Friday, November 02, 2007

Dignified Dress

Have you ever looked at the paintings that so many blogging ladies are putting on, and wondered how in the world we got so far away from beautiful fabrics and flowing designs for women? To be fair, there are still some good styles out there. I get a catalog called "Seventh Avenue" ( which has a page of womens dresses that look somewhat like the dresses depicted in Edmund B. Leighton's paintings such as "Stitching the Standard," or "The Accolade," and others. If you do consider dresses like this I would like to emphasize the importance of good foundations, or the dress will hang on the figure like a trash bag. You will notice from photographs of the 19th century women compared with photographs of the 20th century women, how awful the women looked in the 1940's styles unless they were models. They had gotten rid of the stay, the linings, the various quilting and padding, and the undergarments that gave the clothing shape. The garments looked very droopy on ordinary women. In contrast, the 19th century clothing looked good on everyone, even the older women and those with more ample figures. There was a look of structure and good fit. These were supported by various pieces of underwear that gave it its shape. Also, the style was created to elongate and slim the figure and bring the upward to the face.

We watch "Antiques Roadshow" sometimes and are always horrified at the camera's inadvertent capture of women in the background wearing the worse shorts and pants and sleeveless things that make the women look shapeless and fat. If you ever look at an object they are filming and are distracted by the appearance of the people in the background.

It is impossible to overlook the woman in short shorts standing just behind the antique clock that the commentators were talking about. She turned around and showed the ill-fitting shorts from behind, which was a total embarrassment. Do old ladies really think they look good in these things?

I read in an old book written in the 1800's that women should try to dress as well in the back as in the front. Today, they seem to ignore what they look like from the back, but people will view the back just as much, if not more, than the front.

Take church, for example. If you have gone to church every Lord's day for most of you life, you have viewed the audience from behind them. As women quit wearing long skirts and dresses and began to wear pants more and more, the scene became almost ludicrous. Yes, it is good they go to worship, but it is not good that their back views are so distracting.

The young are no less culpable. Though their figures are more fit, and their clothing in better shape, the styles leave nothing to the imagination because they are too tight, too short, too low, and too revealing. Large girls do not realize that tight or revealing clothing makes them look fatter. Looser clothing in good taste can take the eye away from all those extra pounds and make them look dignified.

Here are some things for older women that will help them look dignified in dress:

*White at the neckline and throat softens the face and hides a wrinkled neck.

*Long sleeves, particularly those with puffs at the shoulders and cuffs at the wrist appear more dignifed and respectable.

*Long skirts, at least below the knees, and preferable below calf, slim the figure. If you wear the hem at mid-calf, it makes the leg look fat.

*Don't wear slinky fabrics that droop and sag. Wear structured clothing that has a little strength in it. Try on everything and think about this. You need to avoid wearing sleeveless garments if your arms are not attractive and in good shape. As you get older, they sag, and wrinkle. YOu also don't need to be showing the veins on your legs, and your knees are not your best assets for fashion.

*Matching jackets and skirts are nice, but avoid drab colors. Dresses are all around the best deal, because they already match and they hang well in a closet. In my opinion, this is less messy than a lot of separates.

Though there are many more things that help older women look dignified, young women need to realize that the habits they form now will most likely be carried on into old age. If you don't want to be a sloppy old lady, then dress with dignity now. The things you get used to wearing as a youth, will be the things you prefer as you age. Jeans and tank tops might have looked good on you as a teenager, but they don't look good on you as an older woman.

Concerning hair, here is something I've written before: Shaved and spiky hair styles emphasise

wrinkles. Longer hair, swept up, is much like short hair, and can be worn off the neck for coolness.

Tennis shoes, sports shoes, or any name brand


candy said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
This was a wonderful post. I couldn't agree more.

Also, I loved the picture of the girl in the boat. Oh how I love her pretty white dress.

Mrs. Candy J

Anonymous said...

Love your blog!

Funny you posted this. I have been really noticing lately how incredibly ugly women have become. It used to be women were a thing of beauty, just to have one nearby made Men watch their words and manners and changed the environment with how lovely they were.

