Saturday, December 19, 2009

Female Identity

Do you think the subject of this painting is a woman, or a man?  What things in the painting provide evidence of this person being male, or female?  Does it matter to you, whether someone is male or female, when you are talking to them?  What would you think, if you could not tell the difference between men and women?  Would you call them "sir" or "ma'am" or "it"?

by Gyorgyi Giergl Alajos, Hungarian 1821-1863

for a detailed view of this magnificent painting, click here and then click on the painting there.

please click on the title and go to see a larger views of these paintings. Once you click on the titles at Lovely Whatevers, you will go to Allposters. Click on the picture again, and see a full size page view on your screen.

A great deal can be learned from the records of the past, especially the paintings and photographs which I am showcasing on this blog.  In the first painting, for example, there are several things which show femininity in clothing:  the tiered layers of cloth, with stitched tucks, that make up the skirt, and the delicateness of the fabric, the fullness and length of the dress, the soft fringe on the shawl, the shoes (more delicate than mens shoes)  and the hat with a ribbon on it.   These things generally are still considered to give a female appearance.

In your own family album, you may have photographs simlar to this, from the same era (middle or late 1800's). This is my great grandmother, Margaret Adelaide, and her husband, who lived in Texas.  Notice how femininely different her garment is from that of her husband's.  Most women dressed like this, and I think they rarely were confused about who was a man and who was a woman (unlike today).   In this photograph, how can you tell the difference between the father and the mother?

 Can you tell which is the man, and which is the woman, in this 19th century painting by Abbott Fuller Graves?

 Women look best in feminine clothing, and it affects their confidence, their self-worth as women, and their mood.  Men respond differently to women who are dressed like women, than they do to women who are dressed like men.  When you dress like a man, you tend to behave less femininely and take on a masculine posture and attitude. Men do not want women to look like men.  The paintings here show that the 18th and 19th century men and women were not as confused as they are today. That is why we should learn from them, and in particular, see what the artists of the times portrayed as male and female attire.

Edouard Jean Marie Hostein, French,  1804-1889

You can see a much larger view of this wonderful painting if you will click on the title, to the site where it is posted, and follow the links to find an even bigger view. 

When you click on the full size painting, can you tell the difference between the male and female figures in this scene?  Do you you think the clothing was distinct enough in the 19th century, to recognize the women, even from a distance?

by Louise Abemma, French, 1858-1927

In this scene, the men and women are opposites in appearance, because of their clothing.  What do you think is wrong with the scene today? Do you think the entire look of the beautiful dresses would have been spoiled by the modern sports shoe?

Epic Heroes, by Victor Vasnetsov (Russian, 1848-1926)
Is the artists intention to portray men, or women, in this painting? How can you tell if they are men?

To see more beautiful paintings, click on "older posts" at the end of the articles on this page.

One of the dangers of not being able to tell male from female, is that it breaks down manners and chivalry.  It seems like a deliberate attempt to prevent people from saying "sir," or ma'am" out of respect. It is designed to humiliate those who believe in honoring a person by addressing them as "sir" or "ma'am."  Unless you are Marcy, addressing Peppermint Patty from a Charles Schutlze cartoon,  you should address men as "sir," and women as "ma'am."

Those who love God and use His Word as their standard for life, know that God has put distinctive, visual differences between male and female. He expects us to glorify Him with those differences. We are authorized to blend the sexes or erase the differences.  Today, women's clothing , for the most part, erases the difference between male and female. We should, as women, try to look different than men. Since it is harder to find role models for this, today, we can look into the past. That is why I have posted these paintings and photographs of a time when men and women were not so confused about which they were.


Anonymous said...

The shoe issue is a real problem for me. I love wearing dresses but have a hard time with the shoe depeartment. When I wore jeans, I wore tennis shoes. I have a deformity in the structure of my feet, which required corrective shoes as a child. I would gladly wear those clunky shoes today, if I could find them. Unfortuanately, the only things available for women are sports shoes that or comfortable or heels and flats that offer little to no support. I can't wear them. I've gone back to wearing birkenstocks, as they are the closest thing to the clunky corrective shoes, I wore as a child. They are not as attractive as ballet flats or other mary jane type shoes, but I can walk in them without pain. They have a nice mary janes and clogs that are passible with dresses.

