Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dressing Like a Lady

this exquisite painting is by Greg Harris
Today I want to share a few things about wearing pretty clothes daily, and at home.
I always get inspired by the sight of a field of flowers, or the way the light plays on a meadow, making the grass look like it has white flowers growing in it. I might study a picture from a beautiful book, or maybe just a "well-dressed table", to design clothing to "go" with it. In the winter I always want to make a coat with snowy white fur borders and cuffs, or a dress made of festive fabric with a silver sheen to it. It is always interesting to create a matching fascinator headband, or some other accessory with left-over fabric.
This lovely painting is by Greg Harris

Another thing that gives me the over-all idea of ladylike fashion, is art. I have looked at the art of many eras and found that good artists rarely if ever, paint pictures of ladies in masculine or unflattering clothing. This is something to think about when dressing your best and feeling good about your clothing. When I look at little girls in their church dresses playing outside after church, it seems like a painting. It seems sad to me that while there are lovely little-girl-dresses at places like Costco, it is harder to find the same thing in ladies styles. The girls must think it is odd to wear such pretty things themselves, while their mothers have to dress so differently.

This idyllic serene scene is painted by Greg Harris

In past times, the ladies I knew enjoyed dressing to match the nature and the scenes around them. They seemed to know that a pink gingham check or a nature print with cherries on it "went" with a picnic, while a light blue sailor style dress with white soutache trim on the collar was the perfect outfit for a walk at the seaside. A trip to a rose garden meant choosing a dress with a rose print, because of the photo that would be taken. As soon as any hedgerow or tree or rose bush came into bloom, they found a dress that matched the color and had their picture taken in front of the foliage. When I go through old photographs of the women in my family, I find this sort of thing in a lot of the pictures.

There are just as many indoor, homey inspirations for dressing. Many people have beautiful homes with lovely new furniture and do not realize how this can be a source of ideas for the kind of dresses to make or buy. If houses are beautifully furnished , why should the homemaker not compliment it by dressing just as fine? Women who really love being home love to change the rooms and rearrange and clean them and give the area a new look. Think of this in terms of the lady of the house and her mode of dress. If you can dress up your house, you can dress up yourself. When we present our homes to others for a special occasion, we have bright focal points and vases of flowers, while we try not to call attention to the areas that are private or need some work.

Another astonishingly bright and beautiful painting by artist Greg Harris

Indoors, ladies would change from their work-apron and don their lace apron when it was time to sit down to dine. If they went to someone's home for afternoon tea they dressed as if they were going to afternoon tea! In fact, you could fairly judge what the ladies were doing or where they were going, by what they were wearing. Today it is hard to know if a woman is going to attend a wedding or a race.There were traveling clothes, church clothes, vacation clothes, and wedding clothes. They did not need a huge closet for the kind of clothes they wore, because they could use one outfit in different ways by adding a little bolero or a shawl, or a change of shoes.

A house dress was no less pretty just because it was worn at home for house keeping. Clothing was, to me at least, exciting and inspiring. It made me look forward to getting up in the morning. We enjoyed the seasonal catalogs, which provided sketches of ladies clothing that was available to order. It made each season special knowing when there was a summer dress or a winter coat arriving in the mail.Trips to town were approached with enthusiasm because it was a chance to wear dressier clothes and enjoy the shops. People showed respect to the proprietors and other customers by the way they dressed, and most ladies wanted to look nice and appear to be ladies. Clothing was the easiest way to show dignity and to express that they were doing something they considered quite special. Even the poorest person knew how to look dressed up!

art by Greg Harris

One thing that made ladies clothing so different and interesting is that it was not the same as men's wear. Today, much of the manufactured womens clothing is a female imitation of men's clothing; a slightly altered version of jeans and shirts. There were colors and prints and textures exclusive to ladies clothing that made them feel ladylike.

