THREE extraordinary developments in women’s fashions have occurred over the past 100 years. They are so widely accepted that most people barely notice them anymore. They are:
1) The gradual acceptance of pants. Once exclusively reserved for men, pants were completely embraced by the 1960s and are so universal now that a first violinist in a major orchestra in my area sits with her legs spread-eagle during the performance. She is wearing pants and is considered free to sit in any position.
2) The rise of informality. Everyday clothes worn 100 years ago would be considered special occasion dress today. Even nuns wear T-shirts and jeans.
3) The striking increase in revealing clothing. Unisex pants lead to camisoles and other forms of public lingerie, clothes that are unambiguously feminine. College presidents and congresswomen even wear low-cut blouses.
These changes have not liberated women. Far from it. They have confined them. They have encouraged women to ape men. They have caused them to lower themselves, especially in the eyes of their children, as a pseudo-man is necessarily inferior to a real man. They have created a world that is less beautiful and less ceremonious. Sixteenth-century peasants dressed with more dignity than wealthy Western women today.
All of this is by way of introducing a remarkable document on this subject. No one has expressed the consequences of these changes better than one particular man writing 52 years ago. Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the Archbishop of Genoa, wrote a prophetic letter to local clergy in 1960 on the subject of the increasing appearance of women in “trousers.” Archbishop Siri maintained that the adoption of masculine dress by women would ultimately spell disaster:
When we see a woman in trousers, we should think not so much of her as of all mankind, of what it will be when women will have masculinized themselves for good. Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.
When a sense of the eternal feminine is lost, there is a flattening of society. He wrote:
The consequences of such violations are not a new outline of man, but disorders, hurtful instability of all kinds, the frightening dryness of human souls, the shattering increase in the number of human castaways, driven long since out of people’s sight and mind to live out their decline in boredom, sadness and rejection. Aligned on the wrecking of the eternal norms are to be found the broken families, lives cut short before their time, hearths and homes gone cold, old people cast to one side, youngsters willfully degenerate and at the end of the line souls in despair and taking their own lives.
His letter, posted at Catholicmodesty.com, is well worth reading in its entirety. These are extreme words, but all of it has come true.