Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life

TBM Topic 15: The Feminine Genius - The Dress

"Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life" by Julie Robison
"Dresses & the Apostolate of Beauty" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Month of the Dress" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

I'll never forget standing in line for dinner at college. First of all, I'm in line for food I pre-paid for but did not want at present, minus the cereal bar (which I could have eaten in my dorm room).

Secondly, I was standing behind a girl and her boyfriend. The girl had been on the hall I was an RA for; the boyfriend was Trad-Catholic. She said hi and introduced us. I was wearing jeans. He told me girls shouldn't wear pants. I asked him where Jesus forbade women from wearing pants; was it before or after he gave us the Golden Rule to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Our relationship, as you can guess, did not blossom.

Females hate being told what to do. That is our job, to boss the rest of the world around!

Another reason that particular male upset me is because I actually prefer dresses and skirts, but I also like that I have the opportunity to wear pants (especially in college, while trudging through feet of snow), just as I like that I have the opportunity to vote, hold a job and make my own life decisions.

Females have not only the ability to wear pants, but to look nice in pants, especially if the pair fits well; if the pair also happens comes in a fabulous color, more power to pants!

Would I look cuter wearing pants in this picture? Dubious.

These opportunities, sadly, are few and far between. As Fall approacheth, women ask the big question: where have all the good pants gone? With a decline in tailored clothes, pants now fit awkwardly in order to appease the masses. My sisters and I lament: The butt is too big. The legs are too skinny. These hips don't lie.

Hence, I love wearing dresses and skirts. There is true genius in this for-female-use-only attire, and here are my top TEN reasons why I think so:

10. Wearing a dress makes girls feel put together and confidant! No matter a girl's size, few people look dumpy in a dress. Dresses have the ability to make you feel pretty.

So many beautiful girls in beautiful dresses!
9. God made us women to be the most beautiful creatures on earth, inside and out. If we want to show our inner beauty, why not show off our outer beauty too by wearing dresses? Heels are optional; I prefer kitten heels or ballet flats myself.

8. To look (and want to look!) pretty is not vain, unless you only care about your outer appearance. Remember in Jane Eyre? When Jane's friend had her beautiful curls cut off to keep her from becoming vain? Unnecessary, according to Roman Catholic theology. Beauty is a reflection of God's goodness in the world.

7. Dresses and skirts help draw attention to the waist, not the hips, unlike pants. More proof that pants are not your friend.

6. Dresses flatter the body much better than pants ever could. Also, you are fully clothed if you are wearing a dress. If you only wore pants, that would be indecent!

5. Dresses are versatile! They can be dressed up and down, based on accessories, fabric and style. You could wear the same dress for a week and look different every day. If boys can wear the same pants every day, why can't girls wear the same dress? They can also be worn year-round and in any weather, unlike pants and shorts.

Isn't Bear gorgeous? And her dress? Divine!

4. The colors, Duke, the colors! Not to mention, the patterns, the fabrics, the styles and the occasions that all help make a dress great. Pants can have all of the above too, but the effect would not be the same. Dressing up is like becoming a work of art, and more fully shows your womanly beauty in a wholesome way.

3. Dresses require more effort to be modest. If one is wearing a dress, a lady must cross her legs or ankles. If one's dress has no sleeves or dips a bit, then a lady must wear extra clothing to cover her shoulders and/ or chest area. A lady loves sundresses, but not short dresses.

2. Dresses are not just for girly-girls. Dresses are for all girls! Dresses are a distinct style that no person can imitate. No girl wears the same dress the exact same way. As Lilly Dache said, "Glamour is what makes a man ask for your telephone number. But it also is what makes a woman ask for the name of your dressmaker."

1. Dresses are classy. Catholics are classy. Ergo, Catholic girls wear dresses!

Grace Kelly: Catholic, classy and fellow dress wearer

There are, of course, perks to wearing pants too. This is the only one I am willing to concede:

Happy Tuesday!


