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Sometimes there is a little voice inside of a young woman’s heart that something might be just a little bit off with what the culture tells us is “cool” and beautiful. It might be a slight sense of feeling uncomfortable at a party with how a friend is acting, or how you’re acting. It might be a bit of awkwardness at what you’re wearing, or someone else is wearing. The little voice starts asking questions:

Are people going to accept me or think I’m cool enough if I say this, or wear this? Does my hair and make-up look okay?  Do I fit in? Am I trying too hard?  Am I too tall, fat, short, skinny, pail, dark, curly-headed?

We’re searching for standards and role models to act as guides for how we should act and what we should wear or say or do. So often, the standards and role models offered to us are found on MTV, in People Magazine, or E! online; examples of skimpy clothing, size zero girls, perfect hair and make-up, laughing and chatting away. They seem so happy!  They seem so… perfect. But then, the little voice kicks in. We start to wonder… can I measure up to that?  Sometimes we have self-doubts and we wonder whether we’re acceptable and lovable just exactly as we are, but we put on a happy face and wear a mask so that people won’t know that we have these questions inside of us.  We think that we’re the only one who is possibly going through this, right?

If this hits close to home or speaks to your heart because sometimes you wonder whether you’re the only one who feels just a little uncomfortable with the fashions, just a little awkward acting a certain way, or questioning whether there’s just something off with yourself, please know that you are not alone!  More and more, young women are realizing that the standard the culture offers us – the standards of beauty, the trendy fashions, the behaviors we are supposed to adopt to fit in and be “cool”, might actually be a one-sided perspective of what it means to be a beautiful young woman! We need to begin to see ourselves holistically, as a complete person. There are so many facets and qualities that makes up each one of us. We each have a unique story, background, hopes, fears, dreams, talents, and skills. To try to fit each girl into a box is to miss the complete picture of who she is. Beauty extends beyond that.

These girls in Sydney, Australia woke up one day and had a conversation with one another about fashion, image, beauty, and what it all means. As a result of their conversation, they are now hosting talks and discussions in schools all around Sydney, empowering women to think beyond the narrow box about what beauty is!  They’re calling this project “Allure”, which means “the power of being mysteriously attractive or fascinating.”  These girls are true role models, and true leaders! Their initiative will be changing the culture around them.  Their message is this: “Each girl, each young woman, has that power to be authentically alluring. It’s just waiting to be discovered, or rediscovered, and it isn’t necessarily what the culture might think!”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “As go women, so goes society.” So, if you hear that little voice inside your heart sometimes, I encourage you to listen to it. You, too, can be a leader and a role model. Don’t settle for the standards, create your own!

Summer.  Thoughts of lemonade stands, road trips, hanging out with friends, and long lazy hours at the pool or beach dance through our heads.  Whether you plan to catch a few rays (with an appropriate sunscreen) or a few waves (tubing anyone?) you’re going to need the perfect suit for the occasion.

The old saying “never judge a book by its cover” may be true, but in reality, that is often what happens. What we choose to wear speaks volumes about how we perceive ourselves, and ironically, how we perceive others as well. A well-chosen outfit tells the world “I respect myself and know who I am, and I respect you as well.” A woman who is confident in her beauty radiates it outward and her manner of dress becomes a reflection of her interior reality.

So many magazines cater to a woman’s desire to feel beautiful: “10 Days to a Better Beach Body,” “5 Minutes to Perfection,” “20 Tips for Choosing the Best Bathing Suit for Your Body.” These titles are endless and appealing, because every woman young or old wants to be attractive, confident, and ultimately, beautiful.  This is a good thing!  Yet, in the realm of bathing suits, less is not more. Studies have shown that a bathing suit which shows more skin might be popular, but it actually causes men to view women as objects and distracts them from viewing her as a person who has value and dignity.1 Bathing suits that leave something to the imagination, however, elicit more respect from men, as they view her as a person and not an object.  While a woman wants to be attractive, she wants to feel desirable because she has a unique subjective value and is particularly lovable.  Therefore, she does herself a favor when she chooses a swimsuit with this in mind.