There seemed to be an awareness among ladies that they represented their families by the way they dressed, and they did not want to dress in a careless way and reflect poorly on their kin. This seems to be a lost value today. It might take a long conversation to explain it to someone in this culture of T-shirt dressing.

art by Greg Harris

It is possible to dress in a ladylike way every day, but there are some things you need to be aware of. The first thing that comes to my mind is the issue of modesty. Many people who understand the New Testament teaching on this subject in 1 Timothy 2:9, but they sacrifice beauty, femininity and ladylikeness by using dull fabrics and "dumpy" matronly styles that make them appear ungainly, overweight, unfeminine and unladylike.When women teach about modesty they need to show how modesty should be elegant and pretty, too, in a sense, elevating the mind. Modesty should be glorifying to God and compliment His wonderful creation, rather than looking drab and depressing. It helps if you try to remember what other people have to look at, and to be thoughtful of them when you choose your clothing.

art by Greg Harris captures the true essence of ladies in flowing clothing of the 19th century

Everyone agrees that fads, or "for-a-day" fashions which are dominate one day and unpopular the next, are not wise to follow. Have you ever considered, though, that some of the so-called modest clothing can also be a fad? Women often latch on to a modest style because some religious women promote it as modest, not considering all aspects of the total look. A long skirt can be modest but if it is not well fitted with a nice drape and flattering lines to your own figure type, it can draw attention to the wrong things. People will be looking at that ill-fitting skirt and it becomes an immodest distraction.

You can wear a modest skirt and still look very unladylike and unhappy about your life.

As for blouses, there are too many religious women saying that tops made of tee shirt material are modest, but these types of tops are not flattering or modest at all unless they are embellished with ruffles, pleats, gathers, pintucks and other decorations. Since I will not be able to spend a lot of time describing what blouses are pretty and appropriate and modest, I will let you determine it by some of the paintings I have posted on my blog over the years. It takes a trained eye to determine what is appropriate, because not all clothes are right for you just because they are modest. There are other things to consider, such as the color and print and the design.


A tip that might help in determining how to dress: Since I found that skirts and blouses present quite a messy problem in my closet, I have sewn mostly dresses to wear. That way, the blouse and skirt are already matched up and it all hangs securely on one hanger. To choose an outfit in the morning is easier when selecting a dress, instead of deciding on what separates to pair up. I learned years ago that matching up separates tends to create a pile of clothing that did not work well with other pieces, and it all has to be put back in the closet, which takes up valuable time.

The reason I suggest that some of the so-called modest clothes can be a fad, is because women will sometimes go overboard with the dull aspect of the fashion, wearing ugly head scarves, refusing to treat their complexions by covering blemishes, neglecting to dress their hair and keep it clean and healthy-looking, and totally ignoring how ungainly and unfeminine their jogging footwear looks with the skirts. Later on, they get tired of this purportedly modest way of dressing, abandon it, and go on to something else that is just another extreme way of dressing.The best thing to do is to like and admire things that are beautiful and refined, and be able to identify things that do not look good on you. You can get a very inexpensive full-length mirror for your room, and stand before it analyzing your appearance each day.

Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton

When my generation was younger, we were taught to look at the back, also, to make sure we knew what people would see from the back. If the garment was unflattering from the back view, we didn't leave the house. Stitchers and tailors are trained to create garments that look good from all sides, but not all manufactured clothing does, so it is important to use the mirror.

While looking in the mirror, use this mental checklist:

Does it adequately cover and skim your figure or is it too tight and to gaping in areas?

Is it pretty and feminine (ruffles, lace, trims, fabrics different from men's clothing)?

Does the outfit look professional and smart, or dull and dowdy?

Does the color make your complexion look bright or dull?

Is the entire outfit overall slimming in appearance or does it make you look fatter?

Is the outfit too loose and sloppy?

How does the color, style, fabric and fit affect your mood?

This frock from Chadwicks has the right idea, with long length and slimming style, but it needs sleeves. If you had a pattern you could easily add any style sleeve.

Does it make you feel optimism or pessimism?

Are there parts of the garment too low or two short?

Lovely style and I would add sleeves if I were sewing this. I like sleeves.


Is it too short, too long, too tight or too baggy for the type of style?

There might be more you could add to this checklist yourself as you discover the many aspects of dressing in a ladylike way.The most important thing is to glorify God and reflect the happiness you have as a Christian, by thoughtfully choosing clothing that is suitable. In my opinion, every day is a gift, and every day warrants dressing carefully. You will find, too late, how short life is, and will wish you had celebrated life daily by dressing well.



