Clothes don’t have to be clean anymore. People can wear clothes that are deliberately ripped, stained and full of holes without fear of rejection. Clothes don’t even have to be clothes anymore. They can be shredded rags, the dingier the better.
Such tattered garments are called “distressed” clothes (rightfully so), and they are becoming increasingly fashionable. It’s not just amateurs haphazardly ripping up faded jeans or retailers making random tears anymore. It is going mainstream.
The world of high fashion has now embraced “distressed” clothing as chic. Fashion designers are using new technology and hiring special effects technicians to get that natural moth-eaten, threadbare look that makes it seem like you’ve been wearing the garment for twenty years.
You should not have to explain why you don’t wear ripped clothes. This is something your mother should have taught you at an early age. She would sew up your tears the minute she saw them. If she found a hole in a purchase, she would make you take back such clothes to the store for a refund.
Times have sadly changed, and so have some mothers. A lot of fashion conscious moms can now be found in shredded shorts and custom-holed t-shirts.
Perhaps the first place to start is by affirming that a ripped garment is not modest clothing because it is not real clothing. This claim is guaranteed to raise a firestorm, but from a purely metaphysical perspective, it must be admitted that such garments fail to fulfill their purpose.
Most people would object that it is still clothing, but just a different kind that is more comfortable and thus makes people happier. People should do that which makes them happiest. Therefore they should wear ripped clothes so as not to worry about their appearance or condition. It is all about comfort.
Deliberately ripped garments work against the purpose of clothes. They are caricatures of what clothing should be. Far from adorning the body, the process of ripping turns that which should be strong, beautiful and orderly into something weak, ugly and frayed. Tattered attire is disordered and therefore should not be worn.
The second reason why ripped clothing should not be worn is that it is immodest.
Again such a claim raises hackles. Most people would object that as long as tattered clothes stay outside the extreme point of undress that is considered morally and socially unacceptable, you cannot say that it is immodest.
And here is the crux of the problem. People have completely lost the notion of what modesty is and how it is manifested. People lack even a catechism definition of this virtue.
People confuse modesty with chastity and thus only associate it with sensuality. Modesty does play a major role in preserving chastity, but it is much more than that. It is often mistakenly associated only with female attire, but it also applies to men.
Modesty is the virtue that safeguards the dignity of a person in association with others. It benefits both the individual and society because it governs the exterior appearance and behavior of the person and thus helps make society civil and harmonious.
Beyond dress, modesty is concerned with the manner of speech, posture, gestures, and general presentation of the person. Modesty calls upon people to behave well with others and conform to standards of decency and decorum found in the healthy customs of an ordered society.
When you present yourself properly to others, you are modest. When you control yourself in your external actions and manners in society, you are modest. When you act erratically and speak in a manner that offends and disregards others, you are immodest.
In matters of Catholic dress, this means holding to all that is proper to a soul that is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, you dress in a manner that is ordered, dignified and reasonable to who you are. Adults dress like adults; children dress like children. Authorities dress in accord with their office.
It also means you should not dress carelessly. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that you are immodest when you are unduly negligent in your appearance and fail to present yourself according to your state in life. You are also immodest when you seek to attract attention to yourself by showing a lack of concern for presenting oneself well (Summa, II-II, q. 169, a. 1).
Immoral and revealing clothing is of course immodest. However, improper, soiled and ripped unisex clothing is also immodest. It is not proper to the dignity of a person made in the image and likeness of God. When Our Lady spoke out against immodest fashions at Fatima, she was referring to this kind of immodesty as well.
— Catholic John Horvat II, Return to Order, Is it Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes?
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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