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Light and Peace
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XXII.
DRESS.

Women also in decent apparel, adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety. (St. Paul, I. Tim., c. II., v. 9.)

1. Clothing is worn for a threefold object: to observe the laws of propriety, to protect our bodies from the inclemency of the weather, and, finally, to adorn them, as Saint Paul says, with modesty and sobriety. This third end is, as you see, not less legitimate than the other two, provided you are careful to make it accord with them by confining it within proper limits and not permitting it to be the only one to which you attach any importance, so that neither health nor propriety be sacrificed to personal appearance.

2. External ornamentation should correspond with each one’s condition in life. A just proportion in this matter, says Saint Thomas, is an offshoot of the virtues of uprightness and sincerity, for there is a sort of untruthfulness in appearing in garments that are calculated to give a wrong impression as to the position in which God has placed us in this world.

3. Be equally careful, then, to avoid over-nicety and carelessness in respect to matters of toilet. Excessive nicety sins against moderation and christian simplicity; negligence, against the order that should govern certain externals in human society. This order requires that each one’s material life, and accordingly his attire which is a part of it, be suitable to his rank and condition; that Esther be clad as a queen, Judith as a woman of wealth and position, Agar as a bond-woman.

5. I shall not speak of immodest dress, for these instructions being intended for pious persons or for those who are endeavoring to become such, it would seem unnecessary. Nevertheless, as some false and pernicious ideas on this subject prevail in the world and lead into error souls desirous to do right, here are some fundamental principles that can serve you as a rule and save you from similar mistakes.

5. A generally admitted custom can and even should be followed in all indifferent matters; but no custom, however universal it may be, can ever have the power to change the nature and essence of things or render allowable that which is in itself indecent and immodest. Were it otherwise, many sins could be justified by the sanction they receive in fashionable society. Remember, therefore, that the sin of others can never in the sight of God authorize yours, and that where it is the fashion to sin it is likewise the fashion to go to hell. Hence it rests with yourself whether you prefer to be saved with the few or to be damned with the many.

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