Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"All Dressed Up"

You've changed your life style and your attitute is improving. Your new way of dressing femininely in pretty skirts or dresses has given you an optimistic outlook on life. You wake up each day in love with life. You are just wearing a sturdy, practical cotton skirt, with a shirt and a vest; probably not something you would wear to church or a formal Tea. Then, someone says: "Why are you all dressed up?"

In past centuries, there have been three types of clothing: casual,(things you would wear when no on is around or when you are doing some dirty chore), semi-casual (something you would wear at home, in front of the family, when doing errands, --something that is decent and clean enough for going out into the public), and formal (something you would wear to a wedding). In short, ladies would have their nightgowns, their daywear and their formalwear. That seems uncomplicated enough for today and I see no reason to change it.

The idea was to match up the mode of dress, or the kind of clothing, to the kind of occasion (or the place) you were attending. The more formal the occasion,or the more elegant the facility, building, or home, the more formal the dress--get it?

Then, the home began being treated as though it were just a place to flop around casually, laying on the floor or sitting on top of the kitchen cabinet--who cared? The clothing began to match the casual attitudes, rather than the place or the occasion. People began to show up at weddings looking like they just surfed in from a beach party. I probably don't need to describe any other atrocious sights, as you can pretty much fill in the rest, after all you've seen of inappropriate dress in our society.

I saw things begin to change, in the 60's. I remember asking a 16 year old girl what she was going to wear to school (Years later I became a homeschooler) and she pointed to what she had on at the time--an old sweatshirt, denim cut-offs and tennis shoes. "Why should I dress up?" she asked.

When I became a homeschooler I decided to put a stop to all this nonsense. I saw kids at a very early age that were developing depression, attending the schools. We would dress up each day in semi-formal clothing. That is inbetween informal and formal, meaning not your pyjamas and not your prom dress, but clothing designed to help you work and play during a normal day. The boys wore button down shirts, sturdy pants of cotton duck and other masculine fabrics, and the daughter had skirts, blouses and vests. Mother got up in the morning and dressed up as though she was going somewhere.

I don't like changing clothes throughout the day, so I dress up well enough in the beginning, that I don't have to change into something "decent," as they say, to go to the grocery store or greet someone at the door. What I wear in the morning, has to serve me all day, so I have to be careful not to start out dressing too casually. I don't want to be embarrassed if someone comes to the door unexpectedly, or if I am suddenly needed to go somewhere in the public, so I just wear a skirt, which is appropriate for everything except climbing trees.

For years, I grew to expect the remarks of others, like, "Don't you ever wear jeans?" or "You'll have to wear something more casual if you want to come on this outing with us." Even on moving days, when we were packing up a truck, I managed to wear a skirt. What was I going to be doing, anyway, acrobatics and trampoline jumps?

I keep getting letters from women who love the feeling of wearing feminine clothing, but hate the remarks they are getting. I guess I failed to mention that it "comes with the territory." When you take a stand or turn in a different direction, you are going to get some resistance.

There are lots of elderly women who are able bodied and active, that spend tremendous amounts of money and time getting their hair clipped and coiffed, and their nails "done," who pay no attention to the rest of their appearance. They walk around in the "nursing home look" (jeans, tee shirt, reboks) revealing their unshapely bottems, and yet I wouldn't ever say to them (although I would DREAM of it) "Don't you EVER wear a dress?"

This is another painting by Susan Rios. I've got a collection of beautiful paintings by artists from the 1600's to the present, of women. Does any one think this painting would be more charming and appealing if the artist had painted her in the slop-chic that is fashionable today? Would "The Favor" by Edmund Blair Leighton, or "Waiting" by the same artist of the 1800's be such a favorite among moderns, if he had painted these women wearing jeans and tee shirts?

You might do a study of the history of jeans and pants on women. Pants come from the word "pantaloon" which was originally underwear. How did the garment known as underwear 100 years ago, become outerwear on women today? After you do some studying on the matter, you might not think jeans are so pretty. I found valuable information in looking up the Bible words "modest" and "apparel" to find their root meanings. Jeans and pants didn't match up with those definitions. As the rear end is the biggest part of the body, I think it best to disguise it. There are now garments like leggings and cuddle-duds, that you can wear under dresses, for warmth and comfort. If you do wear pants, you can make them more ladylike by wearing a longer top over them that covers the rear end.

