian call to holiness.

        What I see in a number of the comments is a lack of feminine graciousness and manners, particularly where there is profanity and crudeness– in an effort to “keep it real”? And, I don’t find “Fudd MacBarlane”/The Jerk comments funny — at all. Would you make quips like that in front of a priest? Your mother? Or, let your guests do so?

        • That reminds me of a story.

          Once on a Catholic e-mail list, I must have said something a bit too, uh, colorful. A woman asked me, “Would you talk to that around the Blessed Mother?” I replied, “Actually, I talk that way around my own mother, and she can respond in kind if she has to.” Truth is, my mother is considered by some in her family to be a saint. at 78, she cares for my dad at their house, who has had MS since he was 45, and is now 85. My other siblings help her help him, and provide additional home care aides, but Mom is definitely in charge.

          It just goes to show ya …

  72. I once received a (not so) charming letter from a prairie skirt woman who claimed that my ankle length skirt was causing her husband to lust because when I sat down, the slit revealed my slip. That said, there is probably not enough cloth in the world to take away a man’s lust.

    Incidentally, I love Margaret’s devil avatar.

  73. Have you ever seen “Norma Rae”? Instead of Norma Rae holding up a scrawled “UNION” sign, I now see Simcha holding up a scrawled “PANTS” sign. Brava!

  74. I think people need to read a little more closely that part– right at the very beginning!– where the author expressly rejects the attempt to make his observations a directive… but merely offers food for thought.

    I think we American Catholics have strayed so far away from the idea of modesty that perhaps it is good to start having a discussion… but some of the comments here are not discussion but mere vituperation.

    Consider that the Vatican enforces a modesty code at St. Peter’s that includes no bare shoulders and skirt lengths below the knee… both of these (and much worse) are very common in US parishes every single Sunday and are not widely perceived by people as immodest. Will our commenters here condemn the Holy See as fanatics, weirdos, control freaks, etc.?

    Statements like “my husband thinks I’m sexier in skirts” or “I never heard of such a thing” or “Muslims enforce modesty in dress” does not prove that pants are modest. Nor do they negate that in principle it might often be the more feminine, modest choice to wear a dress or skirt.

    One’s personal predilictions are not the measure of objective modesty.

    • Actually he said we could consider it food for thought instead of a hard and fast directive. He gave us his permission, implying, of course, that if you wanted to take it as some kind of directive that would be fine with him.

      That’s probably nitpicking, but I found it annoying as I do most of the assumed authority types regardless of what they’re preaching about.

      And pants, skirts, whatever. Just don’t show the world your moneymaker and I think everyone will be just fine.

    • Thank you for bringing up the dress code at St. Peter’s! I had totally forgotten about that. It does, of course, say nothing about women wearing pants.

  75. Tom:

    Re/the Vatican:

    I note the Vatican does not forbid pants-wearing women to enter St. Peter’s. Pants are the topic of this article.


    Your anecdote illustrates why Pope Benedict wants to release the Tridentine Mass from its Trad prison – it is a beautiful thing, but the way it has evolved for the past fifty years, generally forbidden to be prayed in general parish life, it has become the possession of crazy people. And I’m sorry, a priest like you describe is nuts.

    This is, in general, a painful and distressing thread for someone who has sympathies towards and interest in Traditional liturgy.

  76. In my experience, Simcha always looked great in skirts as well as pants.

    That’s really all I’ve got to add here.

  77. Oh, my, this has been hilarious!

    I’ve become more and more comfortable in skirts and in winter I love wearing long skirts with pants (think stretch pants) underneath, and dress boots – it is very warm.

    However, I still normally wear pants. When I worked in Insurance, skirts would have been completely inappropriate! After all, I had to crawl around inside and out of wrecked and burnt cars, I had to lay down on dirty garage floors and crawl underneath – and I can’t see “skirt” and “modesty” being part of that scenario. Given that most auto body shops are filled with males, can you IMAGINE the ogling were I crawling around under cars wearing a skirt?

    Oh, and we were forbidden from wearing heels and open toes at work – for quite obvious reasons!

    Yeah. Pants!

  78. Okay, I lied. I’ve got another thing to say now, after reading the insane letter.

    The husband is automatically in charge of the entire household’s clothing choices, unless he “delegates” it to the wife? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

    Of the million things wrong with this, here’s just one: Where are these people hiding the complementary nature of male and female? I mean, that’s a concept they’re supposed to love–and to apply indiscriminately–more than I do.

    In stereotype and, more often than not, in reality, women love shopping for clothes much more than men do. So why is it not Holy Writ for these folks that properly attiring the whole family is Women’s Work? (Especially if you’re the sort of family where much of the time that involves sewing…or are the menfolk supposed to supervise and direct every aspect of the seamstress’ arts as well?)

  79. NYa ~ I have to comment to you on this: Actually, we DO have a painting of the Blessed Mother that was done by God: Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the tilma of St. Juan Diego. Science has proven that it was not painted by human hands. It may have been touched up and repaired by human hands, but the image itself is not of this world.

    Look it up.

    • @Adoro: “Look it up”? I’ve been there. And so that must mean that white chicks like me should always try to dress like they were 15 year old pregnant Mexican girls from the 1500s? Now, do you think that was to provide us with a photographic image of what Mary really, exactly looked like? So we can copy her style of dress? Or was it something that was intrinsic to and a reflection of St. Juan Diego’s place and time, right in and part of the culture that he lived in?

