Part 2C of Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the “Latin High Fashion Union”

Among the objective elements that combine to form an immodest fashion in the first place is its designers’ evil intention. When these are set up to raise unchaste fantasies and feelings with their designs, even without going to extremes it is a technique of veiled malice. Among other things, the designers know that their daring in this matter can’t be pushed beyond certain limits, but they also know that the effect they seek is close to these limits; and that a skillful blend of artistic and serious elements with other more vile ones are more suited to surprise the imagination and the senses, while making the design still acceptable to people who desire that effect, though without compromising (at least in their opinion) their good name as honest persons. Therefore, any refinement of fashion must begin with the intentions of both the designer and its wearer: in both, there must be awakened an awareness of their responsibility for harmful consequences that may be derived from too daring of clothing, especially worn in the public streets.

More to the point, the immorality of certain fashions hangs, for the most part, on excesses in both immodesty and luxury. As for the former, which in a practical way involve their cut, it must not be evaluated by the values of a society that is decaying or already rotten; but according to the aspirations of a society that prizes the dignity and seriousness of public custom. Almost with inert resignation, it is often said that fashion expresses the customs of a people; but it would be more exact and more useful to say that it expresses the will and moral direction that a nation intends to take — that is, whether to be shipwrecked in wantonness, or to maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.

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