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Decorum in Dressing & Undressing

The casual and slipshod customs of our days clash frontally with the modest and reserved Catholic practices that never become outdated because they involve Morals. This is clearly so in the way we should dress and undress each day, always remembering our dignity as children of God and that we are in the presence of the Angels.

St. John Baptiste de la Salle stresses the important of decorum in dressing and undressing in his book The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility.

St. John-Baptiste de la Salle

It was sin that created the need for us to dress and It was sin that created the need for us to dress and to cover our body with clothing. This is why, because we carry with us at all times the condition of sinners, we must never appear not only without clothing but also without being fully dressed. This is required both by decency and by the law of God.

Many people take the liberty of wearing their night clothes while they are at home, often without other clothing or sometimes just with slippers. Although it seems that as long as you do not go outside, you can do practically anything in this attire, it is too casual to be used for any length of time.

It is against decorum to put on your night clothes as soon as you have come back home, in order to be comfortable, and to let yourself be seen dressed like this. It is only elderly or infirm people who can be permitted to act in this way. It would even be a sign of lack of respect if you would receive someone, who is not your inferior, for a visit while you are attired in this way.

It is even more unbecoming for you to go without stockings in the presence of anyone or to wear only a nightshirt or a simple undergarment. ...

It is most appropriate that you acquire the habit of never speaking to anyone, except to your servants, until you are fully dressed in your ordinary clothes; this is how a prudent, disciplined person who knows how to behave would act.

It is also a matter of refinement to dress promptly and to put on first the articles of clothing that cover the body most completely, so as to keep hidden the parts that nature forbids us to show. Always do this out of respect for the majesty of God, which you must keep constantly before your eyes.

There are some women who need two or three hours, and sometimes the entire morning, to get dressed. One could say of them with justice that their body is their God and that the time they use in ornamenting it is time they rob from the One who is their only living and true God. This also robs time from the care they must take of their families and children, something they ought to regard as one of the duties required of them by their state of life.

They certainly cannot act in this way without violating God’s laws.

It is uncivilized and rude for you to undress in the presence of others. ... Nor is it appropriate for you in the presence of others to take off your shoes or to lift up your feet to warm them more easily by the fire. There are people who seek their own ease by doing these things, but such ways of acting have nothing to do with decorum. ...

Just as refinement requires that when you dress, you put on first the articles of clothing that cover most of the body, it is also a sign of decorum, when you undress, to take off the same articles last, so that you cannot be seen without being decently attired.

While undressing, place your clothes neatly on either a chair or some other place that is clean and where you can easily find them again the next morning without having to hunt for them.

The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility,
LaSallian Publications, reprinted 2007, pp 46-48

Posted January 25, 2020


Blason de Charlemagne
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