      Margaret’s argument was that we should actually imitate Mary in how she dressed, and I still say that her idea of what that is is largely based on artistic interpretation, or else she’d’ve made the argument that we have to wear that exact OLoG outfit, mantle over the head, pregnancy ribbon and all. Then Fatima devotees can fight with OLoG devotees that white is the only color good Catholic ladies should really wear…after all, the children described her in white.

      True story: I’ve actually heard an argument that the reason one Catholic family painted their rooms blue, was that it was “Mary blue” – their term, I’m not making this up – and that showed they have good taste and were living in a far more Catholic home than all of us other schmucks. Who are probably wearing pants.

        • Mostly? Because it’s not Catholic. It’s a fundamentalist mindset that thinks we need to physically imitate Mary (maybe Catholic women should dye their hair dark brown and wear dark brown contact lenses, too, since it’s extremely unlikely Mary’s hair and eye colors were anything different).

          We don’t have to dress like her. And, by the way, we never did. All my grandmothers, aunts, great-grandmothers dressed like the other women around them – they didn’t wear ankle length skirts or veils, fercryinoutloud, in 1942. Neither did St. Gianna Molla.

          And I say it again: it’s fundamentalist, which is Protestant at it’s core. It’s not Catholic. We do not have a Catholic tradition of dressing like Mary.

          • I don’t have any time to really respond to your comment right now as I have children to take care of, but I plan to.

  80. Full disclosure: My earlier link was not a site for cheap medicines from Canada. I publish a (semi-)regular Tuesday article on a particular “emerging” Catholic blog. This week, I chose this one, and what inspired me to do so was this particular piece, which Steve Skojec (was asking for trouble when he) posted on Facebook.

    That said, you might read it anyway. Or not. Whatever.

    • LOL – I know Steve from school… seems not much has changed if he is still asking for trouble. 😉 Still – sneaking the words “Kaiser Bier Ist Gut” into our Austria shirts w/out the faculty noticing was a stroke of genius. 🙂

  81. So Tom, the Vatican is cool with pants? Sounds like it.

    It seems to me that if the author really wanted to offer food for thought re modesty, he might have steered his article more along the lines of what you pointed out – the standards at St. Peters, not so much ‘get rid of your pants!’ (sure, some pants are immodest, but all pants?). Had the author taken a different approach, I think it would have seemed more…I don’t know, genuine? Constructive? As it is, he comes off as judgemental, overbearing and creepy.

    I do agree with you that short skirts and bare shoulders are too common at Mass and I would never wear either to Mass nor would I let my children. But I think everyone on here would agree with that! However, I would argue that their is a big difference between, say, slacks and a sweater and a miniskirt and tank top. The former *might* be inappropriate for Mass, but not necessarily immodest. I think it’s important to make that distinction.

    Thank you, Simcha, for your humor and common sense!

    • Elizabeth are you truly saying that a woman wearing a mini skirt and tank top is not dressed immodestly?

      • Margaret – she was saying that the FORMER (i.e., slacks and a sweater) *might* be inappropriate for Mass – but not always… she’s saying there is a big difference between wearing a sweater and pants to Mass, than wearing a mini-skirt and tank top… which is ALWAYS inappropriate.

        Concerning your comment about the Blessed Virgin ever wearing pants… of course we haven’t seen a picture of her doing that, because women (and men) of her time didn’t. Men and women dressed very similarly then, and they wore tunics/robes… all of them. I can’t picture St. Joseph in a pair of khaki pants, either… because he didn’t wear them. But that doesn’t mean they are inappropriate.

        And yes, we do have a picture of Our Lady from God – dressed in what pregnant Mexican/Indian women wore at the time that she appeared. It certainly wasn’t what she wore in Nazareth.

  82. For those who are offended at the strong reactions against “sola skirtura” (very useful term, credit to the commenter who coined this), it’s because articles such as the one under consideration, and the people who espouse such attitudes, are judgmental, critical, offensive and condemning of those of us who wear pants, even very modest pants. This goes on in parts of the Catholic community in my city, I’ve seen it, and I’ve felt judged unfairly before.
    Re. Mary’s clothing, it’s also hard to imagine our Blessed Mother in even the most modest of swimsuits. And it’s hard to imagine her driving a minivan and ordering pizza–times have changed.
    I think the comment about St. Gianna is very helpful. It is possible to be a model of virtue and a saint in our times, even in pants.
    I’m wearing a skirt right now. I like skirts. Nothing wrong with a skirt, but just don’t say pants are the problem. The offensive, immodest fashions are all around us, skirts and pants and see-through bodysuits and other creations a la Madonna and Britney Spears.

  83. I’m with you! I think it’s great that some people are called to wear dresses exclusively, but that doesn’t mean that it should be imposed on everyone else. It’s certainly not an official Church teaching.

    • How am I called to wear skirts only, but not any of you? I don’t think this is a matter of being called to do this, such as a vocation is. Not the same thing at all!

  84. “I’m going crazy trying to go through all of these comments!” she pants. Pants!!

    “Not to skirt the issue.” Pants!!!

  85. Smokin’ Joe! This is really fired up! Having a great time reading it; I did comment about ‘common sense’ about 35 pages ago, but I have a few inputs, after this has all come to pass.

    First, Kate’s comment (maybe halfway up), is fabulous. The world needs beauty!!! I love skirts, dresses, and being feminine. I also love a really great pair of jeans. In the end, I just think there are too many women who look skanky running around in whatever choice they make- like I said, you can look like a hooker in pants or a skirt- I’ve seen both, actually!