  1. "Also, you are fully clothed if you are wearing a dress. If you only wore pants, that would be indecent!" ---> Made me laugh out loud. Iron-clad logic throughout this post.

    #3 is a very good point and I haven't thought of it that way!

    #1 is just redundant. Duh.... :P

    “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you're a woman and loose enough to show you're a lady.” Edith Head

  2. Great post, Julie. I'm sharing it with my three teenage daughters. God bless! :)

  3. Great post! My little girls hardly wear pants. They wear their four Disney princess dresses all around the house, day after day after day!

  4. My girls and I have a deal,we all wear dresses to church.

  5. "Also, you are fully clothed if you are wearing a dress. If you only wore pants, that would be indecent!"

    This is why I wore a dress to work the other day. I didn't have enough energy to pick out a shirt to wear with my skirt!!

    Also, I agree that pants are failing at fitting lately. I can't find shorts or bermudas or capris that fit right at all, so I've been wearing skirts all summer. I love it. I think it might have to be a permanent change. Not only do I look cuter and more put together, but it is a bit breezier on a hot summer's day!

  6. Amen to #9!

    #6 is so funny! But hey, when you're right, you're right!

  7. “Females hate being told what to do. That is our job, to boss the rest of the world around!”

    I think all I have to add is... YES, YES IT IS. :o)

    In the spirit of "Pants: A Manifesto"-

    Great list. Chloe approves. Dresses.

  8. Love this post. I grew up as a girl who only wore dresses on special occasions (think semi-formals, and when forced by mom) and have grown into a woman who loves the femininity a dress gives me.

  9. “Females hate being told what to do. That is our job, to boss the rest of the world around!”

    St. Paul said men were the head of the house. That doesn't make them the boss, though. However, the men always have the last word: "Yes, dear."

    A real fun post, Julie.

  10. As to #10, speak for yourself. There's no quicker way to make me feel awkward and dumpy than to wear a dress or skirt.

  11. It's a Catholic "girl's" CHOICE to wear pants - I guess it's a Catholic boy's CHOICE to wear a dress, i.e. when he wants to be confident, idolized, classy, show off his waist, legs, decolletage etc. or even when he wants to be modest? Isn't anyone appalled that at World YOUTH Day, the priests have been granted special powers to forgive ABORTION? How old are the "CATHOLIC GIRLS" at World Youth Day?

  12. The key to looking appropriate in anything is good tailoring. It has nothing to do with pants v. dresses. An ill-fitting dress is as unflattering as ill-fitting pants.

    Cheap clothes always look cheap. Best to invest in good clothing and invest in the time and money to have your clothes tailored to fit properly rather than to throw on a sack out of laziness. Just because you feel more comfortable doesn't mean you look better. That green dress with the black camisole showing, for example, looks atrocious. It fits badly, it's too skimpy on top and too bulky on the bottom, and only exaggerates the fact the girl is too skimpy on top and too bulky on the bottom. The color is Godawful, too, and flatters no one.

    Eat healthily, exercise properly, stand up straight and wear clothes that fit well and are appropriate to the situation and you can't go wrong.

    Attitude is everything, too. If your "choice" to wear a dress is to show off how superior you are, or to engage in mental comparison games, it's going to show in your attitude, and there isn't anything less attractive than a smug, priggish, holier-than-thou attitude.

    You ain't all that, honey, and all the dresses in the world aren't going to fix what's wrong with you.

  13. I'm not really sure what you, Anon1, are saying about dresses. Are you suggesting that women should be required to wear dresses and only dresses?

    Anon2 just made me laugh... I'm not sure how you found this post, but I hope you were joking. If you weren't joking ... why did you CHOSE to post that here? I suggest you re-read the post because there was nothing holier-than-thou about it.

    Julie, I think you're all that.

  14. just PLEASE mom types out there- consider your shoes. That is all.

  15. To geeklady - I think that's the point. She is speaking for herself - she even wrote right before that that these are her reasons why she (Julie) thinks dresses are cool, not why every girl has to like dresses.

