Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Value of Clothing in Creating a Mood

If you are new at home living, you might find it interesting to observe the effect that your clothing has on your mood. One of the differences between staying home and going off to work with the rest of the pack every day, is the amount of time you will spend alone. You have to adjust to thinking for yourself, by yourself, about every little thing. This is something that most young women, used to going out to school every day, or to work every day, may find rather unusual. Dressing up a little better really improves the mood of the day, especially when you are alone. Those quiet days at home make you look forward so much more to the time when your husband comes home to share the evening with you.
I have heard many stories of the past, where people, left alone in places that they felt isolated, still dressed up and had regular meals and behaved like dignified human beings. I think this is so important on those "alone days." Clothing can do a lot to energize or stimulate bright thinking.

Dressing up improves those quiet days when you don't think anyone notices you. One reason that dressing well for an ordinary day at home is so important, is that it improves the mood. Colors and styles and patterns definitely have an effect on us when we are wearing them. To experiment with this, try wearing the grungiest clothes you can find one day, and the best you can wear that are suitable for housework and homemaking, the next.

Wearing something pretty definitely improves the mood. I love cotton fabric and have made one dress for each day, which I call my "line" of clothing. They aren't fancy, but they will do for every day, and if I have to go out, I won't be embarrassed or self-conscious about whether or not I've gained a little weight (jeans and tight clothes tend to show every unwanted pound), or that I am offending anyone by having clothing too revealing, too short or too tight.
n my town, there are religious women who wear only one style of dress, and I often wonder what they think when they see people dressed in practically nothing, to go to the grocery store. Partly out of respect for these ladies, and for my own dignity, I wear these casual dresses to the grocery store, the post office, the bank, and all the places where I do errands.
Everyone would agree that choosing a wedding dress is important. What if the bride to be, whilst looking for a gown, was told by a friend, that it doesn't matter what she wears to the wedding, as long as she gets married. The vows are the most important, they would say. Who cares what you wear? What if her friends were to intimidate her by saying that her desire to wear a dress to her wedding, instead of wearing shorts or pants, was "legalistic." It is understandable that she would want a special dress for that special day. If she showed up in something else, her mood would certainly be affected, and so for that matter, the moods of others.
Yes, weddings are special enough to warrant a special garment, but each day after that is special, for it is a gift from God. Having special clothing to wear to celebrate the ordinary day makes your outlook on life so much more optimistic and seems to enhance your appreciation for every little thing, from the sound of a warbling bird in the morning, to the view of the sunset in the evening.
I wonder sometimes if we rob our young women of the pleasure of wearing dresses daily in the home, because they are afraid of what others might think. Others may make them feel self-conscious and leave them with a feeling that they have to constantly explain why they are "all dressed up."
As I have grown older, I've found that dresses are more comfortable if they are made right, and if they are 100% cotton, but they also improve my mood and effect the way I keep house. I have pictures of my great grandmothers in their typical Victorian clothing, and I notice in a lot of old books that I have collected, that women around the world wore similar clothing. I don't think at that time, during that era, they were dressing that way because they were "legalist." Linda Lichter did a good job of explaining the reason for their style of clothing, the reason they didn't bare so much skin in public, in her chapter about clothing, in "Simple Social Graces" (also under the title, "The Benevolence of Manners.") This historical account helped me to understand better the importance women placed on covering themselves and the courtesy they showed to others in that act.
This is a sample of some cotton dresses that I sewed for daily wear. I call this "My line of clothing." They aren't perfect, but they suit my every day life. When it is a bit overcast in the sky, I like to wear something blue or yellow, and there are some days that just seem like white and other days feel more like a celebration, so I may wear a brighter color. I don't know if other women are "mood dressers," but I certainly am. I like to choose clothing to contrast or to match the feeling of the day, whether it is cold or warm, sunny or dark.
Interesting quotes about clothing:
“The body is the shell of the soul, and dress the husk of that shell; but the husk often tells what the kernel is”
"Choose clothing that someone else would want to wear when you are finished with them."
To be a fashionable woman is to know yourself, know what you represent, and know what works for you. To be "in fashion" could be a disaster on 90 percent of women. You are not a page out of Vogue. ~Author Unknown
Judging from the ugly and repugnant things that are sometimes in vogue, it would seem as though fashion were desirous of exhibiting its power by getting us to adopt the most atrocious things for its sake alone. ~Georg Simmel
1Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety...
Adam Clarke (1762 - 1832) That women adorn themselves - Και τας γυναικας ες καταστολῃ κοσμιῳ. The apostle seems to refer here to different parts of the Grecian and Roman dress. The στολη, stola, seems to have been originally very simple. It was a long piece of cloth, doubled in the middle, and sewed up on both sides, leaving room only for the arms; at the top, a piece was cut out, or a slit made, through which the head passed. It hung down to the feet, both before and behind, and was girded with the zona round the body, just under the breasts. It was sometimes made with, sometimes without, sleeves; and, that it might sit the better, it was gathered on each shoulder with a band or buckle. Some of the Greek women wore them open on each side, from the bottom up above the knee, so as to discover a part of the thigh. These were termed φαινομηριδες, showers (discoverers) of the thigh; but it was, in general, only young girls or immodest women who wore them thus.
The καταστολη seems to have been the same as the pallium or mantle, which, being made nearly in the form of the stola, hung down to the waist, both in back and front, was gathered on the shoulder with a band or buckle, had a hole or slit at top for the head to pass through, and hung loosely over the stola, without being confined by the zona or girdle. Representations of these dresses may be seen in Lens’ Costume des Peuples de l’Antiquité, fig. 11, 12, 13, and 16. A more modest and becoming dress than the Grecian was never invented; it was, in a great measure, revived in England about the year 1805, and in it, simplicity, decency, and elegance were united; but it soon gave place to another mode, in which frippery and nonsense once more prevailed. It was too rational to last long; and too much like religious simplicity to be suffered in a land of shadows, and a world of painted outsides. Homemakers might enjoy another post here, http://www.meridianmagazine.com/athome/080810blind.html (Although I don't share the same religion as Mrs. Hoole, I do agree with this article about decorating and homeamaking


