Pope Pius XII – Some thoughts on fashion

See original french article.

Reference Pius XII Congress speech of the Latin Union couture , November 8, 1957.

Responding to the desire, the Pontiff received in special audience the participants in the first international high fashion Latin Union Congress and gave them specific instructions in a long speech in Italian, which this is the translation.

It is of great heart, that we wish you a fatherly welcome, dear son and daughters, promoters and members of the “Latin Union of high fashion.” You wanted to come to our presence for us to witness to your filial devotion and, at the same time to implore the heavenly favors of your Union, placing it from birth, under the auspices of the One, the glory that should tender all human activity, even those apparently profane, according to the precept of the apostle of the Gentiles: “whether you eat, whatever you drink is something else you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10 , 31). You propose to deal with Christian views and intentions an issue as delicate as complex, including the inescapable moral implications were always an object of attention and anxiety among those to whom it belongs by function in the family in society and in the Church, to work to preserve the souls of the pitfalls of corruption and the whole community of the decay of morals: that is to say the problem of fashion, especially women. It’s just that your generous designs meet our gratitude and that of the Church; and our hope that your devout Union, born and inspired a healthy civil and religious conscience obtained through self-discipline enlightened craftsmen same fashion, the dual purpose stated in your statutes: moralize this important sector of public life and contribute to raising fashion to the rank of instrument and expression of true civilization. Desiring to encourage a laudable enterprise, We access to willingly We desire that was expressed to expose you some thoughts, especially on the real way of posing the problem and its moral, showing you the other some suggestions practices that ensure the Union a welcome authority in an often discussed whether field.

I. GENERAL ASPECTS OF FASHION On the advice of ancient wisdom that says the purpose of the things the supreme criterion of every theoretical judgment and safety of moral norms, it will be helpful to remember the goals that man is still fixed by using the garment. Undoubtedly, it obeys the three well-known requirements of hygiene, decency and propriety. These are three necessities so deeply rooted in nature, they can not be ignored or thwarted without causing revulsion and prejudice. They retain their character of necessity as now; they are found in almost all races; they are found in all forms of the wide range in which natural necessity clothing materialized historically and ethnographically. It is important to note the close interdependence and solidarity between the three requirements, although they arise from various sources: one from the physical side, the other on the spiritual side, the third of the psychological and artistic.

Three requirements suggest the need of the garment:

– hygiene … The hygienic requirements of the garment mainly climate, its variations and other external agents, as possible causes inconvenience or illness. It follows the interdependence referred to above that the reason, or better, the toilet is not valid pretext to justify a deplorable license, particularly in public and outside exceptional cases of real need; in these cases, moreover, a well-born mind will not evade the discomfort of a spontaneous disorder expressed externally by a natural blush. Similarly, a way of dressing harmful to health – including more than one example cited by the fashion history – can not be legitimized under pretext of aesthetics; as, on the other hand, the common rules of decency must yield to the demands of a medical cure, which, if it appears to violate, violating the contrary when adopting the necessary legal precautions.

– modesty … Equally obvious, as the origin and purpose of the garment, is the natural requirement of modesty, understood either in its broadest sense, which also includes the fair consideration for the sensitivities of others towards disgusting objects from view; is mainly for protection of moral honesty and shield against the disordered sensuality. The singular opinion that attributes the relativity of particular education sense of modesty; who even considers it a conceptual distortion of reality innocent, like a fake product of civilization and even as a stimulus to dishonesty and a source of hypocrisy, this view is not supported by any serious reason; it is, instead, an explicit condemnation in the repugnance that occurs in those who occasionally dared to adopt it as a system of life, confirming the correctness of common sense, as manifested in universal use. Modesty, given its strictly moral significance, whatever its origin, is based on the innate tendency and more or less conscious of everyone to defend against the general greed of others a good physical staff to book, with a prudent choice of circumstances, the wise purposes of the Creator, placed by him under the protection of chastity and chastity. This second virtue, modesty, the synonym “modesty” (from modus , measure, limit) perhaps expresses better the function to govern and dominate the passions, especially sensual, is the natural bulwark of chastity, its effective wall because it moderates acts closely connected with the very object of chastity. As his outpost, chastity heard his warning to man as soon as he acquires the age of reason, even before he learns the concept of chastity and its purpose, and she accompanied him throughout the life, requiring specific actions, honest with themselves, because divinely arranged, are protected by the discreet veil of shadow and the reserve of silence, as to reconcile respect for the dignity of their purposes high. It is therefore right that modesty, as depository of precious goods, claims for itself a leading authority on any trend or any other whim and governs the determination of ways to dress.

