Pursuing God’s Mission With Feminine Style
‘Worthy of Wearing’ Catholic author and beauty consultant encourages women to reflect inner beauty in fashion choices.
A woman is dressed in a smart twinset.
Another woman is dressed in a red blazer.
The former is St. Gianna Molla, a wife, mother and physician who has been canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.
The latter is Nicole Caruso, a Catholic beauty consultant.
Both women are included in Worthy of Wearing: How Personal Style Expresses Our Feminine Genius (Sophia Institute Press, May 2021).
Having worked in the fashion industry before she became a mother, Caruso knows well the struggles women face in modern culture, and she strives to remind them that God made them for more than the world offers. Popular on Instagram, she offers encouragement to women to reflect their inner beauty in their outward style. In a recent chat with the Register’s associate editor, Amy Smith, Caruso discussed her new Sophia Institute Press book, the feminine genius, women saints including St. Gianna, and more.
In Worthy of Wearing, you explain “Worthy of Wearing” like this: “Worthy of Wearing is a mindset, a thought process that reminds us (including me) that we are precious in God’s eyes and that we are worthy of wearing the things that make us feel beautiful.” Can you explain how you came up with this concept, especially as it relates to the feminine genius?
The concept came from motherhood. Before I was a mother, I worked in the fashion and beauty industry. Then I became a mother, and I had a whole section of my closet that was retired. So this became a way for me to incorporate these things back into my style, though after becoming a mom, I wondered if I was worthy of that. If no one outside of the house would see me, “what does it matter?” I thought. I didn’t feel like my old self, so when I looked at those clothes, I thought I had to either get them out of my closet or accept, in the ordinary day to day, that I was worthy of feeling beautiful — because we are set apart, in the image of God, as explained in the feminine genius.
You state, “Personal style is unique for each person and is really just a genuine expression of the self through clothing.” What are some simple tips to help a woman get started in finding her personal style?
Start with creating a vision. Look for inspiration, whether by flipping through catalogues or by browsing Pinterest. If you see a lovely dress, take note and create a file for yourself. You’ll start to notice patterns — that you like a shade of green or long, flowy A-line skirts. Then, as you go about creating a vision, you can ask: “What do I have that fits this vision?” Then you can fill in the gaps with what’s missing, maybe a blazer that you can wear to Mass and an event. You can admire other women’s styles, appreciate others’ style, while cultivating your own.
You also specifically speak about “Sunday best.” Can you elaborate on that?
For a long time, I tried to use my weekday work outfits as my Sunday clothes, but that led to stress, making sure things were clean. In the last year or two I made an effort to set aside dresses for Mass for spring and summer and other outfits for fall and winter that I could rotate. That made the biggest difference. I felt prepped and ready, and that helped my mindset of getting ready to experience heaven on earth, to receive Christ himself in the Eucharist.
You also write, “Rather than fitting ourselves to our culture’s idea of womanhood, we can simply embrace who God created us to be, then share His light with the world.” This is such an encouragement. Why do modern women need to hear this?
It’s all about the idea of womanhood. There is so much in the culture about toxic femininity. It’s up to us as Catholic women to show that we have eternal beauty that comes from God — that doesn’t change with time. It’s important for us as women to examine our own stories and to use that to share ourselves — and the Holy Spirit inside of us — with everyone we meet.
You talk with homemaker Reagan Antonio in the book. She looks to St. Gianna as a role model. St. Gianna is one of my favorite saints, so I relate to what Reagan said, in part, about why Gianna is an example for her: “St. Gianna Molla — not because of any particular outfit of hers, but because the way she dressed told the story of who she was: a strong, holy woman vibrantly living out her faith through her vocation as a doctor, a wife, and a mother. She didn’t dress as a ‘saint’; she dressed exactly for her time and for the vocation God gave her.” This insight seems to sum up what you want women to take away from your book.
Reagan just had her first baby, and I love her perspective. St. Gianna is a wonderful saint to look to, and her 1960s wardrobe — cute twinsets, flats and lace collars — shows little bits of her femininity mixed with her mission: softness to wrap a child in a hug, flats to go from her work as a doctor to home … outfits that show her life every day. We have an opportunity to do the same when we dress; when we fall back on wearing leggings or our husband’s t-shirts, we miss the opportunity to share that story. When we see another woman wear something beautiful to Mass or elsewhere that touches us, that matters. You know when you see something beautiful, it strikes you. St. Gianna’s adorable outfits strike you; so does her smile — because it reflects something about this mission that God created us for.
You encourage readers to pray: “Lord, help me see myself the way You see me.” That’s such an important reminder.
You also write: “Christ desires our physical and spiritual beauty. He asks us to proclaim Him to the world through the beauty of our souls,” additionally noting, “We were made to be attracted to beauty, as God created it to point to Himself. Beauty stirs the soul.” How has the world misunderstood beauty, and how can women reclaim the God-given definition?
The culture has defined being beautiful as self-objectification. If it’s not sexy, it’s not beautiful. But Our Lord has a different definition. “Lord, help me see myself the way You see me.” Have you seen The Chosen? Think of how Christ looked at Mary Magdalene in that first episode, placing his hand on hers in that tender way. It’s hard to understand that unconditional love if we haven’t experienced it. She [Mary] had given up on life. But Christ looked at her, and she knew she was made for more and was able to do the beautiful mission he was calling her to.
That’s a message for all women: It’s going to take time for some women to heal wounds or get past past choices and build a relationship of trust with Christ, but we don’t need to hide ourselves from him. He says, “Let me look at you.” And we can say: “This is me. I’m not hiding. I know you gaze upon me with a heart full of love.” That gives us the confidence in how we dress, knowing that our style is a natural extension of that truth.
Above all, you emphasize that personal style should aid us in our mission of serving God in our unique state in life: “Seize each day with hope, and ask for God’s graces upon you and your mission.” How do you live this truth out yourself?
Give yourself space to find your style. This is a judgment-free zone. Give permission to yourself to not compare. Comparison is an ugly thing women can fall into. We have to give ourselves space to find our style, knowing that it will change over time and won’t look like everyone else’s style. We don’t have to peg ourselves in or have others peg us in. It’s about the freedom to have our own personal style.
To conclude, can you talk a little bit about St. John Paul II and his encouragement of women in the feminine genius, since you include so much of this thought in your book?
When I read John Paul II’s writing, it felt so personal. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it before. I felt a pull to include as much as I could. I love how he explains the feminine genius and how he doesn’t limit it to one vocation — it’s for all women of all ages: for me and my daughter; for married women, single women, professional women, college students, for stay-at-home moms. In these writings, he speaks of how women love intentionally. We as women are so good at making people feel loved, to make someone feel more special. When we love others in special ways, we grow ourselves because we see and reflect the heart of God. In giving attention to each person, we remind them that they matter, even with our style of dress; even virtually or when social-distancing, we can live this out.
We need to see and recognize this gift that we as women do so well.