Understand, no one has asked me about pant-suits. No one except a preacher or two wondering how we should approach the subject. And perhaps a parent or two wondering whether to permit their daughters to wear them. But no one who was wearing them, or contemplating wearing them, has ever asked me about them.
It's not that I want to be asked. I just wonder if older women are being asked by younger women about them. I wonder if mothers are being asked about them. I wonder if women who begin wearing them even ask themselves about them – whether they are right or wrong, good or bad. It seems to me that most women these days simply follow blindly wherever fashion leads. But Christian women, realizing that fashion is in the hands of worldly people, need to question every innovation fashion offers.
But if anyone did ask me, I suppose my answer would vary according to the person asking. In giving different answers to different types of people, I would be in good company. Jesus practiced that.
If a lady wearing one of the short, short miniskirt fashions should ask me about pant-suits, I would probably say, "Yes, yes." If it is a choice between pantsuits and mini-skirts, the former are much to be preferred. It is my conviction, based on abundant evidence, that the short skirts are the most immodest and morally degrading fashion ever to be generally accepted in this country. I blush to think that Christian women have allowed themselves to be bamboozled into wearing a garment so clearly inspired by the devil.
If I should be asked about pant-suits by the kind of person who will abstain from those things that can be proved to be immoral and immodest within themselves, I would probable make no effort to sustain a position. I cannot charge that they are conducive to lustful thinking or immodest in that way. The other objections that I would raise would probably have little or no effect on such a person. So why waste time and effort?
But if my querist is one who is very conscientious about being the best possible Christian; one who wants to abstain from every appearance of evil; one who wants to maintain a perfectly wholesome influence regardless of her fashion image; then I have somewhat to say. Such a woman will understand the following objections:
The devil's craftiness is amazing indeed. He shifts from one position to another. Just when we get our guns aimed at dancing because of its intimate embrace, he comes up with dances that involve no physical contact, but only indecent movements. Just as we apply the Sword of the Spirit to the indecent exposure of mini fashions, he introduces cover-up fashions objectionable on other grounds. No wonder many are deceived!
Christian women (and men as well), if they would remain free of the devil's devices, must learn to hold off from new fads until they can determine whether the devil is behind them – and if he is, what he is up to. The person who just must be like the world, just must be in style, just must keep up with what is IN – that person is just the kind the devil finds easy prey.
Women received especially rough treatment from Padre Pio because of current fashions. He had always been a merciless enemy of feminine vanity. "Vanity," he said, "is the son of pride, and is even more malignant than its mother. Have you ever seen a field of ripe corn? Some ears are tall; others are bent to the ground. Try taking the tallest, the proudest ones, and you will see that they are empty; but if you take the smallest, the humblest ones, they are laden with seeds. From this you can see that vanity is empty."
Padre Pio wouldn't tolerate low-necked dresses or short, tight skirts, and he forbade his spiritual daughters to wear transparent stockings. Each year his severity increased. He stubbornly dismissed them from his confessional, even before they set foot inside, if he judged them to be improperly dressed. On some mornings he drove away one after another, until he ended up hearing very few confessions.
His brothers observed these drastic purges with a certain uneasiness and decided to fasten a sign on the church door: "By Padre Pio's explicit wish, women must enter his confessional wearing skirts at least eight inches below the knees. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them for the confessional."
The last warning was not without effect. There was a furtive exchange of skirts, blouses, and raincoats, that took place at the last moment in the half-lit church to remedy any failings.
The women made their adjustments, but perhaps not exactly enough. Padre Pio continued to send some away before giving them a chance to confess. He would glower at them and grumble, "Go and get dressed." And sometimes he added, "Clowns!" He spared no one... Persons he saw for the first time, or his long-time spiritual daughters. Often the skirts were decidedly many inches below the knees, but not sufficiently long for his moral severity.
As the years began to weigh on Padre Pio, his daily hours in the confessional were limited to four, equally divided between men and women. In addition to being dressed properly, they had to know the Italian language, even though he could somehow understand people speaking another language. But he knew Italian, Latin, and very little French, consistently refusing to hear confessions except in Italian or Latin.
Sometimes when Padre Pio refused to absolve his penitents and closed the small confessional door in their faces, the people would reproach him asking why he acted this way. "Don't you know," he asked, "what pain it costs me to shut the door on anyone? The Lord has forced me to do so. I do not call anyone, nor do I refuse anyone either. There is someone else who calls and refuses them. I am His useless tool."
Even the men had rules to follow. They were not permitted to enter the church with three-quarter length sleeves. Boys as well as men had to wear long trousers at church, if they didn't want to be shown out of church, that is. But women in short skirts were his prime targets. Padre Pio's citadel was perhaps the only place in the world where the fashions of the 1930s still ruled in the 1960s.
(Do you recall what Our Lady of Fatima said about "certain fashions?")