    Anon 2: These blogs are a great place to generate discussion... not an incentive to be rude. You could have made your points in a more tactful way.

    As for fixing what's wrong with her, and all of us who like dresses for that matter, you're right - a dress won't fix what's wrong with us. That's what Jesus is for!

    Julie, I like this post, and I think you look great in all of these pictures!

  16. This post seems barely controversial enough to warrant such opinionated comments! Although I do have to agree with geeklady - some dresses are very dumpy and frumpy and look like a potato sack! I do appreciate feminine fashion, particularly dresses and skirts, but I rarely wear them other than for church or fancy occasions, because mine are all too fancy. I don't have any regular daywear skirts or dresses.

  17. To all those above Tony: many thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write and an interesting topic to think more about, since I usually... don't.

    @geeklady: I am certainly speaking for myself. This is my blog and I used the first person pronoun quite often. Please see graf #6.

    @anonymous1: Not quite sure your point with girls and boys' dress attire (pun!) is, but in terms of priests forgiving abortions at WYD, I think it is wonderful and I pray it leads to emotional healing, a renewal of the Culture of Life, and more people to witness against the evil of abortion.

    @anonymous2: Thank you for trolling my post and not reading it. Please see graf 7, where I lament clothes not being properly tailored anymore. Not sure where you got the impression that I favor cheap clothing over more expensive, better made clothes, or that I value rude comments.

    This post is on dresses; nothing more, nothing less. It is one style of clothing that we Bright Maidens thought would be a fun topic. I do not pick out my clothes in order to feel superior, nor did I seek to engage in such pettiness of comparing others anywhere in my post. Please see #10, #9 and #8 where I expound that dresses are one way to make all girls even lovelier creatures.

    In terms of me being "smug, priggish, [and having a] holier-than-thou attitude," I do wish all commenters would leave personal attacks outside the combox. As Liesl said, blogs are a great way to generate discussion, and that is all this post intended to do. Not sure how I came off as smug, but if priggish translates into modest and "holier-than-thou" means I practice my Catholic faith and thus seek for it to permeate every part of my life (including my wardrobe), I cannot apologize. Thank you kindly for sharing your thoughts, and please leave a name next time so we know to whom we are speaking.

    @priests' wife - HILARIOUS. So true. Good point! I tell my mom that all the time... :)

    @Mandi - It's not, which makes the "outrage" even more amusing. I've found some nice and simple a-line skirts this summer which go nicely with solid colored shirts. I enjoy wearing them for an easy and tasteful outfit choice!

  18. Oy, anonymous people.
    I don't see the point you are trying to make. She is just saying that dresses make girls feel pretty, nothing wrong with that. She's not writing a fashion blog or trying to say what is stylish or not...
    And anonymous 2... what exactly is wrong with Julie? I think she's pretty fantastic. AND all that.
    The fact that you have to post as anonymous and can't own up to your opinions.. now that is wrong!

  19. So...practicing your Catholic faith means you get to openly say that all women who wear dresses are "classy" (hmmm...) and therefore somehow more "Catholic" than women who prefer pants?

    On what day did Catholicism boil down to pants v. dresses?

    On what day did we all turn into members of a Warren Jeffs type of cult?

    On what day did it become charitable to basically imply that women who look good in pants are somehow less Catholic, less "classy", and less modest that some cow who stuffs herself into a gaudy, tacky dress and parades her sandbag boobies around to the world, which is exactly what that green polyester thing you posted above is all about?

  20. "10. Wearing a dress makes girls feel put together and confidant! No matter a girl's size, few people look dumpy in a dress. Dresses have the ability to make you feel pretty."

    Sorry, you're wrong on this one! Just wait (if you are called to marriage) until you have kids and your body looks wonky in pretty much anything. I can't wear a dress because every dress I try on (of differing styles and lengths) makes me look like I am pregnant - and I'm not. So, yeah, women are out there that do look dumpy in dresses. Putting on a dress makes me feel incredibly self-conscious and depressed - definitely NOT pretty.

