Catholic Register: New modesty – Catholic program fights back against fashion industry
TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – These days Emily Morrow-Fick keeps busy organizing runway lessons, wardrobe fittings and easing last-minute stage fright as she prepares 55 young girls to take center stage at a Pure Fashion show here.
MODEL ON RUNWAY AT MODEST FASHION SHOW – One of the youth models walks on the runway of the 2005 Pure Fashion Show in Atlanta, Ga., while other young women look on. Pure Fashion is a Catholic program with chapters in the United States and Canada that promotes modest dress for girls in grades 8 through 12. (Photo by Ben Vigil)
"It's not just about fashion, a lot of it is teaching girls how to present themselves without feeling like they have to act like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton," said Morrow-Fick, 18, a student at St. Mary's College and the co-chair for Pure Fashion in Calgary.
Pure Fashion is a Catholic program that promotes modest dress for girls in grades 8 through 12.
Young women attend training sessions to learn about the virtues of modesty, purity and chastity, as well as the ins and outs of hair, make-up and posture. This all leads up to a fashion show where the girls model all that they've learned on the catwalk.
"Trendy but tasteful" is the catch phrase national chairwoman Brenda Sharman uses to describe the philosophy behind Pure Fashion.
"Pure Fashion has grown into a whole person developmental program. Modesty is more than what you wear on the outside, it has to be an exterior reflection of an interior attitude," Sharman, who brings 20 years experience in modeling and acting to Pure Fashion, told The Catholic Register in a telephone interview from Atlanta, Ga.
"Their intention should be to turn as many hearts as possible, not heads."
Pure Fashion lists specific clothing guidelines girls are to abide by during the fashion show and potentially retain once it's over. Material must not be thin nor sheer, necklines should not be four fingers bellow the collar bones and skirts and dresses should be no shorter than four fingers above the top of the kneecaps are three examples.
"Girls are very hesitant to accept the idea of being modest in a society that tells them to wear short shirts, heavy eye make-up and act ditzy. They are hesitant to be more confident unless they are wearing these clothes," said Morrow-Fick.
Not all girls buy into the Pure Fashion message, but the program is meant to plant a seed for the future, added Morrow-Fick.
Sharman agrees living out the principles of Pure Fashion is not easy. "It's a countercultural message because right now all the things you read are about how to be hot and sexy."
Anne Moroney, 14, has been sold on the Pure Fashion message. She is preparing for her third fashion show at the Spruce Meadows Congress Hall May 7 in Calgary.
"I really like fashion and clothes but I also think that we should stand up for all the rest of the girls and show we can be stylish and modest and really show our dignity and show we're worth dressing nicely," said Moroney, who convinced two girlfriends to join her this year.
Moroney said it helps having peers who also practice modesty. "There's always pressure to dress immodestly, especially from girls your age and our culture is very immodest. You'll go into a store and try on something immodest because it's hard to find other clothes."
Barbara Moroney said she's noticed her daughter's confidence has increased since modeling with Pure Fashion. She welcomes the modest message coming from outside the home.
"The pressure is for them to sell their body,” said Moroney, a Catholic who home-schools Anne and her five other children. “In many ways they are still little girls so I think it's about trying to protect them without becoming the enemy, but sometimes it can be a battle. They tend to say the parents are the bad guys."
The Moroney family got involved with Pure Fashion through the Challenge Girl Club, a Catholic leadership program for girls within Regnum Christi, an international Catholic lay and religious movement. Seven years ago, a group of mothers and daughters in the United States decided to hold small informal fashion shows that promoted modest dress in church halls and basements.
It's grown to 15 chapters in the United States and one permanent location in Calgary that started three years ago. In just three years, the Calgary chapter has grown, its budget going from $2,500 to $35,000. The ultimate goal is to make Pure Fashion into a product that can be franchised, said Jodie Britton, chairwoman for Pure Fashion Calgary.
Britton's unchurched background inspired her interest in the program. "I can attest coming from teenage years without Christ that there's no fulfillment in shopping or boys," said Britton, mother of three boys.
She said she tries to help girls become real models as role models. She believes girls who learn the virtue of modesty are models for living chastely later in life. "The girls that I do know that are 18-19 are able to be more well-balanced and peaceful and happy because they've remained pure of body and heart so the temptations just aren't there in a relationship."
Pure Fashion is slowly expanding in Canada. Vancouver and Edmonton have hosted informal Pure Fashion shows and in just under two months a group of women in Halifax slapped together a Pure Fashion show held April 2. After four preparatory sessions, ...
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