Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Modest Active Wear

The Hop Picker, by Charles Perugini
Summer's Fun, by George Sheriden Knowles,
Summer's Fun, by George Sheriden Knowles,

Spring Bouquet
by Ilya Efimovich Repin

The Croquet Match
by Sir John Lavery,
Picking Turnips, by Robert Crawford
The Reapers, by Jules Breton
Arriving Home, by Isaac Henzell
Hanging the Washing,
by Helen Allingham
 These paintings from the 1800 artists, show women in various activities outdoors. Apparently, the kitchen garden was maintained by women. If gardenning by hand was anything like it is now, I can truly say it was hard work and required a lot of physical movement. Yet, before the 20th century, women did everything  in dresses: they gardened,  they fished (see Hans Dahl paintings on this blog), they helped in harvest time (see the paintings and links of women pitching hay in these garments), and they took care of the house, wearing aprons to protect their clothing.  I have also included on this blog, paintings of women active in sports.  It is possible to be active and to achieve something without giving up modesty. My sewing series here is showing how to be inspired by these wonderful paintings of the past, and use the ideas of color and cover, for today.  I have tried to show gardenning clothes here, and have fabric picked out to make something similar, which I will show in future posts. Right now, the garden is calling, so I will see you all later.


Lydia said...

Regarding the painting of the hops picker: hops when dried are beautiful decorations for indoors. You can line use them over a doorway or entrance and they just look wonderful with sparkling lights.

Lydia said...

Women of the past DID wear pants: under their dresses. They were called pantaloons, or bloomers, which provided great protection for the legs.

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

Dear Lady Lydia,

So beautiful and inspiring, as usual!

Have a wonderful time in the garden today.



Anonymous said...

I was talking about this to a friend. It is amazing how thorough the hatred toward the past, and particularly the Victorian era, has permeated modern women and young girls. They automatically told me those clothes were not comfortable and that the women could not walk fast in them. They then proceeded to tell me that the women at that time were not happy and that they were not "free." They said they couldn't "do anything." Many people are so brainwashed to believe that we are the enlightened ones, just because our society wears the emperor's new clothes! I can put a photograph or a painting right in front of them and they will still say that these women were oppressed and unable to "do" anything. Yet, many of the photographs I have of my own relatives of the era show them doing hard work, and even camping out.

Anonymous said...

Just wen I think you can't come up with anything else, that this beloved series must be at an end, you surprise me and give me new ideas. You are an inspiration to me.

If I never get to meet you in this life, I know we'll be friends in heaven. You are the unltimate Titus 2 woman. Even though I'm not a young woman, you've taught me so much about embrasing the femininity that God gave me.

Please, continue with this wonderful ministry even though you get those unwanted comments. I need you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster who talks about modern hatred towards the past. I study the 19th century and wear my hoops when reenacting. It's difficult to teach the minds of people today, of any age, anything disimilar from our own clothing. I, for one, feel more feminine and pretty wearing my reenacting dresses. I'm also treated better. I will teach myself to sew soon, so I can make modern dresses that echo versatile, beautiful Victorian fashion.

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful. There are so many exaggerated ideas when it comes to reasons why women today 'can't' dress modestly!

Thank you, Lydia.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true - "It is possible to be active and achieve something without giving up modesty." All my married years I've been happy to wear skirts and dresses having easily accomplished every variety of activity (required for my life) from mundane, active, physical, exuberant, relaxing, interesting, creative, sporting..

Thanks Lydia for taking the time to post today. We'll be thinking of you, tending your productive garden and blessing your family. Love, Linda

Anonymous said...

I do not remember the author or the name of the book I read which exposed the hypocrisy of the 20th century elitisgts who dismantled any respect for the past, in order to bring in the new ideas. Step by step, they destroyed respect (which lasts to this very day) for things like Victorian architecture, clothing, the rituals of dinnertime at the table, and the way business was conducted. You can still see signs of the great influence of our great grandparents, but the knowledge of the way they lived is always demeaned. These moderns had to make the future generations hate and despise their customs, so that they would not want to bring them back. It was a family-based structure of society, and the parents were honored as very important in the lives of the children and grandchildren. The state replaced many functions of the home, and that is what is bringing us into socialism. Remember, before communists took over Russia, they hid their history and dismantled their past, so that the next generation would cooperate with their social system.

