Monday, December 14, 2009

Female Appearance: Accentuating the Differences From the Male

Graceful Backhand in a Victorian Garden

by Ellen H. Clapsaddle, United States, (1865-1934)

(Even in sports, women and men dressed very differently)

I was served at a store by someone that could not be identified as male or female.A hundred years ago, the person at the cash register would have been identified as a young boy.

  Every woman or man working at the store would have been identified as "male", if this were the Victorian era. In this store, the employees, both male and female, all wore low-cut, black jeans, with a zip-front.( We have discussed this before: women's pants used to have zippers on the side or the back, to distinguish them from the men's. ) They all wore manly type shirts with pointed collars and broad shoulders, covered by a plain, butchers apron. Their feet were shod with black, thick-soled,flat shoes.  Each employee had the short, razor-cut, feathered hairstyle. Though they all wore jewelry, it was impossible to distinguish male from female. 

From the Victorian viewpoint, it would have looked like an all-male staff.

A Picnic, by Harry Nelson O'Neill

Can you tell the difference between the male and female hairstyles and clothing, in this 18th century painting?

 We have seen the gradual decline of women's clothing for the last 50 years, making the woman's form unrecognizable from a man's.   It was not always so.  A hundred years ago, if someone was dressed like a man, it probably was a man.

It was the voice saying, "Will this be cash?" that revealed the cashier as a man. To be fair, the poor thing probably didn't have a clue that his appearance was confusing.His hairstyle was very much like the women's. His mannerisms and posture were feminine.  He probably did not even know that it was good to show his distinct maleness by his clothing and his demeanor. He might have felt that he was not supposed to show any maleness.

Good News From Abroad
by George Smith, English (1714-1776)

Is there a difference between the boys and girls clothing in this 18th century painting?

 The women working there probably didnt  know that it was beneficial to them and to the rest of the world to show their female differences by dressing differently than the men. So I am not saying they are deliberately being contrary. I am saying they have been gradually conditioned to dress this way.

Evening Market Scene
by P. Van Schendel
The  18th century market at night still did not hide differences in male and female appearances.

We have grown so accustomed to seeing women who look like men, that we find it necessary to look a little more closely at a person's body than would have been required in the past.

The person who waited on us had the feathered, razor-cut hair style that is most commonly identified with females today. 

Pilgrims Going to Church

Is there a difference between the men and women's clothing in this painting portraying the Pilgrims in one of New England's coldest winters?

 Clothing is something that can be worn to show the differences between male and female.  While it will take time to learn other differences in male and female behaviour, clothes are the easiest way to change things, and that is what I wish to address.

Here is the dockers ad that you have been sending to me

Read the comments after this article
The comments are so colorfully expressed and so true.

and here is my female counterpart:

There was a time when women wore long skirts with hems that touched their ankles, and were content to let the men wear the pants in the family;

Whose appearance inspired artists and authors,

And  poets penned words comparing the swish of ladies skirts to the wonderful wind:- "All around I heard you pass, like ladies skirts across the grass"*

 When the very appearance of women in a long skirt inspired men to step back and let them go first in line;

 When women protected their own  delicate skin with shady hats and lacey umbrellas and carried reticules (purses attached to the waists of their skirts and hidden in their pockets);

 When women's hair was their glory and they would never have shaved their heads,

Women's clothing did not have to reveal their flesh to prove they were female, and when a mere glance at them would inform you of whether they were male or female,

They  had waistlines that were different than men, and their clothing emphasized it,

When women did not have it in their vocabulary to utter a curse word, and men delighted to be in their presence because their refining nature and feminine appearance;

When women cared enough about their influence that they would never enter a bar or drinking establishment,

When a woman preferred to hold knitting needles with yarn, in her hands, instead of a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other,

When women enjoyed buying pretty cloth,

Caring for the home gave her intense happiness, and did not even want to go out in the working world and compete for men's jobs,

When women's highest aim was to have an enduring marriage, raise a well-mannered and well-disciplined batch of children, and keep house to perfection;

When women won people's admiration through their good works, and could sew and cook and care for their homes in poverty as well as prosperity.

Women were proud of being women and were different than men and liked it that way.  They did not want to enter a man's world or wear clothing that resembled them.

