by Charles Boom, 1901
One obvious reason for a lady to dress femininely is the uplifting feeling it can give to others who see it. It is a message that you care enough about them to dress in a respectful way. It gives them a sense of order and well-being in the midst of a chaotic existence. It has been said that the way a person dresses is a reflection of the way they feel about life. Sadly, I think some modern designers are sending a message of hopelessness and despair, with the the drab, shapeless and unfeminine clothing they produce.
I often use the paintings of the past to show how women used to dress, and it is possible to use these paintings as inspiration today. The painting above, called "Sisters," shows a woman in a pink dress with black trim around the neckline, the yoke and the waist. This can be quite easily reproduced, yet updated, keeping the same feminine elements by sewing a similar dress that might have a less full skirt. It could also be imitated by buying a blouse and skirt with that color combination that has the same feminine features: square neckline with a border, front yoke, slightly puffed sleeves, gathered skirt, and wrap-around belt with black trim.
If you will click on the painting for a larger view, you can see the artist went to a great deal of effort to paint the details in the folds of the white dress on the right. When you consider the overall shape, it is really quite a plain design, and, if you sew, you could use just about any collarless pattern and add a belt at the waist, to achieve this feminine look. Notice the soft fullness around the cuff of the long sleeve. There are tucks near the neckline from the yoke of the dress, and tucks in the upper parts of the sleeves.
by Winslow Homer
The painting, above, depicts a woman with an apron over her dress, as she tends her family's chickens. Today we tend to think that any domestic work requires us to dress in sports clothing. While there are some activities that require sportswear, the dress can be adapted to just about everything a woman at home needs to do.
These kinds of things make up the elements of feminine clothing:
Ladies skirts and dresses
Jackets and coats with seams and darts designed to fit women
Embroidered designs (stitched on flowers and designs)
Edges of clothing with lace and interesting trims like bias tape and fringes. Have a look in fabric stores at the trims and ribbons to see what kind of trims could be added to a garment to make it feminine.
Ruffles, fringes, ribbons, buttons
Clear colors that reflect nature: the blue of the sky, clouds, the ocean, flowers, birds, and all the shades in nature. Pastels are also very feminine.
Styles of your own culture. In many countries, feminine clothing consists of dresses and skirts, and in others, tunics, caftans, colorful cloaks, or bright silks. Some of the most flattering clothing to females is historical clothing that seems to bring out their femininity, in contrast to the masculine clothing.
Looking in the Mirror
by Anna Kirstin Ancher
After viewing the various elements of feminine clothing style, consider the effect that dressing like a lady can have on people:
Family members - Young children love looking at the pictures and patterns and textures of the long skirts of their mothers. Longer skirts give them something to grab on to and hide behind, which is quite charming and produces fond memories in both generations A mother can have a great influence on the future of her sons just by the way she dresses because he will form his opinions and tastes during his upbringing. Her clothes will also have an effect on his attitude in the home and toward life in general. Girls growing up in a home where their mother cares about fabrics and clothing, will develop an appreciation for dresses and will develop an eye for beauty.
by Victor Gilbert
A woman will set the mood in her home just by the way she dresses. She shows her children that they are important enough to warrant her dressing well. Her husband will appreciate her feminine dress because it is quite the opposite of the way men dress, and it will make him feel more distinctly masculine. Today, there is little for a man to feel distinctly different from women. Careers that were formerly run by men are now being shared with women, who dress in the same uniforms as men, and there are few things left to make men feel unique. If a wife will dress femininely at home, her husband will appreciate it.
Portrait of Miss Lloyd
by James Tissot
People you do not know, but who see you in public - In any given day, a homemaker goes to a grocery store, the post office, the hardware store, the farm supply store, the bank or favorite places of business. Employees often see uniforms and customers in drab clothing day after day. The sight of a woman dressed in a ladylike way can bring cheer to the hearts of those who work hard all day in repetitive jobs or in high pressured competition. Sometimes such a woman is "a sight for sore eyes," and can remind others of a sweeter, more sublime side of life. Somehow, without your telling it, these onlookers know that you believe something, and that belief is rooted in the Biblical differences between male and female. Your clothing says a lot more than you realize. It can say "I do not care what you have to look at," or, it can say, "I have respect for you."
Yourself - Dressing in an cheerful way can set the tone for your own day and have an effect on your mood at home. A homemaker's mood has a large effect on others in the family. While most women at home are very conscientious about spending too much money on clothes, it is important that they have new clothes regularly and keep up their appearance, because they nurture and serve the most important people in the world, in their home.
I have known of women who have been more isolated due to their location, and have still dressed up every day, just to respect their families and to encourage themselves.
by Myles Birket Foster
It is notable that all through the eras of great exploration and greater invention; through the pioneer periods in many countries, and during the time when people travelled extensively by train, boat, and car, women dressed in a similar manner as in these paintings. More women were in agricultural areas and the wilderness areas in the United States in the 1800's and yet were dressed more femininely.