– the dignity of the person … And here is the third purpose clothing, including fashion shoots more directly originated; she responds to innate requirement felt particularly in women, give relief to the beauty and dignity of the person, with the same resources that cater to meet the other two. To avoid restricting the scope of this third requirement the only physical beauty and, even more, to avoid the phenomenon of fashion in the ardent desire of seduction as its first and only cause, the term dignity is better than that of ’embellishment. The concern for the dignity of his person obviously comes from nature and is therefore legitimate. By disregarding the use of clothing to hide physical imperfections, that the youth asked is what relief of glory, singing the joyful spring theme of life and facilitate, in harmony with the precepts of modesty, psychological premises necessary for the formation of new families; while the mature intends to obtain the appropriate attire a dignified appearance, serious and serene joy. In all cases where we seek to accentuate the moral beauty of the person, the cut of the garment is likely to overshadow almost physical beauty in the stark shadows where she hides, to divert her attention direction and focus instead on the thinking mind.

The clothing, the sentiments and manners. The suit, considered in this broader aspect, has its own multiform and efficient language, sometimes spontaneous, and therefore faithful interpreter of feelings and morals, sometimes conventional and artificial and therefore disingenuous. Anyway, it is given to clothing to express the joy and grief, authority and power, pride and simplicity, wealth and poverty, the sacred and the profane. The practical nature of forms of expression depends on the traditions and culture of a particular people, while their variation is even slower than the institutions, characters and feelings interpreted by these modes are more stable.

Reasons of the unstable mode. This is to give a relief to physical beauty that applies specifically fashion, ancient art, of uncertain origins, complicated by psychological and social factors that combine to, and which has now reached an indisputable importance in the life public or as aesthetic expression of manners, either as public desire and convergence notable economic interests. It follows from close observation of the phenomenon that fashion is not just a quirk of forms, but a meeting point of various psychological and moral factors, such as the taste for beauty and thirst for novelty, affirmation personality, refusal of monotony, no less than luxury, ambition, vanity. Fashion is elegance, certainly, but conditioned by a continuous change, so that its very instability makes it the most obvious mark. The reason for its ever-changing, slower in the fundamental lines, very fast however in high variations in seasonal become far seems to be sought in the concern to break the past, facilitated by the frantic nature of the contemporary era which has tremendous power to burn in no time all that is to the satisfaction of the imagination and senses. It is understandable that the new generations, strained to their own future – they dream different and better than their parents – feel the need to break away from these forms not only clothing, but of objects and ornaments, reminiscent more obviously a way of life that we want to exceed. But the extreme instability of this mode is mainly determined by the will of its artisans and guides, which to them means unknown in the past, such as huge and varied textile production, inventive fertility “designers”, the ease of the media and “launch” in the press, in film, in television and in shows and “shows”. The speed of change is further encouraged by a sort of mutual emulation which also is not new – between the “elites”, eager to affirm their personality by original forms of dress, and the public, appropriates immediately, with more or less successful imitations. One should not overlook the other subtle and decadent reason: the study of “designers” that to ensure the success of their “creations”, counting on the factor of seduction aware of the effect that cause surprise and continually renewed whim.

