Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Effect of Costume on Performance

In the previous post I presented the relationship of the setting or location to your role at home. I compared this to an historical re-enactment, something many of us have participated in. When we go to a tea room here, we usually wear hats and gloves like we are playing a part.

The painting, above, shows ladies at home in nice clothing yet not too dressy for homemaking.

When the setting and props are in harmony with the era being represented, the participants find it all more realistic and believeable. The performance becomes natural and easy. Every performer is quick to say that costume plays a big part in making them feel like they are really in the role they perform.

Today I had hoped to make a video about how the clothes we wear at home affect us in our role as wife, mother, caretaker, guard and guide of the home.  My camera has not been working for several weeks. The corner I have created for a setting is waiting, and the costume is on a hanger. I expect the camera problem will be taken care of soon.

In a performance, costumes are carefully designed to harmonize with the setting and location so that both the performer and the observer is convinced of the story. The costume says something about the person before you hear anything the performer says. The one playing the role feels it is more real when he is in costume.

Great skill is used in creating costumes to depict an era in time, a mood, an event, and relationships of the performer with other performers.  Using color and style, a costume designer can create friction or harmony between people, or show who is in authority, who is successful, who is in trouble, who is helpful, who is in sorrow, and who is happy. There is so much in costume design that we never notice, because it all harmonizes with the setting, to help with the over-all performance.

The homemaker today can use clothing to support her role at home. Let me give you an example of the way in which clothing can effectively support you in your many different roles at home:

When the costume designers of the movie, "Gone With the Wind" wrote about the way they dressed each performer, they said they sought to be authentic to the time in history in which the story was set. Everything, including the men's socks and the ladies lace caps under their bonnets, were authentic to the time-period.  The petticoats, gloves, and even the the little bags carrying coins, were chosen to conform to the era as exactly as possible.

When a critic pointed out to the designers that the men's  socks of the 1800's or the women's caps under their bonnets would never be seen by anyone (the audience or the other actors), one designer replied:

"Although other people will not know the actors are wearing these things, the actors WILL, and that will have an effect on the way they walk, talk, sit, move, and in general their entire performance will be more convincing. They will be convinced they are the person they are depicting."

This is also true at home. If you have been a homemaker for even a short while, you know how your appearance affects the way you behave at home.  When you think that no one else notices you or that it does not matter what you wear, you will find that the home and homemaking becomes less exhalted in your mind.

Above: Molly's berry-picking print dress in Wives and Daughters.  I Once had fabric like this, with various berries printed on it.

This is why homemaking books in classes of the past stressed dressing well. Appearance was taught as the first order of the day. I realize there are exceptions during various stages of life, but for the most part, dressing well at home is good for your mind and your mood, and affects your performance in a positive way.

Above :This Is a costume I made for a future "Tropical Holiday Tea" in which the food, settings and decor will all be tropical with a holiday mood.  

Since there is no uniform for the role of homemaker, each lady is free to choose what to wear, and this is a great advantage over the rest of the career world. We do not need labels on our pockets saying what company we work for, and we do not have to wear hats in the house, but our clothing should first of all give the role we have a lot of dignity by being well-made, clean, neat (maybe  ironed), comfortable and pretty.  Aprons provide variety in color and style, as there are limitless styles to suit all activites.

More importantly, there are other members of your troupe that can be inspired in their own functions at home, by what you wear. 

It is up to each lady to decide what to wear at home that will make the performance of her tasks joyful and successful. It isn't good to assume that because you are at home, no one will notice your clothes, so you can slouch away the day in pyjamas.  As the costume designer emphasized:  maybe no one else will see what you are wearing, but YOU will know what you are wearing, and it will make a difference in how you approach home living.

In creating a costume of sorts for yourself at home, imagine how discordant it would be to your mind and to others if you walked around all day in prison clothes, aeronautics clothing, law-enforcement uniform,  athletes outfits, dramatic stage costumes from the tudor era or coal-miner industrial clothing.  These things would not harmonize with the setting or the role.

  Remember that costumes tell what the character is like, so dress according to what you want to represent to yourself, your family and the world. Clean, neat and tidy garments do a lot to boost your mood and your confidence, as well as help you approach everything with order and optimism.

For myself, I prefer the dresses I make, since I make them especially for life at home. If you do not sew, there are still things you can buy that make nice clothes for the home.  In my videos I have worn white blouses with cotton cardigan sweaters and matching skirts, all from Walmart. These also work well for me at home when worn with aprons. I wear this kind of outfit if I am planning to do any shopping or anything outside the home.  However, each lady can make her own style that suits her personality and mood. Clothing can also be chosen for the type of thing a lady wants to do at home. 