These elitists have done such a big number on everyone, that even if you looked at the clothes of the past and noticed that they were of natural fibres and hand stitched to fit an individual, and still be indoctrinated enough to say that they were miserable in those clothes. I can see by some of the paintings that women were very, very active--even moreso than today. They sit at their office desks dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, and combat boots, and yet they can't "do" much, because they are confined to that system day in and day out. At home, women are much more active and have the freedom to wear pretty dresses.

Anonymous said...

Very well said to the anonymous who posted at 4.33

Anonymous said...

What's funny is that I know from experience that wearing a beautiful cotton dress and nice leather shoes is far more comfortable and conducive to constructive activity than sexy low-cut jeans, mid-height heels with pointy toes, and a low-cut top. *That's* the outfit you can't do anything in.

Anonymous said...

I've encountered the disdain and disinformation about past eras many times, particularly when I was in college. I remember one female instructor in particular, who insisted that Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII and other people in Tudor times never bathed. In particular she would carry on that Queen Elizabeth I was bathed only twice in her life, when she was born and after she died.

I have always been a Tudor buff, and had read extensively on the subject. It was documented at the time that Henry VIII bathed at least once a day, more often if he was engaging in activity that made him sweat. He couldn't bear smelly people, and would not have them around him. His first wife, Catharine of Aragon, brought a bathtub with her from Spain, so bathing was not the rarity that many modern people want to think it was.

Queen Elizabeth I was even fussier over smelly people than her father, Henry VIII. She wouldn't abide them at court, and there are many references to her bathing and taking great care over her appearance and cleanliness. She enjoyed full baths, which some people blamed for the case of smallpox that nearly killed her!

This instructor, and several others, had similar ideas about the Victorian era - that people didn't bathe, that women were all subjected to extreme corseting, that the clothing was so restrictive that women could hardly walk, that all women suffered ill health because of the clothing they wore. In the Victorian era, as is the case today, extremes in fashion existed, and there were women who would endure any amount of discomfort and pain to wear the wildest extremes of style. The majority of women, however, could not simply sit around dressed like a fashion doll, and had to adopt less extreme styles which allowed them freedom of movement. Many sports became popular for women during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, including tennis, bicycling and croquet. Middle class and working class women had to exert themselves to do the heavy house and garden work of the age, before there were appliances to do this work for them. It was not possible to do this work tightly corseted or toddling around in a hobble skirt.

What these people don't seem to see is that there are styles today just as restrictive and painful as anything the extreme fashion plates of the Victorian era wore. I'd like to see anyone "do anything" in a pair of five inch stiletto heeled, pointed toed Jimmy Choo pumps! The people I see wearing them toddle along just as painfully as any Edwardian hobble-skirt wearer! What can you do with your hands with three inch acrylic nail extensions? Not a lot. I'd like to see the modern women who sneer at the loose skirt of the Victorians "do anything" in their low rise, skintight jeans, which they constantly hitch up by the belt loops. Ever see someone wearing those things try to bend over or squat down? They can't, unless they're going to show a lot more than they bargained for. Some women are wearing jeans so tight this season that they can barely walk normally, and adopt a toddling pace,like the slow pace they insist the Victorians had to use because of the restriction and weight of their clothing. The silly, skintight clothing and shoes women are limping around in now are modern day corsets and hobble skirts - yet they think they're free and comfortable.

Yet the myths continue, and the people who promulgate them, like my college instructor, will not listen to anything that refutes their misaligned view of history. When I showed this woman transcriptions of contemporary records that mentioned the Tudor kings and queens bathing regularly, she just raised her voice and continued to insist that Queen Elizabeth I had never bathed! These people seem to think that if they yell it loudly enough and often enough, it will become fact. They're frightened to death to think that any previous generation might have done things in a comfortable and sensible way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these gorgeous paintings with us. I especially like the one of the children. They look so happy and healthy.

