Modesty Standards Do NOT Change

The N.C.W.C. News Sheet
(Issued by National Catholic Welfare Council)

Release for Week of May 29, 1922

ARCHBISHOP PUTS BAN ON WEARING OF “HIKING SUITS”
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PRIESTS OF MILWAUKEE ARCHDIOCESES AUTHORIZED TO REFUSE SACRAMENT TO WEARERS.
(By N.C.W.C. News Service).

Milwaukee, May 26. — Refusal of absolution and Holy Communion to girls and women who adopt immodest fashions, including that of wearing “hiking suits” with knickerbockers is sanctioned by Most Rev. Sebastian G. Messmer, Archbishop of Milwaukee, in a pastoral letter which he has sent to all the priests of the archdiocese. The pastoral letter was read in all the 250 churches of the archdiocese last Sunday.
It is understood that complaints regarding the subject of the Archbishop’s pastoral have reach him from different sources, and that he acted only after careful investigation and consideration. The text of that part of the pastoral letter dealing with objectionable styles of dress among women and girls is in part as follows:

DUTY OF PRIESTS

“I desire to call attention of our priests to their duty of publically denouncing the indecent and immodest fashions of female dress of our day. This evil is growing worse from one year to the other, and even Catholic women and girls are led astray by the sinful example of others.

“Let the clergy teach their people that the fashions of the world are never a safe guide for Christian women and girls; that the only safe rule is the law of God and the teaching of the Church. Let the pastors publish as a rule for their parish that no woman or girl with a low cut dress reaching below the collarbone or with naked arms will be allowed to approach Holy Communion. Let priests refuse absolution to any Catholic girl going out in a so called “Hiking Suit,” a most outrageous, downright immodest and positively sinful fashion which threatens to become somewhat general. No decent Catholic girl with any sense of Christian modesty, decency, and propriety will ever go on the street in such an abominable “Hiking Suit.”

NO REASON FOR FASHIONS

“I know of nothing that will more effectively and radically blunt the very instinct of maidenly modesty and reserve and supplant it by a disgusting shamelessness as this scandalous fashion growing among young American girls. There is no reason for such a fashion. Girls can go walking or hiking taking their exercise as much as they please, and with all the comfort desirable in their own decent female attire without dressing like boys. The modern girl’s dress is short enough for any hike. Girls in so-called hiking suits must not be allowed to enter a Catholic church whether there be any service or not.

“The blame for this outrageous fashion, we know, rests principally on the parents of these hiking girls. Many of these girls are possibly not even aware of the wrong they are doing, the scandal they are giving, and the great dangers to chastity and purity to which they are exposing themselves. Priest are therefore bound to call the attention of Catholic parents to their grave responsibility of properly guiding and controlling their girls and daughters in the choice of their dresses and attire.

“Books and sermons on female modesty and female dress will easily furnish priests with appropriate texts from Holy Scriptures and the Fathers and acetic writers of the Church.” Archbishop Messner drew attention to certain Scriptural references applicable to the evil which he condemned.

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True Catholic Man’s Comments

Given that there are specific standards for modest dress, it is hardly necessary to understand just exactly what the condemned attire called a hiking suit consists of. Nevertheless, for those who are interested based on what I have been able to discover on the Internet a “hiking suit” consisted of knickers—short loose trousers bunched at the knees—with a top consisting of a sleeveless pullover vest that covered the hips and upper thighs with a very plunging neckline.

Note that I reproduced the article above from a Catholic news publication. It can be found online in scanned form if one wishes to look for it.