If you watch commercials, Women either dress as they think a Man would dress for business if he were a Woman (including a horrifying manly haircut) or incredibly sloppy. I am a stay at home Mom and I had to force myself to realize that dressing well for my Husband and Daughters made more sense than only dressing well if I worked with strangers.

Even more frigtening is the way teenagers and older women are dressing. I am tired of seeing so much flabby, wrinkled flesh hanging out on old women shorts and horrible pants, sporting an uglier version of their husband's hairdo. The middle age look desperate and ridiculous by trying to pass for their teenage daughters, as if if they can squeeze into something it will take 20 years off their face.

Or, these poor young girls looking either androgenous or slutty. Lastly, anyone shopped for a little girl lately? I kid you not, they sell string bikinis not only for 7 year olds, but BABIES! Calling all molestors..hey look at this kid! And try to find a decent dress, there is nothing!

It seems today's fashion has Women flinging away their dignity. We are so "empowered" and "liberated" that we look trashy, sloppy and slutty and the youngest of us are no longer protected from perverted eyes. Hey, thanks Women's Liberation..great job. We might want to take a look at those in the fashion industry and start judging their motives and start saying NOT FOR ME or MY DAUGHTERS. Sorry we aren't going to starve ourselves to fit into something slutty and ugly because you say so!

You want to be liberated, liberate your clothes!

Rosemary UK said...

I watch the Antiques Roadshow,it is one of my favourite programmes it is celebrating it's 30th anniversary here in the UK.I cringe when I watch how the women dress(an occasional lady will look feminine)and how the older women think they look nice with ultra short hair and all their worst features exposedI just don't understand.But it is the same on all the TV shows where the general public are interviewed,most women today have no idea how to dress !!

Anonymous said...

Wow...these are good tips! I am wondering what kind of shoe do you wear with your skirts/dresses for the different occasions like:
walking or at the park with the children
going out to dinner

I don't have heels. I have a pair of summery pumps for church and some clogs that look like mary janes for going out but I really like to wear my white ked style tennis shoes usually. Especially in the cold weather.


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Rosemary, in watching the programs that were filmed in the UK, I thought that far more of the older ladies were dressed appropriately than on the shows filmed in the US. I saw lots more skirts than I see here.

Lydia said...

Regarding shoes: just go to a shoe section of a store, or a shoe store and look around. Choose anything that is comfortable that is not a tennis shoe or sports shoe. The little keds and regular tennis shoe is a little more lady like with dresses, but the big clunkers are awful and an eye sore. They usually are worn dirty. They are heavy, also and cause women to lift their feet and put them down in an clumsy way. Most women wearing them walk like toddlers. In the shoe store, choose anything with the whole shoe and no holes. They will last longer and be safer to wear. Sandals are pretty but if you've ever had hot tea or coffee dripped on bare toes you know they aren't the best or the most attractive after that. There are lots of nice shoes out there and nice brands and very attractive looking. The Victorian woman wouldn't have been caught dead in some of the footwear we have today. I wear a suede boot that hides my leggings and socks and still is pretty. They are long so they cover the gap between the hem of the skirt and the shoes. In summer I do wear shoes but never open toed or open heeled.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to add that it is easier to get heat stroke when you are wearing shorts and a sleeveless top that if you were wearing a long flowy dress with a hat. I find it interesting that being feminine and modest can add to your health in all sorts of ways :)


Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Truly, sometimes I see a woman who is just a bit plump or has other disadvantages in her figure that can be easily concealed with proper clothes, but instead she wears something very tight and revealing and shows it all off... I keep wondering: maybe she has no mirror at home? Or doesn't bother to look at it? It's so easy to look dignified with just a bit of effort.

I totally agree with you about skirts. I wear only skirts and dresses, and I'm pleasantly cool in the summer and pleasantly warm (with thick pantyhose) in winter. When I wore pants, I tended to sweat more.

Alexandra said...

Thanks for the catalog link! I wear that style also, but it's not always easy to find. I end up wearing a combination of long skirts and "bohemian" style tops...things I find at the thrifts to mix and match. Occasionally wallyworld has some nice tops like those in the catalog.

Victoria said...

I enjoyed your post on dignified dress. I am always learning something new when I visit here! The link you provided has some beautiful dresses. Thank you for sharing!

Laura Ashley said...