Following my earlier entry “She Wore an Itsy Bitsy…” young women approached me asking for other options. “If we know that less isn’t more and what we wear significantly impacts how men view women, what can we wear instead?” Do not despair. Vintage is in and classy never goes out of fashion. Consider whether the suit you currently own adequately reflects the beauty you would like to portray.  As philosopher and ethicist Dr. Pia de Solenni says: “Beauty draws the seer towards the person seen; it invites them to know and have confidence in that person even without knowing the person intimately.” 2 With this in mind, maybe it is time to go shopping.  Below are listed several companies that offer more coverage without sacrificing style.

My friend Marie introduced me to Jessica Rey’s Swimwear line. Jessica Rey is an actress and model in LA who grew weary of the skimpy swimsuit culture, so she decided to design a collection of her own! Using Audry Hepburn as her inspiration, she designed cute, vintage-reminiscent looks with a modern edge. Each style is named after one of Audrey Hepburn’s characters in her movies.

My friend Therese steered me in the direction of Hapari Swimwear. Based out of Utah, this company offers super cute styles that are functional, fun and beautiful. If you head over there quickly, you can probably catch their 30 – 60% off sale!   

Lastly, J Crew, Anthropologie, ModCloth, LimeRicki, Shabby Apple, LandsEnd, and Target all offer cute one-piece and tankini styles to cater to your personality and budget.  Check them out for great sales, too. The longing to be beautiful “resonates deep within the human heart.”3 We hope that the above links will be a helpful start to finding a bathing suit that will be stylish as well as authentically beautiful.  You can have it all: a great suit without sacrificing your budget, your self-respect, or your sense of fashion.  How can you go wrong?

This article was edited and reprinted with permission from the Love and Fidelity Network.

1Study of undergraduate men at Princeton University.

2The Notion of Beauty and Women by Dr. Pia de Solenni

Girls, we have a new event on our calendar.  Set aside Sunday afternoon, June 26th because it’s going to be amazing!!!  We have invited professional fashion consultant, Mary Sheehan Warren, to come speak to us about style specifics.  If you have ever wondered what clothing cuts flatter you, how to choose colors that match your skin-tone, what basic pieces you should have in your closet, or easy ways to take a look from simple to stunning, this is for you!  If you just want to learn some inside secrets or what local boutiques and stores to shop at, this is your chance.  It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss!

Mary Sheehan Warren lives outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin but grew up in Potomac, Maryland.  She is the author of “It’s So You! A light-hearted and easy way to find your personal style” and has spoken at Franciscan University of Steubenville on Theology of the Body and Fashion.  Mary is very excited to be speaking to us.

Invite your mothers and friends! Please RSVP on our Facebook page (search in Facebook forGlamour and Grace” – It’s So You!) so that we can plan appropriately.  This is going to be big! I hope you’re all as pumped up about this as we are!

Event Information:

Date: Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Time: 1pm-5pm

Place: St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Bishop Just’s Hall, 1020 Springvale Rd., Great Falls, VA 22066

God bless,

Katheryn

Each girl has a beauty all of her own, and it isn’t only hidden in her body, but in who she is as a person.  The way that we dress is meant to portray our personal beauty.  Beautiful fashion is more than a set of standards or guidelines.  It is about revealing who we are as an entire person, someone with dignity and value and goodness to give to the world.  Beauty is meant to reveal the person, and also communicate integrity and harmony.   When we think about how we want to dress, we want to think about our identity.   How do we want to be known?  Who are we and who do we want to be?

“Beauty draws the seer towards the person seen; it invites them to know and have confidence in that person even without knowing the person intimately.”  – Pia de Solenni

Ultimately, in addition to wanting to be beautiful, all young ladies and women want to be loved.  Many times, our desire to be loved leads us to dress in a way that actually distracts people from loving us, because it doesn’t present our entire identity as a person to them.