    My dire plea to women (and men), around the world would be: DRESS TASTEFULLY and BEAUTIFULLY no matter what it is you wear. No, I do not want to see your flappy arm wings and strangely placed tan lines. No, I do not care to gaze at your varicose veins (I’m loaded up, btw- not being judgmental), same goes for cellulite thunder thighs. Cover it up, people. Just out of compassion for your neighbors who already have enough ‘ugly’ in their lives. Let’s all agree. Everyone can look beautiful/handsome. Find something flattering. Whether it’s pants, skirts, whatever. Everyone’s body looks good in something different.

    Nutshell: Trailer trash or elegant beauty? It’s your choice. In skirts or pants. I do have a personal preference, and I just have to say…


    Just cause no one else has. Haha.

    Oh, and I was just wondering… Fudd? Is that your mugshot? Anyway, it’s hot. All wild and pissed-off looking. Maybe even kind of ‘jerk-y.’

  86. The really sick thing about these kinds of directives from anonymous men who are supposedly all about upholding the dignity of women by treating them like Barbie dolls they can dress and undress as they please is the language is startlingly similar to the “dom” language found among the BDSM community (don’t ask — research having to do with my next book — not advocating anyone go there at all).

    • My husband said one reason why he liked (and still likes, I’m sure, this was when we first started dating) me wearing skirts was because he felt like he could look at me and not worry about lustful thoughts. If a man has lustful thoughts when you are wearing a very modest skirt, well that is his problem, but I doubt many good, Catholic men have that trouble.

  87. By choice, I’d wear long skirts that allow me to lounge around sloppily without any regard to modesty as they cover everything, and which when I sit down appeal to my cat as a perfect hammock! Why do priests like cassocks? Comfort! However, at 62 with really bad arthritis, I wear pants outdoors through most NYC winters — jeans, flannel-lined jeans, and woolen slacks!

    There is no logical reason to condemn pants as immodest in themselves. Skirts also can be too tight, hip-hugging, navel-baring, and plain ugly. Modesty is in a neat, comfortable fit that does not highlight or grossly expose secondary sexual characteristics.

    Some years ago in Rome I saw Viet-Namese nuns attractively dressed in the traditional tunic and slacks of their country; they looked both modest and awfully comfortable!

  88. And modesty is about demeanor, too. A woman can wear the most matronly outfit ever and still act in an immodest manner.

      • Of course! Any chick can be a total tramp whether she wears a bikini, burqua, or anything in between!

        Anyways, I’m taking my be-pantsed behind to go shopping for some very sexy lingerie to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversay tonight — I think my wedding day may be one of the handful of times I’ve ever worn a dress…me, I’m all about that slutty L.L. Bean catalogue. 😉

  89. Femoralia are literally thigh-covering short pants. Breeches, probably. Possibly Bermudas and bike shorts are included. You may thank me now. 🙂

    Actually, fashion has found a way to do pants under skirts. Very tight bike shorts, very short miniskirts. One sort of ameliorates the other, and vice versa. It’s a teenaged style — shows up a lot in anime, the last few years. I think it’s not a style that I could have worn even as a kid, but there you go.

    St. Francis de Sales on modesty: “As to the quality and fashion of clothes, modesty in these points must depend upon various circumstances: age, season, condition, the society we move in, and the special occasion… Avoid all vanity, peculiarity, or fancifulness… keep to what is simple and unpretentious…

    “For my own part I should like my devout man or woman to be the best dressed person in the company, but the least pompous and affected… Saint Louis said that the right thing is for every one to dress according to his position, so that good and sensible people should not be able to say they are over-dressed, or younger gayer ones that they are under-dressed.”


  90. Using an alias today…

    Simcha, Lickona, L2L Mom… would one of you please write a coherent review of Dressing With Dignity??

    Too many faithful (and highly impressionable!) Catholic moms are reading this book and taking it as the final say and gospel truth on modest dress. It is flawed on so many levels, and I am sick of seeing it come up as an authority in discussions like these.

    I can’t write it… I’m dealing with pregnancy brain, and not nearly as well-written as y’all. Also? I run in the same circles as Colleen and would be considered even more anathema than I already am.

  91. Any Homestar fans out there?

    Dear Strongbad,
    Why doesn’t homestar ever wear pants? It’s kind of
    creepy how he walks around with no pants on all the time.
    Anyway, I think you should get him some pants, maybe some
    parachute pants would work…yeah, that would work. Or maybe some clown pants, I don’t care, just get him some pants!

    • Love me some Homestar Runner!

      Been playing through Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People lately in fact. Good times. And even though some episodes draw a Teen rating, I can’t possibly be going to Hell for playing it because Marzipan always wears a skirt.

  92. Woohoo! What a blaze of responses you got! I wish I could read them all, but I’ll stick with my original response to your article and then get back to homeschooling:

    “Amen, sister!”

    I guarantee you, my pants are totally modest. In fact, I’ll say that by nearly all standards I’m flat-out dumpy. But somehow, shockingly and gratifyingly, not by my husband’s standards. Somehow, words like “sexy” “beautiful” and “hot” come out of his mouth when privately talking with me, and gauging by his personal responses I have had to assume they are genuine.

    So, dear sisters in Christ, wear all the skirts you like. More power to you! But stop preaching to me that they are somehow limiting my ability to respond to God’s calling in my life, because I long ago gave over the desire to please anyone but God and my husband. And God has not revealed to me that I need to be wearing skirts. Maybe you do; maybe there is something in you that is made better by modest skirts. Wonderful! Please don’t just assume that it is in everyone else.

