Friday, July 10, 2009

The Long, Modest Gowns Painted by Peter Severin Kroyer (1851-1909)

Summer Evening at Skagen, the Artists Wife, 1892

Peder Kroyer was born in Norway and studied art in Denmark, where he lived many years of his life. He painted many beach scenes, including local fishermen, strollers and bathers.

Artist and His Wife

The women's clothing of the time appears to be quite simple. The dress depicted in the above painting, is plain but pretty.
Sommeraften pa Skagen

What a lovely scene here, of strollers on the beach. It is due to artists like this, and the photographs of this elegant era, that we have a glimpse into the clothing and the activities of people in their leisure time. These two casual dresses might be made of white muslin today.
Summer Evening on the Beach at Skagen

This artists was considered the most colorful of the "Skagen Group" of painters of the Victorian era.

Interior, 1898
(these images will be available to order from

This painting gives a glimpse into the interior of a home of the era, showing the carved furniture , the lovely padded Victorian style couch, and the pretty wallpapers. Not everything was designed in straight lines or without embellishment. I love the scene of the mother resting while reading a book, with her daughter near by. This is the kind of scene that could be duplicated at home today. The gowns are also very soft looking and casual.

These industrious artists of the 18th and 19th century certainly left us many clues about how women were dressed and how the homes were ordered;how children played and the many scenes of home life.

There is certainly a "high place" in the lives of women today, regarding clothing. There is an attitude of "no one is going to tell me what to wear." However, when you buy the things on the rack that are designed by someone else to make you look like everyone else, you really are letting someone tell you what to wear. When you are guided by peer pressure to look just like everyone else, you really are letting others tell you what to wear. Some children could design better than the current designs that flood the market and sell cheaply to poor folks who are desperate for something to wear. When you buy their shorts, jeans and tee shirts, you are putting money into the pockets of these designers , who live like kings, while you get poorer and look poorer. I think it is time to chuck the system, wear comfortable clothes, and give children and men something worth looking at besides tears and holes and blank spots where the designers ran out of cloth.

Please remember to POST ANONYMOUSLY. It is very helpful. Thank you!


Anonymous said...

In the previous post, someone remembered when women's pants were zipped at the side. I remember when some jeans for women were also zipped in the back. Pants for women used to always zip up the back or side, and men's pants were zipped in the front. Why do women's jeans now have a men's fly? Because these fashions are designed by people with corrupt minds, who want women to look like young boys.

Anonymous said...

These are beach scenes. Wouldnt it be great to see women promenading on the beach in clothes, instead of nothing!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

when I saw your lovely and inspiring swedish paintings, I all of a sudden remembered the swedish painter Carl Larsson, who also lived during the victorian area (around 1880). Maybe you can search for some pictures from him. He has mainly painted his beautiful house, where one can take much inspiration from, and then also his family. One can see, how they were dressed, and what they did during the days.

I'm so motivated to sew up some new dresses in light colors!

Good night and kind regards

Anonymous said...

I have so much enjoyed all the encouragement and discussion on dressing modestly and femininely.
In thinking more on the subject, I have come to see how from creation it was intended that there be two distinct genders. And most cultures have preserved that, up until ours recently.
In trying to verbalize my own definition of femininity, I have used this idea "lacking in masculinity" or the opposite of masculine.
This has been true in appearance and role for so long, and it is such a shame it is going now.
A man never wore bows, flowers or lace, but ladies often did. A man had facial hair, a lady was lacking. Ladies wore heels on their shoes, men did not. Men wore vests and pocket-watches, ladies did not. Men wore longjohns, women wore chemises and petticoats. Women carried purses, men did not.
This extra effort to separate and keep the genders distinct was applied even to button-down shirts - men button to the right, women to the left.
And the list could go on much longer.

Anonymous said...

I really like those paintings. And like the other poster said, Carl Larsson has some really nice art as well.