  21. And fyi, don't read 'rudeness' into my posts, please. Not meant that way, but I am just stating a fact. I just realized it could 'read' rude, so apologies for that.

    I, too, used to have a young, taut, and hot body, that I could wear beautiful things and feel confident and lovely and pretty (dresses/skirts or not!). But the simple fact is (that no one tells you, grr!) that after you have kids, your body changes and many women (including myself) no longer feel confident and lovely and pretty in dresses/skirts.

  22. @Anonymous- Le sigh. Of all the posts I've written to find controversial? Really?

    First of all, please, no more rude comments. It isn't becoming of any person.

    Secondly, I never implied women are less Catholic or less classy for wearing pants. That is a point you are making. This post is about dresses. This post is part of a bigger scene: the Bright Maidens. The three Bright Maidens (plus friends!) write about Catholicism as experienced by 20-something females and various apologetic topics. We are currently starting a new series based on the feminine genius, which Blessed JP II wrote about and spoke on. Thus, we decided to kick it off by writing a fun and frivolous post about dresses. Emphasis on the frivolous.

    I'm not boiling Catholicism down to clothing selection. We're not members of a cult who is being led by a polygamist (wow, can't believe I had to break that down). I'm not even advocating all woman MUST WEAR DRESSES OR ELSE. I made a top 10 list of reasons I think dresses are awesome. That's it. If you're trying to start blogtroversy, you're commenting on the wrong blog. This post has nothing to do with issues of faith and morals, which is what the Church teaches on; I am expounding on the semi-related topic of presenting one's self in public and what I prefer to wear because I am a female. I said in the first few grafs that I was wearing pants and defended my right and ability to do so; not sure where all these implications are coming from, beside your comments.

    @The Ranter- My mom had six kids, doesn't exercise, and doesn't have a "hot body" but she's a normal, healthy weight and still looks good wearing a dress! Women do not need to be small and thin to be attractive in a dress. This is why I said "dresses have the ABILITY to make you feel pretty" (emphasis mine). I think dresses can help hide less flattering body areas, and for a person to look dumpy, the dress would have to not fit well. I'm sure you look wonderful in a dress! But if you like pants better, by all means, wear them!

  23. Sweetie, I get that you're young and stupid, so I'll break it down for you...

    Saying that wearing dresses is more Catholic and more "classy" (you still don't get that bit, do you...?) IS implying that wearing pants is less Catholic and less "classy" (Good God...).

    We get it. You've got lousy legs and a fat butt and look like hell in pants. Fine. Believe me, we are all thankful you prefer dresses.

    Just don't snark at those who can slip into a pair of size 6 pants without splooging out in all the wrong places, 'k? As I've already stated, green is SUCH an unbecoming color...

  24. Wow, anonymous. What a nasty attitude you have. Though I don't agree with everything that has been written, your name calling and personal attacks are beyond the pale.

  25. Dear Julie,

    I am terribly sorry my first comment came off so rudely. It was not my intent, but I commented quickly before work and so didn't spend my usual time agonizing over whether my comment communicated my reaction properly. It was typed with a smile. It was a rebuttal, but it was meant to be a friendly one.

    That being said, whatever you intended, what you actually wrote is not just speaking for yourself. You are offering a thesis, that there is genius in female only clothing, and you provide what you consider the ten best supporting arguments. The thesis and supporting statements are stated as broadly applicable and not mere personal opinions. This makes them open to rebuttal.

    Flippancy aside, what specifically bothers me about these 'trousers are great and all, but here's why skirts are better' essays is that they reduce femininity to a purely external expression, and this makes it extremely difficult to understand what femininity actually is.

  26. Anonymous- why do you have to be so rude? What did Julie do to make you so angry? Also, the fact you have to be anonymous and can't own up to your opinion is just sad. You don't have to be rude to get your point across.

  27. Hey Anonymous, are you aware you're on Catholic blog? You seem to be standing on the "Catholic" side of the fence, so I wonder: why are you using such unloving terms?

