Friday, August 15, 2008

Pure but Pricey Fashion?

If you're a mom of daughters, like me, sooner or later you're going to hear about Pure Fashion. The cute, upbeat website, the mission to promote modesty in dress while still incorporating today's looks, the focus on God--what's not to like?

Pure Fashion is, of course, an apostolate of Regnum Christi, which itself is an offshoot of the Legion of Christ. The website doesn't hide the connection like some other Regnum Christi-associated groups or publications have sometimes done; to be fair, even apostolates like Kids for Jesus (K4J), the Catholic VBS program, now put the Regnum Christi "label" on their websites, where of a couple of years ago I had to dig a bit to discover the connection. So perhaps the openness of Pure Fashion's association with Regnum Christi is part of a new policy by that organization to identify more clearly the groups which are linked to it, which is a good thing.

I have a few problems with RC, and indeed with the Legion of Christ. Since the details involve a family member I won't disclose them publicly; suffice it to say that the family member experienced some of the negatives of Legion life as described at this website, though certainly not the more horrific elements. I have known others who have spoken about their association with either LC or RC in similar terms: the association of the Legion and its goals with the Church, the difficulty in voicing any complaints, however legitimate; the difficulty in leaving the group even when one has made one's intentions in that regard quite clear.

And one of the troubling aspects of LC/RC efforts is the focus on money.

I'm not saying that religious orders shouldn't solicit donations, or charge a fair price for their programs and materials. But take a look at this post from an ex-RC blogger who has looked at the prices involved in the Pure Fashion shows:

In Atlanta, there were 60 models, each of which had to pay $450 to participate. Additionally, each young woman had to raise $1000 in sponsorship from friends, family and businesses. Then each participant was responsible for selling 20 tickets to the fashion show at $40/each.

Thus we have each girl bringing in $1000 + $450 + $800 = $2250 x 60 for a net total of $135,000.

Now what does that money go for?

The clothes are donated.
The accessories are donated.
The hair-styles are donated.
The venues for meetings are free (i.e. Pinecrest).
The speakers are in house, meaning volunteers.
The photography for the event is donated (and if participants want pictures, they are purchased separately).

The $40 ticket price ostensibly covers the venue. So we'll separate out that money to conclude that the Legion walks away with $87,000 each year.

And that's for one fashion show. There seem to be 29 cities participating in the Pure Fashion program; while model training fees seem to vary (anywhere from $250 to $350 plus application fees from what I saw) I'm not sure from the ex-RC website whether the "$450" the model is supposed to pay to participate includes that sum, or is separate from these model training fees.

Just looking at it as a mother of daughters, though, I have to consider the fact that for my girls and I merely to go to one of these shows it would be pretty expensive. The Dallas show's prices, for instance, for this past year were $55 for "elite seating" near the runway or $45 for general seating. So even if Mr. M. didn't want to come (and who would blame him?) the girls and I would be looking at $180 to attend the event, not including such things as parking etc. That sum represents a little more than 1/3 of the cost of our educational materials for the next school year, to put it in a little "family budget" context. For us to spend anywhere near $200 for an afternoon's entertainment I think something like this would have to be playing; but for a fashion show?

To be honest, I'm starting to wonder a little about this whole enterprise. Many girls do enjoy fashion, and there's certainly nothing wrong with directing their innate love of beauty into something that strives not only for modesty but for God, reminding them that the things of this earth are not lasting, and that expensive clothes and finery will not really make them happy. But I have to question whether an apostolate like "Pure Fashion" doesn't end up undermining that second part a bit, parading exquisitely-coiffed and expensively-dressed girls down a runway in front of people in the community who have paid $40 to $50 a person to see them there. Modest clothing, after all, isn't meant to be a luxury of the rich; and vanity is a temptation to nearly every woman who has ever encountered a mirror.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like just another way to salve someone's guilty conscience, or convince others to part with 'extra' money. I mean, presumably, if this religious group is associated with the Roman Catholic Church, its members are already paying their tithe and contributing to relief of world hunger and suffering, and in the name of justice, and supporting an orphanage of children who'd otherwise be sold on the streets in some central or south american country, or somewhere else, so 'they' have 'extra' money to spend on something that otherwise might go to acquiring something else (collectible) to add to a collection, or be put in a gas tank?

C'mon, this is another totally affected made-up promo put out by some in-house ad agency for promoting the spirit of peer pressure for our teens...when we could more valuably be learning about self-esteem, parenting, and mental illness, maybe learning something practical and useful like sewing modest clothing, (if we're to go along with this particular organization's definitions of uniformity); so that we're contributing to the excessive spending frenzy. One might say that clothing is a necessary item, but why pay more than it's worth? What is the argument that one should support buying "Pure Fashion' because it is for a good cause? The cause of trying another faddish woolover the eyes?

And what about the play on words? Pure, give me a break. We're not seeing designs for christening gowns? Fashion is as fashion does; by the looks of the garments, sackcloth and ashes would also make a fashion statement.

Twenty years ago, when I moved to this town in the mideast I was shocked about the boldness of seeing people post litanies to St. Jude in the personals section of the newspaper. I thought this was on par to the purchase of indulgences, but now, it seems that anyone thinks that they should put on airs and some outward display, never mind what's on the inside. And, coming from a family of 6 daughters, I don't think we needed to patronize any company's perception of fashion and modesty, whether it was by a catholic splinter group or not. As members of all the student organizations, sports, arts, public service clubs at our high school, I also doubt that there was any misperception in my town where and who the girls in my family stood for.