The economic factor. Another feature of today’s fashion is that, while remaining primarily an aesthetic fact, it has acquired the other hand the property of an economic element of great proportions. In some old high fashion couture houses, which in this or that city, dictated unchallenged laws of elegance in the world of European culture have replaced many organizations by powerful financial means, which, while satisfying the garment needs, form the taste of the people, stimulating desires in order to build ever larger markets. The causes of this change must be sought, first, in what is called the “democratization” of fashion, whereby a number ever wider individuals yield to the compelling attraction of elegance and, secondly, in technical progress that enables the mass production models, expensive otherwise, but now made easy acquisition in the market of so-called “confections”. Thus was created the world of fashion that includes artists and artisans, industrialists and merchants, publishers and critics, and in addition, a whole category of humble workers, who draw the fashion their livelihoods.

Social influence of the “designer” [Today: “fashion designer”]. Although the economic factor is the driving force of this business, the soul is always the “designer”, that is to say, one who by a great choice of fabrics, colors, the cut, the line and accessories ornaments, gives birth to a new expressive model that appeals to the general public. It is not necessary to say how difficult this art, the result of ingenuity and skill and, much more, of sensitivity to the taste of the moment. A model, which we are sure to see success, acquires the importance of an invention; it surrounds the secret waiting for the “launch”; thereafter, once sold, it gets high prices, while the media give it wide distribution, by talking as if it was an event of national interest. The influence of the “designers” is so decisive that the textile industry is itself guided by them in the organization of its own production, both for quality and for quantity. Great as is their social influence by their role to interpret public morals; because if fashion has always been the expression of the uses of a people, it is today even more than when the phenomenon was taking place as the fruit of reflection and study. But the formation of taste and preferences of the people and the orientation of the company towards the serious or decadent depend not only on the designers, but all the complex organization of fashion, especially workshops Sewing and criticism, in this more refined sector that has as customers the highest social classes, taking the “high fashion” as to describe the origin of the common people then follow almost blindly and as an obligation Magic. However, in the presence of values so many and so high that we have listed here quick allusions, which are challenged by fashion and sometimes endangered, the work appears providential people prepared technically and Christian, who intend to help overcome the fashion inadvisable trends; people who see it above all the art of knowing dressing, whose aim is, though partially, to put a moderate relief the beauty of the human body, a masterpiece of God’s creation, so, however, that is found not offended, but on the contrary exalted – as expressed the Prince of the apostles – “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” ( 1 Peter 3.4).

II. CONSIDERATIONS MORAL PROBLEM OF FASHION AND ITS SOLUTIONS Positive attitude of the Church against the moral issue of fashion. And it is precisely to reconcile, in a harmonious balance, the exterior ornament of the person with the interior decoration of a “gentle and quiet spirit”, that is the problem of fashion. But does it really exist – some ask – a moral problem about a fact also outside quota and relative that is fashion? And this allowed, in what terms the problem should it be asked, and what principles should it be solved? This is not the place for long deplored the insistence of more contemporary in the attempt to evade the moral domain outdoor activities of man, as if they belonged to another universe, as if the man was not itself the subject, the term and, therefore, the officer responsible to the supreme of all things. It is true that fashion and art, science, politics and similar activities, say secular, have their own rules to achieve immediate purposes for which they are intended; However, their subject is invariably the man, who can not avoid to tender these activities to the ultimate and supreme end, to which it is itself essentially and totally ordered. The moral problem of fashion is therefore not only generically as human activity, but more specifically as acting in a field in which are involved more or less directly obvious moral values; and, even more, because the goals, honest in themselves, fashion are more exposed to be obsessed by the perverse inclinations of human nature forfeited as a result of original sin, and changed in occasion of sin and scandal . This tendency of the corrupt nature to abuse fashion led ecclesiastical tradition to treat more than once warily and with harsh judgments, expressed badges preachers with vigorous firmness, and by zealous missionaries or with “setting fire of vanities”, which in accordance with custom and austerity of those times were estimated for effective eloquence to the people. Such manifestations of severity, which demonstrated deep maternal solicitude of the Church toward the good of souls and the moral values of civilization, however, not possible to deduce that Christianity almost requires absolutely renounce worship or care the individual and his external dignity. Anyone would conclude in this direction would demonstrate that he has forgotten what wrote the apostle of the Gentiles: “That women have a decent dress, trimmed with reserve and modesty” (1Timotée 2.9).

