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Are Bare Legs for Women Revolutionary?

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
Dear Tradition in Action,

Can you comment on the ‘now-entrenched-trend’ of Catholic women who continue to go “bare-legged,” neglecting to wear stockings, knee socks or even short socks, even in winter?

Today bare legs are ‘in’ – even in traditionalist milieus

One can make some excuse for the humidity of summer but not the cooler times. I am old enough to remember the 1960’s when women were never seen in public – at church or dressy events – in bare legs. Stockings were worn nearly at all times. Women or young ladies who neglected to wear stockings to church were not only considered poor, but of poor morals. Does this ring familiar with you as well?

Not only that but we “dressed up” in order to visit grandparents, go shopping or to the doctors. We never wore sweat pants or jeans until 1966/67 when overnight jeans became the standard uniform of American teens. And it’s gone downhill since then!

Thank you for your insight.

  In Our Lady,

  L.F.
______________________


Dr. Horvat responds:

Dear L.F.,

Thank you for sending your observations. Like you, I lament the “now-entrenched-trend” of bare legs vs. stockings or some type of leg covering.

German peasants – May & August

Until World War I, women throughout History did not bare their legs, but always wore some type of leg covering. This includes the rich and poor, the noble and bourgeoisie as well as the peasants and farm women who worked in the fields.

Consider, for example, these charming pictures I came across recently in a German book Die Jahreszeiten (The Times of the Year), published in 1838. Even in summertime, the women and girls, like the men and boys, were modestly clad in regional dress that included stocking and shoes.

I stress the word modest, because it was considered immodest for Catholic women to appear in public with bare legs, just as it was considered foolish for grown men to wear shorts (clothing for little boys who gladly donned “long pants” as a sign of entering the world of men).

I believe it is a question of modesty and decorum for women and girls to cover their legs. Yes, girls also. The Devil, who understands well how to work on the bad tendencies of women, started as early as the 1920s to change the fashions for little girls. The notion in fashionable American circles began to spread that it was fine for little girls to show their bare legs and wear miniskirts and sun dresses. After all, according to the Liberalism that already prevailed in those circles, children were naturally innocent...

But, in fact, original sin exists and immodesty is always immodesty. With this new fashion trend, the natural sense of modesty that girls had began to be broken. Soon, it did not seem like a “big deal” for a young lady to wear a sleeveless blouse, a bathing suit, a mini skirt. Of course, following this road of gradualism, sooner or later leg coverings are abandoned.

childrens clothing 1900

Left, childrens’ clothing in 1900; right, a change for girls by 1920

Prof. Plinio explains this principle of gradualism as he describes how the first attire for sea bathing slowly found its way to today’s completely immodest swim suit. That “march of corruption,” like the march toward bare legs, did not proceed by leaps and bounds. “To the contrary,” he explains, “it progressed through stages so imperceptible that on that long trajectory everyone unconsciously slid into new ideas, customs and styles. Docilely sliding, mankind traveled an immense distance.”

This is precisely the point that you so aptly made: The abandonment of hosiery and stockings is something that happened gradually, unthinkingly as Catholic ladies slavishly followed the new laws of “casual” and “comfort.”

Like you, when I was young, no good lady could imagine assisting at Mass without formal clothing, closed shoes and leg coverings of some sort. It was unthinkable. A good mother had the same high standards for her daughters. Why? Because to show bare legs was immodest and a complete lack of decorum. Bare legs were provocative and unseemly.

This trend started, of course, in Hollywood directed by the Secret Forces; the Ziegfeld poster girls and early stars like Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo quickly became a source of fascination and sin for men. Good Catholic women were horrified.

Jill Biden and the Queen


Jill Biden, bare-legged on her visit to the Queen ...

But it was not long before concessions were being made by those women or their daughters to the new, more “liberating” bold styles. The 1940s and ‘50s saw many American Catholic women following the trends to don pedal pushers, shorts and bare legs for garden work, “play” and recreation.

We all know what happened with the Hippie Revolution in the 1960s. The bastions of modesty were razed. Blue jeans, miniskirts, the naked leg or tights became all the rage. In short, the only thing not permissible was to not permit. The children of the children of those hippies today cannot even imagine a world where women and men would not bare their legs in public.

The naked-leg trend has even entered the traditional Catholic churches, as “stylish” and comfort-minded women and girls have heave-hoed their hose and closed shoes to wear strappy sandals and “sexy” skirts. Everyone seems to be sporting bare legs. The bold and brassy Jill Biden even dared recently to have tea with Queen Elizabeth with bare legs.

Bare legs are revolutionary

Shall I dare to say it? Yes, I will. Bare legs for women are revolutionary. I will let the fashion leaders themselves explain the reasoning behind the bare leg revolution.

In an article dated November 19, 1999, in the Los Angeles Times, we were told that the naked leg is the “gotta-have-it” fashion statement for the liberated women of the 21st century.

Jill Biden and the Queen


Sheer nylons to ‘show’ the legs & attract men – a step in the ‘march’ to bare legs

Nancy Sotomayor, an editor for Cosmopolitan magazine also affirmed about the no-stockings look: “It’s very liberating. It’s very, very comfortable, I like the feeling of flesh – even my own. It’s nice to reach down and feel your leg and feel skin not through nylon. Flesh is a turn-on.”

She explains that the bare leg is an important way for the liberated woman to feel sexy and attractive. “There has to be part of your body exposed. You have to do it [nude legs] for your own sensuality,” she said.

Sotomayor goes even further. She likens today’s stocking-shunning sisters to their bra-burning ‘60s grandmothers. “It’s not just a fashion thing,” she explained. “It’s for power women to strut into the office with a power suit showing the power leg.”

It doesn’t matter if “the power leg” is ugly and fat and aesthetically not beautiful. The new rule is that nude rules – in the name of Liberation and the Feminist Revolution.

I think it is good for Catholic women who would like to be truly Catholic and counter-revolutionary – that is, countering all the immodest fashion trends that have come to dominate in our times – to fight this modern trend of bare legs. It is time to cover the legs again.

I believe that in the Reign of Mary, ladies will again cover their legs and wear stockings of a sturdier sort – not the sheer nylons that became the fashion in the mid-20th century to accompany the shorter skirts.

To hasten those happy days when men and women will act and dress with the aim of giving glory to God, I would advise women and girls to rethink the “bare leg” fashion, a spectacle that only became publicly acceptable in the last modern and revolutionary century.


Posted June 15, 2021

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