Friday, February 13, 2015

Love, Lust, or Run and the Importance of Modesty and Beauty

This is not my most beautiful look, but in High school, I got really into dressing well after being mistaken for a boy too many times. I loved this outfit and my hair looks great. I started feeling a lot better about myself. If only that smile in this picture could reveal my inner beauty.
Tonight is a new episode of the brand new TLC show Love, Lust, or Run. Stacy London spent a decade transforming the lives of countless women on TLC's What Not to Wear. Her new show focuses more on the transformation rather than the shopping. She also takes women who dress more extreme than on What Not to Wear. I was inspired to do this post after last week's episode about a 20-year-old young lady named Jessie who wanted to be a New York City police officer, a very noble profession. She dressed, however, like a hooker. She honestly did. I was also shocked when the show said that she was 20 because she looked 25 with all that make-up and very adult outfit and accessories.
The first part of the show after Stacy gets to know the young women, is stripping the ladies bare: removing all clothing, accessories, and make-up. After this, Jessie actually looked her age. Stacy then shows the ladies what kind of make-up looks flattering on them and takes them shopping. Often, there is a struggle but when they trust Stacy to find clothes they like, there's usually a win. The show ends with the transformation which is always shocking. These women finally look beautiful because they look themselves.
The show's title comes from the part of the show where they go out on the street with photographs of these ladies in their favorite outfits. Each person is asked if they love the look, if they lust it, or if they want to run from it. Jessie's original look had only lust responses.  This was the kind of attention she was aiming for with her dress, but she realized it was not the kind of attention she really wanted. She wanted to be respected. Well, after the transformation is revealed, Stacy shows Jessie the responses to her new look. All but two loves. The other two were lust. After the transformation, if there are still "lust" responses, one can clearly know that it has not to do with the young lady's appearance but with the heart of the person looking at her. That person is doing something wrong because he has no respect for any person's dignity, especially women's.
As Christians, it can quite often be a struggle to ask ourselves, why does dressing well matter? Clearly, we should not dress like hookers. Does that mean that the alternative is to dress in ill-fitting jeans and boxy t-shirts? We would not feel very attractive doing that would we. Looking attractive doesn't necessarily mean one is attracting a new mate, it simply is attracting others' attention and respect. On What Not to Wear, often times people who ended up on the show put dress last because of their charity work. Their boss at the charity, however, wanted them to dress better to be a representative of the company. Why? Because when you're trying to bring attention to a cause or raise money, people are more likely to respect what you say when you have a presence, including appearance, that demands attention and respect. Sometimes, then, if you work for a charity, you would be helping the charity you work for by dressing well.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses modesty in dress and may surprise some people. It says, "The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person (CCC 2524)." First off, because it is appropriate in our society to wear skirts that hit the knee, it is not immodest to wear anything that hits above the ankle. It is also appropriate to bare our legs and knees. It's not about specific clothes, it's about dignity. We must not only dress modestly, we must also behave modestly which requires respecting the human person for his or her God-given dignity. And teaching modesty does not mean teaching our children how to dress, but how to approach themselves and their fellow man. This will then influence their dress decisions.
So why does it matter if the image we present of ourselves is of physical beauty? Obviously if our interior beauty needs a makeover, that comes first. But if that is taken care of, then shouldn't our outer beauty reflect our inner beauty? If we are beautiful on the inside, but nobody knows because our beauty is hidden beneath bad clothes and imperfections, don't we as individuals and God as our creator deserve for the world to see who we truly are? Don't we deserve to for people to see our true beauty?
It can be difficult to distinguish between materialism and what I'm describing. One thing I have always taken away from What Not to Wear and what a person can very easily take away from Love, Lust, or Run is that beauty is not about buying the most trendy, most expensive items of clothing. As long as you have a foundational wardrobe, preferably by buying a few expensive pieces and a few less expensive ones, then dressing well will actually come without thinking. All you will need to do is grab a bottom, top, and completer piece. Materialism says you have to go shopping every week to get the latest look. Beauty is dressing in clothes that you actually like and that actually look good on you. Modesty is showing the world your God-given beauty and dignity in both actions and appearance.

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