But fashion does not provide an occasion of sin. The Church therefore does not blame and do not condemn fashion, when it is intended to fair dignity and the right body adornment; However, it never fails to put the faithful on guard against its easy wanderings. This positive attitude of the Church derives from much higher grounds than purely aesthetic and hedonistic adopted by a return to paganism. She knows and teaches that the human body, a masterpiece of God in the visible world, which is at the service of the soul, was raised by the divine Redeemer to the temple of dignity and of the Holy Spirit and instrument must be respected as such. Its beauty should therefore not be exalted as an end in itself, let alone to degrade this dignity gained. On the concrete ground, it is indisputable that besides an honest way we find another impudent, disorder cause in reasonable minds, if not even incitement to evil. It is always difficult to indicate by universal rules the boundaries between honesty and indecency because the moral evaluation of a set depends on many factors; However, what is called the relativity of fashion with respect to time, place, people, education is not a reason to give up ” a priori ” to a moral judgment about a particular mode, when it exceeds the limits of normal modesty. It perceives immediately, almost without even being asked, where are the impudence and seduction, idolatry of matter and the luxury or just frivolity; and if the artisans of the immodest fashion are skilled in a sort of contraband perversion, by mixing it with a set of aesthetic elements, honest to themselves, human sensuality is unfortunately more clever to discover and ready to suffer the attraction. Very high sensitivity in the perception of the threat of evil, here as elsewhere, does not constitute a title of blame for him who is filled, as if it was only the effect of an inner depravity; rather it is a sign of purity of mind and alertness against passions. But so vast and moving may be the moral relativity of fashion, there is always an absolute save after listening to the warning of conscience who see the danger: fashion should never provide an opportunity close to sin.

What characterizes an immodest or immoral fashion. Among the objective elements that contribute to form a shameless fashion, there is first the bad intention of its artisans. When they propose to create their models, images and sensations devoid of chastity, they show, even without going to the extreme, a latent malignancy. They know, among others, that boldness in this matter can not be pushed beyond certain limits; but they also know that the effect sought is not far from them, and a clever blend of artistic and serious elements with other lower order are more likely to catch the imagination and meaning, as they make it acceptable model for people who want the same effect without compromising – at least, they think – their reputation for honest people. Any purification fashion must therefore begin with the intentions both in the one that makes the garment at the wearer; in one as in the other must be awakened awareness of their responsibilities towards fatal consequences that can derive from a too bold clothing, especially when worn on the street. Specifically, the immorality of certain modes depends mostly excessive immodesty as well as luxury. As for the first, which practically involve cutting, they should not be assessed according to the judgment of a society in decline or already corrupt; but according to the aspirations of a society that values the dignity and seriousness of public morals. We often used to say, and with a kind of inert resignation that fashion expresses the manners of a people; but it would be more accurate and more useful to say that it expresses the will and moral guidance intends to take a nation, namely shipwreck in the disruption or keep up that have high religion and civilization. The excesses of fashion are not less harmful, although in a different field, when assigning him the role of satisfying the thirst for luxury. Low deserves luxury, as a source of labor, is almost always offset by the serious disorders that derive from for the private and public life. Leaving aside the waste of resources that excessive luxury demands of its worshipers, intended mostly to be eaten by him, he always has the character of an insult to the honesty of one who lives his work, while that it reveals a spirit of cynicism towards poverty or denouncing too easy gains, either by sowing doubts about the conduct of life that which surrounds. Where conscience fails to moderate the use of riches, even honestly earned, terrible barriers stand between classes or is it all of society will drift, exhausted by the race to Utopia of material ease.