Anonymous said...

What an absolute burst of colour your post was!
I wish I could say that I wear dresses everyday, but it is all too easy to throw on the jeans some days... however, I do like to appear feminine and fresh/clean, will put a pretty top or cardi with the denim!
I'm very inspired by the article, and thank you : )

Mrs. V. said...

I too was raised that you have different clothes for different purposes. When I was growing up I had school clothes, play clothes, church clothes and clothing to go out into town in. And no, we were not well off. If you learn how to shop and how to purpose your clothing, it can be done and over time you can build up a perfectly respectable wardrobe.

Lydia said...

Alex, thank you for being the first one to post.

Mrs. V. Clothes today are too easy to get confused. They all seem to feel and look the same. You do not know whether you are in your pyjamas or daywear. For those who want to be more ladylike I would suggest wearing a pretty skirt all day and getting used to it. There are leggings you can wear with it, and looks great also with a pair of ladies boots.

Tricia said...

AMEN!! I wish I could put this article on the evening news for everyone to see!! Thank you Lady Lydia!

Lydia said...

Thank you for your comments and for visiting my blog. It is very encouraging.

I a, sad and sometimes horrified at the appearance of older women. They had the privilege of living in an era where ladies enjoyed dressing better, and yet they opt for a mannish look.

Unknown said...

I love your examples of dressing to match nature/occasions! I have been wearing dresses every day for two years now...I am 24....and there are SO many affordable, feminine, modest dresses & skirts on the internet...I especially love appropriate clothing from:

It really isn't hard to find lovely clothing! And there is NO excuse to wear pants...dresses are very comfortable, and functional with shorts/leggings underneath and cute tennis shoes or boots when necessary.
I used to wear those skinny jeans, short-shorts and skimpy tops...let me tell you, NOTHING is more fashionable and attractive than a modest dress!

Lydia said...

Thank you for the links.

I plan to add a picture of a dress from a catalog. So many dresses need sleeves and that is a problem with older women who need to cover their upper arms

Unknown said...

I don't care for sleeveless dresses either, unless the straps are VERY wide. I hate worrying about my bra-strap showing!
There are surprisingly a good number of dresses with sleeves on those websites I just unfortunately must weed through a bunch of immodest clothing to find the good ones.

Janet said...

I am with you on this: "It seems sad to me that while there are lovely little-girl-dresses at places like Costco, it is harder to find the same thing in ladies styles. The girls must think it is odd to wear such pretty things themselves, while their mothers have to dress so differently." I have been so many places where little girls are in the pretty dresses and the mothers are in tight pants and T-top with gaping neckline and it makes me wonder where the desire to dress pretty went.

We do have a mission: wearing clothing that glorifies the Lord.

You have a wonderful article and so glad you posted those pictures of Greg Harris. They are inspiring.

I remember the 80s as having a more feminine bent in clothing. There were very pretty styles with
beautiful floral fabrics as well as feminine brights and pastels and deep rich womanly colors. We wore flowing skirts with pretty details on the blouses or bodices and wonderful sleeves. If one wears such styles now, it is considered out-dated,out-moded, and definitely out-of-sync by even the "Christian" crowd. T-shirts and jeans(oh, if only they could see how they look behind!) are the typical mode of attire--a far cry from looking like a beautifully dressed lady.

Thank you so much for this encouraging article. God bless you for your desire to instill in your readers an impetus for dressing with an appreciation to God for making them a woman for his glory.

Finding Joy said...

The pink dress is beautiful and I would certainly wear it on a hot summers day in Australia (no sleeves). It would also be nice on a cooler day with a shortly sleeved cardigan.

I love skirts and tops and wear them almost all the time. It means I can have many combinations by mix and matching.

I get my clothes ready the night before and have everything out for the morning. Its just part of being organised for me and means I don't have to think to hard first thing in the morning when I am half asleep.

Lydia said...

Janet, the sleeves were interesting in the 80's and I notice sleeves are coming back into fashion. I am glad I saved some of my patterns and can have whatever kind of sleeve I want when sewing.

Jo, I like having things in my closet already matched up so that I do not have to spend any time putting it all together. I do enjoy the little boleros and jackets, cardigans that go so nicely with the sleeveless dresses.