In days-gone-by, denim skirts and jumpers (a dress worn over a blouse) were popular for homemakingbecause  they were so sturdy and withstood a lot of housework.  However, even as early as the 1970's, most of us did our housework in these clothes, and then before our husbands came home from work, would take a shower and change into a clean dress or skirt and blouse.  We did not want to look like 
a laborer at dinner.  The attitude has changed now, and many women find they are depressed at the end of the day, even after doing well at home and a caring for everything.  I do not know of anyone who changes clothes anymore. Perhaps a better way is to dress in something pretty that is suitable for the home, wear an apron, work carefully instead of haphhazardly (like a lady) and then remove the apron for the evening.

So far, I have compared the setting and the costume in a play, to the setting and clothing at home.  You can think about other things that go with the setting and performance, such as the hair, script, the lighting, sound, and the director. I am speaking of drama and reenactments, but it can be applied to the role of the homemaker.

While no one may know how you are dressed at home, you WILL and that will affect your mood and your appreciation of the home.


Mrs. U said...

"The attitude has changed now, and many women find they are depressed at the end of the day, even after doing well at home and a caring for everything."

I have noticed this, as well. I would love to know your thoughts on why this is so.


Lydia said...

I suggest changing into clean clothes after your housework is finished. It will give you a feeling of refreshment.

budgeteer said...

Thank you for another thoughtful and interesting post Lydia. Playing the part is something we all do, at all times isn't it. If we are not dressed for, nor valuing our roles as homemaker, wife or mother, we are still playing a part, but not a very happy, contented or positively influencial one... (As in Shakespeare's 'As you like it'), 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players'.

I have been thinking about this, and it seems to me, that because of the adrenalin-fuelled living that overwhelmes society, homemakers will try and rush and panic to play their part, before they really 'learn the lines'. Then they feel like failures and are despondent. The beauty of our 'performance' is that is requires a slowing of pace - a gentleness and learning of patience, and affording ourselves kindness and time. Of course the other thing that gives one a true sense of joy and peace, is to gently and quietly learn by observing and listening to homemakers who have had many years of experience, and time to learn their lines 'By Heart' 'By Heart' sums up our homemaking rather well too doesn't it?

I wonder if you would consider a future post on the subject of slowing down to learn our home-making, or removing the culture of living on ones adrenalin, and the health dangers of that way of living? I myself am recovering from chronic fatigue caused by the stress of that way of living. No one out in the world is telling you this.

Debbie Gnagey said...

I wear a pretty dress every day at home with a complimentary apron over it, a little light make-up, and a little jewelry such as a pin and earrings or a necklace. I have indoor shoes and outdoor, everyday shoes, which I keep polished. I put these on first thing in the morning before coming down to start my day. It makes me feel ready for anything and should the opportunity to do something special arises, I have only to take my apron off and freshen my lip gloss and I am ready to go. My husband has irregular work hours and sometimes asks me out to lunch on the sour of the moment and I am ready. I have also been available on the spur of the moment to help friends and neighbors go to the Doctor, shop, or pick their children up from school. It also makes me feel confident to do my work at home well. When I need to work in the garden or do other, messier chores, I still wear a dress, but one that is older and more slightly worn, with an apron. When my work is completed, I shower and redress. My husband has an endearing habit of calling as he leaves work for home. This gives me time to freshen up my "costume" and prepare to welcome him when he walks in the door.

Lydia said...


When I first read about the function of adrenalin, I learned it had a limited shelf-life and by over-extending your stress and eorry, you could use a lot of adrenalin and then have nothing for emergencies. New discoveries and scientific medical studies may have been made since then, which I have not had time to study. However, it make sense that any time you put yourself under the demands of the culture or your peers, you tax the mental, physical and emotional resources you have. People think their bodies will grow more defensive but I have seen when you damage it, there is always a weakness even if you heal. However nutritionists may know somewhat better. Whatever te case is, it isnt wise to abuse your body and spirit by living the ideals of a prevailing culture.

Lydia said...


What you wrote is exactly what I was planning to say in my video when my camera works again. Also there is a very Biblical aspect in clothing ourselves. Jesus used clothing in illustrations to make comparisons and teach lessons. Its significance is almost lost todsy.mthose of you my age can remember when it was exhiliarsting to dress for an occasion, or even for the home.

While our mothers wore jeans in the 1940s and 50's for rugged outdoor work, they changed for housework and did not use them as fadhion, like today.