Principles for the solution of the moral problem of fashion. Having referred to the evils that dysregulation of fashion can cause to individuals and society does not mean the will to compress the expansive force or slow the creative inspiration of its authors nor of reduce the fixity of form, the monotony or a dark severity; but show him the right way, so that it reaches the goal of being a faithful interpreter of civil and Christian tradition. To achieve this, certain principles will serve as benchmarks for the solution of the moral problem of fashion; it is easy to deduce more concrete rules.

1. – Be aware of the real influence of fashion. The first is not to give too much importance to the influence of the same mode as in the good in evil. The language of clothing, as we have already indicated, is all the more effective it is more common and understood by anyone. The company speaks, as it were, by the clothing she wears; by clothing, she reveals her secret aspirations and she uses him, at least in part, to build or destroy his future. But the Christian, he is author or customer, keep neglecting the dangers and spiritual ruins sown by immodest fashions, especially in public, because of the consistency that must exist between the professed doctrine and the same external behavior . He will remember the high purity that the Redeemer demands of his disciples, even in looks and in thoughts; and it will also recall the severity manifested by God against the scandal mongers. In this regard, one may recall the vigorous page of the prophet Isaiah, which is prophesied opprobrium reserved for the holy city of Zion to immorality of his daughters (Isaiah 3.16 to 24) and the other where the sublime poet Italian expressed by the burning words, his indignation against indecency that spread to his city (see Dante, Purgatory , 23, 94-108.).

2. – Do not blindly follow fashion, but strongly react when consciousness asks. The second principle is that fashion should be disciplined and not abandoned to the whim or slavishly followed. This applies to the Fashion – designers and critics – that consciousness request not to submit blindly to the depraved taste that can express society, or rather a part of it, which is not always the most worthy consideration for his wisdom. But it also has value for individuals, whose dignity demands that they are freed, for a free and enlightened conscience, imposition of tastes determined especially questionable in the moral domain. Disciplining fashion also means to react firmly against the currents opposed to the best traditions. Control over does not invalidate mode, but rather corroborates the saying “fashion is not born without and against society”, provided ascribed to it, as it should, conscience and autonomy its own direction.

3. – If guided by the sense of moderation. The third principle, even more concrete, is respect for the “measure” that is to say of moderation throughout the field of fashion. If excesses are the main causes of deformation, moderation will retain its value. It will be foremost on the minds, setting the yearning for luxury, ambition, capricious at all costs. Fashion artisans will be guided by the sense of moderation, especially the “designers” drawing the line or cut and choosing a dress ornaments, convinced that sobriety is the best quality of art . Without in any return to forms outdated by time – which, however, come back more than once as a novelty in fashion – but only to confirm the permanent value of sobriety, we would like to invite artists today to contemplate, in the masterpieces of classical art, some female figures of unquestionable aesthetic value, where the garment, inspired by the Christian modesty, is a worthy ornament of the person, with the beauty of which melts as a unique triumph of admirable dignity.

III. SPECIAL SUGGESTIONS TO SPONSORS AND MEMBERS OF THE UNION And now a few specific suggestions for you, dear son and daughters, as promoters and members of the “haute couture Latin Union.” It seems to us that the very term “Latin”, whereby you are held to designate your association, expresses not only a geographical sphere, but mainly the ideal orientation of your action. Indeed, the term “Latin”, so rich in high meanings, seems to express, among others, acute sensitivity and respect for the values of civilization and, at the same time, the sense of the “measure” of balance and realism, all necessary qualities to members of your Union. We noted with satisfaction that the characters have inspired the goals of your articles, you courteously subject to our knowledge, and are the result of a complete picture of the complex problem of fashion, but especially your firm conviction of its moral responsibilities. Your program is as wide as the problem itself, in all sectors decisive fashion: the female environment, directly, with the intention of guiding the formation of taste and choice of clothing; houses “creative fashion” and the textile industry so that in mutual agreement, they adapt their production to healthy principles professed by the Union. And as your Union consists of organizations, not just spectators, but act and would say we almost are pioneers in the field of fashion, the program also deals with, appropriately, the economic aspect, now made more difficult by the changes planned production and unification of European markets.

