Friday, June 19, 2009

18th and 19th Century Country Women

The Milk Maid by Julien Dupre
French (1851-1910)
A Pet Rose Bush by Jean Baptist-Camil-Corot
French (1796-1875)

A Bavarian Peasant Girl by Franze Von Defregger
Austrian (1835-1921)

Alsatian Peasant Wedding by Benjamin Vautier
Swiss (1829-1898)

Peasant Women Chatting in Normandy by Wencelas de Broczik
Czechoslovakia (19th Century)

Young Peasant Women Talking in Florence, Italy by Cristiano Banti
Italian (1824-1904)
As our family is currently working in our huge vegetable garden, I am reminded of the women of long ago, who did the same.
This is part of my virtual collection of the 18th and 19th century artists rendition of country women and farm women. Though they were hard workers, their clothing was very feminine and modest. The classic style is still a favorite today: peasant skirt, blouse, and vest, sometimes with a scarf tucked in at the neckline. Other details of their clothing can be observed from the paintings.
There is no reason for women to be stuck with the horrid clothing that is available from designers today. Without the benefit of manufactured clothing, even these farm women of the past had adequate clothing that could withstand the wear and tear of hard work.
Photographs at online museams are available in black and white, showing farm women in their typical clothing. I am sure these women did not have to explain why they were wearing long skirts, nor would they have been accused of being "fundamentalists" religious people. The long skirts did not evoke accusations of "legalism," or "you think you are better than me-ism." There was a time when women wearing mens clothing or mens styles was considered quite inappropriate. It is so sad to see how bad women look in their jeans and tee shirts and tennis shoes today. When women sew, they have more power over their fashion style and less dependence upon the fashion of the day, (fad), which can never make up its mind.
Please be sure to click on the paintings for larger views, and click on the highlighted artist names, to see more breath-taking paintings, particularly down on the page to see all the paintings.


Tracy said...

Beautiful paintings! Oh, how lovely it would be if women would dress like that today... I think a skirt in hte garden is not only pretty, but comfortable, too.

Anonymous said...


Call them 'country', 'Hippie', 'Peasant'; the long, flowing serviceable natural fibre skirt is sooo comfortable for working in; I've a couple of fruit trees and a vege garden to maintain and long, loose skirts are so very comfortable. if you've never worn one, girls, for work, and think they'd get in the way; they don't trust me on this one. In the heat or cold, you can wear either cool petti pants or warm tights/legings with socks and boots (sandals for the summer). with a slightly shorter half slip worn beneath also, or a pettiblouse (just a blouse-slip sewn as one garment) everything's taken care of. From all the household chores to gardening, exercising etc, its all possible. And for those who ride a motorcycle, divided skirts or coulots are a nice option - there are many fetching examples available from a number of modest clothierres out there on the internet.

So be bold, give the right type of skirt for active work; this type I've described, a go; you won't be disappointed.


Marqueta (Mar-kee-ta) G. said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you for sharing those beautiful paintings; how inspiring they are. Isn't it silly that we think skirts are impractical nowadays, when women (and men,too ;) ) wore them for thousands of years and seemed to find them quite practical!

Blessings to you,


Lydia said...

Marqueta: to see more 18th century farm men's wear , click on the link and scroll down to the end of the page where this artist has painted men in the farm harvest. Their clothing consisted of breeches, shirts and someties vests, along with a neck scarf,, and hat.It was very adequate and decent and I am sure they were not concerned with being "in style."

Janet said...

Indeed, these pictures are uplifting! These women don't have mannish appearances: short hair-- spiked or shaggy, T-tops of varying fit, pants that reveal most everything, etc. Their clothes were designed to cover them and delineate them from men, their demeanor shows satisfaction with their lifecalling. An essence of simple beauty and joy to behold. Thank you for sharing these remarkable illustrations.

Anonymous said...

Thank you dear Lydia for these lovely paintings and your wise words. As you can imagine with nearly 28 years of marriage I've performed many and varied activities when caring for a home, raring children and all the experiences and fun that entails. Never have I been prevented from doing any of these exciting or mundane 'spheres of action' by only wearing skirts or dresses.I'm just using my example to encourage others who may question it's practicality. I've not dressed in a dowdy manner but I like pretty, fresh, feminine clothing. Love, Linda

Anonymous said...