Yesterday a friend and I were entering a store, and we were not dressed up at all, although we wore long skirts and coats. A lot of or eomen were walking in to the foyer at the same time, but a man who was coming the opposite way made a special effort to get near us and day, "Good morning ladies". Everyone else, even the aging women were in leggings (you know, the things that used to be considered underwear) and hoodies. He was rather loud, all the while smiling respectdully. And We concluded he was making a statement, by which he was in a sense "voting" his opinion. I always make it a point to comliment the ladies who wear nice clothing while out shopping or walking, becaise it reinforces their resolve to dress well.

Dressing well at hme has nothing to do with money. Clothing can found in your closet that is feminine and suitable for home.

anonymous said...

Hi Lydia, great post.

I usually dress in my least nice skirt and top if I'm doing real messy housework since I don't have many nice skirts or tops. Over this I do wear an apron to keep them nice longer. Usually I change my entire outfit if I need to go out to public. I suppose it's a throwback to changing into "play clothes" from school clothes as a child.

However many years ago I did start wearing dresses instead of jeans simply because I got a good look at myself in a mirror one day while wearing jeans and was shocked at how awful the sight. I sure lost respect for myself and saw why men lose respect for women dressed like that.
The treatment I experienced from men, other women and children was so different after dressing femininely. Men seemed more polite and respectful, children were less fearful or shy and other women seemed less intimidated and more friendly. All this by simply changing the manner of "costume".

At the grocery store today a woman dressed in a feminine skirt,top and jacket came up to me and mentioned she was glad to see another woman dressed femininely. She also mentioned that older men who remembered what women used to look like would come to her at the store and share they remembered that this is how women used to dress. They thanked her for dressing like she did and walked away smiling.

This is definitely a confidence builder for women.
Thanks again for the great post and for sharing.

anonymous said...

You are right about finding feminine clothes at the stores. For a longtime it was hard to find modest clothing at the stores, so I went online and looked up "modest, classic and feminine styles". I got ideas from photos of classic clothes, so when I went searching the stores it wasn't hard to put things together. I found nice things in bigger variety at thrift stores.

I think girls and women get used to the styles that the clothing manufacturers advertise and sell in the department stores and therefore feel there is nothing for them to do but purchase what is offered, rather then demand more classic, feminine and modest styles.
Many of the styles on the market today make a mockery of women and cheapens their femininity.


Susan said...

I have been wearing primarily skirts for many years now. I am in my late 50's and I get many compliments from people of all ages. Even little children tell me I look pretty. I have been buying things mostly at Walmart. I was just there this week and they have some very pretty pastel skirts for this summer and tops in feminine colors. They are in the range of about $10 a piece.

At home I have some older things that I don't mind getting dirty and I do change at least the skirt before I go out or if I'm dirty,or before my husband gets home. It only takes a minute to slip into something clean. Sometimes I hop in the shower if I want to improve my mood or clean my hair.

I think the most important reason for doing this, at least for me, is to set an example for our families and other homemakers. Especially as an older woman I want to be a good steward for the younger generation. I think dressing nice instills a certain pride in what you are doing and makes people understand that your job as a homemaker is a very important one.

Thank you for a very interesting, thought provoking article.

Jenny said...

After I came home from the hospital with our new baby, I wore a gown and housecoat all day for two weeks. It really helped me keep from over working myself, which I am inclined to do. It felt so good to put on a skirt and shirt and real shoes when those two weeks were over. Clothing really does influence attitude, at least for me. When I feel frumpy due to clothing choices, I just can't shake it. When I wear pretty, feminine, well-fitting clothing, I feel great!

For yardwork and heavy housework, I wear a denim skirt and t-shirt with apron. It works good, but I think a dress of denim would be better since I wouldn't have to worry about the movement of the t-shirt.

Regarding changing clothes -- I have nicer dresses I wear to town which I then take off upon returning home, same for church. I still put on a dress, maybe just not as nice. Also, I change my outfit in the afternoon in summer. It is so refreshing to put on something crisp.

Christine said...

I try to use all my senses, when I'm at home working, (sight, smell, touch, taste, hear).
For me, this is a pretty good "rule" to applied, to the role of the homemaker.

Sarah R said...

Lady Lydia, I went back to work full time and I miss your blog. I am hoping this is temporary and I will be back home soon where I belong. I'm so sad to be out of my house for 10 hours a day. Everything has fallen apart. My adult children are doing housework, but they don't put love into it like I did. I come home from a long day and find dishes everywhere, food on the counters, sand on the floor, clothes molding in the washer...I'm so stressed out. My place is surely at home. Pray for me, please. I'm so sad.


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