We do not have to just remember-when.  Women everywhere have realized they are getting a raw deal, a double burden, and a never ending cycle of exhaustion when they try to follow a man's course. They are coming home. They are home schooling their children. They are guiding the home and doing it wonderfully.  If you are invited to one of the Tea or any extended hospitality from such a woman, you have been able to peek in on a glorious event: the homemaker showing her faith by the work of her hands. There has been a quiet revolution, out of the slavery of the work-place into the freedom , free enterprise, and creativity of the home.

English, 1839-1917

Is there a contrast between the man's clothing and the woman's in this painting?

(This has to be one of the best paintings of a man looking at a woman, with an interest that says "What is your opinion?")

Evening Market Scene
by P. Van Schendel, Holland, 1806-1870

Out shopping, the people were still recognizeable as male or female.

* Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Wind"

From Child's Garden of Verses

I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;

And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
From "A Child's Garden of Verses"

How will children today describe the clothing of the women that influence them?  Can they compare it to the beauty of the creation around them, or will they perceive it as trend-following?  Will they, like the artists and poets of old, look upon their mothers and grandmothers aprons and dresses as something beautiful and sentimental, feminine and elegant, modestly covered in a lovely way?

How to accucentuate the differences in female dress:


Please leave a suggestion for anything you want added to this commentary on women's appearance and if I like it, I will include it.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any suggestions as to what would be appropriate undergarments in windy sub-zero weather, and where to find them? Wool coat, skirt, slip, and long johns just didn't cut it the other day.


Anonymous said...

Put jeans to good use by wearing them under your skirts and dresses. Of course, the dresses will have to be fuller than a tight skirt in order to keep warm. You can also put a summer skirt under a skirt or dress, to make it warmer. And, wear a full length coat, not a jacket, and long boots.

Karen said...

I totally agree with your post and have been in a similar situation where it was difficult to determine the gender of the serving staff. It is unsettling.

My main frustration is that, even in the last couple of years, there are less and less dresses and skirts in the stores. I hate to use the word "conspiracy" - but you have to wonder. I am sure there are many women out there that can't sew or prefer to buy ready made - and can't. And yet the stores are putting out the most hideous outfits - especially for middle aged and older women. I don't want to be a "mutton dressed like a lamb".

Thank you for addressing this topic every so often; it's important that we be the salt of the earth and the light for the world - because this world needs help!!

Lydia said...

A request--will anyone who has some time, please type in the Dockers ad for our blind viewer, Sarah, in Australia. Her mechanism is not able to pick up pictures like that, even though it is words. Thanks so much--I just do not have a moment of time left to do it. Maybe you could type it in your blog and I could offer the link on mine.

Anonymous said...

The Dockers ad was a great ad. I just sent them an email to thank them. Ladies, please consider thanking them as well.. such courage is not often seen anymore . Everyone is so afraid of the feminists that many are tongue-tied and will not speak. Yes we need real men once more and we sure do appreciate them!Thanks for this

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I am old enough to remember my mother "dressing" to run simple errands in our small rural town. Until the early seventies, most ladies wore hats and gloves when they were in public on business, at least they did where I grew up.

Especially now that I've reached a certain age, I try even harder to choose the most feminine clothing and accessories that I can find (or make myself).

As for hair, well, mine has been thinning dramatically over the years. Solution? NOT the spikey razor cut. Instead, I chose to visit a wig shop and they helped me to select just the right color and style (wavy and to the shoulder)to allow me to have pretty, feminine hair, despite my uncooperative genetics. I can even pull it up into a twist and put hair accessories in it - something I could never do before.

I look forward to further installments in regard to feminine dress. Thank you for your tireless work on your blog.

Kind regards from Susan T.

Lydia said...

Please refer my post to them if you like, as I have the female counterpart to the mail one of theirs. I believe women need to put up their hard hats and their combat boots and enjoy the finer things of life: the home and the family.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, men wore the pants and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that's what they did. But somewhere along the line, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heros. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It's time to get your hands dirty. It's time to answer the call of manhood. It's time to wear the pants.

Anonymous said...

On Saturday, whilst shopping with my husband, a little child in a stroller right next to my right side reached out and grasped my skirt (ankle length and rather full) and swished it around, obviously most curious and interested in the way the fabric moved, the light, the feel of it, swishing it like a little flag. I don't think the little one's mother knew. So many are getting around in shorts and spaghetti strap tops that at best should only be worn as undertop beneath a flowing blouse...