These are also not the wealthy women, and yet, they still have feminine clothing and a graceful beauty. We are richer in our nation but women look poverty stricken in the clothing area. Dull clothing colors and oil-based fabrics do not make women feel good or look good, or function better at what they do.

Anonymous said...

This post was just at the right time for me after being at a church BBQ, the only one or two out of 100 wearing a modest skirt, and feeling a little out of place. Those who know my convictions about dress made me feel quite like I'm a legalist. So after a discouraging afternoon, this post helped me regain my courage to continue on in modest dress. It's sad to think that wearing a skirt makes others think that somehow you think you are better than they. It's very frustrating! Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

It makes no sense to me; this 'if you wear skirts, you must be a legalist' line of thought. Have they forgotten just 15-20 years ago, and what folks wore?

Here's an interesting exercise; look up pictures of China (its people) in the 1960-2 and 1970's; and consider these when thinking about the attire the modern masses wear; its not merely a 'pants vs skirts' issue; its the cut and drabness that is so pronounced (my husband has noted this). Traditional chinese attire for ladies has either been beautiful flowing dresses, or a suit reminiscent of the Salwar Kameez of Northern India/Pakistan (both of these very different in cut, colour and style to the garments worn by the men).

Out of the cities and in regional/rural centres (at least in australia) there are any number of 'hippie', 'Peasant', 'Country' clothing shops that sell beautiful peasant skirts, tops, any number of shawl/wrap/throw/scarf, vests etc (Often at scarey prices :-0 )

Why these shops don't thrive in the city even moreso is a mystery to me.

This demonstrates (and lists) what beautiful feminine attire can look like; don't be frightened off by the prices but use it as a springboard for ideas for your own feminine makeover. She's shown skirt options in every set.

'Here is another Christian lady who has created modest sets, all of which can serve to inspire our own putting together of outfits.

Though her work is Orthodox in theme, it too translates to all ladies.

Come on, now, those of you who think it can't be done; it can; and is... by many of us. Be inspired!!


PS: everything reads nicely for those of us with vision impairment; the descriptions of each individual element in each set; what it is, where its from, and a link, make it posible to get an idea even if we a majority of the set is simplly lost to us.

Lydia said...

sarah: You are the reason I allow anonymous posts . Love hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

What I was trying to say re the Mao suit, was, that it was (to borrow a phrase from George Orwell), a 'Tyranny of Drabness'; prior to the cultural revolution in that country, the attire was brighter and livlier.

Just look at the ladies in India and Africa; even among the poorest, there is an iron dignity of spirit, a will to make do; what little they have (this is particularly true of India) is still brilliantly vibrant.

So let's kick this all pervasive dreariness and shine; wheather 'Plain' (which has a charm all of its own) or more flamboyant, everything's an improvement on what seems to be most immediately on offer...


Married life said...

Thank you for this post. I'm at the stage where I am trying to switch from jeans to skirts/dresses! It has given me encouragement and the paintings are lovely.

Susan said...

I've been wearing skirts/dresses most of my life (I am now 44) and have never been hindered in any kind of work or play that I wanted to do. I've also been called a legalist and accused of thinking myself better than others (the true definition of legalism is believing that I must do certain things in order to be/stayed saved - which I don't, and wearing dresses wouldn't be one of those things!). The thing that puzzles me about that is that I have never, ever pushed my convictions on anyone. I simply live what I believe and leave it to the Holy Spirit to do the convicting, if there's any need for it. I have yet to figure out why there's such animosity toward us who choose to wear dresses and skirts, especially when we don't harp on it, but just live what we believe!

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful paintings.....& the women depicted in them all seem to have such a grace about them, don't you think? Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

I like this post a lot. You make some very good points and the paintings are beautiful.