HISchild said...

Thank you! I couldn't agree more. I love wearing cotton dresses and have made more of what is in my closet than not. Thank you for your example.

Tracy said...

Thanks so much for this beautiful post! I've been thinking about this very thing just this morning. Our world is so casual now, that most people don't care if they wear their pajamas to the store, etc. I'm a dresses and skirts only gal, and find that people treat me so much kinder when I'm out and about. And I feel good about the way I look inside and outside my home. I've had many people ask me, "What are you so dressed up for?" Often, I'm only wearing a long flow-y gored skirt, and a respectable plain t-shirt, and yet they think I'm dressed up! I like to think I'm dressed in a way that will please my heavenly Father as well as my husband. Who wants to come home to a wife dressed in sweat pants with stains down the front?

Anonymous said...

Your dresses are lovely! And your thoughts on them are so right. May I ask if you have a favorite pattern or patterns you can recommend?

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

A beautiful post, as usual!

I was pleased recently when my daughter told me she thought of me as she was getting dressed that day. I love long, flowing skirts (all bought at Goodwill) and soft pullover tops. That was what she was putting on that day, reminding her of me. :)

Although we live in the country, we are near a large University of about 40,000 students. It is terrible the way most of the girls dress.

When we were in Lancaster County for vacation (paid for by my kids!), we were surrounded by Amish ladies all the time. I believe there are around 7,000 Amish families there. I, too, wondered what they thought of tourists and how they dressed.

Jodi said...

This is an excellent post! I was just thinking this morning, as I picked out my clothes for the day, that I feel so much better about myself and get so much more accomplished when I "dress up" a little. So what if only my husband and daughter see me? I want to look nice for them,too.

JKaye said...