How many ladies would be beautiful in a comfortable, practical yet pretty dress...rather than bearing it all, only to be faced with all the psychological and health issues that exposure brings (melanoma - I've lost a beloved one through this and its brutal!) In summer one only needs 10 mins sun exposure on face and arms, and in winter around half an hour max per day to get enough vitamin D.

For the ladies in cold climates, tello or city rose leggings and petticoats, an anti-stat on top of that, then a warm wool or drill skirt, or cord, or even wool with a long coat. Quilted peticoats can be bought or made. keeping the head, feet and hands warm is the trick... thus long skirts (ankle or mid calf at minimum, allow the warm air to be held in and circulate in its own micro climate. First hand experience.

Gotta rush out and go shopping, now... wearing a navy and white microplaid dress (ankle length, three quarter sleeve, neck high round collar, indestructable! and very comfortable with blue sandals, and hair in a covered bun with a little black lace kerchief to finish off (no navy blue kerchief in my collection...

gotta fly!!
PS: underpinnings are the secret in hot and cold weather!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Lady Lydia. Even in the cold weather men and boys get cold wearing their pants too. There are ways to stay warm in a dress. But you must dress appropriately even if you are a man.
Layer, layer, layer.

I female friend of mine is a missionary to a remote Eskimo tribe. She wears dresses, but she said no matter how many layers she couldn't get warm. So, she asked her native friends to make her warm fur leggings and boots like they wear. She now wears them under her dresses and she says she is much warmer, but it still gets cold. You just can't stay long out in some temperatures.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, many establishments have dress codes that require the sort of attire you describe. I know of someone who works in such a place and it is demoralizing to her to have to dress that way.

I have been dressing quite often in the way you suggest and I have found it makes things easier when choosing a coat and boots. I don't have to have coats in several lengths as one long one in a solid color works with all my outfits. One good pair of boots is enough as well. Rather than buying several things of lesser quality, I was able to spend more on better items as I did not need as many. I vary the look with different scarves and pins on the coat. One scarf I knit in a feather and fan pattern, very easy and pretty. A feather and fan scarf can be made with one skein of yarn by a beginner with one of the many free patterns online.

Lydia said...

Anonymous 3:27 pm is the Dockers ad.

Anonymous said...

The Dockers ad is fantastic!! Let's put a ton of prayer behind it, that it might crack the infuriatingly hard shell of this complacent world - of the Western ideologues that are seeking to infect traditional nations with this horror along with the building projects and water-wells (the latter necessary, but the former distructive!!). Do you think it will take for the generation who caused most harm to the old paths to slip into the background before change can happen (with the exception of shining beacons of decency as Lydia and others similarly fighting the honourable fight, who stand as a remnant in the face of the barbarian hoards)...

let us pray that for the sake of our families, our children and ourselves, rightness and sanity is restored!!!!

And let us pray for those who have wrought this destruction to undergo a Pauline transformation that they may champion rightness, femininity and civility rather than work against it!! If Saul could be converted to the path of Christ and then work God's incredible works even after his, ehm, less than stellar track record, through Christ, all things are possible!!

Unknown said...

I remember when I was a little girl, I was always drawn to women I'd see in dresses. They always seemed so pretty to me, regardless if they had facial beauty or not.

Anonymous said...

I was recently highly embarrassed when visiting the public facilities in a major hospital. The person infront of me was entering the ladies bathroom, so I mentioned quietly to him that this was the ladies room...the scornful look that I received from the female who turned around was withering. I had certainly not meant to cause offence, but I was astonished at my mistake. This person was about 50-55 and was completely "male" from the rear, and only her tight jumper under the open jacket gave her away from infront.

I shall add my agreement to your other ladies that good undergarments, preferably woollen and a petticoat under a full skirt keep me much warmer than when I used to wear pants. I have recently started to wear some of the currently available knee-length dresses over slightly narrower ankle-length skirts which I find very cosy.
As an aside, my husband learnt to wear XL ladies pantyhose under his long johns and pants when in the military on Arctic exercises...every little layer counts!

