Suitable Attire

Padre Quadrupani briefly addresses the matter of proper attire, offering the following guidelines:

“Clothing is worn for a threefold object: to observe the laws of propriety, to protect our bodies from the inclemency of the weather, and, finally, to adorn them, as Saint Paul says, with ‘modesty and sobriety.’ This third end is, as you see, not less legitimate than the other two, provided you are careful to make it accord with them by confining it within proper limits and not permitting it to be the only one to which you attach any importance, so that neither health nor propriety be sacrificed to personal appearance.”

“External ornamentation should correspond with each one’s condition in life. A just proportion in this matter, says Saint Thomas, is an offshoot of the virtues of uprightness and sincerity, for there is a sort of untruthfulness in appearing in garments that are calculated to give a wrong impression as to the position in which God has placed us in this world.”

“Be equally careful, then, to avoid over-nicety and carelessness. . . . Excessive nicety sins against moderation and Christian simplicity; negligence, against the order that should govern certain externals in human society. This order requires that each one’s material life, and accordingly his attire which is a part of it, be suitable to his rank and condition.”

Finally, he issues stern words against indecency: “No custom, however universal it may be, can ever have the power to change the nature and essence of things or render allowable that which is in itself indecent and immodest. Were it otherwise, many sins could be justified by the sanction they receive in fashionable society. Remember, therefore, that the sin of others can never in the sight of God authorize yours, and that where it is the fashion to sin it is likewise the fashion to go to hell. Hence it rests with yourself whether you prefer to be saved with the few or to be damned with the many.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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