Those who are uncertain about God's plan for men and women- There are many impressionable people who may be living in confusion as to what their role in life is, and what a woman should look like in comparison to a man. Young people may be influenced to accept the sameness of men and women and not understand how to accentuate the differences. One of the easiest ways to bring clarity to the male and female purpose is with clothing.
When a woman dresses more femininely, it can have a great impact on the thinking of people who may be confused. Her clothing symbolizes her feminine role in life; that of wife, mother, homemaker, daughter, church member and all that is done in the home that make these roles essential to others. Those who have never been exposed to healthy male and female relationships can at least begin to understand through the avenue of feminine dress for women.
Young Tarahumara Indians in Mexico
These colorful skirts and the coordinating shawls, blouses and buttoned cardigan sweaters are very functional and feminine garments.
Girls and young women who are getting interested in clothing and identity as females - When older women dress in a masculine look, with jeans, sweatshirts and sports shoes, they do not inspire the younger women. It is no wonder the younger women are so easily influenced by the immodest styles made for the young. These styles often have the feminine elements that are attractive to them. You can have both femininity, comfort and modesty, as seen in the above photograph, without looking masculine. Women at home need to show the younger women beautiful alternatives in clothing, by wearing the clothing that shows good taste and a good example. One of the scriptures that deals has the root meaning of "good taste." Every time you wear a dress to the grocery store or somewhere else, you are influencing and encouraging others to wear feminine clothing.
There is more power in feminine dress than in power-suits. Women may discover that wearing feminine clothing enables them to behave more femininely. They might also find that they are treated like ladies, and cause others in the home to be more gentle toward her.
Feminine dress can also show what you believe about the reason men and women are different. Your clothing can also indicate your beliefs and your way of life. Clothing has a powerful effect on those who see it and those who wear it, and the effect can be very good or very depressing. Dressing femininely can add to the memories you create for your family when attending certain events.
The most important reason to dress femininely is to please the Lord and be in compliance with His will. When the word of God addresses women about clothing, it actually describes the feminine clothing God desires in women:
"... that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."
(1 Timothy 2:8-10)
The words in that passage describe what I have been saying: that clothing will show your profession, or your practice and your beliefs. The same passage describes the type of clothing women should wear and, despite the common belief that there is nothing specific about women's clothing in scripture, there are some specifics in those verses, found in the following words:
adorn - meaning "to drape" or decorate
modest - which means orderly, well-arranged, appropriately
apparel - a long, flowing covering or wrap
shamefacedness - a sense of reverence, and being able to blush when something is shameful or immodest
sobriety -good judgement, a sound mind, self control, moderation
professing godliness and good works
Although there are those who will claim that the Bible gives no specifics in the clothing that women should wear, there are at least 6 specifics in that verse. Those words all have meanings, and the meanings give the specific formula for women's dress. No, the verses do not describe the exact color or length or a dress, nor if it has long or short sleeves. Instead, the Bible describes principles of modesty that every woman in every culture can follow and adapt to.
While I am aware that this passage is used to emphasize modesty and the appropriate covering of nakedness, there is something that is often overlooked in the verses: that women should also decorate themselves in well-arranged clothing in good taste. I do not believe that clothing that is in good taste and is well arranged --- a good style that looks good on a person--has to be neglected in order to be modest. The real skill in choosing clothing is to find elements of modesty combined with all the things described in 1 Timothy 2:8-10.
A woman who dresses femininely has a great impact on her husband, her children, friends, church members and those who do not even know her. Clothing may seem like a superficial thing, but it has a profound effect on the community around her.
The is also from the Australian Myer, online, and costs quite a bit. I will try to make time to sketch a picture of ways I would change it if I were making one like it. The principle lines of the dress are very feminine. The print looks like something casual and evokes summer picnic memories. It could be made in a different color. This pattern might be adequate for the fashions on that Australian site. The only thing I do not like about Simplicity 2174 is that you cannot sew it without the pockets, since they are built in to the pattern piece that makes one of the skirt sections. I own this pattern but have not tried it yet.
Here is a photo of a dress I have made, recently:
This is a simple A-line dress with several sections in the skirt, to which I have added an obi belt.
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Before women wore jeans:
This 1945 photo shows German women clearing up the debris on Berlin's Tauentzienstrasse, with the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in the background. The absence of able bodied men meant that the responsibility for clearing the wreckage fell mainly to civilian women, which were called "Truemmerfrauen," or rubble ladies. The signs on the left mark the border between the British-occupied sector and the U.S. sector of the city. (AP Photo)
If women could clean up rubble while wearing dresses, why is it that women in their lovely, warm and modern homes with all the conveniences, cannot dress femininely also? Are we living in such a rude and rough world that we need to wear combat clothing in our homes and places of business? Women came out west in rough covered wagons in better clothing that women wear today to do less hard work.