Another interesting thing I see in the paintings besides the clothes is the women's figures. The type of clothing you describe suit a normal figure far better than modern fashions, which are modeled by emaciated waifs and don't even look good on them! The faces of the women are fuller and so pretty compared to todays models, who are told that to have their cheekbones jutting out is a desirable look. While excess weight is not healthy, some fat is normal on a woman and the style of dress you advocate is far more becoming on a normal figure. I think many women who are now constantly trying to lose weight would be more accepting of their figures if this style were to become the norm once again.

Robin said...

Thanks for this post, and thanks to Sarah for posting those links. I love the ideas in the second link. Those outfits are so chic and yet so modest. Makes me want to go shopping!!

Mary said...

Oh, I love the paintings! Yes, it takes time to learn to move and work in a dress, but women of old did it, and perhaps we can learn to wear them and work in them as they did.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. I've been slowly buying skirts and since the weather has been warmer, it's been easy to start wearing them. I'm still rather flummoxed by the whole winter/tights/leggings thing, but I'll get there. I agree with the previous comment that skirts are SO much more flattering for most figures, but especially if you look like a real woman and not a stick. I'm not doing this out of any religious convictions really, I am just trying to look better in what I wear.

~ Ann

Lydia said...

anonymous: there was a brief period in the 80's and early 90's which is called the Glory Days of fashion, where clothing had the feminine style of the peasant clothing.Laura Ashley's country clothing from Wales was most beautiful, and most patterns required woven cloth. Today, nothing looks good on women unless they are pencil thin and sit at a desk all day. The clothing from the 1980's looked good in town even ifyou had just finished raking the yard or cleaning the tub. They were so wearable and they also did not try to emphasize a certain area of the body like clothing does today with its "focus" on the rear or the bustline, etc. Peasant style is still very much "in" today. There are layered skirts at Chadwicks and Speigels and usually both catalogs provide a pleasant blouse. However I understand that these garments are very easy to sew, and people used to do it without a pattern.

Lydia said...

Ann, I do not think women of the past wore dresses out of a religous conviction, but today if you wear them you are immediately pointed out as religious. Yet I do not think they were labelled as "religious" when seen during harvest heaving hay or gathering crops. I do not think all the Victorian women were religous, but they had a sense of beauty and style and knew what looked good on women. Today wome are at the mercy of designers. We have to dump the designers of the oily clothing that makes everyone look so bad. Generally, if you wear wovens like cottons and linens or natural fibres like silk and wool, they tend to be crisper and more modest.

Anonymous said...

Tights or leggings beneath skirts are not as daunting as one would immediately think. Mine are either Tello or City Rose brand; they're made of t-shirt cotton, come in black or white and are trimmed at the cuff with a little machine lace. You can wear black opaque knee stockings or black kneehigh socks over them with nice boots or even a nice pair of courtshoes with the knee high stockings; the fabric of both can cling, so when you wear them on the outside of the tights, they don't roll down during the course of the day. I wear skirts either ankle length or up to 3 inches above; this is a neat and tidy look. These same brands make full petticoats and underspensors out of the same material in the same colours so you can layer nicely under skirt and blouse without a problem. Some skirts can ride or cling, so wearing an anti stat halfslip can help here.

These companies also make undershorts (knee length versions of the leggings) that I sometimes wear in spring. Your Middle Eastern clothierre will sell these; I've looked on line but cannot find them.


Anonymous said...

I am glad you allow anonymous comments so I can make them. I am kind of afraid that if I leave a name, I can be identified by some who know me and who would like to criticize my lifestyle of stay at home mother, etc. That is why I don't use a name, so I can leave honest feedback without fear.

Mary said...

"Plainly Dressed" also sells underthings that will go well under dresses. I have found that the cotton camisoles with matching "knee panties" (the ultimate granny underwear) in the J. C. Penney catalog are GREAT. Comfortable. They feel like pajamas. You wear your regular underwear underneath them. Nice and warm but breathable. Three in a pack (3 pants or 3 camis) for $15, plus shipping.

Mary said...

Remember the "granny gowns" of the 60's and 70's? They were so cute and feminine, and looked as comfortable as a nightgown. Pretty necklines and long sleeves and ankle-length. I wonder if any of those patterns are any longer available?