    And another part has to wonder: with all that is wrong in this world, why focus on providing a division that in the big scheme of things Is. Just. Not. Important. Modesty is important; whether it is achieved with pants, skirts or long flowing robes is not.

    God bless us all in our efforts to be what He wants us to be!

    • I think I am the only one saying anything in favor of skirts/dresses all the time, so what are you talking about, Denise? All the other women agree with you.

  93. Simcha is hilarious and sensible, but the pants/skirts issue has to be understood as part of the “Traditionalist” Catholic movement, a small but extremely vocal group! It really isn’t a mainstream issue. The Vatican has a problem with tourists in micro-mini skirts and shorts, but none with ordinary neatly-fitted slacks or jeans.

    In my non-“Traditionalist” parish, I personally have an aesthetic problem with half-naked parishioners. The church is air-conditioned to the point of requiring light jackets in August! (I suspect my pastor of hoping to freeze people into wearing ordinary work clothing!) If a person is fat and ugly and chooses to be half-naked in a public AND religious setting, it is really horrifying!

    I sometimes wear jeans to church in winter, depending on how deep the snow is on the half-hour walk over not-very-well-kept sidewalks. As far as I can tell, my conservative and very orthodox pastor has no trouble with ANY modest clothing! He is a very reasonable and intelligent priest, who offers Mass with profound and moving devotion.

    • And, how many priests are talking about modesty in a way of women just wearing skirts/dresses? Very few. They just talk about modesty in anyway, women get upset! There was actually a priest in my area who did talk about it and I thought what he said was very good.

      There is no reason for you to wear jeans to church just because it is snowy outside. You can bring a change of clothes and put a nice dress or skirt on for Mass, especially a Sunday Mass!

      • How right you are, the Vatican hasn’t! And while we’reat it, has that encyclical endorsing breathing come out yet? Or the one about watering the lawn?

        • Totally different things when one refers to how people see you physically. Breathing (the closest you can come) and watering a lawn can not be compared in anyway.


    Consider the following food for thought, rather than a hard-and-fast directive. Men, please, discard your razors. Instead, consider growing a comfortable full beard whenever possible, which means, in practice, in pretty much every normal daily circumstance. Consider the following:

    1.Regardless of your size, shape, or age, the attractiveness of your male face is virtually always enhanced, while adding to your modesty, when you wear a beard.

    2. Do this for us, the minority of chaste women who merit the gift of enjoying your handsomeness in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for women to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).

    3. The godless, sexed-up, secular razor industry is out to make money and convince you that vice is virtue. They, and their damned naked faces, accentuate your flaws. If you think the razor industry is about beauty, I have two words for you: Mutton Chops.

    4. Sadly, and we understand you may not be aware of this, but almost every style of clean shaven face reveals private information about your face (by way of contour) what only your wife (and if not her, no woman, including your daughters, if you have daughters) should perceive.

    5. Thus, even a man endowed with the most spectacular genetic form, in the bloom of his youth, can be given the illusion of ugliness, if not cheapness, by having a clean shaven face. Likewise, shaving rarely does anything but exaggerate extra volume on your chin.

    6. While some styles of shaving can be attractive, in terms of beauty, shaving will never trump a tasteful full beard.

    7. Furthermore, we must reject the counter-argument that shaving is more comfortable; as a bearded-woman circus freak, your author roundly rejects this claim.

    8. Of course, we defer and appeal to our female readers to make clear your moral facial hair preferences to the men and boys within your realm of responsibility or influence.

    9. We understand, men, that not shaving on a daily basis is a major change. If you forsake shaving, it will be a big, big deal. Even financially, as shaving is so commonplace that you may need to by a beard trimmer.

    10. Yet, ponder this: the biggest impact for upgrading to a beard may be the change in how you view yourself, and perhaps as crucially, in how you are looked upon and treated by women, which profoundly influences how you view yourself and your value.

    11. Also, you, as a Catholic man of dignity, are responsible for avoiding any practice or habit that increases the likelihood of being viewed as an object by women. You are also responsible for presenting the best, most beautiful, most chaste version of yourself to the world.

    12. There is a myth that women determine the facial hair that men wear. In the depraved business sense, this is superficially true in the sense that shaving is often designed to appeal to the lower, if not lustful, appetites of women (and not all lower appetites are strictly lustful). In the day-to-day reality of the suburban lives most of us live, women almost always delegate the shaving of faces to their husbands. Men then make virtually all the facial hair choices, mistakenly relying upon the opinions of other men (who know either too little or too much about how facial hair choices affect women morally). Good men are always tempted to shave in the styles they see other men and young men wearing; inevitably everyone, men and women, are pulled downward by the undertow of the constantly lowered bar of our sexualized and superficial culture.

    13. Do not misunderstand us: we have no problem with women delegating shaving decisions to their husbands; we only object to women who abandon the responsibility they have to guide and influence the moral, psychological, and practical implications of shaving that is done. Women should set the highest standard for their husbands and sons in this respect.

    14. May we suggest (or perhaps you husbands and sons might suggest) that your wives throw out the razors for the expressed purpose of choosing everyday facial hair for you. Women, for your part, be sure your men love the choices you make with them. No man can deny that there is a superb and wonderful emotional benefit to a lush full beard that was grown to enhance your beauty as decided by your beloved wife. Men, when she chooses that you should grow beard, you know beyond doubt that in her eyes, you are beautiful in it. As a rule, women abhor beard growing, but in our experience, this practice proves the exception if the woman is the final arbiter on facial hair choices.

