Everywhere I turn, Catholics are picking up the hue and cry for better clothes. I'm not going to lie--I love fashion. Even just looking at pretty dresses online is soothing to me on days when I'm tired of reading negative and controversial news but in need of some distraction.
And you know what? I know that in some ways that's not really healthy. It's a quick fix, and it's materialistic. I think that's why this trend makes me nervous. We live in such a visual society; sometimes it seems as though people really do believe that being beautiful is the same as being a good person and being ugly is the same as being a bad person. I wish someone would explain to me, in a step by step process, how wearing a three piece suit to Mass makes you a better Catholic. I hope that no one ever explains to me again how wearing a dress makes you a better woman, because as the saying goes, that shit is crazy.
There's a lot of talk about beauty bringing us closer to God, and representing ourselves in a dignified manner because we are made in God's image, etc. Fine, no problem there. I believe in art, beauty, poetry, dignity--all those wonderful things that do bring us closer to God and which I personally have spent my life chasing in my own small way.
But beauty can also become a false god. The pagans loved beauty, too. The Pharisees were obsessed with how they were perceived. If the love of image has been given a higher place than charity and a simple faith, then it's going to harm more than help.
Clothes are just stuff. They're just things. Wearing something beautiful isn't any more special or important than eating a gourmet meal or listening to music.
Anybody who has read up on the history of fashion can see that trends in clothes follow society. They do not cause cultural changes; they reflect them. I believe that this new emphasis on beautiful clothes, while not necessarily problematic in itself, is the result of our visual and perhaps far too virtual society where your image is more important than who you are as a human being. Saying that dressing like an early 20th century aristocrat is going to bring back old-world morals is as silly as saying that the militaristic, uniform-inspired fashions of the 40s caused World War II.