Anonymous said...

I feel the previous comment's pain in the shoe department! I have chronic knee problems since childhood, and have spent a year and a half recovering from two knee surgeries in the space of six months. I've also had the pleasure of plantar fascitis a few years ago.

So, I have to be very careful about what I wear on my feet. I need shoes on at all times, and they need to be high quality, supportive, and comfortable. Most of the good quality footwear made for people like me looks quite clunky and dowdy. The cheap/affordable shoes most people can get away with leave me in agony.

I've resigned myself to having to spend a large sum of money to get one pair of useable shoes. I've been very slowly finding and buying attractive shoes to go with my skirts and dresses, but it isn't easy. Good brand names are Rockport, Mephisto, Footthrills, and Birkenstock. Sears carries many of these.

I also have very good quality leather arch supports I can put in my shoes, but they don't fit every shoe properly.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow lady who has great difficulty finding shoes that fit properly and offer support, i can heartily recommend a proper leather walking shoe or boot in black or tan (occasionally these can be purchased in different colours, but black and tan/brown will go with everything; even light colours.

Munroe (A US Brand) make excellent leather walking shoes and boots with very good support; you would likely be able to get orthotics made to fit these if needed. Questra also make very good leather walking boots, as do (or did; if you can find them, you'll be onto a good thing) Dianna Ferarri).

If you want shoes that offer support, and look good, the italian brands are often the best; these and Munroe) and the money you spend will be made up to you as these shoes will last five years and more if you look after them (polish them properly and keep them clean) even if they're on your feet every day.

Hope this helps,

A fellow problem foot owner.

Lydia said...

Ladies, today it is hard to tell a woman from a man when walking behind them. In the photos and paintings, it is more likely you could tell who was a man or a woman, from behind. In front, the blouses had collars and trims and sleeves very different from men's, and their fabrics were different from mens.

Margaret Adelaid eventually had about 10 children, and she knew the names of all her grandchildren and her great grand children. At Christmas, she bought something for every single one of those great grand children. She would go to a dime store and get small things like nail files, soap, a piee of jewelry, a notebook, etc. (what amounts to our dollar stores today), wrap every single gift and put someone's name on it. Though we each only got one gift, she made sure EVERYONE got something, and it was probably quite a population of great-grandchildren she had by then. I remember the packages well, and what a treat it was to receive something really special that I did not actually need!!

Anonymous said...

I also have foot problems -- a very high arch that won't fit into a lot of 'delicate' shoes and also leads to plantar fasciitis if I'm not careful. I wear New Balance shoes fitted with custom orthotics during the day with most my skirts and dresses. For Sunday I have a pair of expensive 'orthotic' mary janes, but they are still hard on the top of my feet as my instep is so high. In the past I have used GVS Distrubutors in Versailles, MO for ladies' shoes that are definitely ladies shoes, with good support and great quality. A little more conservative maybe than some would like, but more dainty and less 'clunky'.

Anonymous said...

I understand your concern about lovely shoes which provide good support and aid in corrective issues. I would recommend Foot Smart (online). They have beautiful shoes including mary janes and pumps which are far better than some you generally find at retailers. They are expensive, but probably helpful. I had my feet measured at our local store and was able to purchase online.

Anonymous said...