Lydia said...

anonymous: I agree. I will put up a post in the future and have everyone comment anonymously and see if we can get some real down to earth honest feed back, and you won't be allowed to sign your name.

Anonymous said...

My honest feedback is almost entirely complimentary. I just think it is not necessary for my detractors, who would have me working outside the home, should be able to see my name to use my comments as fodder to pick on my beliefs.

I think that this is a great blog and I come here often for encouragment. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
Hello and thank you for the lovely pictures posted. How inspiring and refreshing.
I have a real desire to dress beautiful and modest pleasing to God and man.. particularly my man. I am so sad though because of today's society dressing beautifully draws so much attention to myself. I get bashful and embarassed to draw such eyes and gazes from both male and female alike. Just a simple full skirt and capped sleeve shirt to the neck mind you and a simple pair of flops or ballet flats and I get admiring looks from men-other men that are not my husband. How am I to react? Is it sin for me to draw such attention. It is so sad that so many women walk around in pajamas and unkempt hair, no make up, and obviously no self esteem so that if one lady gets up and dresses for the day men are refreshed by the sight of such a lady. I have no special beauty just a love for the Lord and a longing to please him and my children and my husband by simply washing, dressing , and freshening up for the day. I hate to be the only one out here. Even at church, I get comments from ladies that I always "dress up" for the occasion as if I were alittle overboard. Just the other day I worked kitchen during VBS and donned an apron brought from home. What do I hear? but a lady look at me and grimly pronounce before a few others "little mrs. house on the prarie" I just smiled and said yes I am and I love it! She was not impressed. I feel so odd however I know that the Lord desires me to dress this way. I know that it pleases him I can feel it in my spirit. If I do wear jeans which is rarely but when I do I like to wear a thigh or knee length dress over it. To keep it modest and feminine. But nothing makes me feel prettier than a really cute skirt and top. Just for the looks I receive. I don't mind to be different. I just hate to struggle with vanity. It's hard to not be vain when you know that you are the only one in wal mart that isn't wearing pajamas or showing off their body and other people are noticing it.
Sorry this post is so long I have been burdened and would love to have your input, encouragement or whatever you feel like you have to give. Thanks so much

Anonymous said...

How beautiful! I actually like those outfits better than some of the wealthy clothing from that period. It's so simple yet beautiful. It's funny how people think the 50's were so beautiful when in reality the 18th and 19th centuries should be getting the praise. I like the 30's too but nothing can beat a long flowing dress from the late 19th century.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful. I love the simplicity of the dresses. I like long flowing dresses like this one I know these are French and other Eupopean peasants and I am curious about the middle class and working class clothing of Victorian America. All I can find are clothes of the wealthy


xoxo, Chloe said...

I really love these paintings! This past Sunday I wore my hair in a crown braid like the peasant girl painting.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a shame that people feel a need to comment when women wear a skirt. Saying, "Why are you all dressed up?" is a backhanded compliment. Just another way people try to bring women at home down.

Lydia, I agree, women wore skirts because they were women and not men.

Thanks for all the tips on undergarments all. I also noticed that the Vermont Country Store had some cute old-fashioned dresses and undergarments, but they are not cheap.

~ Ann

Diane Shiffer said...

It alwasy seems humorous to me when gals tell me they "can't" wear dresses or skirts because of the work they have to do. Women in the past worked far harder than most of us will ever have to, and they did it in skirts! lol

Love the pictures.. and I'll be back to look at them more closely too.

Lydia said...

Ann, oh yes, that is another phrase used to intimidate women : "Why are you all dressed up?" Most of the time, they are NOT dressed up, but wearing casual, faded denim or an older garment, and not a prom dress or anything like that! It shows you how far the standards have fallen
in people's mindes--even those who are older and can remember going to the grocery store in a dress.
Personally, I cannot let the trends dictate to me about clothing.