In the comments I'll put some good replies to those remarks you get.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to write to you and tell you how much I have enjoyed your blog. I just found it the other day, but have found it "refreshing". I agree whole heartedly with your latest writing. I remember the only time I was allowed to dress down for church was if the youth were going for a hike immediately after church. Now people have no respect and show up with the "just rolled out of bed" look or the extremely immodest look. I really value dressing my children in a "clean and Fresh" look. I love for my son to wear button down shirts and khakis or something. I love dressing my little girl in dresses. I enjoy my dresses to. I live in a community where there are a lot of Amish women..they wear dresses, but appear frumpy, unhappy, and unladylike. Every time it is a good reminder to me to enjoy being a "Lady." Thank you again for your website! Blessings to you!

Lydia said...

These are some true comments that I've made when challenged about wearing skirts and dresses:

I do seem to be wearing more skirts lately. I discovered I liked them when someone gave me one. I wore it all day and it made me feel much more cheerful.

I've worn jeans all my life. Hardly a photograph from my childhood or my past shows me anything else. I'm tired of jeans and need a change.

If you've seen one pair of jeans you've seen them all.

My husband doesn't like other men looking at my anatomy that is so clearly outlined in jeans.

I want to be an example to the younger girls. They have few good role models. They seem to gravitate to the styles of the rock singers. They don't want to dress like the older women if the older women are not wearing pretty things.

I think a dress actually carries more authority when a woman wears it instead of pants.

I love the colors and the patterns of the fabric. You can't get that when you wear denim.

My children are so short, that all they see is my knees. I want them to have something nice to look at.

Lydia said...

Good point about frumpy dresses. That's a problem. I've seen too many girls trying to be modest or ladylike and their dresses are look like something they pulled out of a dump. Yet I see the same girls spending money on DVD's, CD's and ball game tickets, that could be used on better clothing.

Lydia said...

Why are you all dressed up:

Because, I like it.

Life is short.

CallaLilly said...

I often get the "why are you all dressed up" comment when wearing a simple skirt. I find this frustrating, but I really need to turn it around in my mind so that I do not see it as an attack. My answer should be something more along the lines of "because I want to look nice for you" or "because I want to adorn the Gospel."

Lydia said...

One woman responded, when asked what she was all dressed up for, "Why, to come and see you!"

If I waited for an important occasion to dress up for, I'd still be in my jeans. I have to dress for my family, as they are important.

SnowLady said...

Lady Lydia,
I have a question for you. Something else I see around here are Mennonite girls wearing absolutely beautiful dresses, but then wearing tennis shoes (which are okay on occasion) and large "clod-hoppers" that totally ruin the look. As someone who has a hard time finding shoes that fit and are comfortable do you have any suggestion in websites to look at for shoes or certain styles you would recommend taht wouldn't cost an arm and a leg? I would appreciate your help.

Samara said...

Lady Lydia,
I know exactly what you mean; I have a "personal uniform" of skirt, thin top and a sweater, or a dress with a top or sweater over it. In the winter I wear a thicker sweater and add some nice tights. When people that I know from work encounter me during my daily life, they always exclaim "Why are you so dressed up? Don't you know it's the weekend?" or some such comment.
I find that dressing a little more nicely helps me to pay better attention to my posture, movement and general behavior. I'm not going to flop onto the couch, slouch around bumping into things, or wolf down my food when I'm more nicely attired; I need to keep myself in check or risk mussing up the appearance that I want to present. Dressing nicely encourages me to behave in a more feminine way.

Samara said...

Snowlady, try going to or another online shoe place and search for "ladies' oxfords" or "mary janes". Both these styles are suitable for dressy-casual wear. You can check out the styles that you like and then try to find something similar locally. I often wear mary janes like these. I also have some less dressy, but nice-looking shoes in brown, somewhere between these and these. Both Nine West and Naturalizer make comfy yet cute shoes that wear well; alos, they can often be found at discount places like TJ MAxx & Ross near where I live.

Gina said...

Where can I look for simple, sturdy cotton skirts? (in petite--I'm only 5'1")
Thank you for all you do for others!!

Patricia Bunk said...

