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Oddly enough, man has never felt sure of himself in the nude. This in itself has made an end of the struggling cult of nudism. Men and women will never trust themselves to the opinions of their fellows, based on their unadorned bodies. People do not dress for modesty. Modesty, like many other excuses in our moral codes, serves a better reason.

Human beings wear clothes to shield their nakedness, to keep them warm, and to adorn themselves. But a woman can hide her nakedness in fifty cents’ worth of cotton cloth. She can keep herself warm in six dollars’ worth of wool. Nevertheless she spends fifty dollars for her coat and five thousand if she can afford it. This will serve as a measure of the relative importance of these three influences in feminine attire. People dress to conceal the defects of the body, to neutralize the onset of age, to hide the effects of gluttony and sloth.

Source: Men of wealth: the story of twelve significant fortunes from the renaissance to the present day by John Thomas Flynn (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1941)

Bravery By Rsms | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Bravery By Rsms | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Image: Bravery | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Vintage Portrait of two Babies in an Old Fashioned Antique Baby Carriage Buggy by Beverly & Pack | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Vintage Portrait of two Babies in an Old Fashioned Antique Baby Carriage Buggy by Beverly & Pack | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

“Nowadays people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance.” The author of the article on Smithsonian.com means, of course, that boys wear blue, while girls wear pink. But it wasn’t always that way. Jo. B. Paoletti, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America, to be published later this year, says:

“For centuries children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. What was once a matter of practicality … became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted”.

As a matter of fact, “pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I”. The present-day color associations also weren’t accepted immediately. For instance, in 1927 Time magazine informed its readers that leading U.S. stores in Boston, New York City, Cleveland and Chicago “told parents to dress boys in pink”.

“Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers.”

Source: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? By Jeanne Maglaty
In great-grandma’s time, little kids went around un-gendered

There are always people using religion as a road to power and wealth. Some of them would never leave the clothes alone. They not only wear strange-looking ceremonial clothes, but also know how everybody should be dressed.

On January 18, 2011, The New York Times has published an article by Ellen Barry entitled “A Dress Code For Russians? Priest Chides Skimpiness”. According to the article, Russian church officials are hoping to introduce a dress code not for women and men attending church services or just visiting places of religious worship, but for all people on any occasion. The very first lines are worth to be quoted:

A top official for the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday proposed creating an “all-Russian dress code,” lashing out at women who leave the house “painted like a clown” and “confuse the street with striptease.”

The same official who is a close associate of Moscow patriarch had previously attracted public attention in Russia, saying at a round table that a woman wearing a miniskirt “can provoke not only a man from the Caucasus, but a Russian man as well” and adding “If she is actively inviting contact, and then is surprised that this contact ends with a rape, she is all the more at fault”.

The Russian orthodox church is not going to publish any official documents on the issue choosing the way of social pressure. The author of the article in The New York Times quotes the chief spokesman of the patriarch who has told the Russian news agency: “If a young woman knows that people will look at her askance and consider her an outcast, she will not dress the way so many of them do today”.

Russian human rights activists oppose the innovations like that. “We overcame Communism as the state ideology and certain forces want to replace it with Orthodox Christianity,” said the chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki group, on another occasion.

The article from The New York Times was immediately translated into Russian by the popular internet website ИноСМИ.ru. Some Russian commentators responded with shock and large doses of sarcasm. But the church closely bound to the country’s leaders is increasing its power in Russia. Before the Communist revolution all state officials were obliged to attend the church services and even receive communion, while religious teaching occupied a central place in Russian classrooms. It seems that nowadays the status quo is on its way to being restored.

Devotees by t-maker (Vadimage) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Leaving the church by t-maker (Vadimage) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Updated: The Christian Science Monitor also amused readers by the article of its Moscow correspondent Fred Weir entitled “Russian Orthodox Church calls for dress code, says miniskirts cause ‘madness'” published on January 20, 2011. The article gives a few more quotes of the same top official of the Russian orthodox church:

It is wrong to think that women should decide themselves what they can wear in public places or at work. If a woman dresses like a prostitute, her colleagues must have the right to tell her thatMoreover, if a woman dresses and acts indecently, this is a direct route to unhappiness, one-night stands, brief marriages followed by rat-like divorces, ruined lives of children, and madness.

Maybe Russian conservative quarters have in mind the perfect outfit like that 🙂

Moscow Girl of the XVII century (Andrey Ryabushkin. 1903. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Moscow Girl of the XVII century (Andrey Ryabushkin. 1903. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Clothing alters the image and likeness of God possessed by people. At least Medieval friars were quite sure about that. Susan Haskins in Mary Magdalen: myth and metaphor (Riverhead Books, New York, 1993) mentions Augustine of Hippo, a Latin church father, who fought with vanity considered as one of the forms of the sin of pride. Women who donned their finery, and wore cosmetics were very unpopular in the Middle Ages, since expensive dresses and makeup were placed on the same footing as “idols and masks”.

It seems that Tertullian, an early Christian author, was the first to touch the subject. He opposed those who presumed to alter the work of the Creator – the body – with paints and the dyeing of hair were in fact criticising their Maker, and subverting Nature, which had been created by God, the “artificer of all things.”

That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! If He was able, then plainly He was unwilling: what God willed not, of course ought not to be fashioned. Those things, then, are not the best by nature which are not from God, the Author of nature. Thus they are understood to be from the devil, from the corrupter of nature… (On the Apparel of Women. Book I)

Of course, Tertullian didn’t stand for nudity, the state in which, according to the same logic, God ordered people to be born. He recommended the garb of penitence as a style of dress that should remind the Christian woman that the sin was introduced through her ancestress, Eve. Imagine what such a world would look like. Fortunately, we live in more tolerant times, don’t we?

Woman holding sign reading "?"

Woman holding sign reading "?" Washington, D.C., 1922