Most women wearing them walk like toddlers? Wow you are pretty harsh. Anyway, while I'd like to see people wear things that flatter their figures- If I have the opinion something isn't too flattering I look away and try not to think negative thoughts like that. I know you probably want post this, and that is ok. Please do consider the suggestion to look away and not concern yourself with anyone elses clothes but yourself and your familes. Try not to write negative things. Possibly even turn off the tv if it offends you.

Anonymous said...

I have seen tv programs about how the women in Mexico love to dress up and cannot understand why American women are so sloppy and concerned about comfort. Unless you have a perfect figure, pants really look awful on women.

Anonymous said...

This my favorite subject on this blog ! I'd sure like to know where to find "day" dresses. Most stores and websites don't sell dresses made of natural fabrics and the styles are very dressy. Where is an ordinary shirtdress made of rayon or cotton? I would buy them if I could find them.

Lydia said...


I'd appreciate it if you would not leave negative comments on my blog. I certainly wouldn't leave any on yours. An article that expresses what does or does not flatter an older woman is simply stating facts, and these facts are true. There has never been a woman who could walk gracefully in a pair of sports shoes. I am not talking about wearing them out of necessity when climbing a mountain or going on a hike or a canoe trip. I am talking about dirty they usually are and how huge and clunky they are and how hard it is to walk in them with grace. They are designed for running.

bran said...

Am I allowed to leave 2 comments? :) I loved the dresses in the link you posted. They do seem like too much $ and hard to wash for everyday homeschooling and PB and J making, etc. But I'd love a couple of them for church. Thanks for the link.

Lydia said...

the article is not yet on the site but will possibly be on the next update.

Laura Ashley said...

My comment was not negative at all. It was a suggestion to you and you had the choice to delete it or post it. Second, those are not facts, they are your opinions.

Anonymous said...

This is another great post, Lydia! I am old enough to remember when department stores offered a wide selection of skirts and dresses (and very few pants!)for women and girls ranging from simple cotton housedresses to formal wear and everything in between! It is unfortunate that the majority of the shops today do not offer any style of dress other than the slinky/sparkley cocktail dresses.

Thank you for the catalog links. I often order my clothing rather than exhaust myself searching for something in town! I am getting a lot of use out of a very nice skirt that I ordered from Hannah Lise.

Kind regards from Susan T.

Anonymous said...

I love you blog and everything that you said regarding a woman's dress. The only problem with the shoe comment is that there are those of us who aren't able to wear attractive shoes because of feet problems and, therefore, must settle for what's comfortable, which is often an athletic shoe (not for church). One reason I haven't gone back to skirts and dresses, except for church, is that I cannot wear attractive shoes and they show less when I'm wearing pants.

Elizabeth :)

Lydia said...

As you said, Laura, you have a choice: when you read something you do not like, you can just look the other way, and just write positive comments. If you like the look, post it on your blog and put pictures on there to prove how wonderful it is. As to the women with flat feet--there are and always have been shoes to wear, such as the loafer type, and lace up boots, even zip up short boots, as well as quality shoes. What did women do before rebock and nike? Certainly there were shoes to wear that were both comfortable and fairly nice looking. I've been over this before in a previous article and it always turns into the same argument. Those who really want to wear good shoes can find them. In one article on LAF I posted a lot of sites where shoes can be found. There are even lady like canvas shoes that look good with skirts. I think in general a lot of people get really negative about clothes and don't care what they look like as long as they are comfortable. What they don't realize is that a lot of the population of older women are looking more like nursing home patients than ladies of a certain age.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lady Lydia and Readers,