Thank you for helping me feel more lady like. Since my daughter and I have changed our attire. I feel if I have to go somewhere I am ready. My daughter says it makes her feel special. I would ask her; Are you ready to go see the queen? Well, thank you for helping me raise a lady.

Lydia said...

I have seen skirts of a longer length at Wal Mart, and have several of them myself. I do sew most of my clothes. The only thing you have to watch for in buying skirts now is the low slung waistline. I found the way to beat that is to buy a size smaller so that the waist rests higher.

Gina said...

Could you also please post sources for winter tights? Thanks!!

Courtney said...

I'll second the sources for winter tights!

On another note, I participated in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer this weekend. Wearing a skirt, a "sport skirt" from Simply Skirts with leggings underneath. On a cold and windy day. My mom and our walking partner couldn't believe it, but with the leggings I was toasty warm. Probably more so than I would have been in jeans!

PeacefulLady said...

Hi, first time I've been here. I like the paintings! Your thoughts go well with them. Nice to see other "Lady" names here too. Don't see that too much.

I'm one of those who wears tennis shoes with skirts. I haven't found any other shoe that beats them for foot comfort. But I know they don't seem to "match". Should I care?

Meg said...

Oh my - the tennis shoe with dresses remark really is true! Picture yourself going to a ball in a beautiful gown and with your hair put up in a lovely style and a wonderful cloak over everything and then - on your feet - big clunky tennis shoes! It is rather like if the First Lady welcomed the leader of a country who was visiting America while wearing tennis or running shoes with a beautiful dress. Our home is our country and when we are at home and someone comes to visit - we are the Queen or First Lady welcoming them to our castle. When we go out into the world - we are the ambassador and are honoring others by showing that we care enough for them to look attractive and well groomed when we visit them.

My husband says when he sees the tennis shoe look on woman wearing dresses that it looks like draft horses - clomping along - and he feels it is as if they were wearing sloppy, ugly, denim jeans and such. Same idea as the militant denim jumper way of dressing you spoke of once - staying within the letter of the law on wearing dresses but not the spirit of the law - instead - looking as ugly as possible and therefore denying the God-given gift of feminity!

Unfortunately around here too, the Mennonite girls and women are looking not at all feminine any more. It is as if they are picking out the most frumpy, unattractive fabric patterns, not caring how clean or neat or well groomed they are and combining them with the ugly tennis shoes. There seems to be (at least in a couple of local congregations) a spirit of real rebellion against looking feminine, neat and pretty among them here - I wonder how much wearing those huge ugly masculine tennis shoes has mede a difference for them?

I walk every day for my exercise early in the morning and the second I am done I take the tennis shoes off and put them away until the next morning. For me in winter my favorite shoes are the pretty boots you recommended on LAF or a pair of leather mary janes and in summer a pair of either pretty sandals or the Chinese canvas mary janes. I pick carefully for size and good construction on my shoes and find the right fit is as comfortable as any tennis shoe!

Thanks so much for your encouragement to me dear Lady Lydia! It makes a HUGE help in my life - as I have no family and few friends who believe as I do and your example as a role model makes all the difference in the world to me! I have confirmed to me that my choices are right and that I am not alone thanks to you!
- Meg

Lydia said...

Tennis shoes are not the problem. It is the weight and size and shape of the shoe that creates the awkward look with dresses--and indeed with trousers. They also prevent a graceful walk, and make you lift your feet up higher and set them down with a clomp. The canvas shoes that we grew up with were much different than the Nikes and the other sports shoes we see today. The short leather boot looks much more ladylike, and doesn't show the soil. Those canvas shoes look awful when they are dirty. If ladies want to return to wearing longer skirts and dresses, they should also look to the historical photographs and drawings and see what kind of footwear was worn with these garments. If you aren't going to run a race or play basketball, I don't understand why you want to wear these heavy shoes with dresses. They look awful. I can understand if you live on a farm and need to do certain work outside, why you would need to wear them, but I wonder why you can't change into a street shoe when you go into JoAnn's or Wal Mart or the Tea Room. There are no rules of course, and no one is going to say anything. Everyone has the freedom to do as they please,but isn't it strange that we aren't supposed to say anything about the atrocious way everyone looks, and yet "they" feel free to walk right up to someone and say "Why are you all dressed up" or "Why do you always wear skirts?"

Lydia said...