      • You laugh, but I actually knew a large traddie family that believed all shaving was wrong. Sadly, their many sons had rather erratic facial hair, so the result was some of the most bizarre and unsightly beards I’ve ever seen.

        Rather like the frumpy skirt outfits Daria mentions, I suppose.

    • “Regardless of your size, shape, or age, the attractiveness of your male face is virtually always enhanced, while adding to your modesty, when you wear a beard.”

      Well duh. That’s why I have consistently worn one…ever since Simcha and her father gave me the encouragement I needed to give it a try.

      • Initially I was persecuted in my own family for deciding to grow facial hair and mocked as a traditionalist.

        My father-in-law rebuked me on several occasions for it, and my mother-in-law has refused to give me a kiss hello or goodbye on the cheek since I grew my beard (funny enough, this paragraph is 100% true).

        My wife initially did not like it, but has grown to appreciate it, and I think now has come around.

        It was difficult, but I had to do what was morally right, and now myself and my two boys (age 9 and 7) no longer shave.

    • Now I do agree that the razor industry is godless, and that their evil is increased with every blade they add to their cartridges.

      They know how to make one really good blade that gives you a perfectly fine shave. But they’d rather sell you five crummy ones for a higher price.

      (I may have a beard, but I’ve still got a neck to shave…)

  95. A sensible, practical posting.

    My dear wife is diabetic and she uses an insulin pump. No practical way to wear skirts so .. pants.

  96. Oh, this was wonderful, Simcha!

    Usually, I prefer skirts. They are just more comfortable and flattering to me, personally. Plus I’ve always been a girly-girl. Still, I’d be pretty peeved if I was told I should never wear pants! Who does Bud think he is?! Frankly, it’s creepy!

    Just to second a couple other commentors, my hubby prefers me in a skirt too, especially when it’s just the two of us. Not giving too much away (sheepish grin).

  97. Are any of you, anyone. agree with me on skirts/dresses only or am I alone on this like I always am? I want to hear at least one comment from you guys that is just pro-skirts and not mentioning any positives of pants, at least just one comment. None of you guys can do it, can you? I challenge all of you to give me one.

    • Actually, many here have praised skirts, both for beauty and modesty. What people are objecting to is the claim that skirts are mandatory and pants evil.

    • Margaret,

      I could be totally wrong, but you seem young. You think that what you wear is desperately important, and that people’s opinions on your wardrobe, whether pro or con, are desperately important.

      The truth is, most people who see you don’t give you a second thought. To think that they do is narcissism.

      I love skirts. There! But as a 46-year old woman, who was once a hot young thing, let me let you in on something:

      Sooner or later, most men will stop looking at you. It will not matter what you wear. It is at this moment that you will know who loves you for you, and not some image of an “orthodox Catholic who is so feminine and wonderful and lady-like and Mary-like, and soft-spoken, etc.” that you project.

      You may become ill, or capacitated. I do not wish this on you or anybody. But should that day ever come (God forbid) I doubt you’ll give a rat’s ass about pleasing the controlling men out there. Catheters, IVs, colostomy bags, baldness from chemotherapy, the whole catastrophical apparatus of illness puts such concerns in their rightful place, which is not even the backburner, but off the stove and in the garbage.

      • How old do you think I am? I am married and have three children. The way I dress will always be important to me whether it would be to impress someone or not. I’m not really doing it to impress anyone anyway since I am married and I have no need to directly go out there and try to attract a guy.

        I don’t think you understand where I am coming from anyway.

    • So you tried to point out my argument had error, I corrected you and so all you can do is say “get a grip”? I’m gonna go put on a pair of jeans right now, to celebrate my victory. Hm, which ones?

      I know! True Religion.

  98. Margaret. NO ONE here has a problem with skirts. I wear skirts 97% of the time. Our problem is with the idea that skirts are inherently better than pants and that wearing pants is immodest. I LOVE SKIRTS. Seriously, ok? I would love to go skirt shopping with you sometime. You are the one who is dictating that no one is allowed to like skirts AND pants. You are only alone because you choose to be.

    • What? I am in no way dictating that women should only wear skirts or otherwise you are just evil and bad; I just said that I think it is better if women do wear skirts/dresses only. And, yes I am pro-skirts only, but that doesn’t mean a woman is evil because she doesn’t agree with me.

      • But Margaret, instead of respecting other women’s preference for pants, you keep on insisting a skirt would be a better option each time it’s brought up.

        You like skirts. I like pants. No one of us is better than the other, nor necessarily more or less modest than the other.

        That’s all anyone is saying, but when someone describes how practical pants are _for them_ in a particular situation, you pipe up with all the reasons why a skirt is just as good or better.

        Whether you realize it or not, the message you’re putting out there is that skirts are always better than pants, and that all women ought to wear skirts all the time.

  99. So, let’s recap. Simcha doesn’t have a problem with skirts. She doesn’t have a problem with pants. With more than 200 comments, there is obviously a growing consensus. You go, girl!

  100. Women should try to dress like Our Lady did? Seriously? I’m getting flashbacks from my days growing up Evangelical here.

    Neither the Bible nor Sacred Tradition nor the lives of the Saints contain the complete guide to everything one needs to know at all times in all facets of life. Nor does every single thing we do and choice we make have to be colored by overt piety.

    Catholics should be the last ones to take the “WWJD” cliche even farther, asking themselves not just what would Jesus and Mary wear, but what DID THEY ACTUALLY WEAR (and can my wife whip some of that up for us with her sewing machine)? That way lies madness.