Lydia said...

Jo the dress also comes in blue. Both are beautiful and I would consider sewing a similar one, most likely with sleeves, since that is my preference. Hope you are having wonderful summer days.

Susan said...

This is a subject that we need to discuss more often. I was previously one of those jeans and t-shirt women until I read articles like this and really took a look at myself in the mirror. I am in my 50's now and wear dresses and skirts almost every day. I feel better about myself and I am treated with more respect from others, including my husband. By the way, my switch also caused my husband to be more conscious of what he is wearing. I find skirts to be more comfortable and they are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. I am on a very limited budget right now and have to buy in thrift stores mostly. I stick to simple colors and patterns, like the paintings, so that everything matches. I recently found the dress pattern New Look 6352 in a bin for 25 cents and am going to try to hand sew a summer dress since I don't have a machine. I am learning to add darts to items that are ill fitting. I wonder if anyone has recommendations for adding length to thrift store dresses and skirts. Being tall is a handicap in that area. Also some recommendations for patterns and styles of jackets for over the dresses would be helpful. I tend to throw on a big fluffy cardigan when I get too chilly and that's when I start to look a little frumpy. Feminine shoes are getting harder to find in my area, especially comfortable flats. The "dressing down" has gotten so bad here that going out on errands becomes an unsightly nightmare. I will not mention here the things I have seen. How beautiful this world would be if everyone dressed with dignity and how different the children would be growing up with mothers that look so beautiful. I have more than once had little girls walk up to me and tell me I look pretty. It's the example we set for them that is so unbelievably important. They are paying attention more than we think. Thank you for this article. I think this is one of the most important subjects of our present day. It cannot be discussed enough.

Lydia said...

There are several ways to add length. One that makes the added piece more coordinated to the color and print of the skirt is to forts cut off the hem area a few inches,nor however thick you want your border to be. This will be sewn back on. Then, using another fabric, such as eyelet lace or calico, which is a small floral print, sew a wide piece of fabric on to the skirt. Then replace the piece of the skirt you cut off, sewing it on to the added calico piece. It might be better if I illustrated this on the blog as a sewing subject.

Rightthinker said...

I love this inspiring article, Lydia! Dressing apart from the culture can be tough for ladies today. There are few examples of how to do so without wearing a "potato sack", and so it tends to be rare. I am thankful for your article, and you are a true example of being feminine.

Where I live, it's more common than many areas I've lived before, yet it is tied largely to the Orthodox Catholic settlement here, "old school' Mormons and a few "legalistic" Christian churches in the area. It is nice when women choose to dress like ladies, and enjoy being pretty rather than donning the proverbial potato sack outfit, with all it's dowdy lack of prettiness, simply because "they have to".

My daughters and I are literally part of less than a single hand-full of ladies at church who dress like a lady. The remaining all look like typical culture, or..unfortunately, like they are ready for hunting in their camoflauge.

You can imagine that my girls will view nothing but mixed messages about how to dress when they go to church. Thankfully, their father and I have taught them from the Bible about their conduct and appearance, and I try to lead by example. Sadly, however, my 6 sons (so far) will be hard-pressed to find ladies who dress this way for a wife of their own.

While Jesus doesn't require us to dress a certain way in order to be saved (which is why I extend grace to women who don't dress like ladies) it's just another way that the church has been led astray...influenced by feminism.

How set apart and great a witness to dress like a feminine lady; pretty and taking pride in her testimony of being such!

God Bless

Lydia said...

Gods word is designed to fit all cultures and ages of people, and it has standards of clothing rather than a particular style or design. Its possible even in times when the designers are promoting really dull and degrading uninteresting clothing, to find something nice. We managed in the eras when short skirts came out. There is always a beautiful alternative and you are wise to develop your own culture for your home.

Lydia said...

I am appalled at what some young women are wearing in the name of modesty. It comes across as depressing and like they are under oppression. They get awful skirts that have no beauty and worse blouses , yet I know even on goodwill there are nicer things for the same price.

Housewife59 said...