In recent months, since I have begun reading such blogs, it has been on my conscience to begin wearing dresses and skirts again. I dress modestly compared to so many women and girls today, but, I do wear pants all of the time -- loose-fitting pants or capris, but, pants all the same. I haven't had on a pair of shorts in ages, nor have I worn a tank top in ages. But, as I have been becoming more immersed in my housewifely role, I've begun to think how nice it would be to have on a pretty dress or skirt when my husband comes home from work. The only thing that has stopped me from wearing dresses and skirts is the fact that I do a lot of gardening, and it seems like my skirt or dress would get rather dirty -- I often sit down on the ground while I am weeding or planting seeds. Perhaps I could wear my pants for gardening, then change later. Anyway, it's fun to think about dressing up and looking more feminine.

Lydia said...

Anna, I just added a favorite pattern to the article.

Brenda: there are women here from a religious group that dress in a uniform kind of dress that symbolizes the group they belong to. I would never dream of attacking them or calling them legalists or mocking them. Like you, I do wonder how shocked they must be to see what they see in the grocery store. Also, when I would travel overseas, I was always so embarrassed for the Americans, who dressed the most immodestly. How can we expect people to respect us when our clothes are so immodest? It is not all their fault, though, as the manufacturers and designers present piles of these clothes at cheap prices and women can get them effortlessly. Sewing does take some time. I believe sewing should not just be laborious. You should like fabric, and enjoy the process of sewing itself.

Lydia said...

....and then you have an excuse to make a new one for the house, which you wear first at a tea party you host, or to go out somewhere...then, as that one wears out, you take it down a notch or two and use it for every day grunge work, till it eventually ends up used for something else. You save the scraps from sewing, for other small projects, or for quilts. My daughter made a quilt from the scraps of all her dresses that she wore when she was younger. But, anyway, you just wear those skirts and dresses for whatever job you are doing, and it matters not if they get damaged, because it is easy to make more and sometimes a dress costs as little ast $5.00 if you get dollar-a-yard fabric.

Lydia said...

....and then you have an excuse to make a new one for the house, which you wear first at a tea party you host, or to go out somewhere...then, as that one wears out, you take it down a notch or two and use it for every day grunge work, till it eventually ends up used for something else. You save the scraps from sewing, for other small projects, or for quilts. My daughter made a quilt from the scraps of all her dresses that she wore when she was younger. But, anyway, you just wear those skirts and dresses for whatever job you are doing, and it matters not if they get damaged, because it is easy to make more and sometimes a dress costs as little ast $5.00 if you get dollar-a-yard fabric.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. I love seeing all of your dresses on the clothesline.

This is something I've been meaning to do, convert my clothes to skirts, but I can't seem to do it. I have a block or something.

I tried to look for skirts for the summer. For my body, I need skirts that have some structure, not those ones you can crumple up in a ball. I couldn't find any like that, that didn't have enormous slits up the sides or back!!!

I am going to renew my quest when I buy a few new things for fall.

~ Ann

candy said...

Dear Lydia,
I am so glad you showed the picture of yourself in your pink dress :) :)
You know I love that dress and still havent been to Wal-Mart yet to get the pattern. I was sick for a few days. I will go soon though.
I also loved that you showed all your pretty dresses on the line!!! Simply beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I love your pink dress, too :)

I am hoping to get my skirt cut out today. It's Butterick 4136 (http://www.butterick.com/item/B4136.htm). I finally found a suitable blue floral cotton a few weeks ago.

We don't have a source of inexpensive fabric here in our small town anymore but once I have collected a few favourite patterns, I am going to keep a sheet with yardage (metre-age) needed, in my purse, so that I can look for fabric when we go to a bigger city. Actually, I know now that if I buy 5 metres I will have enough for most dresses and 4 metres is enough for most skirts (I am tall), so I will buy fabric on sale if I see some I like and patterns on sale when I find them.

My plan is to make a line of aprons to coordinate with my dresses and skirts. I love aprons with big pockets.

One hint I might add it to make sure the fabric you choose has the right drape for the type of garment you are making. Pull a few feet out of the bolt and drape it over your hand to see how it falls. Sometimes you will want a stiffer fabric for certain skirts or aprons but sometimes you need a light, flowy fabric.