To the lady that asked about feeling conspicuous in public in a dress. Candy B did a little video about modesty and dresses where she made a speech saying that it is normal to feel that way, since you are supposed to be different from what the world is promoting, and since you are supposed to "stick out"--it is part of your influence, and creates an impact on people. How do you think the slop-chic, shock styles got here? Litttle by little, girls were willing to go out in spiked, shaved heads with purple streaks, in low cut tight jeans that showed everything, in tight tops and straps showing, in short skirts, etc. It was shocking at first, but we got used to it and then it looked normal. If people are not used to seeing something, it seems shocking. That is how the designs impact society--they use shock treatment on everyone with their horrid designs.Even if there exists a modest dress, it is painted with garrish bulls eyes in black and turquoise, arranged in strategic areas to draw attention to body parts. Look at how the pockets of jeans used to be up close to the waist, and how they are now designed so that the move while you walk and draw attention to the biggest part of a woman's body. Yes you will feel like you are drawing attention to yourself,
but rather than go on at length here I will make another post on the subject and everyone
comment anonymously.

Mary said...

Lydia, you have good insight. I, too, attract attention when I am dressed in a skirt and blouse. I don't know what to think. A couple of weeks ago, a middle-aged man followed me and my husband out of WalMart. I got into the back seat, because my husband's sister was going to sit beside him in front (she is a larger woman than I am) and my husband got in behind the wheel. I wasn't quite settled in the back seat and had the door a little ajar, and this man comes up and says, "Oh, let me help you get in the car!" My husband was right there!!! I was wearing a calf-length white skirt, a red-and-blue blouse, and a white long-sleeved jacket, and flats. Weird.

A couple of days later, I was in a grocery store with my son and my sister-in-law, and this store employee on a little cart kept following me around the store asking if he could help me. I was wearing a calf-length orange denim skirt and a flowered short-sleeved blouse and sandals.

Both of these middle-aged men were very solicitous, but it felt weird.

I guess, like you said, anything new gets attention. I don't want to stop wearing skirts.

Last night, while out for a walk, I was wearing a tie-dyed ankle-length wrap-skirt and a tank with a white peasant blouse over it. A woman drove by in a car and her head snapped around at the sight of me.

And, at church, I really get a lot of attention from men because I always wear a feminine flowing dress and heels and a hat.

I, too, get comments like, "Why are you all dressed up?" usually from older ladies in their 70's. Those ladies will admit to me that they only own one dress, or don't even own a dress at all.

Our femininity does draw attention from both genders, but the man-lady look is surely worse. It calls attention to body parts.

Laryssa Herbert said...

Thanks for showing these lovely paintings!

GentleDove said...

Thanks for collecting these paintings to show! I love the peaceful facial expressions, so different from the haughty and sensual expressions of modern models.

I agree with the commenters that wearing modest clothing is so comfortable, and you don't have to worry about underwear accidentally showing.

As for men looking, when you dress modestly, the men are just so happy and grateful to be able to appreciate femininity without feeling they have to avert their eyes to avoid lust-causing images. It's sad; many men have never been around a young, wholesome, modestly dressed, delightfully feminine woman (who isn't their mother). I've had several men compliment me on my dresses (it's so cute how they call a blouse and skirt combo a "dress"), and one man (a stranger on the street) even thanked me for wearing a long skirt and dressing modestly, but femininely.

Sometimes I get snippy comments from women about "little house on the prairie," or "Alice in Wonderland" (I also have long hair.) or about wearing pink (I love pink, but all women are supposed to hate it now, according to feminists.) Mostly, these women are jealous or conflicted about their gender. They need our compassion and forgiveness, but continue on, and don't let them change your modest dress style! Just smile and continue on, unaffected by their snarky comments!

I've noticed a few women friends starting to dress very prettily and femininely, wearing more skirts and makeup in prettier (less drab) colors. It's just fun!

They need an example. Many, many women have only ever heard the feminist party line their whole lives, and just have no idea how to dress femininely and modestly. Many women mistakenly feel that if they don't look like a young, thin, "available" model, then they can't look pretty and give up. But that's not true at all! They really need the brave examples of other ladies. And these paintings are wonderful examples for us.