Today at lunch time I saw an older lady (50s or 60s) with her daughter and grand-daughter. Of course the little girl had on a cute sundress and the grandma was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and short hair. I thought she could not have looked more un-feminine!

Sometimes it can be awkward when you are the only one out in public wearing a skirt or dress, but I am always glad that I do! Sometimes people ask me what I am dressed up for and I just say oh this is what I always wear (and it's just a simple top and long flowy skirt).

Anonymous said...

I am still new at the art of dressing feminine. I have always admired the Victorian Era clothing. I have been wearing skirts and dresses for a while now and now I realize that what I bought has masculine hints. By reading your blog I have been inspired to wear more Feminine dresses. I wish the beach scene could represent the modern beach scene. But Sadly it can't. I once heard a preacher say. "It started out as fig leaves and it seams like it's gonna end with fig leaves.

God bless

Anonymous said...

womens pants were buttoned on the side, as well as skirts. Men's shirts had a crease ironed on the sleeve, women's still do not. Tee shirts were only worn by soldiers and were underwear that they sometimes wore as outerwear. Women never wore them. Underwear became outerwear when tee shirt material was sewn by manufacturers into blouses for women. Long underwear worn in cold climates was also made into outerwear for women. Girls, every time you wear a tee shirt, remember that it was once only a style worn as underwear. Every time you wear jeans with the fly front, remember that the style was copied from men's jeans. Prior to 1900 women were ashamed to wear men's clothes in public for other than extremely strenuous work like roping cattle. Today they say jeans are so sturdy, and tee shirts so practical, but for what? Are you going to climbe a mountain every day, or paddle a canoe every moment in your life? Are you going to be plowing a field and slopping the hogs and churning butter in every day life? Many women wore dresses and still did all that, as you can see from photographs and paintings. There were special outfits worn for safari and exploration, for women, but they were feminine. Today, we have even greater excuse to wear pretty dresses--our lives are easier at home. We mainly do our work by turning out a machine and guiding it. We buy most of our food products and do not have to do much work to get them, that would require the jeans and tee shirts. Jeans were the garment created for the miners in California and Oregon during the gold rush. Originally it was tent fabric that the men's jeans were made of. What is our excuse today? Are we going panning for gold or digging a ditch or a well? Granted it might happen that women do something like this once in a life time but surely not every single day! Women wore dresses at home even in rougher, undeveloped countries,, so what is our problem? Our problem is that we are following styles and trying to look sexy. Oh yes we must always look sexy, mustnt we--even if we are wives or mothers--it is a mental condition that is hard to break!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the hints about feminine structure of clothing. Here are some other things you might observe:

A ladies collar was somewhat different tha a man's. If you are sewing and want to look more feminine, opt for a more rounded neckline, rather than the pointed collar of a man's shirt.

A woman's blouse looks different from a man's shirt if it is buttoned in the back or the buttons were hidden by a placket or the buttons were shaped like pearls or some other novelty. Men never wore shirts like that in the previous centuries.

Women's blouses had darts in them or curved seams but mens were straight except perhaps with a vest that was worn over the shirt.

Women did wear vests but they had feminine decorations, embroidery, lace, and trims on them and were done in colors men might not have worn.

The most obvious contrasts between male and female were:

Men had short hair and wore top hats, and women had long hair, piled on their head and wore ladies hats with flowers and ribbons.

Men wore pants, women wore skirts and you never saw a space between their legs. You could recognize a man a half a mile away. In court, people could clearly testify having seen a man or a woman.

The woman's waistline was the focal point of the garment, and it was covered with the cloth of the garment. Today if a woman's curviness is emphasised, it is more likely to be bare.

Anonymous said...

Yes, men and women wore completely differenly constructed garments, didn't they? People embraced who they were.

And, yes, we must be sexy at all costs. That's what it is all about, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of skirts with, of all things, a fly in the front!! Never thought about it before. What are the manufacturers thinking?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for allowing anonymous comments. It is like the right to a secret ballot, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Its purpose was to allow people to vote without fear of reprisal or punishment for their opinions, by others.

