In new book, author says personal style goes beyond physical appearance; rather, it’s a way to acknowledge one’s worth in Christ
DETROIT — Shortly after having her second child in 2018, Nicole Caruso realized she had fallen into a pattern of dressing for convenience, not in a way that reflected her inherent worth as a daughter of God.
“I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel inspired, and I definitely wasn’t in the best disposition to love my family from a place of fullness and peace,” Caruso said.
Caruso, a professional makeup artist and beauty consultant, former beauty editor, and homeschooling mother of three, shared this sentiment with friends on social media, and in doing so realized she was not alone. they
Others, she learned, felt they were saving the clothing that made them feel good and worthy for special occasions, when in reality, it wasn’t the occasion that made them worthy, but rather, themselves.
Therein, the “Worthy of Wearing” movement was born. What started as a hashtag women used on Instagram to share their reflections eventually became a beautiful, hardcover book of the same name, written by Caruso and published by Sophia Institute Press in 2021.
The book goes beyond your average fashion book –– in its pages, readers will not only find style advice and wardrobe curation guides, along with beautiful photos of joyful women owning their worth, but also Caruso’s reflections on the feminine genius and how what people wear is a reflection of their place as daughters (and sons) of God.
“The truth is, faith and fashion go together,” Caruso writes. “God didn’t just make beauty; He is beauty. All of creation is a reflection of His beauty. . ... When we recognize, cultivate, and celebrate our own inherent beauty, both inside and out, we can change hearts.”
Detroit Catholic interviewed Caruso about her book, style and dressing well in the era of working from home, including how what one wears can help on in the mission to unleash the Gospel. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Detroit Catholic: How, as women, can we better serve the Church through beauty?
Nicole Caruso: I always come back to what is good, what is true, what is beautiful. Those things always point to God the Creator and Author of Life, and whenever we feel uninspired or discouraged or in doubt, turning to something good, true and beautiful will reignite our understanding of God as a Father. Especially now that people are working from home, we became disconnected from what is good, and true and beautiful. Because we were all so shocked by what was going on in the world, we were all wearing sweatpants and loungewear; we were giving up.
Using beauty and truth and goodness to serve the Church is really making ourselves a mirror of God’s goodness and of the beauty that he wills for our lives so we can share Him with others.
DC: In the book, you talk about style and fashion; fashion norms are changing and because of the pandemic we are seeing an increase in loungewear. How can we cultivate style when fashion has become more relaxed and less inspired?
NC: I think there are a few things at play. Firstly, all of us have an inherent style. I think we can pull inspiration from what is coming out and trending, but we also don’t have to. There is that choice that we can make of, “Does this passing trend impact my style or not?” and “Do I want to give it a try or not?” I feel like making sure we have that autonomy is really important.
What sets us apart from the masses, especially as Catholic women, is that we have the eternal in mind, and we need to remember that we have the autonomy to decide whether we just become one of the crowd or stand apart from it and say, “That’s just not for me.”
In the same thread, seeing this switch from professional clothing (to) things that are made in more jersey and cotton and are easier to sit down in ... I think (brands) are trying to meet people where they are. They know people aren’t going to spend tons of money on dry cleaning right now, so the current trends kind of meet that need. At the same time, if you are someone who loves to work from home in a dry cleaning-only outfit because that is how you feel professional and ready for the day, I don’t think you need to compromise that.
DC: Do you think we should get dressed in some intentional way each day while working at home?
NC: I really do. I know that’s my opinion, but in my experience the days that I spend just a few minutes putting on something that is different than loungewear, I feel ready. It is an external signal to my mind that it is time to be intentional in other things, too. I know if I stay in my pajamas –– which I do sometimes because I am a mom and things get really crazy and I just don’t have a minute to myself until then afternoon –– I feel this internal focus of, “I feel like a slob, I feel like I am gaining weight.” (By getting dressed), I think it can make a difference in how you think about yourself and how you perform your duties.
DC: How can we use what we wear to ‘unleash the Gospel’ even if we are solely at home and aren’t going out or being seen by people?
NC: That’s a great question. When you feel dignified and professional, even if you are home, even if not a human person will see you over the course of your day, I really believe your work will be your best work because of the intentionality I mentioned earlier. And when you perform well because you feel good and because you are in touch with your gifts, you are in touch with your identity in Christ and you are in touch with the charisms that you have, you are going to live more fully.
When we can receive people well, when we are approachable, when we are cheerful, when we are confident and calm, and our interior demeanor is not distracted and insecure and worried and focused inward on self, we can share Christ from a place of openness.
I think as long as we are getting dressed in a way that is very authentic to who we are, that is not trying to create a persona, draw attention or come from a place of vanity or materialism, we can give of ourselves from a place of wholeness where Christ can really pour through that.
DC: I’ve heard from other women in the Church who are afraid to dress stylishly because they are worried about being a distraction or coming across as vain, especially while attending Mass. How would you respond to that and encourage them?
NC: We have to have a purity of intention in everything we do. The only way to really examine our intention in dressing is to take it to prayer and say, “Lord, I have to get dressed every day. How do I do it in a way that serves you and doesn’t serve me or my passions, or my temptations or my tendencies?”
When you are examining the gifts Christ has given you, and when you are trying to represent that with how you dress, it’s almost difficult to fall into vanity. Because when you are wearing something that makes you feel like yourself, it is very hard to think about yourself. Your freedom is that you are able to speak to others without that kind of inward insecurity.
Women, especially in faith communities, should feel to delight in beauty, delight in their clothing in a way that is very simple and childlike. And if they are wondering how to do that, look at any toddler girl at Mass. She is probably wearing something that makes her feel like a princess for no other reason than it just brings her joy. Christ invites us to be more like little children, and I think in this we are allowed to have fun and to be playful, but not ostentatious.
If we are buying things outside of our means or doing things to be liked or to be noticed, of course that would not be stylish for the right reasons. That would be stylish in vain. But we can still be stylish and retain our humility.
DC: Can ‘Worthy of Wearing’ apply to men as well?
NC: Yes! I think men can resonate with this idea because all of us have this desire to feel dignified and put together and to feel that little boost of confidence that comes from wearing something that is an accurate representation of self to others.
I think it is beautiful to look back at old movies of Carey Grant and actors from that era because I feel like men looked so dignified and handsome. The chivalry, the clothing and everything else were all in one package. As we have gotten more casual as a culture, we have sort of toned-down manners and etiquette and dating. I feel like it affects so many different parts of our culture when we take away some of that effort that is put forth in our personal appearance.
DC: How do we walk with one another in our day-to-day lives to help one another feel worthy of wearing?
NC: I think there is something really beautiful about complimenting a complete stranger and letting them feel seen and known and loved. I have lived in different cities on the East Coast, and it always brought me a lot of joy when someone would say, “I love your shoes” –– just a random passerby on the sidewalk — and you just feel like, “Oh my gosh, wow, someone recognized something about me that they thought was special!” With children especially, I think it is so important that their preferences, their creativity and their dignity are acknowledged and affirmed.
I think one way we can increase this message is by letting someone know when you can tell they put forth a little bit of effort. Just show them that you noticed, and I think that can go a long way.
Worthy of Wearing: How Personal Style Expresses Our Feminine Genius
By Nicole Caruso
Hardcover – May 25, 2021
Learn more about the Worthy of Wearing movement at nicolemcaruso.com/worthy-of-wearing.