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Catholic Review of: Dressing With Dignity

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Author:  Colleen Hammond

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This item received 3 stars overall. (11/15/2009)

Orthodoxy: Mostly adheres to Church teachings.
Reading Level: Easy

 Jennifer SteedBy Jennifer Steed (MI) - See all my reviews


Read for Yourself and Decide

Evaluator Comments

Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond is a short and easy read filled with information on modesty from a myriad of sources.   Well written, it contains many footnotes and quotes many church documents, popes and other church doctors, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.   At the end, she also has a small section on what can be considered modest dress without getting into current fashion and giving style advice but rather how to use modest guidelines to judge whatever you would like to wear.

There were parts of her book that I found very interesting.   First was the history of women's clothing and fashion through the years and especially the last 200 or so.   I enjoyed reading about various church doctors, popes, visionaries and also how the Masons play a role.    She has used MANY sources and has them all very well cited.

That being said, I can't help but feel like she's taking on what I call Protestant Prudery.   I understand that she has all sorts of sources, but reading this book has spurned additional research on my part.    I attended the Marian Conference in Petoskey, MI last year and heard a wonderful speech by Fr. Thomas Loya, a priest in the Eastern Orthodox church, on human sexuality.  According to Fr. Loya, Catholics (in the US in particular), have lost their sacramental-liturgical world view, adopting a protestant secular worldview instead.  Humans, and especially their sexuality, are the closest we get to God.   It is through sex that we partner with him and create life.   God thought the human body was so beautiful (and functional!) that he came down and took our form himself, for love of us and to save us--body and soul.

Fr. Loya quotes John Paul II's writings a lot and mentions several things that essentially go against some of the premises in this book.    First, on page 8, she infers that topless dress (using the wilds of Africa as an example), is wrong.  But JP II didn't feel that way.   Fr. Loya used a trip to Papua New Guina as an example.

Just because you are nearly fully clothed, doesn't mean you are necessarily modest, either.  Modesty depends on two things: the intent of the wearer (your body language is an important piece of modesty).   The other is how the receiver takes the message.   Fr. Loya gives much more credit to men being able to handle and appreciate the beauty of the human body without it being an occassion of sin than the author.  Sin is a CHOICE.   Men can choose to rise above his wiring and Fr. Loya even provides methods for men to regain the sacramental-liturgical world view.

I would love to research and refute other points the author makes, but in trying to keep this review a reasonable length, I will stop here.   I hope that I have made enough of a point to encourage people who are trying to determine what modesty really is, to seek out Fr. Loya's Modesty in the 21st Century DVD for an alternative answer to the author.

You can purchase this book here.

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