Also, some cottons wrinkle very badly and you might not want to spend that much time ironing. Hold a handful of the fabric tightly in your hand for a minute to see how badly it wrinkles.

Those of us who sew regularly know these things and take it for granted but it might help some beginners. When I first started sewing, I gave up in frustration for a long time because I chose the wrong fabrics and ended up with unwearable clothes (some of which ended up as quilt blocks so all was not lost).

Lydia said...

Yes, if sewing with woven cottons, always scrunch the fabric before buying to see how it lays out afterwards. Some cottons are treated to be less wrinkly; also read on the pattern back and make sure it says "cottons" so that you don't end up with a pattern that was cut only for stretch fabrics. Sometimes they work, and sometimes not, but I usually like the ones that definitely recommend wovens.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Today's post really spoke to me. I have been wearing dresses and skirts only for about two years now. I am a SAHM but once when I was of the world, I worked among the fashion designers of today.

One of the things I learned from them was that a woman is considered chic and elegant when she wears a skirt with a trim jacket - almost like Katherine Hepburn at Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Ladies are dressing more and more indecent than before. It seems that the more skin you show, the prettier they feel? I wonder how they are able to explain this to their young children.

Thank you, Lady Lydia, for sharing your thoughts today. I think your dresses are lovely. Cotton fabrics are the best.



Lydia said...


When I see a fabric sale, I get an average of 4 yards because it will make a dress with long sleeves, or a skirt and blouse combo. Anything left over I can use for accessories or other projects. I don't wait til I go home and get a pattern and find the specified amount I need. I just know that I can go to my fabric shelf and pull out something and it will make just about anything. If I change my mind, it can be a baby quilt for someone in need, a curtain or a table cloth.

Anonymous said...

It's not just immodestly clothed women and girls that is around everywhere I go, but it's the sloppy way of dressing as well. I can go to Walmart and see several women in their pajama pants and even slippers. So often I will walk into a store in my (to me) casual skirt and shirt and people will take a second look. I have recently gotten back to sewing after several years of not doing much on my sewing machine besides mending and I'm really enjoying it. I have 4 daughters, a sister, and a mother who are all getting homemade aprons for Christmas this year. I have found that putting on an apron makes me ready for doing housework and makes me feel very feminine. Thank you for sharing your line of dresses with us and the patterns you use.

Anonymous said...

This article was very well written and done so in a very ladylike and helpful manner.
I also want to say that I am one of those women you see in dresses that is prescribed by my church. We wear cape dresses and the length of sleeves,hem and some patterns are decided by our elders.
As to what I think when I see immodestly dressed people in the store, well it's probably the same as you think. I think Americans are getting sloppier and sloppier and our society would be much better if people started having pride in how they dressed. I love seeing young father's holding their little ones, but I can't stand seeing the father dressed like a teenage boy. He should be dressed like a responsible man. No matter what his age is.
My dh and I talk about why do women feel that they have to show everything they have? I don't like seeing anyones underwear or men's hairy chests and legs.
As I wrote earlier, from this article, you probably feel the same as I do. Please keep writing.


Anonymous said...

Dear LadyLydia,

Another fun project is buying dresses, cutting off the tops and making skirts of them.

Nice, poofy cotton skirts are getting hard to find around here so that's what I've resorted to doing. I'm thin and most of the other skirts in my size are too short or cut in such a way that nothing is left to the imagination, even though it's "covered."

You're completely right about people being so casual that skirts shock them. I commute from home to a liberal college and I'm usually the only person in my classes to wear a long skirt. Though I try to dress casual, the simple act of matching a top with a skirt shocks them and I get stared at and then avoided.

You said once that dressing this way would scare away men that weren't truly committed to the idea of settling down and having a family. It's TRUE!! Guys see me and run!!

I think that not only dressing nice improves your outlook, it sends out the "I can respect myself without acting like a man" vibe. People seem to find true femininity intimidating. Otherwise why would they avoid it?