We really live in a time of rebellion against our God-given genders, something our foremothers never had to give a second thought to. Dressing modestly and femininely is one of the easiest and funnest (?) ways to combat it!

Lydia said...

I had described an antique car show in a mall, where some women attending it were dressed in Victorian costume. People were engrossed in looking at the beautiful cars, but when these women came into the area, everyone stopped looking at the cars and looked at them in their beautiful clothes and hats. If you are dressed modestly and beautifully, it provides a bright spot in someones day and you should not be sorry if they look at you. At least they do not have to feel guilty for looking at someone who is not appropriately dressed, and you are not guilty of trying to attract the wrong kind of attention.

Anonymous said...

thank you both so much for those kind and encouraging comments. I had never thought about it like that. I am not guilty of trying to attract the wrong kind of attention. I will pray that I can know this in my heart, so that I may confidently enjoy my womanhood. God bless you both.
Melissa Smith

mrs. c said...

Dear Lady Lydia, love your post, and totally agree with the sentiments of the ladies here, skirts/dresses are feminine, and lovely, and do not , i find attract undue male attention, just admiration, and a willingness to open doors, lift packages and treat me like a lady! Now, why on earth would i refuse gentlmanly gestures, since it seems these poor men have no one to practice them on? The feminists have it all wrong,when men treat them as 'equals', they have no idea what they are missing out on. My husband loves my feminine dress, and always treats a lady like a lady. There would be less bitter women in the world if they just practiced a few of the womanly arts, in my opinion!

mrs. c said...

I too tend to get the "why are you so dressed up" comment, only from women though...i wonder why people get so weird around woman looking like a woman??

Susan said...

Great post, as usual Lydia! I have strived to do this lately and I have also noticed increased attention. This is absolutely not the motive (to get attention), but it is encouraging to be an example of feminine dress, which draws attention to the woman not her body. I think men like it because it really makes them look more like a man. If we all wear men's clothing, men aren't really going to stand out as men or feel like they are too different from women, especially with women taking over the work force, cutting their hair short, doing "men's jobs" and dressing like them to boot. My husband emphatically agrees that there's nothing like a long flowing skirt and long hair to boost his masculinity!

GentleDove said...

A quick comment about legalism. One definition of legalism is believing that good works, including dressing modestly, will earn salvation.

Another definition of legalism is substituting man-made rules and laws for those written in the Bible.

It's interesting that those who tell modestly dressed ladies that they are legalists (or imply it) are actually applying man-made fashion rules to the modest ladies and judging them "guilty" according to that man-made standard.

The Bible is actually very liberal and allows for great variety in its dress guidelines, while I've found the modern faddish fashionistas to be quite narrow in what they deem "acceptable" clothing.

There's nothing "legalist" about wanting with all your heart to please and obey the One Who has saved you!

Anonymous said...

Miss Karla, You are so right: when someone says you are wearing a long skirt or long dress because you "think you are better" or you are "too dressed up", they, in fact are being quite narrow and quite legalistic. If they ask you why you wear a long dress, just ask them why they jeans are clear down to their ankles. Isnt that a bit long? The fashion designers that seem to dominate the factories that churn out all this oily, short clothing, are quite narrow minded because they offer so much more of that kind of thing, and very little of the kind of clothing that is appropriate for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Observing these paintings makes me think of the artists and wonder what they were seeing in their every day lives. Would they find such pretty forms to paint today? They would more likely be shocked at what they see. Women have been led by the pied piper of fashion, down to the river where they have floated away, with their" 75 percent off" clothing.

I liked the art of the man who painted the harvest scenes. I live on a farm, and every harvest, the women and children work hard for several weeks, followed by outdoor picnics and other activities. Looking at these paintings makes the past seem not so long ago.

I am an older woman who has had a lot of experience talking to women about modesty. In the 60s there was an interest in the head-covering or veil issue. A young woman was talking to me about head covering, and as I was listening to her, and noticing the little lace doily she had pinned on her head, I also saw that she was wearing the typical youth fasion of the time, a mini skirt. It did not make much sense to me that her religion required her to cover her head but not her thighs.