    Let us also not be like those Baptists who feel they ought to only buy Christian books and Christian pop music and Christian stationery at a Christian bookstore, and hire Christian roofers who use Christian shingles, and so on ad nauseam. I’m sure that St. Augustine is only one of many who want to scream looking down at this sort of petty cultural totalitarianism.

  101. ****
    I’m pretty sure that the only reason we ever had the pants-male/skirt-female dichotomy in the first place is so we could comfortably pee in the woods.
    I totally agree!!!

    Simcha, I thought the original article was awful…but that yours was an extreme over-reaction. Granted, the article kind of merited an over-reaction…and maybe you weren’t entirely serious…but I get the impression that you are violently anti-skirt merely because you went through a skirts only phase. Kind of like the tendency in St. Augustine to be very anti-sex because he was so sexually licentious in his youth. Skirts can be just as warm, comfortable, relaxed and modest even in every day life and motherhood as pants are. I grant your points in 7 and 9 (and the point in 10 but not the conclusion that you should then wear pants). But the other points are weak at best.

  102. I have been blessed with what is euphamistically refered to as a “pear shape” which means however much weight I gain I can never seem to get out of a size-A bra, yet my thighs can triple in size at the very sight of a piece of cake.

    With all these comments I’ve seen no one write the real reason I generally wear pants: fat thighs. Sure, I wear skirts to church, and I have a nice little shorts/slip thing, but as soon as I get back home, I’m back into pants.

    Imagine two 350lb shirtless guys on a 90 degree day in August squeezed into the back of a tiny hatchback riding up a bumpy mountain road. For days on end. Here’s a word to help you: chaffing.

    Yeah, I’ve lost weight lots of times, but then I keep having babies and here we go again. So, pants.
    Go pants!

    • Simcha is NOT anti skirt. She is anti-having-to-justify-pants to the self-declared arbitrers of Truly True Modesty and Femininity.

    • Thank you for the image of the shirtless guys in the hatchback.

      I am now grateful for not having been able to take lunch today.

  103. Margaret,
    Though not a quote, here is a story of a man who unwaverinly favored skirts/dresses…

    A woman who sold pants in her retail store in Vancouver went to confession in Italy to Padre Pio and was refused absolution…

    “He commanded her to return home to Canada and dispose of all this stock, and not to give any of the items to people who might wear them, and if she wanted his absolution, she could come back to Italy and receve it, only after she ruthlessly carried out his orders.” Anne McGinn Cillis, Arrivederci, Padre Pio, “A Spiritual Daughter Remembers.

    Saint Pio also refused access to the confessional to those who were immodestly dressed. On the door of the church was this message…

    “By Padre Pio’s explicit wish women must enter the confessional wearing skirts at least 8 inches below the knee. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them for the Confessional.” Dorothy Gaudiose, Prophet of the People: A Biography of Padre Pio.

      • David: The creeps? You couldn’t get away with anything, that’s for certain. It would likely be the most complete, grace-filled confession of your life.

        • From a strictly sacramental viewpoint (the only one that matters), I can get that from any priest. Your reference is simply to the emotional response. Yes, it would FEEL that way. Other than that …

          • David:
            Sacramentally speaking confessing to such a priest as St. Pio has the potential to be, really be, more beneficial as one’s human tendency to protect one’s ego would be removed by his insight thus eliciting a ‘more complete’ confession.

            • Okay, so, by extension, once I’ve had a truly cleansing experience that only this one priest can give, I must use him as my confessor from that day forward, leaving nothing pertaining to my salvation to chance, perhaps even moving to Italy.

              You don’t need to be a mind reader to discern a man’s ego, and thank God for that, because he’s dead now.

              • David:
                I said ‘potentially’ as in the case of those souls who need to be ‘called out’ and made to be more honest with themselves and to examine their conscience more honestly. St. Pio was that confessor for thousands; he was the one who taught many how to make a good confession. If you have not struggled in this way, you are blessed. By the way, St. Pio is more active now than in life; we credit his intercession for the conversion of a family member.

      • Kathleen Mary:
        It is merely an example of a saintly priest and confessor who found pants to be less than appropriate for women. It is certainly not ‘a random essay written by a lay(man).’

        • He was born in 1887, so yes, it is conceivable that a monastic who was used to women in ankle-length skirts, which would have been the standard till about 1920, when he would have turned 33, would have found the shorter skirts of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s and 60s hard to take; my own grandmother, born in Ireland in 1910, never wore pants. I attribute that to the culture she grew up in, and yes, Padre Pio himself came from a particular culture. I do not see why, 44 years after his death, women are duty-bound to dress themselves for his confessional.

          But you tell me: do you see Padre Pio’s reaction to post-WWI fashions as something that should bind us? What year of fashion should we go back to? 1918? 1818? Oh, dear, I think 1818 might have been around (or near the end of) those Jane Austen styles with bare arms and lifted bosoms. I will never get the problem some traddie people have with arms. Oh well! At least the dresses were long, n’est-ce pas?

          Is it possible that someone born in an earlier time than Padre Pio would have found intolerable the fashions that PP found tolerable? And if so, should we go back to that moment?

          I’m not arguing against his sanctity. And I did NOT say anything about a “random essay written by a lay(man).” That is someone else’s post.

          But it seems to me that the main point is that you don’t dress seductively when you go to your spiritual advisor/confessor, not that women today are bound to a) never wear pants and b) wear all skirts to 8″below the knee.