You are doing something fantastic here. Your site has really blessed my family. Thank you for taking the time to encourage us in the ways of the Lord. Press on.

Anonymous said...

I agree. There are many myths about history.
One is in the area of water. People think that our ancestors were ignorant about water, could not get it and could not bathe or shower. You did not have to be in the 20th century to know how to make a shower or a bath. It is easy to invent a shower with a rope and a container of water. People naturally want to bathe and are attracted to water. The Old testament spoke a lot about washing and bathing, and even washing the furniture and disinfecting things by washing and putting in the sun. People before us knew a lot about bathing, and we as moderns do not have a corner on cleanliness. There are still some people who never bathe! The Romans built the Roman baths, and the Nordics created the steam baths ---all this was done hundreds of years ago. It does not sound like people in the past did not bathe.

Another myth is that women could not read or write. I have collected photographs and books of female poets and authors, as well as paintings of women reading and writing, and it looks as natural to them as cooking. Today, many young women cannot read or write and can't cook either, so which generation was deprived?

Another myth was that people of the past didnt have medical help adn they had no physicians. This is simply not true. Luke was a physcician mentioned in the Bible, and there were salves and ointments and many medicines ---and always have been. The ancient Greek doctors knew about pain killers and surgery. In some ways, people were less ignorant about health, in that they knew more about medicinal plants, nutrition, and cleanliness.

the past had its share of quacks, but what could be worse than the modern dependency on chemicals?

THe hatred of the beautiful garments of the past is sometimes perpetuated by the mocking of certain styles that were a bit outrageous and usually worn by the rich. The bustle, for example, is always an excuse to hate Victorian clothing, but what can be more ridiculous than the effect of high heels and low cut jeans? THe corset is often blamed for causing the death of every Victorian woman that ever lived, but not everyone wore them. The pioneer women's photographs show sturdy, thin, strong women, with plain clothing, and no need of any thing to alter their figures. Why would our spandex and other garments be any less ridiculous? (At least the bustle kept some distance between the woman and other people, in crowded places).

Lydia said...

You can still get results without a lot of work. Put the seed in the ground and rig up a hose with a sprinkler on it so that you can turn it on once a day. If you do not want to do a lot of work, just pick the vegetables and put them in your refrigerator. It is still better than nothing. You should not have to agonize over a garden if you have a lot of other responsibilities. I knew a woman who had a chronic illness, so she just planted some seeds someone gave her. She was not able to get out and take care of the garden, but she did get some food out of it, and she did not mind the low yield. At least she had something. That is better than nothing, and there is more to gardening than the food. It would be nice if children could learn to love gardening because there are a lot of life lessons to be taught , using the garden for comparisons and illustrations.

Anonymous said...


Because there is now such a disconnect in most Aus/US/UK/EU nations with children especially re the cycle of food, schools in victoria (overseen by cooks and gardeners who grew up with the influence of mothers and grandmothers for whom this was a natural part of life); kitchen garden, and poultry keeping along with cookery classes are becoming more commonplace due to the fact the children just aren't learning at home. Imagine the scope the home educator has to incorporate such as a natural part of the learning corriculum.

Re bathing, the modern shower was invented (or one permutation at any rate) in 1805, in england; There is abundant medieval art from europe showing bathing scenes and the use of tubs (for one or several); Running water straight into the bathroom was in use in italy in the 14th century!! Even as a girl guide in my teens, when away on camp, we'd use the basin bath; the dark coloured bag left in the sun ful of water and a hose from it was used when i went sailing as a child. I've studied tudor history also, and that crackpot teacher who insisted they were all dirty and stinking didn't know what the heck she was on about!!!!!! People did bathe and keep clothes clean. Though the wealthy classes used all manner of concoctions, the regular folk used water with lemon juice among other things; soap has been manufactured for thousands of years; if you can get naturally prepared olive oil soap from Syria, it is a beautiful product, almost good enough to eat!! And made the way it has been made for centuries.

At times certain Euro cultures deviated from the standard (the French during the 1600's are no exception) but - on the whole, the party line trotted out is so far from the truth; And, if nobody bathed, why did the victorians turn out such beautiful marble washtstands basins and pitchers for this purpose? Not to mention the beautiful enamel bathtubs.