Thank you for your lovely pictures. Sometimes, because I'm the only one on campus, it gets lonely and it's a great pleasure to see real pictures of other women beautifully dressed.

Many blessings,

Lizzy F.

Alexandra said...

What great timing! I was looking for that skirt pattern. I can't wear A-line, and look better in a pencil skirt or a bell shaped skirt. I have two handmade skirts from a thrift which I love, but did not have the pattern. They look much the same as the short ones with the darts in the 6624 pattern. I'll have to give this easy pattern a try. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lady Lydia,
I first want to say thank you for such a lovely topic that keeps speaking to my heart again and again. I have been feeling a pull for quite a long time to "make the switch." However, when I go out to shop for some beautiful modest dresses they are nowhere to be found. I have even gone to my local thrift stores all to no avail. Can you recommend some websites to purchase such clothing?
Thank you for all of your posts on modesty from someone who is trying to make the change.

Thursday's Child said...

OK, you have me really missing my sewing machine! I'll have to get on DH to go find one for me when I get home. (If I go, I get charged more for being a wealthy westerner.)

I'm not skirts and dresses only, but I have a nice collection of great skirts (one of the advantages of living in a Muslim country). I really like them in hot weather since there's more "air flow". I need to practice making patterns from them so I can recreate them as they wear out. I have a book back home on the subject luckily.

Anonymous said...

I love your dresses,we are lucky here in th UK as feminine skirts and tops are very fashionable at the moment. I have always dressed in long flowing skirts or long denim skirts with pretty tops and co-ordinating jewellery and hair accessories.Although I am quite a large lady I get many compliments on my appearance from both sexes and all age groups.I say when asked if it is a lot of trouble to dress like this everyday,that we should try every day to make the most of what we have and think of the people who have to look at us.Presenting ourselves in the best way possible is a great mood lifter,and it saddens me when I see women who look as though they have jumped out of bed and left the house without even brushing their hair !

Mrs. Anna T said...

What a sweet post. I love wearing skirts and dresses at home. Just think how much of the value of home was lost once it was decided home isn't "important enough" to dress up for.

Anonymous said...

I am planning on learning how to sew. Your pictures were lovely. I love most of the Victorian era clothing but pretty clothing being the norm didn't stop at the Victorians. If you study fashion history feminine clothing was the norm until the late 1960's. I am planning to wear skirts all the time and trying to convince my mama to dod the same. Although I think that ankles being considered dirty extreme I admire Victorian modesty.


Anonymous said...

I use the New Look 2936 pattern all the time. It's my favorite and also my husband's favorite on me!

It's so amusing to me that people think "Oh! A party dress!" and i think "this is my house dress" :-)

Great article, Thank you!


Lydia said...

2936 and 6352 are always missing on the rack, so they must be very popular.

Unknown said...

I feel the same way about wear dresses. I have 2 skirts that I wear around the house & love it. I sometimes wear shorts b/c I only have 2 skirts. But I have to go in the shop w/dh and jeans are a must.
It pains me to wear them. I have this split emotion of wanting to dress like a woman then like a man.
This week is one of those weeks. We have been busy in the shop and my help was needed. But my dh makes sure he apperciates me. He knows this bothers me. Especially when I have things in the house to do. I try not to show it to much. I don't want to make him feel bad about it either.
I do look at the postive side of it. My dd2 is learning how to care for the house & cook. We really need to work on the cooking. But she is learning & that is a good thing. Also the profit we are making by not paying someone. We are paying off some debt, updating the property & building our savings.
I guess I dress for the mood & occassion weather I like it or not.

Anonymous said...

What a nice way to show that dressing modestly doesn't have to mean "dowdy" or "drab"! I think that your beautiful things prove beyond a doubt that "well dressed" doesn't have to mean wearing the latest sleazy, made-in-an-overseas-sweatshop junk that the fashion designers fob off on us. I'm very sure that their entire purpose it to get the highest price for the smallest amount of material they can get away with using. The cost on some of the horrible garments out there today is practically nil, yet people pay so much for them!

