Hi, I'm Molly, and I went to Catholic school for nine years.
When I was in 8th grade, my school decided to give all the girls a lecture on dressing appropriately. A priest came in, and my teacher sent all the boys to a different room.
The priest proceeded to tell us about his recent trip to the theater where he happened to be sitting in the balcony section behind a woman who was wearing a skirt. He told us he was so distracted by seeing this woman's thighs that he couldn't even watch the play.
As if this wasn't bad enough, he gave us each a copy of a book about how to "dress with dignity" full of guidelines on how a woman should be dressing. And since I still own this book, I thought we could take a look at some of these guidelines, see if they're as ridiculous as I remember, and then try to find an outfit that actually follows all the rules.
Before we get into the actual rules though, I just want to go over a major point the author makes throughout the whole book so we have a bit of a background on why we need to "dress with dignity" in the first place.
Women are to blame. Men can't help it.
The author says, "My male friends tell me that it is...much more enjoyable to talk with a woman who is dressed tastefully because they're not distracted by her body. Men tell me it's a challenge to talk to an immodestly dressed woman because they don't want to ogle, and so they have to force themselves to focus intently on her face."
Okay, now onto the guidelines!!! Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind while choosing an outfit:
With those basic guidelines in mind, let's pick out an outfit. First up, a top. Here are the rules for choosing a shirt:
1. If you bend over, and you can see your belly button or even the top of your chest down your shirt, it's a no-go.
2. If you press on your shirt right above your breastbone and it "spring[s] back," it's too tight. Note: "Well-endowed ladies need to be extra careful!"
3. For button-downs, put your hands on your hips and try to touch your elbows together in the back. If there's a gap, it's too tight.
4. Your shirt must have sleeves and cover your upper arms and back.
5. Don't wear a top that has "writing or a message" because "a confident lady has the good taste not to use her bosom as a billboard."
Finding a top:
I do have a handful of blouses though, so I started there.
Next, I tried a turtleneck which would automatically pass the "bend over" rule.
BUT, according to the "spring back" test, it was too tight.
How about just a regular button-down?
Then I found a shirt I've had for maybe ten years that I never wear because I hate the color.
Shirt down. Now I had to find a bottom to pair with it. Here are the rules for skirts and dresses:
1. Must be two inches below the knee. "A dignified lady keeps her kneecaps covered."
2. No slits — they "attract men's eyes to your legs."
Finding a bottom:
So I headed straight to my dresses, thinking I could just wear one underneath the top I chose. I grabbed my longest dress that's not basically to my ankles (something I wanted to avoid since it's hot out, and my top is already a long-sleeve).
Then I tried this dress:
Now I don't know where this next dress came from, but I found it in the back of my closet. It's not my size, and I don't remember buying it, but I thought it might work!
Now let's put the whole thing together.
I even checked the back for bra or panty lines, and couldn't see any.
Overall, I don't hate this outfit. It's 100% not my style, but it's kind of nice for a fall look, and it's giving me ~soft vampire~ which is cool.
But it's just not practical, especially considering I live in Florida. It's currently 83°F, so I didn't even try wearing this outside. In fact, I was sweating so much at the end of this try-on that I had to immediately take it off.
Even though I was able to find one outfit that fully fits the rules of how a "dignified woman" should dress, I found it pretty funny that both pieces were things I never wear.
If I had to dress like this all the time, worrying that a bra strap might be showing or if men can tell I have a butt, it would take me forever to find an outfit. I'm not even sure where I'd shop. The author offers some links to clothing websites in the back of the book, so I guess anyone who wants to dress like this, could. But it is absolutely NOT a requirement and you should NEVER feel obligated to dress this way if you don't want to.