I would like to bring up the subject of clothes. In the last 20 years it has gotten worse as far as public display of nudity. I am not criticising any particular style, just that the clothes lack modesty. My husband has taken to just looking down at the floor when women walk by, for fear he'll be accused of looking at something he should not, or of lusting, etc. My sons do not like it eitehr and often say they wish I would talk to the women about their modesty and ask them to help the men keep their minds on holy things and upright things, in church, by dressing modestly. Immodest clothing is a distraction in church. I dont like to criticise these women, but it is so in your face. It isnt subtle, like I was hunting for it. It is flashing before our faces all the time. One knows it is in the world and on the street but it is a sad and shocking thing that we have to face it in church when we want to put away the fleshly thoughts and dwell on God. Girls, help out the men and help them have pure thoughts, by the way you dress. No one could look at paintings like this and be disgusted or be insulted. No one could look at a painting like this and feel offended. A woman fully dressed and modestly dressed will not be guilty of drawing someone's thoughts to things less than holy.

Anonymous said...

" I wish the beach scene could represent the modern beach scene. But Sadly it can't. I once heard a preacher say. "It started out as fig leaves and it seams like it's gonna end with fig leaves."

Very funny!

Do not be discouraged. There is always hope, as long as you are alive. You can make life what you want it to be by living it that way.

This year, some families got toge4together at a nearby, small beach, and had a Victorian/Edwardian picnic celebration. The beach was swarming with men and women and children dressed in the clothes of that era, and people were stopping to take pictures and ask what we were doing. One family had a tent similar to the one in the previous series of pictures. What a glorious day it was. We are going to do it each year. There were a lot of people who wanted us to notify them if we did it again, because they wanted to join us and dress that way. THe men admired the ladies and tipped their hats. Several brought antique cars.

I have had celebrations like this in my home and have heard guests say they stopped at a store on the way over, and were asked what they were dressed for, and others expressed regret that we couldn't dress like that every day.

Who says it cannot ever happen? Who says we cannot ever dress like that every day? Is there a law against it? It is only a social addiction that people have; a dependency upon what the crowd thinks.

In the 80's, VICTORIA magazine bucked the prevailing culture by coming out with a publication of beauty celebrating the Victorian era clothing and customs . It helped launch the current interest in tea rooms and handi crafts and home decorating, that still are going strong today.

Never say never. Life is too short to wait for things to change. Just change them for yourself, beginning with yourself, at home.

Anonymous said...

about two years ago on one of the shopping channels there was a fashion designer saying that they were promoting masculinity for women from the waist down with the jeans, high-heel, knee-length boots and words something like "super femininity with lots of cleavage, long hair, earrings, and make up for women". The top was feminine, the bottom, masculine.

Anonymous said...

How refreshing to find that someone else actually thinks t-shirts on women is unattactive! My mother-in-law wears then and tried early on to have me wear them. They always ended up in the give-away pile.I have never felt they were women's clothing nor that any women looks good in them.

Since reading your blog , I've taken notice of where eye placement is when viewing clothing from different positions.[sitting, standing,bending]What an eye opener !!

Thank you for your forthright manner of addressing the many issues on your blog.For us who were raised to be 'just like a man' it is truely a blessing.

The last comment regarding "church" clothing is very true. I wish it was addressed from the pulpit .We who object are regarded as 'legalistic' and "judgemental". I wonder how many mini skirts, mid-drifts and low rise pants we'll see in heaven ?!

Lydia said...

The reason it is not addressed enough in the pulpit is that past experiences have burned the preachers and they dare not touch the subject again.

For one thing, women threaten to sue them.

For another, the preachers are accused of "lusting" and the women say that the preacher just has a dirty mind, or "has a problem" if he brings it up.

If he entrusts the job to older women, they are vilified and called judgemental.