I find New Look patterns are very versatile and well drafted and have several I use all the time.

That clothesline full of dresses maketh me want to go and sew. Thank you for the inspiration, I've been procrastinating!


Lydia said...

There have been posts dotted around this blog throughout the years since 2003 approx. where people have commented that some designers design clothing to make women look stupid. I am inclined to believe it. That is why women have got to take the job of designing their own clothing, or buying things from companies or catalogs that make really lovely clothing, even if it isn't the designer label. Another time someone wrote in that they thought a lot of the hairstyles and clothing styles were designed by people who wanted to make women look like young boys.

Anonymous said...

Good news is, I really think dresses are making a comeback. I see girls in them all the time who aren't intentionally trying to make any sort of statement about modesty, traditional family values, etc.

I remember being a teenager and knowing that anytime you saw a woman in a dress, it meant she was a Militant Church Lady. Which ain't all bad, but it's not really a good way to attract someone to follow that example. So I think it's fantastic to see women looking HAPPY in their dresses.

Know what I mean?

Anyone here read dressaday.com? Erin McKean is my fashion icon. I'm not even kidding.

I've been a pretty persistent dress-wearer since I was a little girl, but always felt that I should limit my enjoyment of the garment to say, twice a week, so as not to be construed as an Angry Church Lady.

But Erin made it seem okay to be a dress-wearer 7 days a week if it makes me happy. And it does. I don't even bother buying pants anymore, because, the truth is, I hate them.


Anonymous said...

My favorite "dress pattern" is actually a Burda button-front blouse lengthened out to mid-calf. ;)

Dayhiker said...

I love your blog, Lydia, and appreciate very much this particular entry. I am an older woman who is a beginning sewer...I have the New Look 6352 Dress pattern but it was a disaster with the low neckline. Thankfully, I had a pretty old sheet that I tested it on for a potential nightgown! Would you show how you fixed that? Thank you!

Lydia said...

The neckline on that pattern has to be raised several inches. You can buy a large doily at Dollar Tree and fold it in half, and attach it to the neckline. Put the dress on first and position it, safety pin it, and then tack it down with the machine. I add ties to the back, as the dress is loose.

You can do the same thing with a piece of matching fabric. Yes, I'll try to demonstrate later.

Katrinka said...

I love cotton dresses and hope to soon be able to start making more clothes for myself. One thing I've noticed about clothing construction in the stores is the unnatural waistline, whether it's skirts or slacks, and how unflattering it is. I have been seeing it for a long time now, and I keep looking at it and thinking maybe I'll get used to it and start seeing something feminine in it, but it still eludes me! It's not the hip huggers or dropped waist dress of the '60s, but it's somewhere in between the hips and the waist and it's very hard to look nice in them, even if one is very skinny. I think that a dress with a natural waist is very feminine. I have some jumpers with a princess waist or high, gathered waist, or just a straight drop from the shoulders in a slight A-line that are very comfortable and quick to make, and my husband always tells me he likes to see a waistline in my dresses. They do take more time in construction, though, so I don't make many of them. One thing I did begin to do was to find a blouse pattern that I like and then just attach a gathered skirt to the bottom. Since I'm a little full-figured, I also sometimes will pleat the fabric and then make a casing and run elastic thru it. That way I can have a full skirt with any type top that I like. Pleats sound daunting, but once I did it enough it was actually easier than gathers and lays flatter. My stepdaughter has two little girls, and for play dresses she takes a T-shirt or sweatshirt and sews a square of gathered fabric on the bottom and they are very cute and work up very fast.

Anonymous said...

People get used to that weird low waistline, though-- if you've never worn separates at your natural waist, you find it a strange sensation.

I think the idea was that it is supposed to visually lengthen the torso and make you look slimmer.

But it shortens the legs, which I think is worse! ROFL!

--Short Legs

Eileen said...

Lovely post. Love your line of dresses, and your pink dress. I've been wearing mostly skirts and dresses for a little over 5 years now, but it's time for me to sew some new dresses! Thanks for the inspiration!