“Deep in a woman’s heart is a longing to inspire and experience love.  Thus, a woman should dress in a way that inspires love for her as a person.”  — Ed Sri, Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love

What we wear, again, communicates messages, and causes people to understand how we would like to be treated.  We have an influence upon others just in the way that we dress but in who we are.  Beauty, because it resonates so deeply with the human heart, has the power to transform. Today’s women, like the women of every age, will be the arbiters of whether or not that beauty is used in a way that communicates with the culture. In essence, women need to decide whether or not they want to communicate their identity to others and whether or not they want to know themselves.

“The woman’s awareness of her beautiful origin carries over into her actions and dress, naturally and effortlessly.  Her clothes are not a denial of her sexuality, or a suppression of her femininity.  Rather, they integrate her sexuality into her whole being as a person called to love, and open the way for true love to grow.”  Adapted from Love and Responsibility

So, I want to close with a challenge:  We are called to be the light in the world, to be leaders and to be role models for our friends.  We want to be leaders of fashion.  We want to be the friend that our friends turn to for advice and formation.  I challenge you to fully embrace the value of being an individual.  Make your beauty uniquely YOU by personalizing it.  “True Beauty reveals the human person who has something of the divine in her.  That beauty points to the eternal.”

Women have a very unique role to play in society.  We are designed and created to bring beauty into the world in a special way.  All girls, all young ladies, every woman I have ever talked to would love to be called beautiful.  To feel beautiful!  Why?  Because this is a fundamental truth about a woman’s heart:  we were designed to bring beauty into the world.  Therefore, what we choose to wear and the fashions that we follow have a power all of their own.

Our fashion speaks a language.  It communicates who we are to society.  So much can be learned by what a girl chooses to wear.  We want it to reflect our person and who we are.  We want it to help us communicate beauty to the world.   The fact is, packaging matters.  It matters a lot.

“Packaging matters. It matters a lot. The outward appearance gives a sign of what to expect on the inside.”  – Pia de Solenni

Let us examine first what beauty is.  There are two types of beauty:  Sensible beauty or physical beauty (what we can see) and Spiritual Beauty (interior joy, happiness, character).  There are also two directions that beauty can take:  1. Towards the self:  Can make the self an object (I am only as beautiful as my body style) Or, it can reveal the self as a subject, a person, respecting ourselves. 2. Towards the other:  loving others as a person, in all of our relationships, friendships, etc.

Does society see beauty like this?  Unfortunately, many of the messages surrounding us in the culture have missed the mark when it comes to understanding the full picture about beauty.  What are some of the messages being communicated to us about what is beautiful and desirable?   According to Courtney Kampa from Seventeen Magazine:

“Showing skin has become a sad, generic grasp at sexiness.  There is no individuality or graceful femininity required. It’s just the easy way out – it’s quick, it’s bland, it’s hopelessly unimaginative, and it’s cheap.  It’s a ramen noodle approach to getting dressed.”  Courtney Kampa, Seventeen Magazine

Society emphasizes the body as powerful.  The way our body looks is what defines our beauty.  The more we show of our body, or the skinnier we are, the more beautiful we are and the more power we have.  Unfortunately, this is a one-dimensional — and ultimately misguided — understanding of beauty, particularly feminine beauty.  Is it just our body that is powerful, or is there more about us that goes deeper and speaks more to the reality of who we are as a person that is powerful?

Lovely ladies,

We have outgrown our poor Facebook event wall!  We are very excited to announce that we have started a blog.  We be regularly posting new ideas here and will be inviting special guests to post articles.

This is your blog too!  It’s meant to be a place to get new ideas and to share your own with everyone.  Be sure you join the email list and check in often.   We hope to expand upon the January  2011 “Glamour and Grace” in practical and fun ways.  We invite each of you to respond to our blog posts and to give us your ideas for events and on Glamour and Grace in general.  You’re a great group of girls and we know you are full interesting thoughts.  You could spark whole new discussions or even be invited to write your own piece.  We hope you’re as excited about this blog as we are!

God bless you all,

Katheryn Miller and Ashely Crouch

“Beauty on the outside never gets into the soul, but beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face.” ~ Archbishop Fulton Sheen