Thank you for this excellent article. I have copied this into my notebook for reference. (I like to copy out, rather than print them. I'm an old-fashioned girl)I can testify to the fact that wearing brighter, feminine colours and styles do lift the spirit and make one more cheerful. My husband is delighted that I am embracing more colour and feminine prints in my wardrobe, and I liked the comment you made about considering how the way you dress has an affect on the people around you too.

Rightthinker said...


I am a tall lady, as well! I am 5'8, which isn't extremely tall, but just given my shape, I find it very difficult to find blouses that are flattering..but I manage!

As far as your question about a cover up/wrap, I have solved that one recently! I live in a cold winter climate, but I don't like coats unless they are really required. (I am a mother of 8, generally wear my baby when out to be more hands free, so coats are just one more thing to carry when I get hot!)

I have found the new shrugs/cardigans/fly away cover ups to be fabulous. I have bought almost all of mine at Kohl's on clearance/plus percentage off/plus Kohl's cash, in more "off seasons". They look wonderful with skirts, dresses, or make sleeveless tops/dresses into ones with sleeves!

I now have flyaway cardigans in everything from a lightweight yellow for Spring/Summer, to heavier (but very slimming, LONGer and tailored to fit curves) black, grey, brown, etc. If you can buy even one a month (the yellow one I got in the winter cost me $4 at Kohls after the discount) then you can build up your year round arsenal.

Another thing that is really neat about wearing skirts and dresses is, you don't need as large of a wardrobe! I also have a very small maternity wardrobe, because many of my skirts are elastic waist with drawstring (prairie/boho style) or empire waist maxi dresses, and in the cold months, I use a cover up and tights, and warm months wear 3/4 sleeves and a little crochet shrug or 1/2 sleeves and pretty sandals.

I am on a budget, as well, but we manage because I am appalled that in general, Christian women look no different from the world, and I don't want to represent my calling that way.

Lydia said...

The problem I see is women bringing a bad light on themselves as ladies of the home and Christians by wearing drab, uncared for clothing as if they just do not care, and thinking because they are wearing a skirt, they are automatically ladylike and feminine,

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Lydia, after reading this post yesterday I had this wonderful dream last night! I was in this very large room and it was filled with a few mirrors. And in this dream I saw so many women just dresses in all these amazing frilly white dresses! They all had lovely big bows on the backs of them. I even recognized some of the ladies! It just really touched me on how this dream made all the ladies so fresh and happy!
I think we as women are wanting to look lovely and lady like!
Keep them coming to inspire us!
Love, Roxy

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this article, I chortled aloud (most unladylike) at the mention of the dresses with athletic shoes because I live in an area with a lot of Amish and Mennonite women so I see it often and have always hated it. I've worn dresses and skirts in pretty patterns that were modest and simple (most that I made myself) and I really did enjoy it. I loved the swish of a prairie skirt I made myself, it was my favorite). Several years have passed now, and two more children later, and I am more round than I ever was even while pregnant. I'm still nursing a baby, so I need separates.

Here's the problem, or the question: how do I wear skirts? I am having an awful time finding affordable clothing in my size (26/28) that flatters and "holds it all in." I don't like the way I look in pants, but I feel covered and modest, if a little discontent with the style, or lack thereof. I love the pictures of the women that you posted, especially the first one, and would love to achieve that style, but have no idea how at my size. I have two daughters and two sons that I want to model femininity for and encourage them that it is possible to both look and act like a female, but I'm beginning to doubt that I can, especially in the summer months when extra layers are loathsome.

The first step is probably to just lose the weight (I'm trying), but I want to dress my body NOW and can't help but feel like a frump when I wear dresses. Any advice?

Unknown said...

I have found that when I dress in pretty clothes first thing in the morning that I am ready to face whatever the day may bring! When I went into labor with each of my three sons I took a shower, put on stockings and a pretty dress and shoes, curled my hair, and put on a little makeup. It encouraged me to feel positive to the work ahead of me and I had easier labors and delivery. I put on pretty nursing gowns with bed jackets for modesty and greeted my newborn sons with a smile. I returned home in a pretty dress ready to meet the happy days at home ahead! So much about this has to do with attitude. People around you pick up on it and it encourages them, too. Yes, there will always be those who will say you are "overdressed" but they usually are unkempt in appearance and I just smile and keep the conversation moving along to something else. My mother always kept up a nice appearance at home and when we went out she always dressed in something pretty. My Dad was motivated to dress up for her as well. He always wore a tie even to accompany her shopping. My husband fixes up for me as well. He always tells me how much he appreciates having a wife who keeps her appearance nice. Thank you for the beautiful post and pictures today.

