This weekend I gave a talk to a group of girls ranging from 13-15 years old. It went great! Thank you so much everyone who sent suggestions and tips my way via my facebook page. I ended up incorporating all the ideas into a powerpoint presentation. The visuals I think is what really helped to engage the girls’ attention, and so I uploaded my powerpoint here in case any of you find yourselves giving this talk or wanting to share this with anyone.

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Download the pdf version: pdfDressing with Dignity.

Download the powerpoint: pptDressing with Dignity.

My talk followed a short one on prayer and presence of God (which I will share on a separate post). Here are some of the thoughts I presented. Segway: Dignity. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Dressing with Dignity

Why do I say “dignity”?  As humans, we are different from animals. We have dignity. We were created in the image and likeness of God and our bodies are sacred. We are able to consume Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Our bodies are thus temples of the Holy Spirit. We have a soul. We owe respect to our bodies and those of others as well.

Dressing with dignity is an important topic because we are confronted with this decision every single day. As soon as you (teenage girls) get up, hopefully you think about Our Lord first, like we just talked about, and say hello and thus enter into His presence. But the next thought will most likely be, what am I going to wear today? It’s a good thought. We have to think about what we choose to wear and how we wear it. We need to be more conscious about this important decision because whether we realize it or not, it’s the silent communicator of who we project ourselves to be.

Don’t you agree that a person’s style can say a lot about someone? Or that even though it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, we do it. We judge others by what they are wearing especially when we don’t know them. It’s not a good thing, but it’s a natural reaction. First impressions matter. What we wear matters. It can say so much. A girl with messy hair and wrinkled clothes isn’t going to be someone I’m going to be likely to walk over and start a conversation with. What would I say? Cute hairstyle? Probably not… What about if you see a girl wearing a mini skirt and a low-cut shirt? I’d think “What a ….” (say dot dot dot haha). Is she? It’s probable she isn’t trying to attract this negative attention. She honestly might not know better. She’s just trying to follow the trends. She thinks the way to dress is to accentuate whatever body part she thinks is her best. Wrong! We hear that all the time… (ex. What Not To Wear) but showing off a “body part” simply is the worst thing you could do to attract positive attention. Who wants to be known as “the girl with the great legs, butt, etc…” Wouldn’t you rather be known as the girl who’s a great soccer player, artist, singer, or great at math by someone who perhaps hasn’t gotten to know you as well yet? You become a much more interesting person rather than body.

What is modesty then? It’s an attitude. It’s the attitude that you are a person with dignity. You respect yourself and command it in the way you present yourself. It’s a beautiful thing especially for us girls because we have the power to inspire guys. We have control of how guys react to us. We have the power to shape them into gentlemen. (for an older audience I’d say we have the power to shape men into beasts or gentlemen).Associate the word modesty with moderation. Moderation in the way you dress so that all the elements of the woman are shown cohesive and beautifully. Modesty is about more than the clothes. It’s a disposition of the heart. We have to be conscious that God created us perfectly and beautifully. We were designed to give ourselves fully as a gift- and for many of us this will be in marriage. Therefore, we have to save ourselves and keep ourselves properly wrapped up for one person rather than show ourselves to the world.

[Slide] Let’s focus, then, on something practical. How to dress. Where do we want others to focus on when they look at us, when they talk to us? [See picture] Which zone? Zone A. Our face. Our eyes. The best kinds of conversations we have are which ones? Via a text message? Online chat? E-mail? Verbal? Or in person? In person. Because our expressions communicate so much about our emotions. We want to dress, then, as a person, rather than as a collection of body parts. This way instead of turning men’s heads, we will turn men’s hearts.

[Slide] Keeping in mind the zones we just discussed, and the fact that the human eye can only focus on one area at a time, where do you think it will focus on first? Did anyone first notice her expression? Her eye color? Her head, even? Conducting ourselves with dignity isn’t just about the way we dress, but also about the way we sit, stand and overall carry ourselves.

[Slide]  Look at this first picture. Does this girl look like someone who has it all together? Not really. She looks like she put no thought on what she was going to wear. Her hair isn’t even brushed. Maybe she rolled out of bed. We should keep in mind always the occasion we are dressing for. It’s a sign of respect. Imaging you’re hosting a party and this girl walked in like this. How would you feel? Maybe like she didn’t care enough or think your party important enough to dress up. Do you think about how you dress for Mass? That’s Our Lord we’re going to see! And yet, people walk in like they’re going to the beach or a ballgame! I see people dressed up so much nicer to go out to dinner than I see them at Mass. But on the flip side sometimes it seems that the way some people conduct themselves at the Communion line they think it is a fashion show. That’s vanity. We have to have purity of intention. We dress nicely out of respect for ourselves and others, not to call attention to ourselves. What about this second picture- talk to me about it… What’s the problem? The shorts? Am I saying you shouldn’t ever wear shorts? No. These look like shorts that maybe you’d wear in the summer on a hot day. But how is she wearing them? With stilettos. Why? Because she is trying to show off her legs. This is done purposely. I doubt she chose to wear shorts because it was hot out. She even has a clutch- she’s supposedly “dressing up.” Do you see the problem? The focus will be on her tan legs and not on her pretty face.

[Slide] Talk to me about these pictures. What you like and don’t like about them… That’s a beautiful blue pea coat. But is it cold out? What is she thinking? Where’s the focus? What about the girl next to her. What body part stands out? What do you think of her style? Layers are your friends. You can have a lot of fun with different styles by mixing, matching and layering. I think she’d be much more comfortable on a chilly day, too.

[Slides: Before & Afters] Do you like the color on her? The pattern? The style? It compliments her hair color and skin. She’s beautiful and has a great smile. She looks confident. But on the first picture did you notice? What’s she going to do if she drops her clutch? How is she going to bend down? Always do the bending over and sitting down test when you try on skirts and dresses. Another tip: hemlines. Where the hem ends, that’s where the eye goes. Don’t be silly and pick the widest part of your leg!

[Slides] How do we find modest clothes.? it’s so hard! We need to invest more time, and perhaps invest on some staple pieces: camis, cardigans, scarves. Remember harmony in an outfit so it all comes together and no body part stands out. Shop with someone you trust, and be a good friend to your friends. If perhaps she hasn’t noticed her dress is see-through or that she’s prompting a peek-show when she bends down, gently tell her in private. I’d much rather hear something like that from a friend than from a guy friend. I’d be mortified!

[show rest of fashion slides and let the girls discuss what they like, don’t like, might want to try]

If there’s time incorporate a guy’s perspective. I showed them a clip from Jason Evert’s talks: I picked this one.

[last 2 slides] Think always of Our Lady. Go to her for help when you’re having a hard time finding a decent dress for the formal. She is beautiful, full of virtue and a great role model for us. She was a real lady. The Gospels don’t say much about her, but do repeat that she knew how to “ponder in her heart.”  She wasn’t trying to be the center of attention. And she was the Mother of God!

Words of wisdom I’ll leave you with:

Beauty draws the seer towards the person seen; it invites them to know and have confidence in that person even without knowing the person intimately” -Pia de Solenni