Part 1C of Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the Latin High Fashion Union

Although an economic factor is this activity’s driving force, the soul is always the “fashion designer” — that is, the one who, with an intelligent choice of fabrics, of colors, of cut and line, and of accessories, gives life to a new expressive fashion design that is appreciated by the general public. It goes without saying how difficult this art is — the fruit of genius and experience, and even more, of a feeling for the taste of the moment. A design which is certain of fortunate success acquires the importance of an invention; it is surrounded by secrecy in preparation for the “launch;” and then when put on sale, it is sold for high prices while the information media give it wide circulation, speaking of it as if it were an event of national interest. The influence of fashion designers is so decisive that even the textile industry is guided by them to plan its own production, both for quality and quantity. Their social influence is equally great, in their part in interpreting public custom. So if fashion has always been the exterior expression of a people’s customs, today it is even more so, rather than when its phenomenon evolved as the fruit of reflection and care.

But the formation of taste and preferences in the people, and the steering of Society itself toward serious or decadent customs does not depend only on fashion designers, but also on all of the complex organization of fashion, and especially on manufacturers and critics in that more refined sectors which has clients from the highest social classes, taking the name of Haute Couture, as if to designate through it the source of the currents which people then follow almost blindly, as if through a magic spell.

At this hour, in the face of so many elevated values being called into question by fashion and sometimes jeopardized — so many that we have enumerated them here with quick hints — there providentially appears a work of people who are prepared both as Christians and in a technical way, who propose thus to contribute to freeing fashion from trends that cannot be commended; of people who look above all to the art of knowing how to dress, whose purpose is indeed (however partially) to accent the beauty of the human body, that masterpiece of divine Creation, in a way that would not be hidden in shadows, but exalted — as it was expressed by the Prince of the Apostles, by”the incorruptible ornament of a tranquil and modest spirit, which is so precious in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:4, Italian translation)

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