Anyone with a passing interest in history doesn't have to dig too deeply to learn the truth - that is far more fascinating than the 'filthy masses' picture promoted by the revisionists!!

And as for the corset, anyone who has worn faithful reproductions of victorian garments will know (if they have been made to measure, properly) that they are incredibly comfortable and offer fantastic support for the back; plus they carry the bust with no strain on shoulders or spine. Tightlacing was reserved for the well to do and the theatre... I've worn such garments; at one point, on an every day basis, and can vouch for this fact personally - everything I needd to do about the home, and outside was not inconvenienced and the stays ensured that bending was done properly - from the knees, rather than the back; plus one can't slouch in front of the computer in stays!! :-0 :-)

As for internal organs, if custom made and not worn irresponsably, the internals will not be damaged; the steels are buttery soft and very flexible and go with the body, rather than against it.

Anonymous said...

One looks at the paintings and wonders why they wore so much cloth around them, even in hot weather. It is possible that the cloth was from natural sources, rather than synthetic, and that it was loosely woven, enough to allow air around it. In some ancient countries, people knew a lot about the effect of the sun on a woman's skin, and did not expose their skin to it as much as they do today, even when they had to be outside for a long time. While the revisionist claim that the ancients were "ignorant," nothing can be more ignorant than the unhealthy practices of immodesty today. When I look at the paintings and photographs of the past, I am thinking that those people knew something that we do not. They knew how to dress and how to put a garment together by hand. They knew how to weave their own cloth, and make their own thread and yarn. I dont call that "ignorant"--yet todays enlightened ones will have us believe that these people never washed their clothes. I think they probably knew a great deal about washing, and some countries with an ancient history, still know how to wash clothes in a river, the way their ancestors did. The modern colleges want to establish a disdain for the past so that the next generation will feel so disconnected from it and so disgusted by it that they do not look further into it for knowledge on how to live their lives today.

Anonymous said...

To the Anon who said, "These people think if they say it loudly enough and long enough.." THis is the way communists and marxists worked in the past: they do not care if they speak truth or a lie. If they speak it loud enough and long enough, it will wear people down and they will give up and accept it just for the sake of peace. They create controversy about everything from water to air, and even the slightest common every day activity becomes a political thing with which to oppress others, until no one can live freely without worrying about creating a stir. Their skewed history lessons are also an influence in some of the new movies about the tudor era and the victorian era, two historical periods that receive the most vilification and error.

Anonymous said...

Re: the shower. It does not take a lot to understand the concept of a shower. In the 1940's when we used to camp out, sisters or brothers would hold something to shield a person, (blanket, etc) and then another sibling would dip water from a bucket and pour it over the subject trying to bathe or take a shower. Kids took turns doing this if they were not near a creek that they could just jump in. Adults were very concerned about being clean, and they learned it from their parents before them, and their parents before them. The so called history professors like to portray the people of the past as creatures crawling out from slime and mud, unable to bathe, take care of their health, read, or think. In fact, they built great cities where the architecture was intricate. They had armies and planned defense strategies. They knew more than one language. They could read and write--yes, even the women. Most people were educated at home, for the most part. Just because there were no public schools does not mean people did not know how to read and write. The ancients left us records of their deeds through their architecture, art, literature, and textiles. Just look at the paintings of the tudor age and see the beautiful cloth and the trims and jewelry.