One of the common excuses given to older women is that they should be winning souls and not worrying about clothing. These women who dress immodestly, using that as an excuse, ought to heed their own words. If they are not to worry about clothing, they ought to cover up and not be so willing to show off their cleavage and their thighs to the public. It is not that there is anything bad about them, it is just that these things are special and private and should not be open to the public. There is public clothing and there is private clothing.

This used to be addressed from the pulpit when it began to be a real problem in the 1960's , and preachers preached their heart out over it. Many of them were given bad press. It became popular not to preach warnings but to preach only "smooth" things, as the prophet said in the old Testament. Now you cannot say anything, or you will be called a busy body or a gossip or a false accuser or any manner of things. No one wants to take the risk.

Anonymous said...

If people would study the history of the clothing we are now wearing, they would be so disgusted that they would get rid of them all.

Anonymous said...

"The last comment regarding "church" clothing is very true. I wish it was addressed from the pulpit .We who object are regarded as 'legalistic' and "judgemental". I wonder how many mini skirts, mid-drifts and low rise pants we'll see in heaven ?!"

My personal belief in answer to your question: NONE! When Jesus, our bridegroom, returns to retrieve His bride, He comes clothed to the feet. See Revelation 1. The bride He died to purchase will be covered with the wedding garment He will not expose the flesh. I believe our souls are in danger of hell fire and most women don't understand it plus it is not being preached because it goes against the current, so to speak. Are we walking the narrow way if we are doing what everyone else is?

Anonymous said...

The hymns that were written in the 16, 17 and 1800's reflected a solid understanding of clothing as symbolic in the plan of salvation. Words like "When the bridegroom cometh, will your robes be white?" and "Are your garments spotless are they white as snow" were understood to mean "covered" --today people act as though they cant understand that a bride wears a special garment for the wedding, and would not appear naked in front of the guests.

Mat 22:11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
Mat 22:12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

There are other parables and figures of speech in the Bible that talk about being "covered" in spiritual clothing. If young women continue in babyhood, not understanding the meaning of getting fully dressed or wearing clothing, they will not understand the meaning of spiritual clothing.

What is it about this century that makes it hard for people to understand the importance of modesty, and what is it that makes them so militantly determined to push their immodesty on everyone around them? The previous century citizens had no trouble understanding it. They had their share of immodesty but it was not pushed like it is today.

Anonymous said...

I love the paintings of this artist. It shows that Victorian clothing was not always impractical. the simplicity and beauty is striking.

Anonymous said...

Yes, whoever said we should change things back is absolutely right! We can and should. There is nothing to stop us, so let's have at it, and watch what happens! I think this is very exciting.

Anonymous said...

Feminine on the top; masculine on the bottom. Oh, woe is me.

Also, too much female flesh showing takes away the mystery of a woman, causing men's senses to be dulled at the sight, and then they go after "strange flesh." Is it any wonder that there is so much unnatural sexuality in the Western world today?

Anonymous said...

When it comes to dresses, the garments themselves are often things of beauty. They certainly were in all of these paintings shown. Why, you could hang them on the wall as ornamentation just to look at them! And, they made the wearer beautiful, even if she was not a classic beauty. Why did we ditch them?

Anonymous said...

Itis no surprise that non Christians find no reason to be fully clothed, but it is utterly sad to see Christians who defend their way dressing to show as much skin as they can. If they claim to follow the Bible, what is their understanding of Adam and Eve knowing they were naked and were "ashaned." Indeed, nakedness throughout the Bible is often associated with shame, not glory.

They were also naked only to each other and in the sight of God, but yet God clothed them.

What in the world has happened? Is it another case of the servants weaving invisible threads and convincing the emperor that it is fine cloth?

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear about t-shirts. Next to jeans, they are the most unfeminine and unflattering garment a woman can wear - even the t-shirts made specifically for women. The fabrics don't last, and after a few washings look all faded and drab. Because they are originally a male garment, they often don't have the width at the hem that a woman's hips require, so everyone is treated to the spectacle of a woman from behind, with her t-shirt ricked up over her hips and her bottom on display in a pair of tight jeans or stretch pants. Nothing looks so sloppy as a t-shirt that doesn't fit well.