Anonymous said...

This expensive apostolate is a "subtle" way of self-selecting the wealthiest families, which are the ones the Regnum and the Legion are interested in.

Anonymous said...

The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi exists for two purposes: to raise money for central funds and to recruit new members.

The latter reason may be seen as a means to achieve the former.

Events like this outside of the legion/RC are usually fund raisers for a particular charity or need (new school bus etc) but we can see clearly that Pure Fashion pretends to be a means in itself - it is not promoted or shown to be a fundraiser and is presented as a means to itself ie on face value its sole purpose is to promote purity in fashion.

In the legion we were taught to use the "pyschology of persuasion" in our homilies and speeches, that is to get what you want from your audience by presenting it to them in a way that they think it is what they want.

Deception is good, the ends justify the means.

kateg said...

I stay far away from groups like this, including Opus Dei. Yes they do do some good but there are so many questionable practices.

My boys used to be in Conquest (the Legion of Christ's program similiar to Boy Scouts). Suddenly there was something that went on in the diocese and the program was gone.

After reading up on the group myself I realized that I would never place my kids in anything associated with them. Next time I need to get more information before I let them do any group.

Besides that Boy Scouts have been a much better place for them.

Steve said...

I've been down that road with the LCs, and I still have the T-shirt. I wouldn't do it again if you paid me.

Actually, I might if you paid me.

I vaguely remember some women's RC fashion shows in the old days when I was working in their apostolate centers in Dallas and Atlanta. That it has evolved into this is surprising. And creepy.

Grace said...

I was invited to attend the past couple Pure Fashion shows in my area by the girl from my parish who babysits for my children. (She was a model and far from wealthy.) I have to say I was impressed with the programs of the day and the training programs she completed prior to the show.

I also know for a fact the shows were put together on a shoe-string budget, they paid their speakers and entertainers (including travel and accomodations), and aside from putting a little seed money away for the next year, any "profit" so to speak went to the local crisis pregnancy centers.

So my question is, then: What other organization, especially Catholic, is engaging the culture of hyper-sexulizing our young girls head on, like Pure Fashion? It's giving a national voice to modesty.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad for me to read a blog from a Catholic blogger that knocks a beautiful charism and apostolate of our Catholic faith that is part of the church and approved by the Pope. That is OK that you had a hard time with RC or the Legion - you do not have to have that vocation to be a great Catholic and each part of the church has humans and relationships so difficulties can occur. But to proclaim your Catholic stance and pro-life stance on a web page and on the same page make a strong judgement and assumption over the internet that a beautiful apostlate of our universal (Catholic) church like Pure Fashion is bad because of it's association or just out to raise money is wrong. If that is what you truly believe than pray for the movement and Legion to follow God's will but do not make assumptions on a Catholic blog site and bring down a part of the vine of your own Church. As a fellow Catholic - it hurts. I just don't understand...the Lord wants us to build each other up and not knock down and if you struggle with something than pray about it or bring it to a church hierarchy but do not spread untruth on the internet. The internet can be used for such good and this is not what God wants from us. You may have your opinion but by posting it this way you are hurting your own Church and hurting the pro-life movement because it feels hypocrtical to read your website. Pure Fashion in no way is out to make money and in fact many of the programs struggle and sacrifice to get by just to bring Christ to the world. It appears that you are out to get any RC apostolate because of your bad experience. That is like me blogging about a pastor that I did not like or who rubbed me the wrong way and bringing down the Church I love just so I can speak my opinion. The Lord knows the truth about everything and he is the judge. I join you as a fellow Catholic to pray for unity within our Church and within the world. The devil loves the dissension and the internet being used this way.

Kat said...

I am a Pure Fashion model. Some of the money raised is donated to a local pregnancy crisis center, some is set aside for next year, some used to pay for the use of the spaces where the monthly meetings are held, and also some of it is set aside for a scholarship fund for girls who would like to participate, but do not have the financial means to do so. I can say from personal experience that this program does, in fact, make quite an impact, not only on the girls who participate, but on those around us. As a teenager, I constantly find myself around people who have little respect for their bodies. As a Catholic, this is greatly distressing. Dressing modestly has become a thing of the past and Pure Fashion is the only national group that is trying to bring it back. Please do not discard the message Pure Fashion is trying to send just because of who we are affiliated with.

Anonymous said...

FINALLY!!! I totally agree with you about Regnum Christi Mrs. Manning!!!!!!

Amber said...

With all the evil one's minions out there sucking our girls into promiscuity via immodest clothing, I applaud Pure Fashion for bringing girls the Truth. And it is open to girls from any faith, that is what I call bringing Christ to the world. Let's put our energy to where the fight truly is!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I have to disagree.
In Charlotee, Pure Fashion is STRICTLY a non-profit, volunteer based program. And think about where that money ight go: food for the fashion show, all the keepsakes and memorbilia the girls get, photography at the fashion show, printing for posters and advertisements, materials such as silverware, tablecloths, the portable runway stage, entertainment for the show (singers, etc.), tables, chairs,the screens at the show, printing for raffle tickets, the gift cards that could be won, DVD's of the fashion show, program books, merchandise... I could go on. I do not think you took into perspective the behind-the-scenes action that takes place.