  28. Haha...especially if you've had a couple kids. Love dresses...Good post!..:)

  29. Pretty courageous of the Anonymous poster to be so critical of others without providing a photo or even a name for comparison, so I'll just assume you're Megan Fox's much more attractive younger sister and move on.

    Julie, your post was delightful, and I believe it was meant to be such. Dresses *are* fun to wear, and it's a privilege of both our gender and the time that we live in, that we have the option to wear them or not to wear them. Insecurities far deeper than body image would be needed to read your post as anything but a joyful affirmation of that!

  30. I love women in dresses or skirts!

    But then I wear KILTS like a real MAN should!


  31. So it's "loving" and in keeping with Catholic teaching to make sweeping, insulting comments about women who wear pants based on one's own personal opinion?

    It's in keeping with Catholic tradition to reduce women to objects?

    This dresses v. skirts "debate" that's arisen among the more pedantic and legalistic Catholic circles of late is getting more than old.

    It denies God's creation. It denies the individuality God intended for each human being.

    If she had written that she personally prefers wearing dresses when possible, that would be fine. She claims that's what she was saying, but that's not what she wrote. The post quickly devolved into some pretty snarky nonsense about how everyone looks better in a dress and lousy in pants and how dresses = true femininity and pants don't.

    For some untried and untested, empty-headed little girl to be pontificating on what the rest of us should be wearing is a thousand times more rude than anything I wrote, but since y'all can't get past the externals, you can't see that.

  32. Anonymous, I invite you to look at my post where I discuss the idea that our "dress" is really our service. I know Julie agrees with this point and that her post here was more a reflection on why she loves dresses.

    I can't speak for her. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear, but if you thought she was "unloving" with her words (wherein she really never condemned anyone for wearing pants -- in fact, she scoffed at a man who once told her women shouldn't wear pants at the beginning of the post), that doesn't excuse you and your unrelenting rudeness.

    Your personal, hurtful insults are uncalled for.

  33. Okay Anonymous, I can see that we have reached an impasse, so I am going to make a few and final comments:

    1. I am not insulting women who wear pants. In my very first anecdote, I am wearing pants and I defend women's right to do so. I say I like wearing pants: "Females have not only the ability to wear pants, but to look nice in pants, especially if the pair fits well; if the pair also happens comes in a fabulous color, more power to pants!"

    2. This post was not supposed to start a debate. My post was supposed to be an amusing list of top ten reasons why I LIKE DRESSES. Emphasis on the first person pronoun. Before I launched into my list, I wrote: "Hence, *I* love wearing dresses and skirts. There is true genius in this for-female-use-only attire, and here are *MY* top ten reasons why *I* think so" (emphasis mine).

    3. Dresses v. Pants debate does not deny God's creation or does it deny the individuality God intended for each human being; I stated my opinion, and my reasons for liking dresses (which is the POINT of the post). Those two statements are bombastic, pedantic and simply untrue and, for that matter, not relevant to this post. I don't delve so deep theologically or imply so much.

    4. I did write that I personally prefer wearing dresses when possible, in graf 5: "Another reason that particular male upset me is because I actually prefer dresses and skirts, but I also like that I have the opportunity to wear pants (especially in college, while trudging through feet of snow), just as I like that I have the opportunity to vote, hold a job and make my own life decisions."

    5. You're right; I did write snarkily at time. I apologize if such humor upset you, but it was (and always is!) meant in good fun. My point was simply that I think dresses make beautiful girls even more beautiful. I was not discussing "true femininity" and denying pants their due credit. I do not subscribe to such mercantilism logic-- affirming one thing does not deny or take away from something else. I like pants. I also think pants can be less flattering than dresses because they usually sit at the hip, which is usually woman's widest area of her body.

    6. I wasn't pontificating. Honest to goodness! As the other commenters rightly saw, this was supposed to be a delightful and funny post. Creative Minority Report even picked this post up, saying: "Julie Robison likes dresses. A lot. But don't tell her she can't wear pants." See? Everyone else is reading this post the exact opposite of how you did; is there no wisdom to be gained from other people's interpretations?