The newest Pride and Prejudice is one such movie that tries to make people of the era look dirty. The Bennets home was portrayed as dirty and the family looked like they didnt bathe, but I doubt Jane Austen meant to picture this in any way.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, and his wife, had diaries where they recorded things they were given at their wedding, and a description of their house. One visitor that toured this, reported that the blanket on their bed was filthy and many other things were made to look as if that family was dirty and didn't wash. She compared what she saw, to the published records she had read, and it did not add up. THey were given pewter and silver and fine china and they had a quilt that was of intricate embroidery, as well as hand woven table cloths. None of this was shown in the house made for the tourists. She produced a film about the revising of America's history. She showed many of the ancient landmarks, memorials, state buildings, etc. where things had been removed or changed, to make the forefathers look ignorant and lacking in refinement. This just goes on and on, and the next generation will believe we were nothing and they have nothing to live up to.
But back to the concept of the shower: it was officially invented and marketed in the 1800's, but people always knew how to create running water, and in ancient Germany in the castles that were built even in B.C. there was a system of running water and a system of toilets and disposals. It doesnt take a 21st century scholar to figure out the concept of washing clothes and running water.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting how many comments there are about the lies we are expected to believe about the past. I have noticed recently two places in the Bible (one in the Old Testament and one in the New) where God said that because the people would not hear Him and would not believe He would send them a strong delusion that they would believe a lie! Sounds like where we are as a nation, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the name for that stle in the last picture, "Hanging the Washing"? It looks like the outer dress has been pinned up and back to make walking and kneeling down for doing chores easier with the lesser abount of fabric in front of and to the sides of the calves. I would love to learn more about that style and possibly how to recreate it.

Anonymous said...

A good post, Lady Lydia. I enjoyed the comments, too. And I find myself just shaking my head at how deluded some people can be about anyone who lived in a time other than our own. No bathing? Tortuous bands for clothing? Rampant ignorance, & a complete lack of refinement? Oh, please!! Just where do we think all the marvelous inventions that preceded our own generation came from? Would any of today's inventions & discoveries even have been possible if others, before us, had not found ways to solve their problems, beautify their surroundings, & enrich their lives. It really is the height of smugness & self-importance to believe that any good things we enjoy today came about without all the thought & technology of our forebears.

And it seems to me that Anon. 9:22 has hit things pretty squarely: about God sending people who will not hear Him a strong delusion, that they would believe lies. Lies can be told sweetly, in a very soothing manner of voice, or shouted out with all coarseness & cruelty....but they are still lies.


Anonymous said...

The Reapers, by Jules Breton, above the painting by Helen Allingham, has a similar style. I am not sure what it is, but looking athe surroundings in the painting, and knowing what it is like to go outside just for a quick look at everything, think it might be an apron that the woman would pull out and fill with something. I have done this a lot with my dress, even when I did not have an apron on. I go out and see there are tomatoes just falling off the vine and pick up one or two and then the next thing I know, I have too much and have to roll up the hem of my skirt. This tells me how important the under dress or petticoat was, so that you would have a layer left for modesty.

Regarding the lies spread about history, Soljenitzen (sp) who escaped communist Russia and came to America, said in his book, "The Gulag Archipelego" that the whole system was based on lies, and that the more often they were repeated, the more people would believe them. After awhile, he said, the people could not even tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

While these revisionists are so anxious to prove that women of the past never bathed or washed anything, and that they did not know about medicine, and that they could not read or write, these people believe the lies of the present, as well: that women at home are miserable and that they are lacking in intelligence, or that they are not "educated," that they have no money and are subservient and that their husbands or fathers are overbearing brutes and that they have no freedom. I can show them my car and my checkbook and even take them on my routine for a day, and those girls will still be telling me how stifling and demeaning it is to be a housewife. It is kind of blindenss that sets in their minds.

The Bible shows in many ways a respect for the past. Moses was to teach the people coming out of Egypt their history and how God had looked after them and rescued them many times. He was to tell it and then remind them again and again, and they were to repeat it to their children, and read it from the chronicled records, to their children's children, lest they forget, and go after "other gods". When people forget their true history, they follow just about any smooth speaker that comes along, or vote for any program that sounds good. This is one reason the liberal courses, including womens studies, disconnect women from the true history: so they can churn out hundreds of graduates a year into the world, to be change agents in churches and agencies, schools and courts, who will not respect the principles and laws and Biblical foundations of the past. If they can get you to hate a certain era, you wont be trying to reenact any part of it in your lives.