There isn't anything wrong with wearing canvas or tennis shoes, if you can find the ones that are more dainty, and have less thick soles. The ones we used to wear with just about anything could pass as dress shoes. They came in a number of different styles. Tennis shoes were made to play tennis, so that a person could jump around and run faster.

Lydia said...

If you could do a study of line and design you'd understand what I'm getting at. The problem is one of balance. If the feet look bigger than the head, you have a problem with balance. Some girls want to wear skirts, but don't understand that you have to choose the skirt in accordance with your weight. If you are heavier in the hips, don't pick skirts that make you look hip heavy; if you are heavier in the shoulders, be careful not to choose slim looking skirts that make the lower half look even smaller than the upper half of your body. I believe there is a book you can get on this subject. It is illustrated with trianges and rectangles and circles, to show how to achieve balance when designing clothing.

SnowLady said...

I agree about the shoe thing. I do wear tennis shoes once in a while, but it is usually when I play volleyball, or something of that nature. I am not saying you can never wear tennis shoes, but for me I want something that looks a little more feminine. does anyone have any suggestions on a boot that is feminine and comfortable?

PeacefulLady said...

I guess to me my shoes do look feminine. They're white and look somewhat graceful, I think. But I know they aren't thought of as classic shoes for women.

Quote: ...The short leather boot looks much more ladylike... I do have pairs of boots. Some are definitely a feminine touch and some look just ordinary... I like boots, but it's just not the same kind of feel. I usually go back to my white walking shoes. I don't think I walk any differently. To me it expresses my interest in being active in a feminine kind of way.

I have had to ask,"Which is more important to me, other people's opinion of how I look, or my feet's comfort and who I am?" It's unfortunate that society thinks sport type shoes are only for participating in sports.

You are right about the clean/dirty issue. Leather boots are easier to keep looking nice. I usually wear more boots in the cold season...

Lydia said...

The point of this article was that those who feel like wearing dresses and skirts are often put off by the rude comments they get. You can wear feminine shoes and be comfortable, as there are many of them on the market now. In a small town nearby I discovered a shop with beautiful dress and casual shoes that felt like tennis shoes, yet they were much more attractive and went better with skirts and dresses.

You are going to get rude remarks like "WHy are you all dressed up" and "Don't you ever wear jeans?" as long as the pants and jeans are dominating the market and are worn by most women. The way to turn it around is to wear the dresses and skirts. It gives others confidence and inspiration to wear them also.

The rude remarks will come, but one lady told me she responded, "I just wanted to celebrate today. I don't have anywhere special to go, so I thought I would dress up for my family, my home, and myself."

Lydia said...

Its too bad some of the ladies who really long to wear pretty dresses and skirts with nice shoes, couldn't do so without the self-consciousness and fear of intimidating remarks, couldn't think the same way:

" as long as I like it and it makes me happy."

However, this statement is less self-centered:

As long as it is a right and good thing to do; if it glorifies God and uplifts others in my sphere, aI can do it.

Lydia said...

I've only gotten one comment about what I wear, from a
neighbor who said "oh you must be going out, you're
all dressed up" ... and I said "no I just felt like
wearing this."

I love wearing pretty dresses now. I used to wear
sweats, jeans and t-shirts all the time. I wear these
once in a while, but most of my jeans have been turned
in to the thrift shop, and I wear velvety soft pants
if I wear any. Dresses are much more comfortable than

If someone were to ask why I wear dresses all the
time, I would say "I like to dress like this" and "I
got tired of dressing like a man." =)

Thanks for your lovely site.


Lydia said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
You've obviously struck a chord with your post about critical comments! Thank you for addressing this issue. It's so nice to have a place for support and inspiration.

I seem to get nothing but smile while we are out running errands in dresses and skirts. My biggest critics are family members, who see me often enough to notice I'm no longer wearing those stretchy pants. I guess they'll get used to it!

Aren't we lucky that Walmart and many discount shops are following the trend of longer, peasant-style skirts this fall? I bought a couple to wear with suede-look boots. It's a great time to make the transition to femininity!

Meredith P.

Lydia said...

When I think on it, that remark is so uneducated and out of it. Why, for example, when a woman sees a dress prominently displayed in a store window, doesn't she go in and ask the proprietor, "Why do you have dresses in the windows?"