A “Dress Dare” & Modest Isn’t Hottest (It’s Beautiful)

Last year, I attempted one month of wearing only dresses and skirts. I excitedly jumped on this challenge with my friends over at Defining Beauty, who proposed a “31 Day Dress Dare.” Our mission? To dress femininely during May, the traditional month of Mother Mary, in honor of her perfect and beautiful reflection of God.

According to my Catholic faith, Mary is Our Mother Most Pure. Therefore, I also wore only modest dresses, skirts, and tops. Tucking away a lot of my wardrobe was difficult at first. Finding cute leggings for cold days was annoying, too. But it was all worth it, for my view on my sexuality was changed in a revolutionary way!

The dresses and skirts that I donned would drape gracefully over my curves, and the way that they contoured my body made a striking difference in how I carried myself. I found myself walking more gently and rhythmically, with a slight sway of the hips. Dressing more modestly as well, I soon found myself feeling like I possessed something far too beautiful to reveal for a guy’s five-second stare-down: I had the wonderful gift of femininity!

The one word that encapsulated the entire fashion experiment? Grace. I learned that being a genuine woman meant being “full of grace”—just like my Mother Mary! Wearing modest dresses and skirts day in and day out simply made me feel more graceful on the outside. And I was transformed! I found myself more grace-filled on the inside: gentler and more receptive in my thoughts, words, and actions.

Yes, the confident elegance that I gained soon translated to my interior life. As the weeks progressed, I became more patient while caring for my sickly grandmother and less apt to lose my cool when upset by family or friends. I also learned to listen better to others and to cultivate more meaningful conversations.

During Mass and Adoration, I honestly believe that my more modest outfits enabled me to be a more receptive daughter of the King Most High. Before the Blessed Sacrament, I increasingly told the LORD that I was His “handmaiden.” In my new wardrobe, I felt that I better embodied the Song of Solomon 4:12: “You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed.” “Enclosing’ and “sealing” myself in modest clothes, I felt more open to God’s grace.

I discovered this liberating truth: contrary to being “hot,” which is what today’s media and fashion world try to sell, it is being full of grace that shows that I am a priceless woman that God created. And contrary to popular belief, covering myself modestly reveals more of the gift of my inherently beautiful femininity to the world!

The Dress Dare inspired me to re-word the motto “modest is hottest.” In actuality– and a thousand times better– modest is beautiful! Femininity is about beauty, not hotness. By covering myself more, I have  felt that I better reflect my inherent dignity and beauty as a woman.

Unity of Life: Avoiding Being Jekyll-and-Hyde

We twenty-somethings tend to break down our lives down into a multitude of categories. We determine our “modus operandi,” our way of operating, based upon whichever category we are in at the moment. Who we are with and where we are, as well as who we hope to come off as, determines how we think, speak, and act.

We have oh so many modes. Our school mode, our work mode, our friend mode. Our BEST friend mode (less reserved, more honest, and a whole lotta fun!). Our extended family that I see twice a year mode (a bit stifling). Our CLOSE family that I see all the time mode (where our true colors come out).

These “modes” exist because social norms naturally exist. We don’t talk to a mere stranger the same way we do with a best friend. And there’s a difference between what we want to share with our siblings and what we want to share with our uncle thrice removed.

However, when we feel like we are a different person in different modes, it starts to get dangerous for our souls.

When it comes to our character, we must be honest and ask ourselves: Are we jekyll-and-hydes? Does our character change just because we’re with certain people or in certain places? Are we different people when we are before the Blessed Sacrament than when we are at a party? Are we different people when we are hanging out with our friends than when we are with our family?

Our “mode” mentality leads us to making excuses for being immature, uncharitable, and immodest. Yet James 2:14 states: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” As disciples of Christ, our faith comes to life via our works and the way that we live. We preach the Gospel by our actions just as much as we preach it by our words!

God calls us Catholic twenty-somethings to be just one thing: genuine. And O, what a sweet sense of freedom!

We are always the same sons or daughter of God while kneeling in the pews, out at a party with friends, chowing down with co-workers, and alone in our rooms. We are the unique individuals that He made us. When we genuinely follow Christ, we will never feel fake.

Christ calls us not to merely exist. On the flip side, He calls us to be man or woman fully alive (as Saint John Chrysostom once said)! We are not called to conform to the world to be like-able to everybody. We are called to conform ourselves to Christ to be Love Himself to everybody.

Living a “unity of life” in which every category or our life is rooted in Christ, we will be able truly to glorify God and to become men and women fully alive.