As someone who is a little plumper (OK a lot plumper than I should be - smile) I can't tell you how aweful the clothes for more womanly ladies has become over the past 10 years. The plus size stores used to sell beautiful stuff - lovely dress-suits, skirts and blouses etc (I've owned beautiful stuff from them) but now it seems every top is so low cut all the imperfections are revealed (when we wish to have them tastefully and descretely kept to ourselves). The adage of 'the body beautiful' embraced by millions of grumpy baby-boomer women does not, ehm, show them in the best the rush to embrace the 'let it all hang out' idiology, they disgrace themselves. The undergarment industry has A LOT TO ANSWER FOR ALSO!!! even 3 years ago, Triumph made excellent bodysuit undergarments that held up the bust, flattened the stomach and took care of the hips, abdomen and derrierre beautifully. Corsallettes were also sold at these same department stores that were very well made and gave an excellent line and feeling of being put together.If you're a bit wide in the rear and leg, wearing a petticoat beneath a long skirt helps soften the sillhouette; though buying a longer half slip even is no longer a possibility as they're also not made and sold commercially in Aus - got to put up with the winterweight ones sold at the Middle-eastern dress shop as they don't carry summerweight equivalents). Also, the long tunic (Salwar Kameez style) falls very nicely and gives excellent lines and a good sillhouette. So does the abaya-style dress (though draping a long scarf of fine gauzie material in front lifts it a little when going out.

On top of this not so model-like figure I have very small feet - 34 European or size 4.5 LADIES (not girls) in Aus fittings - wide toes and a very narrow heel - imagine a triangular wedge. Well, there is ONE shoe shop in Sydney only that sells in my size (most stores start only at Aussie size 6!!) so I've had to make do with my black Munroes (A US-made leather walking shoe) that is my only shoe (save my wedding shoes and a very battered pair of winter suede court shoes).

In Sydney's infernal heat and summer humidity, sandals give some relief but don't have the ankle support. Oh how I'd love a pair of leather lace up boots I could wear - I HATE SHOE-SHOPPING AND CUSTOM-MADES START AT $800 AUST (sigh). So, for the ladies with non-conformist feet, Munroe, though expensive ($300 Aust for one pair) will see you right.

May you all be wonderfully blessed,

Mrs. E.

Gail said...

Mrs. E always leaves such thoughtful and uplifting comments. Thank you, Mrs. E; I've been meaning to say that for some time. Lady Lydia, you are of course, quite correct in what you state about women's "fashions", including shoes. I think it all boils down to women giving up on themselves and going strictly for comfort these days. It does take more time to properly dress and groom oneself, and I guess we older ones have gotten out of the routine. Those of us who look back to the fifties often find ourselves dressing like we did in the fifties, that is, literally as toddlers in the playclothes we would wear to climb the jungle gym!

Thanks for the reminder, and today I will actually put on the panty girdle, nice dress and wear my hair up. Will let you know how it went!

Rosemary UK said...

Boots are wonderful in colder weather,they look fabulous peeping out from the bottom of your ankle length skirt, and boots are the footwear that women wore in older times,boots, or bare feet in hot weather.Sandals are the best choice of course for hot weather and these come in such a huge variety of styles including those with most of the toes covered in/

Rosemary UK said...

In the UK many women still wear skirts,although not as many as I would like to see.But there are a great variety of skirts in all shops including those for plus size ladies.Land's End have some good classic long skirts in plain coloured jersey which are of good quality and very comfortable and practical.Ebay is a good source also, especially for denim skirts which are a good choice for most occasions incuding any sporty activity or garden work,they are hard wearing and can be washed at a high temperature if they get stained.Pretty,dressy skirts have been much in vogue for the last few years, and velour is a good choice for being dressy in winter.

Rosemary UK said...

The marmeedear website sells lovely half slips made to measure,I have also had problems here as all the halfslips for sale in UK seem to assume you wear mini skirts! I know there is postage to US to consider but it's worth that to get what you need.

Mrs.E said...

What a wonderful post! I totally agree and have thought the same for many many years. As I've aged so has my taste in clothing. I am more on the conservative side because for the very fact that I don't like to accentuate certain areas and besides, I don't think it ladylike to show too much. I do believe we are respected more if we act and dress like ladies. Also we need to set the example for future young ladies :)

Anonymous said...

Mrs. E, I don't know if the shipping would be worth it to Australia, but I think the JCPenney online catalog offers the type of undergarments you mention.

Anonymous said...

There is always room for improvement and your thoughts as usual, got me to thinking. Thanks for the wake up call in some areas. The thought of being an example for younger woman to show the way as to how they could dress when older also rang a note of truth. I used to look around at this and that older woman and think I would like to look/be like this one or that. How they dressed. How they handled themselfs etc. What testimony they gave. Now I Am that older woman and eyes could be on me for an example and with your thoughts I am even more up for the job. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! ;-)

~~Deby said...