          Also, it was once scandalous (during PP’s time, as it turns out) for women to ride bicycles. Should we avoid bicycles as well?

          How about monkey bars? How about swimming pools? Should we stop running, walking, breathing, and existing until we become this plaster statue?

          • Kathleen:
            Let me address your last question first…I believe women should most definitely walk and breath and avoid becoming a plaster staute at all costs. If it had been a marble statue, I would have had to think longer but would have likely come to the same conclusion.

            You raise an interesting point. As skirts rose over the years, at what point does modesty say ‘stop?’ If it is all cultural then is it just a matter of time before a mid-thigh skirt is concidered modest? It is a tough line to draw.

            I mentioned the ‘layman’ to emphasis that I would be far more inclined to listen to a saint that any layman, no matter his character or lack thereof.

          • “Also, it was once scandalous (during PP’s time, as it turns out) for women to ride bicycles. Should we avoid bicycles as well?”

            Absolutely. As they used to say:

            A woman needs a bicycle like a fish needs pants.

    • I tend to distrust anyone who claims to have reliable evidence of just what a priest and penitent said to each other inside the confessional.

          • How many times a person has heard a story is irrelevant. My e-mail box is full of wild tales that have been told many many times by many many people, and are still 100% pure nonsense.

            Unless Padre Pio was in the habit of violating the Seal of Confession for the benefit of his biographers, the story about the pants lady is apocryphal. And devoid of context.

            • The shopkeeper selling pants for women at her store in Vancover was interviewed by the author mentioned above, Anne McGinn Cillis. The story is found in full in ‘Arrivederci, Padre Pio, A Spiritual Daughter Remembers.’ The penitent is not bound by the seal and so licitly relaid this story to Mrs. Cillis, including the fact that she (the shopkeeper) did as St. Pio had directed.

    • All this proves is that saints are human beings and can occasionally be stupid.

      BTW, did St. Pio ever meet St. Gianna ? I’ve seen pictures of her in pants.

      • Donna: Perhaps, if St. Pio saw St. Gianna hiking snow covered mountains with her husband while she wore pants he would not mind. I like to think his stupidity made some room for common sense.

    • And here’s a story from St Francis de Sales:

      “S. Jerome tells us that his beloved daughter, S. Paula, was not only extreme, but obstinate in practising bodily mortifications, and refusing to yield to the advice given her upon that head by her Bishop, S. Epiphanius; and furthermore, she gave way so excessively to her grief at the death of those she loved as to peril her own life. Whereupon S. Jerome says: “It will be said that I am accusing this saintly woman rather than praising her, but I affirm before Jesus, Whom she served, and Whom I seek to serve, that I am not saying what is untrue on one side or the other, but simply describing her as one Christian another; that is to say, I am writing her history, not her panegyric, and her faults are the virtues of others.” He means to say that the defects and faults of S. Paula would have been looked upon as virtues in a less perfect soul; and indeed there are actions which we must count as imperfections in the perfect, which yet would be highly esteemed in the imperfect.”

    • Wow, I’ve really “enjoyed” reading this post and all these comments, but I’m amazed by the struggle with common sense. To me, clothing should: cover our bodies so we are not leading anyone to sin; be comfortable; be practical; be beautiful. Maybe not always in that order with the last three, because certainly there are events (your wedding, maybe) where beauty may trump practicality.
      But if you can’t figure out how to do this wearing either pants or skirts, I’m surprised.
      Fashion is cultural. Some people may want to think of it in terms of hard and fast moral rules, but it just doesn’t work that way. Yes, fashion should differentiate between males and females. But I recall that Christ never wore pants himself. So…was he being effeminate?
      Yes, we should not flaunt our bodies to tempt men…but there are countries in the world still where women don’t even where shirts–because it’s wicked HOT. Guess what? The men there aren’t going around in constant state of sin.
      It would be silly to wear a knee-length, or even a long, skirt in Antarctica–and it would be needlessly foolish to wear long pants in Haiti.
      I recall a great deal of controversy surrounding this topic a few years ago when I was at a Catholic college in Ohio that I’m sure you’ve all heard of… and I had to agree with the young lady who said: “This kind of freaks me out. Yeah, we should be modest. But what kind of guy goes around thinking all the time of how girls should dress? Isn’t he the one with a problem?”
      The thing that annoys me most about BMcF’s post is the lack of consistent logic. For example, and I loosely quote, “women shouldn’t wear pants because they reveal too much femininity,” right alongside, “women should wear skirts because they are more beautiful and feminine.” Come on, that’s just bad writing, point-making aside. But wait, we already knew he was a poor writer.

    • There’s a reason why Padre Pio was that way….he would not give you absolution if a woman was sinning and not changing their lifestyle.

      • Gianna walks into the confessional. Padre Pio tells her that her skirt is too short (at six inches below the knee). She says, “Hey, I’m gonna be declared a saint, too, ya know, and it’s gonna be because I died rather than having my baby aborted. Try to top that.” So he says, “Oh, yeah? Well, I can read souls. Try to top that.”

        Then it goes to level two.

  104. David: this is the most awesome idea ever. We need to discuss this further. Can we somehow work in lightsabers?

    Peter: I wasn’t being too serious. I’m just saying if you’re basing your clothing choices on the examples of saints, you could have people in the camp of St. Gianna, who wore pants all the way back in the 40s , and Padre Pio, who loathed them, duking it out.

    Just being silly.