Worse still is when plus sized women go and buy t-shirts in the men's department, complete with the awkwardly placed pocket, that on a woman, tends to end up somewhere near her bustpoint. It looks absurd, and just advertises the fact that she is wearing men's garments. The proportions are always wrong when a woman wears men's things - the seams don't fall in the right places, there is never enough room in the bust and hips, and the garment creeps on the body because of this, riding up under the arms or around the waist. It must be horribly uncomfortable to go around in a shirt that keeps crawling on you, but I see women wearing such things all the time.

The ugliest fad of all has been the layering of t-shirts, so that there are multiple colours showing around the waist and hip area. Younger women have been doing this where I live, and it just looks absurd, as if they couldn't decide what to wear, so they put on everything. At the place where most women need to de-emphasize (hips, waist), they will have horizontal stripes of different colours.

Another awkward and visually jarring sight is the t-shirt bottom extending several inches below the jacket bottom. That always looks so sloppy and unkempt. I can remember my mother rejecting a beautiful winter coat that fit her perfectly because she knew that her dress hems would hang a couple of inches below the hem of the coat - and that simply was not acceptable at the time, it simply wasn't done to have your dress hem hanging below your coat hem! Now girls walk around with Eisenhower style jackets (another garment intended for men) with the tails of their multiple t-shirts extending below in bright coloured stripes right across their bottoms, hips and waists. Not a pretty sight.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful art and blog entry! Gives me something to work for!

I especially loved the dress in "Artist and His Wife" I'd rather have the fullness of sleeves on the bottom rather than up by the shoulders. Gorgeous stuff!

Anonymous said...

I very much like your website and I check back often to see what you have (especially pictures of feminine dress and the crafts). I have a problem, however. You said that the key to good fit are the shoulders. I am a stay-at-home (therefore, not wealthy) mom who does not sew, and I have a very difficult time finding clothing that fits. Here's the problem: I am a heavy-ish woman with a large bustline. If the shoulders fit, the bustline does not (or, I think, it's a little too tight); if the bustline fits (to my satisfaction) then the rest of the garment swims on me. As it is, I like to wear the "flowing" beautiful skirts and just wear plain "T-shirt" type tops. Any advice?

Again, I really like your site; it makes me feel less "weird" by wearing my skirts when all the other women seem to be wearing pants.

Anonymous said...

I only wear dresses and skirts. At home there might be a lot of denim, because it is sturdy. I like my jean skirts to have ruffles, and be pretty. I also wear aprons. Recently I have learned NOT to get rid of any skirts, you cannot find them hardly at all, it you look at the racks in the store, like Ross's there will be ONE small rack of skirts, and a couple long racks of pants. I just think one day they will quit making them.
I wear very casual skirts or dresses to the beach, and I do not care what any one says or thinks. I am in shape, so it is not because my body would be ugly in a bathing suit, but because I believe God wants His people to dress godly. To tell the truth it is a relief to be around people that are covered. I don't know how else to say it.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that the near nudity o beaches is not by people with perfectly trim bodies that they would like to show off--at least not many of them are. Mostly now, it is the ones who have everything to hide. A lot of overweight people wearing next to nothing parade their wares for everyone to see. Old women with terribly wrinkled skin , etc. That is one reason our family has our own private pool. We do not have to be forced to look at everyone who chooses to go undressed in public. Yes, it is a relief to be around people who are fully dressed and not trying to show off their sexuality and not trying to look sexy.

Anonymous said...

I have had good luck finding wonderful plus size feminine skirts at a store called CJ Banks the last few years. And, I have been blessed to find them on the clearance rack ($8-$15!!). I have not checked this season as I recently had a baby, so I do not know what they have, but I have loved their clothes in the past. Their regular sizes store is called Christopher and Banks. I understand from other ladies at church that they carry similar feminine skirts as well. HTH!