A beautiful post and worded so perfectly.
Last spring I was praying about...Lord should I or should I not switch to all dresses/skirt?My prayer was"Lord, show me"...HE did...for weeks when I was out..I would see women and not judge them on their face but what their clothing did for them regardless of size. I would think, If she had a skirt on would LESS show...would she be less guilty of causing a man to lust...lust knows no age or size....and everytime..I would look and think.."Would this be more modest if she had on a skirt"..These women had no faces to me..that was not important...I wanted to see via the world around me what would be better, or even best. It was so evident....and now I am only wearing skirts...dresses...loose..layered..IRONED....I do not feel FRUMPY....BESIDES...what is frumpy?....IMHO it is a word, given to the world to excuse them themselves from dressing modest.
Keep up the solid Godly teaching...
I feel I am just rambling now so will quit.
God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Very nice post Lydia!
My grandmother who is 70+ years old, dresses in her Sunday Best every day in heels, no kidding! She always looks so lovely and classy. She has mentioned to me that wearing skirts while in public is a lot better because when you have to go to the ladies room you don't have to pull down your pants to use the washroom and we know how most public restrooms are (gross).

I myself also find that wearing a dress or skirt makes me feel more comfortable because I don't have the pants riding up or having to keep pulling my pants up when they don't fit so nicely.

I am not a big gym shoe fan but I do own 1 pair they are not keds (my favorite) My husband purchased a pair of gym shoes for me that are not really bulky they are sleek and white but they are not as dainty and light weight as the keds.

I prefer to wear loafers because I do not have an arch and I have wide feet and I can only wear high heels for so long. It is very true that in this day in age amd myself included in some situations, wear and do things that make US comfortable with little or no thought about how we affect the one's around us.

I also must admit that I myself have gotten into a really bad habit that I am trying to break, I like comfort and I like easy and with that said I will pull my hair back into a bun (not combing mind you) and sometimes my hair just looks like a jumbled mess in a bun (LOL) and no make up and wearing my husbands jogging pants and shirt. His clothes has become my clothes! UGH! I am now starting to wear MY Clothes and at least putting my hair in different easy styles and trying to put on some sort of makeup.

When I feel pretty and look lady like, my mannerisms are much different. I must admit also that when I wear my gym shoes I do not walk very lady like and when I wear my Loafers (with low wide heel) I walk so lady like my husband even comments.

Mrs. Monise

Michelle said...

Thank you so much for this timely blog - I too am frustrated by fashions being put out these days (if you can even call it that)
I love making my own dresses and have been making efforts to choose things that are more feminine and pretty - this is difficult because I'm not exactly a frilly kind of girl. I particularly love the edwardian era, as well as regency. I'm hoping to convert my entire wardrobe to more historical garments of yesteryear that I've made. I already have a good selection of prairie skirts (2 in embroidered denim) that I wear most of the time if only for the fact that they're functional , pretty and durable all in one!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely article!

Until I found LAF and this blog, I always assumed that beautiful dress was a thing of the past, something to think fondly of. However, it's articles such as this that remind me that just because something is deemed "old fashioned" or "out of date" by society's standards does not mean it's something to be ignored or forgotten. I've started to learn to sew more of my own clothing, mostly skirts and jumpers, and I simply love it. If I have a nice piece of clothing that just doesn't suite my tastes, it's easy to add a ruffle to the hem or let out a seam. Actually, the only ready-to-wear clothing I care to purchase are blouses to layer under dresses or denim skirts (I don't care to sew with denim.)

I look at the beautiful pictures attached to each post and article and am at a loss as to why women nowadays wouldn't want to look like that; beautiful, feminine and respectable.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

wonderful post, I have some boots from LL Bean that are very comfortable and lovely with skirts, also try a pair of Justin Roper boots with skirts for wonderful warmth and outside chores, for those who have animals and work outside.

Lydia said...

To be fair, the women in the west are at the mercy of the manufacturers and stores. They took sewing out of public schools--the kind of lessons that would have given them the skills to sew nice clothes, and they are dependent on what they can buy. The designers have foisted upon the public the awful clothes that people feel they have no choice but to buy.