Anonymous said...

Thank you once again for a fabulous post! I hope you keep this topic going for awhile longer.

This past summer I spent a good deal of time in Arizona, which is not known for its mild climate in summer. Most women even the elderly ones in Sun City wore shorts and tank tops. It was embarrassing to see them, so I averted my eyes.

At Walmart everywhere including AZ, the dress code is khakies and a navy top. One lady, and I mean lady, wore this usually ugly uniform in a unique way. She wore a ankle length khaki skirt and a lovey feminine navy blouse. Of course I was conspicuous, too, in my longer than knee length dresses and skirts. Everytime I saw her we looked at each other and smiled--kind of conspiratorial smiles. She knew, and I knew. So it is possible to work in a place with a dress code and modify it enough to be feminine.

Anonymous said...

I always think I can dress warmer in skirts than in pants. I wear long denim or other skirts, and would have long flannel slips to wear underneath. To walk outside, I have boots that reach over halfway to my knees. If it is very cold out and I want to spend some time out, I will put on black long johns as well. You can't wear that many layers comfortably if you wear pants. This would keep me warm in sub-zero temps for quite a while, but I guess if it was a very windy day that might be a different story. Maybe a pair of sweatpants would do? Sewing them a little thighter if they are too wide to fit comfortably might do the trick.

I too have been served by someone tht I did not recognize. what do you call them, Mam, Sir? It is unnerving; it gives me the creeps if I am talking with someone who has no obvious gender. A sad sad world indeed. Let's rise up and be the salt of the earth and light of the world!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lydia,

What a wonderful post. I love your response to the Dockers ad.

I still haven't mastered the art of feminine dressing but I am working on and more importantly, I can still work on my behavior in the meantime.

When we act like women, our men will act like men.

~ Ann

Bethany Lynn said...

I second what prayzgod said! When I was a pre-teen, probably about 10 or 11, I saw a woman in the grocery store with a little baby who was dressed just beautifully. She was wearing a lovely long wool skirt and very pretty blouse and she had her hair done up so prettily on top of her head. I really think that from that day on I was inspired to never wear sweat pants and t- shirts because i wanted to inspire just like she inspired me :) I think the thought that older girls can inspire younger girls really makes one go against the grain because it is SO worth it!


Anonymous said...


Around here, I wear, on my bottom half, thick kneesocks, leggings, polar fleece pants (they are like $7 at Old Navy, and help a lot) and Uggs (You've probably seen them; they're knee high shearling boots. They aren't the cutest thing ever, but I've never found anything that rivals them for warms. Bear Paws makes a good knockoff). Over that, I put a skirt made of wool or a heavyweight denim.

On top, again from inside to outside layers, I wear a cotton camisole, elbow-length fingerless gloves (they sell them on, a long-sleeve t-shirt, a wool sweater (I bought men's ones and felted them in the washer, so they are very tick and warm!) and a wool blazer.

I wear a structured wool felt hat on my head. When I go out, I put gloves and an ankle-length wool winter coat over everything.

It only takes me 15 minutes or so to get dressed in the morning!

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to wear skirts all year round. They are so much more comfortable than pants. The problem is that I don't sew, and finding long skirts these days is extremely hard. I'll keep looking though. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

If you have a Cato's store in your area, they often have long skirts that are very cute. I just purchased three ankle length denim skirts that are now my favorite wardrobe items!

Anonymous said...

The incident you describe has happen several times to me. I found myself quiet distracted wondering, "Will I say 'Yes, Ma'am' or 'Yes, Sir'?" Even in the restroom, I've been made to wonder. My children have even asked me after we've exited the store, "Was that a man or woman?" Sometimes I'm not sure even after the interaction! Such a sad commentary on our culture. People seem so discontent to who they were created to be.

Farrah said...

Do you have any scriptural references to men and women looking completely different? My stepson is in a "Christian" rock band (he has his father's permission) and is looking more and more like a girl. He has let his hair grow long, wears girls jeans so they can be tighter, and is now wanting to get his ears pierced. Instead of my husband just saying no I thought it would be good if I had verses to back it up like I did with the tattoo he wanted.

Another thing is my husband does not want me to look "Amish". He wants me to dress modern yet conservative. He doesn't like flowy skirts and many dresses. He does like a few of the fitted Laura Ashley dresses I had from years ago. Do you have any ideas on how to glorify God while obeying my husband through my dress?