Lydia said...

If you want to look better now and you are overweight, I realy strongly recommend going to a hospital supply store where you can get a stretchy wrap that goes around your waist and stomach and attaches with Velcro. Wear it as you would a girdle, so you get a out together feeling and it has a great affect on your figure. If you cant find one, just get something similar at any department store,mi clicking Walmart. Wearing it will also help your weight loss, as you cant eat too much when you have it on , since the minute you are full, the girdle starts to feel tight. The midwife recommended it also after a birth and you can go online for a search as to the reasons it can be good for your stomach muscles.

You might not be able to find a skirt that is pretty but a new skirt is always better than wearing an old one that has lost its shape, and heavier women can still look good if clothes look fresh and new and if you are particular about having them clean and pressed.

Lydia said...

Debbie I agree with you. The way you dress, your hair and makeup and jewelry all have to give you a put-together look and you have to feel out together. Clothing has an effect on your mind, and it makes a big difference in how you approach your life.

Lydia said...

I appreciate your visits

Lydia said...

I appreciate your visits

Susan said...

Thank you for the suggestion for lengthening the skirt. I will give it a try. I wanted to mention for the reader who was interested in large sizes that the catalogs Vermont Country Store and The Paragon both have pretty dresses and skirts in large sizes and they both have clearance items at reasonable prices. Etsy has pretty handmade dresses in those sizes too.

Mary said...

What a wonderful article. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sarah R said...

I always love your clothing posts, Lady Lydia.
I recently lost about 25 pounds (go me!) and went to Goodwill to find something to wear that was not hanging off me. I am skirts/dresses only and live in Florida, so I look for cool fabrics that won't overheat me. In my new to me size, a 14/16, I found three outfits. A black Avenue dress with a pretty ruffle. It is knee length but since I am short, it is shin length on me. I can wear it with heels, boots, or flats and wear a cardigan over it to cover my arms. It was $6.99.
Then I found a purple strapless dress. I don't mind that there are no straps, I simply wear cardigans over it anyway for modesty. Plus, the top was stretchy enough that I could wear it as either a dress or a long prairie type skirt! That's like a two for one deal! Again, it was $6.99.
Last but not least, I found a red dress which is more like a beach cover up. I would wear a shirt over it for modesty's sake again. This particular dress was on the half off rack, and I scored it for $2.99!
So for the grand total of $17.01, I have three dresses which will carry me through my weight loss endeavor without spending a lot of money.
I am in the middle of selling my old dresses, but I am finding that most ladies don't wear dresses and I'm not having much luck. I might pop them on eBay.
I know what you mean about the children not knowing how ladies dress anymore. I grew up in the 1980s, and I remember my teachers really being dressed to the nines. Even if they were wearing pants, they were tailored, with heels, and beautiful colors with scarves and jewelry to match. I am not a teacher, but I do work with children in Sunday school, and the girls eagerly wait to see what I'm wearing because they say I have "princess clothes." I assure you, all I do is wear long skirts either to my ankle, but no shorter than right below my knee, and I wear bright colors, patterns and some sort of matching jewelry. My outfits cost less than $50 except for maybe my shoes but I am clean, neat, put together and pretty. And I am not a model. I'm short, 38, and overweight. Youth and a slim body are not prerequisites for being beautiful.

Mary said...

It was wonderful reading Sarah's comment.

SharonR said...

Thank you again, Lydia.

Sarah R said...

Thank you, Ellie Rae! It's a pleasure to "meet" you. :)

Miriam said...

What a lovely post as usual, Lady Lydia!

Have you seen this lovely blog?

Christine said...

I'm back for a second read of this wonderful and inspirational post!
(Along with all the comments.)

You have given me motivation and ideas.

Great post!

Lyric said...

Bravo, well done! I have quoted you and provided links back to your blog on an upcoming article about dressing like a lady.

Thank you for your thoughts.