I also wore corrective shoes as a child and now I cannot wear heels or pointed toes of any kind. I find the Naturalizer, Dr. Scholls and Lands End brands carry dressier flat shoes that I can wear without pain. There are many articles online about what to look for in a shoe to keep your feet pain-free. By educating yourself about these features before you shoe shop, you can find shoes that don't hurt and look good. I found a pair of leather Dr. Scholls mary-jane type shoes at WalMart for just $27 this summer and they have held up great through a lot of wear. You likely won't be able to wear the very inexpensive fashion shoes with problem feet, but for a little more, you can find something.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia:

I think your spirit of gratitude over small gifts is lovely. I have spent more than I wanted to yet again this Christmas because the intended recipients expect gifts of a certain price. The funny thing is, many of the gifts I am wraping meet the expected price tag, but they were bought with that price tag in mind and are not nearly as thoughtful as smaller gifts would have been. The expensive candles smell the same as the ones from the dollar store, the name brand ornaments are indistinguishable the ones from the dollar store. Even the holiday linens from the specialty shop can't compete in quality with the vintage ones I found on ebay used. So, I use the dollar store candles for my home, and decorate with paper chains, homemade ornaments and vintage linens. Meanwhile, I shop for the expensive things to give others.

It seems to me those with religious views of the holidays are far kinder in many ways, including gratitude for thoughtful, affordable gifts. Those with secular mindsets, like most of my gift recipients (family), look at the holiday as a chance to get things and to show off their wealth with what they give.

Anonymous said...

I've been noticing more and more lately that blurring of gender appearances all over the place! Whether it be an employee at the local walmart, or a billboard ad on the highway, there are many people my dad identifies as "persons of questionable gender." I was in target, walking by the boy's department and there was a poster hanging up of a boy wearing the latest target styles. I had to look several times! The boy looked like a girl! High cheekbones, full lips, long curly hair....

Anonymous said...

I went looking for a nice outfit to buy my seven year old daughter to wear for Christmas Eve dinner at a "big box" store because that's what I can afford.

I could not find one skirt. The 2 or 3 dresses I could find in her size were horribly ugly. The only other outfit close to what I was looking for had these ugly leggings instead of a skirt or pants. The top was too dreadful to remember.

It is difficult to find simple sweet clothing for daughters.

Lydia said...

I took a 12 year old girl shopping one day recently, to TJ MAX and she LOVED the Christmas tree skirts. I held one up to her and the length was perfect, well below her knees, like a gown, and it was colorful, with trims. It even fit around her waist. I think you could probably use a tree skirt pattern or even buy a tree skirt and it would be quite nice, but it could be worn over a dress. Maybe if the dress was too short, you could put the long skirt over it and use the dress as a kind of blouse-slip. I am serious, that this skirt looked gorgeous on her and she was just so thrilled to find it!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what can be found if a person has a creative bent of mind! I remember making my second daughter a dress out of some window sheers. Now, true, it was for a costume (she wanted to be Glinda for Halloween), but the principle remains the same, & the dress turned out quite nice. Round tablecloths also make nice skirts. The amount of fabric cut out of the middle can usually be used to make the facing for the small slash that is required. Or, instead of that, a larger hole can be cut out, & then a simple casing sewn to accomodate a length of elastic....then you have a nice step-in or over-the-head skirt.


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of using a tree skirt. I have some curtains that, when I replace, I will be using to make a dress or slip for my daughter. The trim is beautiful and will look really pretty hanging out from underneath a dress or skirt!

It's funny to me that people talk about renewing, reusing and recycling, but no ever thinks in terms of what lovely clothing you can make out of old fabrics. I never see that in magazines. I see things made out of old clothing but not the other way around.

I'm currently reading a book called The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. We just read chapter 2 last night, and it talks about a little girl whose aunt has been taking care of her but is becoming unable to due to her age. The chapter is full of this aunt's resourcefulness (she actually reminds me of you, Lady Lydia) in how she's able to raise this child as a lady despite meager circumstances, which she completely denies she's in (a good lesson in contentment!). They shared a single room as her apartment, and the woman used a large sheet of fabric to separate their sleeping areas. When the aunt arranges for the girl to stay at Willoughby Chase, she takes that fabric and, in 2 days, makes this child practically an entire wardrobe! By hand, I'm sure! What a beautiful experience reading that chapter was. I don't think my children appreciated the chapter as much as I did.