I just wanted to say that I was just having the conversation with my stepson just last night. I was thrilled to get on your blog today and find this!

Anonymous said...

I just read the Dockers ad....WOW, I was so surprised, I thought I'd have to pick up my own chin from the floor! This was one of the most refreshing things I've read in a very, very long while. I will have to look for a way to contact their company by it was, I had my phone handy & called to let customer service know my thoughts. The extremely pleasant gal who took my call promised she'd pass along my remarks to the "higher ups". What a great start to my day! :o)

Off now, to read Mrs. Sherman's response, her "female counterpart" to the Dockers ad.


Anonymous said...

To the lady who'd asked about longer skirts: Christopher & Banks has some nice ones, & I've also had great luck shopping the used market. Don't lose may have to look a bit harder, but what you require is out there!

happy shopping,

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of wearing dresses or skirts, but I am short and overweight. I am round. My legs rub together and hurt if I wear a skirt or dress. It is not comfortable. I know I need to lose weight, but in the meantime, any advice on how to wear skirts/dresses without pain and without looking like a Good Year Blimp?

I also feel very self-conscious when I "dress up". I feel weird, like everyone is staring even if they are not. Thus, I am not at ease and become clumsy and out of sorts. Any advice on getting over feeling "weird" in a skirt/dress?

Anonymous said...

May I offer a couple of suggestions to the lady who bemoans her shape (she describes herself as short & round)? Please, do not think for a minute that dresses & skirts are only for the tall & willowy gals. I do think, though, that you may feel less self-conscious if you make sure to bring attention to your neck & face; a nice hairstyle will help, as will accessories like earrings, necklaces & scarves. If you are able to wear shoes with a bit of a heel that will help too...nicer shoes help us to walk a bit more prettily. If your legs become sore from rubbing together when you walk, try buying or making something like a pair of "petti-pants". A pair of bike shorts may be helpful. They are made of fabric that's designed not to drag on itself, so to speak.

Good luck! :o)

Anonymous said...

I was going to say the same in reference to skirts in cold weather...get the long ones, all the way down to the ankles. It makes a huge difference. Although I am not in a very cold climate, I wear leg warmers under mine. I tend to wear a lot of jeans skirts in the winter because they are nice and heavy. The longer skirts do tend to create a "micro-climate".

If you feel like you get lost in long A-line skirts, try bias cut(tulip shaped - sort off). I look 100% better in this style which is form fitting through the hips and then forms an A-line. It's a less gradual A-line. Without the bias cut, I look three sizes larger with my chubby 40 something mid section and lack of prominent to the treadmill for me! ;)

Anonymous said...

A good question: Why was it so important to women back then to look like women? Why is it not important to us? Because we are told that anything womanly or feminine is inferior or weak? God help us.

Anonymous said...

The book of Genesis tells us: "Male and female created He them." In the beginning, God created man and woman. Read about it in Genesis chapters one, two, three, and others. You can get read it online.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

This is a message for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use some of the information from this blog post right above if I provide a link back to your website?


Lydia said...

Daniel, if I may know where it will be posted, I will certainly consider it!

Anonymous said...


I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at

Can I use part of the information from this blog post right above if I give a backlink back to your site?


Lydia said...

Please contact me via email first

Miss Linda said...

This was such a wonderful post. It is rare to find a woman who will stand firm for the Biblical vision of womanhood. Many years ago I read Deut. 22:5 and realized that God does indeed care about how we attire our bodies. I wear high-neck, long-sleeve blouses and ankle-length skirts at all times. I live in a region where the temperature gets around 115 in the summer, but I still make certain I am covered from the top of my collar-bone to the ankle. I believe many God-fearing women are simply uninformed about the Biblical mandates pertaining to gender-distinguishing attire. Pastors are not proclaiming these truths from their pulpits. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6)

Lydia said...

Miss Linda,

I love your pretty blog, and the home tour slideshow on the right. Your patterns are so lovely and you use the nicest fabrics. The patterns are all current, which shows how you can sew elegantly and femininely without using Truly Victorian or Folkwear, expensive and sometimes complicated to sew. Love the music, too.