  105. Well – it seems odd that the question of whether a woman may wear pants should provoke such passionate reactions. Personally, I find skirts attractive and feminine, if they are worn tastefully. But it doesn’t seem worth all this commotion. Aren’t there more important things to discuss? Is salvation really impossible unless women wear skirts? Is it made substantially more difficult when women wear pants? I don’t think so.

    What comes to mind are certain primitive tribes, say in Africa and South America, whose women routinely pass their days bare-breasted on account of the heat. Were Western women to do the same, men would have quite the struggle with lust, and there would be a traditionalist uproar to restore the prior custom. Do the men of those villages struggle against their carnal desires when they behold the unclothed chests of the womenfolk? Well, I don’t know, of course, but I would tend to guess they don’t. Breasts are probably about as provocative to them as arms and legs. So it seems to me that what matters is the content of the heart, and how we are trained to think about the body.

    There is something I do want to add, however. Recently, I was part of another discussion about a seemingly innocuous issue that also prompted heated (and, as here, occasionally uncharitable) debate. That is the matter of a man paying the bill on a date. I see quite a parallel between these two discussions. As I believe it is nice for a woman to wear a skirt, but by no means necessary, I also think it reflects well upon a man when he pays the bill on a date. However, these women didn’t merely approve of this gesture, but deemed it a crucial test of a man’s character. They said (and I have often heard it repeated) that they would not go on a second date with a man who did not volunteer to pay the full bill the first time around. They argued that this act is among a man’s first opportunities to demonstrate his ability to act as provider and head. Why would he miss his chance? Logically, then, if he does not pay the bill, he is unmanly or cheap or both, and therefore undeserving of a self-respecting woman’s continued time and attention. In reply, I gently suggested there were perhaps more important indicators of a man’s character; that a man might find other ways to express caring masculinity to a woman even without paying the whole bill. These charitable, traditional Catholic women told me I was arrogant, selfish, and lacking in respect for women! Talk about controlling! You disagree with these people and they respond by trying to shame you into submission.

    If I flipped it around, I would say this: If a woman wears pants on our first date, well, that’s fine; she can make her choices. But I certainly will not date her a second time, for such a woman is either a slut who intends to exploit my sexuality to her unwholesome advantage or she is conflicted about her femininity. In the former case she would make a poor wife because a good wife does not use her husband’s libido like a leash; in the latter case she would make a poor mother because a good mother simply must be feminine. It should be a woman’s first objective to demonstrate to me her suitability as a wife and mother when we date. Why, then, would she miss the opportunity? Only for the most contemptible reasons, of course! Clearly, a woman who wears pants, rather than the much more feminine skirt, is not worth my time. On the contrary, she is a harlot or a lesbian. Good riddance in either case.

    In my view, both positions are extreme and, therefore, thoroughly unreasonable. They are extreme because they fail to take into consideration other important information about the person in question. A pant-wearing woman can make a good wife and mother, and a man who, for whatever reason, does not pay the whole bill on a date can make a good husband and father. You simply cannot make a reasonable judgment about the character of either person on the basis of so little information.

    So I don’t know what you folks think of this issue, but I would invite you to consider that what the skirt issue is for women, the bill issue is for men. Where you feel controlled and maligned about skirts, many of us feel controlled and maligned about the bill. Please consider it.

  106. When I was a younger man and dating (late 70s/early 80s, again briefly in the 90s), the rule of thumb imposed on me was that the person who extended the invitation was the one who paid. Or, when in doubt, the guy pays for it. Especially if he’s too tired to argue, or too proud to take the slightest chance of looking like a jerk.

    • I think those are good rules. Personally, I am happy to pay the bill all the time. But I sense strong pressure to pay the bill – as if I would be a worthless man if I didn’t. My options are to pay or get shamed. This I quite resent. Women don’t want to be shamed into wearing skirts (I don’t blame them), and I don’t want to be shamed into paying the bill.

  107. David, the check thing is cultural more than Catholic or Christian, but I agree it’s hardly a litmus test of character — unless, of course, the man misled the woman into believing he wouldbe picking up the entire tab and then kind of sprung the situation on her at the last minute.

    It’s so expected the man will pick up the check on a formal date that the man really ought to explain that he can’t ahead of time.

    That being said, of course it’s okay for a romantic date to be split between both the gal and the guy, and isn’t a deal breaker at all.

    Anyway, people really have to stop enslaving themselves to the opinions of others. Both the check/date thing and the pants/dress thing are just not anyone else’s business in the long run.

  108. I guess part of the reason I’m inclined to respond to this issue with a shrug is that I work at a large state university, advising undergraduate students all day long.

    Yes, a lot of youthful, nubile pulchritude passes through my office. Yes, during the warmer months modesty in dress can get pretty scarce around here. Yes, being a man I lust in my heart from time to time, before snapping myself out of it.

    But I resent the implication–shared by trad-Catholics and Wahhabi Muslims alike–that we men are beasts and can’t help ourselves and therefore everybody had better be careful and watch out. In eight years I’ve not once acted inappropriately (well, not in that way…I have on rare occasions acted inappropriately rudely, but that’s a separate issue). At the end of a day filled with attire ranging from Islamic headscarves to wannabe-stripper outfits, I go home and savor the company of the love of my life and waste not a moment more worrying about how the students were dressed.

  109. It would seem that there are people who read:

    “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.”

    And the first thought that pops into their minds is:


    I could almost buy this line if we were talking before the invention of the bikini. But that was a long time ago.

    Two days ago, a pop star showed up to an awards show wearing an incredibly short dress…made of meat. It is inconceivable to me that anyone could still think Our Lady’s main concern in that message was pants.

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