Form a healthy taste among the public. One of the prerequisites for achieving the goals of your Union is the formation of a healthy taste among the public. arduous task, indeed, sometimes intentionally resisted, it requires you a lot of intelligence, tact and patience. Face it, after all, with boldness, with the assurance of finding good allies first in the great Christian family, your country still has many. Clearly, for this purpose, you must apply mainly to conquer your cause those who, through the press and other media, direct public opinion. In fashion, more than any other activity, the people want to be guided. Not that he is uncritical in fact aesthetic and honesty, but sometimes too docile and sometimes lazy to use this option, it hosts the outset what is offered to him, even going account later mediocrity or the impropriety of some models. This requires that your action is timely. Moreover, among those who guide now with the most efficient public taste, a prominent place is occupied by famous people, especially those from the world of theater and cinema. As their responsibility is severe, your share will be fruitful if you manage to win at least some of the good cause.

Reacting against modern mind says, indifferent to the moral aspect of fashion . A feature your Union seems to be the serious study of the aesthetic and moral issues of fashion in periodic meetings like this congress, tends more and more international, convinced as you are that the method of future will have a unitary character in each continent. Apply you to bring in these meetings the Christian contribution of your intelligence and your experience with a convincing wisdom such that nobody can suspect at home or partial prejudices and weak compromise. The solid line with your principles will be tested by modern mind says, which supports brake point and the same indifference of many with regard to the moral side of fashion. The most insidious fallacies, which are usually repeated to justify fornication, appear to be the same everywhere. One of these is based on the old saying ab assuetis non fit passio , to present as outdated healthy rebellion against the honest people too bold patterns. Is it necessary to show how the old saying is moved to such a question. We have already alluded, talking absolute limits to save the relativism of fashion, the lack of foundation of another equally false opinion that modesty does not give longer to the contemporary era, now freed from unnecessary and harmful scruples. Certainly there are different degrees of public morality according to the times, characters and civilization conditions of each people; but this fact does not invalidate the obligation to strive for the ideal of perfection, nor is reason enough to abandon the moral heights reached, manifested precisely in the greater sensitivity that have consciences against evil and its pitfalls. Whether your Union is committed passionately in this struggle, which aims to ensure public morals of your homeland an ever higher level of morality, worthy of its Christian traditions. It’s no coincidence that we call “struggle” your work to moralize mode, as is a struggle as any other business that wants to restore the spirit dominance over matter. Considered each in particular, they are distinct and significant episodes! the harsh and perpetual struggle that must support this earth anyone who is called to freedom by the Spirit of God; a fight which the apostle of the Gentiles describes with accuracy inspired forehead and opposing forces: “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and those of the spirit against the flesh. They are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you have solved “(Galatians 5:17). then listing the works of the flesh, in a sort of sad inventory of the inheritance of original sin, it also mentions the impurity, which he opposes, as a fruit of the Spirit, modesty. Commit yourself generously and with confidence, never let you stop by shyness, which sent word to few but heroic troops of the great Judas Maccabaeus “How can we so few fight against a multitude so great? “(1 Macchabée 3.17). The response of this great soldier of God and the homeland encourage you: “Win a battle does not depend on the number of soldiers; because it is the sky that comes strength “( ibid., 19). It is with this certainty based on the sky as we say goodbye to you, my son and daughters; We raise our supplication and prayers to the Almighty, that he deigns to provide assistance to your Union and its thanks to each of you, to your families and, in particular, to the humble workers of fashion. In pledge of heavenly favors, We give you from my heart Our paternal Apostolic Blessing.

Reference Pius XII Congress speech of the Latin Union couture , November 8, 1957.

URL sources : http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/es/cp3.htm#nkhttp://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/es/cp3.htm#nmhttp://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/es/cp4.htm#nohttp://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/es/cp4.htm#nr

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