    I am sorry you too such offense to my post; the intent was certainly not there.

    Please post your name, and please refrain from rudeness in future comments.

    Many thanks,


    Dear Geeklady,

    Thank you for your second comment! It was much appreciated. In terms of understanding true femininity, that is what this series is going to do. The dresses post was a kick-off to much bigger and deeper questions. I hope you will keep reading! If you have any ideas for post topics, please feel free to e-mail myself or either of the other two Bright Maidens. we're excited to explore more of what it means to be a woman! We are not boiling womanhood down to the external, but that is our starting place.

    One of our readers Chloe wrote a FABULOUS response to this prompt, and deals much more with the inner woman, if you are so interested: http://odoxy.tumblr.com/post/9015154503/dressing-well-while-catholic

    In Christ,

    p.s. Brenna- you are HILARIOUS. Thank you for your comment!
    p.p.s. Thanks to everyone for such interesting comments, defenses and compliments! Merci.

  34. See, "Julie", when you publicly applaud Brenna for being "HILARIOUS" for doing your dirty work for you, you tip your hand. Also, the running snark and snide commentary you and your galpals are engaging in on Twitter (which is where I found this article -- CMR's link)

    Whatever you are, you're not feminine, Catholic or interesting.

    You're a dull little pudgette who's reduced men and women to the most animalistic of functions.

    Good luck with that. Thirty years from now you're going to be a morbidly obese, bitter old hag who looks like crap in both pants AND dresses.

  35. What I think Hotter Than Megan Fox, here, is trying to say is that Julie's positive, uplifting comments about women--"God made us women to be the most beautiful creatures on earth, inside and out"--are degrading, but that obsessively criticizing other women's bodies is Christian.

    "Julie," if that IS your real name, you should think twice before saying nice things on the internet.

  36. Julie, I'm sorry you have to put up with this crap. It is emotionally exhausting to have to deal with someone of Anon's caliber who refuses to deal reasonably with what you presented. Ignore them, let them go, and pray for them. You write wonderfully, you look beautiful always, and are a special gift to us in your ministry. God bless!

  37. Wow, never knew fashion could generate so much controversy! I wonder if @palaminko and @DfendUsInBattle would get this much fight if they talked about guns?

    Julie, I think everyone here, with notable exceptions, understood this post to be tongue-in-cheek and fun. Not a social commentary or a condemnation of some Catholics over others.

    I think you're great and I love women in dresses! I think they're wonderfully feminine and genius.

  38. At the risk of giving this person the attention they so obviously crave, I will throw in my two cents. Anonymous, maybe you have been hurt before by a fundamentalist or someone who has insulted your appearance or something, but that doesn't give you the right to be hurtful to others.

    Secondly, she is NOT saying that everyone should wear dresses or they are less Catholic. If you look at the rest of her blog you'd see that she is only giving thoughts on her journey and opinions on women's fashion and its intersection with faith.

    And for someone who appears to be trying to defend the true Catholic faith or something, you are omitting this whole set of Jesus' teachings where he tells us to LOVE others and to take the plank out of our OWN eye first.

    Ours is a God who is far too loving and merciful to be in what you've said. And whatever your point is, your writing makes no sense. Maybe you should take up journaling. In any case, PLEASE, let it go.

  39. Wow, Julie. You really hit a nerve! But I'll put my hat in the ring and say that I'm proud of you, proud to know you, proud of the Bright Maidens and your mission, proud you wear dresses, and proud to be a fellow dress-lover while embracing the freedom of choice to wear pants when they flatter and fit well (and while doing things like riding horses).

    And I'll be the first to comment on that crazy bike rider...AMAZING! His skill and atheleticism is really impressive. I'd be interested to see the blooper reel, though. :) And to add to the amazingness, this short movie was beautifully made. Props for this find, Julie!