Pope Pius XII’s Speech to the “Unione Latina Alta Moda” (Nov. 8, 1957): Part 1A

Okay, this is from the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Volume 49 (1957), pp. 1011-1020.

It’s quite long, and it’s in Italian. It was never translated officially into Latin or any other languages, as far as I can tell. And I don’t know anything about the “Latin High Fashion Union.” Allocutions are not high on the magisterial totem pole, but it is something from a pope. So let’s take a look at it, especially since random quotes from it tend to appear in modesty discussions.

There seems to be an English translation that comes up on Google Translate, but it is obviously non-literal from the get-go. (If you follow the link and see for yourself, you will see what I mean.) So this is going to be my unofficial translation, but leaning on whoever did the dynamic translation.

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Read out to those who were present for the International Convention held in Rome by the Latin High Fashion Union:

With a full heart, I am giving you my paternal welcome, beloved sons and daughters — the promoters and associates of the Latin High Fashion Union who have desired to come into Our presence, to deliver a testimony of your filial devotion; and at the same time, to implore heavenly favors for your Union, placing it from its birth under the auspices of Him to Whose glory every human activity must be directed — even those which are apparently profane [ie, secular], according to the precept of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “Whether you eat, whether you drink, or whether you do any other thing, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:16) With Christian views and intentions, you propose to tackle a problem as delicate as it is complex, in which at all times, unavoidable moral reflections have been the object of attention and anxiety in those people who have a duty in family, in society, and in the Church, and who must act to preserve souls from the snares of corruption, and the whole community from a decadence of morals — the problem, that is, of fashion, especially female fashion.

It is just that Our gratitude, and that of the Church, should respond in the same way to your generous intentions; and with Our fervent wish that your Union, born and inspired by a healthy religious and civil conscience, may attain, through the enlightened self-discipline of fashion designers themselves, the twofold purpose declared in your statutes: to bring good morals to this important sector of public life, and of contributing to elevate fashion, indeed, to an instrument and expression of civility.

Eager to encourage such a laudable enterprise, We willingly agree to your desire that I lay open to you some thoughts — in particular, on the correct approach to the problem, and also indicating some practical suggestions about its moral aspects, designed to assure that the Union has a well-accepted authority in a field so often contested.

I. Some General Aspects of Fashion

Following the counsel of ancient wisdom that points to the final purpose of things, so that the supreme criterion of every theoretical evaluation is the security of moral norms, it will be useful to recall what purposes Man has given for resorting to clothing. Without a doubt, he obeys the three well-known exigencies of Hygiene, Modesty, and Elegance. These are the three needs so deeply rooted in [human] nature that they cannot be disregarded or opposed without provoking repulsion and prejudice. They keep their character of a “need” today, even as yesterday; as they are found in almost every human lineage, so they are recognized in every form in the vast gamut in which clothing’s necessity has been made historically and ethnologically concrete. It is important to notice the tight and coordinated interdependence among the three exigencies, despite them flowing from different wellsprings: one from the physical side, the other from the spiritual, and the third from the psycho-artistic complex.

The exigency of Hygiene deals mostly with the climate with its variations, and with other external agents as causes of hardship or infirmity. From the aforementioned interdependence, it follows that a hygienic reason — or better, a hygienic pretext — is not meant to justify a deplorable license, particularly in public — and outside of exceptional cases of proven necessity — and even then, all the same, any well-raised soul will not be able to escape the distress of a spontaneous anxiety, externally expressed by a natural blush. In a similar way, some manner of dress that is harmful to health, of which many examples can be cited in the history of fashion, cannot be legitimized by an aesthetic pretext. Even so, the common norms of Modesty must yield to the requirements of medical care — which, although it seems to break the norms, respects them by acting with due moral caution.

More later.

Here’s an old unofficial translation that was dug up by eCatholic2000! Ha, I’m not the only one digging! But I will probably keep going, all the same.

I’ve changed my translation of “decoro” to “Elegance.” It’s permissible in Italian, and it seems more fashion-conscious than “decorum” or “dignity” or “decoration.”

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