In recent issues of both the New Oxford Review and The Remnant, there have been intelligently written, thoughtful, solidly orthodox and eminently charitable articles discussing the issue of ladies in pants. The author of the Remnant article promises, lest readers think he is putting all the responsibility on women to keep the shape of their anatomy out of the visual range of men, to pen a sequel and discuss the man’s side of this issue. I am anxious to read this, as his first article sometimes seems to imply that men are uncontrollable voyeurs. I ought to add that one must subscribe to the online edition of the NOR to view the entire article, and only a teaser of Mr. McCall’s article in The Remnant is available online.
I took the liberty of doing a little informal poll of about 10 women….the first 10 women I ran into whom I knew well enough to ask, “why do you wear pants?” Without exception the response was “because it’s just more practical, plus it’s warmer in the winter.” Mr. McCall makes good points, but he hasn’t managed to convince me.
He cites a notification by Cardinal Siri regarding the wearing of pants by women, and comments that His Eminence keenly observes that “the wearing of pants, proper attire for men, by women is motivated by a desire to compete with men and even a desire to be a man.” (Mr. McCall’s paraphrase of Cardinal Siri’s document).
I have no idea whether my wearing pants means I want to compete with men. Since I work in a field which includes both men and women, I guess one could say that this is true for me, but a spirit of competitiveness isn’t why I am sitting here in jeans typing away. If I am good at what I do, I will be able to earn enough money to make a living. If not, I will rapidly lose my customers. Whether or not I wear pants has so bearing on whether I am competent at my job or not. And I truly have no desire to actually be a man. (There is an opportunity for snark here but I will resist the urge and remain serious).
Mr. McCall lists three objections to the issue:
First, dressing in a womanly fashion will make us look different from the rest of the world – make us look abnormal.
Second….women cannot fulfill their responsibilities because some activities cannot be done in a skirt.
Third, women have complained that they are too cold in skirts.
He responds to each of these objections:
Is it better to ‘fit in’ to the look of the modern woman or ‘fit in’ to heaven?
A simple test of modest and feminine behavior can be summarized: if you can’t do it modestly and gracefully in a skirt, you shouldn’t do it at all.
[It] may be true (that women are cold in skirts), but is it not due…to the abolition of appropriate undergarments for women?
First, of course it is better to fit in to heaven, rather than the look of the modern woman. There are pants, and then there are pants. (just like there are styles of skirts that are inappropriate). We are to be ‘in the world, but not of the world.’
Second, I’d be a lot happier if I never had to climb a ladder to paint a wall, change a lightbulb, or decorate the top of the Christmas tree. I’d also love to have the time it takes to mow the grass and weed/cultivate my garden, so I could spend it with my kids and our dog. But if I waited around for a man to do those things that need to be done around my house that “can’t be done modestly in a skirt”, I’d be sitting here in the dark with the police knocking at my door to give me a citation for my yard being an eyesore. I’m both parents in this household, and it is often necessary for me to do ‘manly’ tasks that many, if not most, ladies can ask a man to do.
Third, I have quite a collection of leggings, tights, etc. to wear under skirts. There are any number of layers to put under a skirt in order to be warm out there for the purchasing, and many of them quite inexpensive.
As a pledged member of the Confraternity of Penitents, I am obligated by the Rule and Constitutions of the Confraternity to not dress in a manner that causes me to appear different from the average woman on the street, within the confines of our clothing guidelines, which can be summarized as follows: no prints, no stripes, only clothing of neutral colors and blue (no green, pink, red, purple, orange; only black, brown, beige, tan, gray, shades of those colors and blue are permitted), and we are to wear a visible Cross or Crucifix daily. My personal Cross is one I made myself, of Sculpey clay in the form of a Greek cross with the letters IC XC NIKA and a Byzantine cross inscribed upon it, worn on a black satin cord. To wear skirts 24/7 would definitely set me apart in dress from the majority of the ladies with whom I am in contact daily. It might give people the impression that I am a religious sister, which I am not. It also could give the impression that I am less competent and capable at my job than I actually am.
I am a professional tailor, and am called upon daily to tailor garments from private school uniforms to bridal gowns. It is necessary that I appear relatively indistinguishable from those customers who pay me to tailor their clothing for proper fit and comfort. I believe it is necessary for me to appear as a “modern woman” in order to inspire confidence in my ability to properly fit and alter many different types of clothing – this means to me that I may dress in what some may view as ‘worldly’ garments.
Does this make me a near occasion of sin? I don’t think so. If I ever became convicted that the appearance I present to the world was at a disconnect with the interior “me” that God sees and judges, I would dress in modest skirts and never be seen in public in pants.
I have left out a great deal of both articles….some of Mr. McCall’s statements are downright inflammatory, and I think I’ll wait until he writes the sequel to discuss them both again, in further detail.