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  • Mary Shivanandan

Whatever Happened to Fashion?

Updated: Mar 19, 2018


Not long ago I happened to watch a rerun of the movie, “ Funny Girl”. It tells the story of a young Jewish woman who seeks a career in Vaudeville. One night after a local performance, a handsome gambler, who has attended the show and fallen for her, goes back stage to meet her. She is mesmerized by his sophistication and glamour. He is taken with her, not least for her simplicity, which comes from the down-to-earth Jewish family that nurtured her. He promises to advance her career.


One night she has her big chance in New York. The evening show featured chorus girls with bare legs and skimpy costumes dancing in a hazy romantic aura. As the lead dancer, Funny Girl is supposed to enter dressed in a long glamorous wedding gown. Before making her entrance, we see Funny Girl in her dressing room stuffing a pillow under her wedding dress so that she appears unmistakably pregnant. When she walks on stage the whole audience bursts out laughing but the producer is furious. It was not at all what he had in mind.



Suddenly, as the saying goes, a light bulb went off in my mind. The date of Funny Girl is 1968, the same year Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae on the regulation of births. This was the sixties when the contraceptive Pill finally separated sex from procreation, enabling the sexual revolution. We see its consequences today in divorce statistics, same sex “marriage,” in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. What is often overlooked is the effect on contemporary fashion. Funny Girl by her action made explicit the connection between romantic love, sex and babies. Girls and women nowadays seem oblivious to this connection especially when they wear short shorts, tights and skimpy jackets, which expose the thighs and buttocks like the scanty dress of the chorus girls. It is now fashionable, it seems, to walk around as a Vaudeville chorus girl.


In case this may seem a bizarre intuition, a recent item in the Washington Post confirmed it. The administration of a school in the DC area has attempted to institute a dress code, stipulating that girls wear tops over their tights stretching to the length of their arms. The reason given is that it is a distraction to the boys. Some girls and their parents were up in arms at the administration’s curtailment of their freedom. “We are not a distraction” one girl posted in protest. This is to ignore the difference in sexual arousal between men and women, boys and girls. As John Paul II rightly says, men are aroused by the female body while women are attracted more by the idea of masculinity. Our society would deny this in the name of equality and freedom.


This is not to say that for sports or similar activities unencumbered dress is not an asset, but everyday dress that so obviously ignores the connection between sex, romance and babies is not helpful to either men or women in building strong families which are the foundation of a healthy society. It tends, furthermore, to make women into sexual objects, which is far from the freedom and dignity they seek and deserve.


©2018 KM Associates

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