There is, on the other hand, a renewed interest in the recent history of the Victorian era, partly due to the fact it is so much closer to us in years, and many of us have photographs of our dear ones that lived in that period. If you remember, the camera was invented back then --as well as the sewing machine, the light bulb, the computer of the time, the typewriter, the automobile, the moving picture, and many other things. THe new interest in that period has brought women at home to want to embrace some of their values, particularly of invention and of the home and the family. It represents a time when families were the focal point of society and where the fathers carried out the responsibility to care for their own.

Anonymous said...

To the lady that wrote at 1:31 a.m., regarding the comfort of the corset. I watched the commentary of the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, "North and South," in which Daniel Denby-Ash, who played "Margaret", said that the corset was so comfortable she wore it after work. It supports the bodice from the waistline up, rather than from the shoulders, as our modern bra does. Our modern contraptions are no more comfortable, that is is for sure. Not everyone wore a corset, and there were always those who were extreme in their use of it, by using it to exaggerate the figure. But, what can be more laughable than the way modern women strut their stuff in the push up bra an push up padded panty, trying to make everything look more "out there" ---and they have the nerve to laugh at the Victorian women's fashions?

Lydia said...

Helen Allingham--were hers the paintings portrayed on those little cookbooks from England, of cottages and rural scenes?

Anonymous said...

Some modern ideas just didnt work, and people are going back to the old ways. For example, home birth is coming back in the US and other countries, and people are getting away from the artificial, chemical type of health and going into greater nutrition and natural remedies. Those things were nearly stamped out, and it was hard to find anyone who knew anything about them. There has also been a revival in the way homes are built--away from the modern styles and back to the old ways that really accomodated a family. Ingnorance in deed. We are learning fromt the past. People who dispise the past are indoctrinated to the hilt. And, one sign of indoctrination is that they deny the truth.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous that mentioned picking up the hem of your skirt to put something in, that makes sense...though do you have any idea how the dress in that last painting is fastened in the back?

I'm also wondering if that was possibly done as an alternative to wearing an apron, since with the hem folded up like that any dirt would then fall on the underside of the dress or on the petticoat/underdress, and then once the chore was finished the hem could be let down again and the dirt is not visible.

Anonymous said...

As a civil war reenactor, I can say that when I am doing work that might soil my clothing I either wear an apron or I do what some of the ladies in the pictures did. You simply wear a dark colored petticoat underneath your dress and pin your outer skirt up. Sometimes I attach ribbons too in order to keep them up. This is especially helpful when gardening because it will not soil the hem of your dress and you can simply let it down when you walk in the house and no one will know. It is also quite a romantic look and every so elegant!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I was searching for "nice wholesome women with long skirts modest", and that is how I found your "" image. Thank you for being here (finding modest images on the internet is frustrating, to say the least, but I am glad I have not given up!) Feel free to visit one of my blogs: Psalms and Proverbs once a month!

Anonymous said...

We recently had the pleasure of watching "Cheaper By the Dozen", the OLD version, I mean -- with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. One thing that struck my interest was the bathing suits that were worn by the family members. (And, of course, Anne and Ernestine begging their father to let them wear the styles of the day even then!). I would really like to find a pattern such as was used in those days -- the short-sleeved suits with the bloomers and the skirts over them. Does anyone know where to obtain something like that?

Anonymous said...

For the lady interested in swimsuits with skirts and underbloomers, either check out the swimwear sold by

Lillie's apparrel

Hydro Chic


Sea Secret

Lillie's apparrel sells beautiful feminine wear for ladies and girls, accessories to die for as well as other bits and bobs of interest.

Lydia said...

The designs at Lilli's wear are like the 1980's and early 90's clothing, and similar to some of the Laura Ashley patterns of the time. They were very very popular at the time, and women wore them everywhere. I still remember how pretty and vibrant those over dresses were, with the underdress. At first Monday in Canton, Texas, hand made versions of all different themed prints were sold, and women of all ages wore them! The dresses were also lovely!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lady Lydia,

This is a bit off topic, but I wondered if you know of a good recommendation for a book on gardening. We have almost an acre, and my husband has always wanted a vegetable garden since we've moved here in 1995. I have never gardened in my life. Though he's quite capable of doing it, he doesn't have time due to his work schedule. I'd love to learn how and teach it to my 3 children.