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Lady Lydia Speaks

Feminine Dress for Summer
By Mrs. Stanley Sherman
Aug 9, 2005 - 9:25:00 AM

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Summer Morning by Frank Detch, available from

Dress to be less self-conscious:

Have you ever felt uneasy about the way you were dressing? Learning how to dress properly will help you to feel less self-conscious. This kind of clothing covers your privacy, so that you don't have to be concerned about whether you are too fat or too thin, tanned, tall or short. The low-cut jeans and clinging tops only make women look fatter, shorter, and out of shape. Tight pants show every extra bit of weight. Modest, beautiful garments can be slenderizing and cover you in such a way as to live without thinking about how you look all the time.

Carriage Ride by Consuelo Gamboa, from

Dress to be polite!

In this article, you'll see several paintings depicting clothing of the 19th and early 20th centuries. I think it is interesting that summer temperatures were just as high back then as they are today. There was no air conditioning or escape from it as there is today. Women carried fans to cool themselves from the oppressive summer heat. Yet, do you notice from both the paintings and photographs, that the clothing completely covers them? Have you ever wondered why the people of the 1800s wore so much clothing and covered themselves so carefully? In researching the past, you can find the common answer to this question: Due to their Christian values, most people felt that to be modest was also to be polite. They believed that exposing others to your bare body was very rude! They would have been mortified to offend anyone. You even notice this careful, honorable attitude toward clothing in photographs of the "lower" classes and working classes--not just the upper crust! People took care of their appearance to preserve their dignity and the dignity of others.

Speaking of rudeness in clothing, I'll never forget the day we walked up the steps to attend a church service. A young woman had taken it upon herself to greet everyone and shake their hands. How embarrassing it was that, in doing so, we were all forced to stare straight at her bare stomach and almost completely bare chest. We all turned quickly away from her. We felt as though we had walked in on someone without knocking, if you know what I mean. Some people successfully slipped past her. When you wear immodest clothing in public, you force others to see private areas that embarrass them.

Summer by Marcus Stone, from

Dress to show honor

The more fabric you have to work with, the more there is to design and drape beautifully across a woman's figure. Look at summer tourists today and compare them to the tourists on boardwalks of the 1800s. The women on holiday today dress extremely immodestly. Perhaps they do not know that wherever they go, the represent the family they came from and their country. Can we disgrace our families and homes by dressing so immodestly? Immodesty seems to be accompanied by ugliness. Where are the pretty prints and colors? Part of this trend is due to the fact that the only sense of clothing style comes from what they see in the stores, and part of it is from a lack of knowledge on the subject. Some of the summer togs sold in stores would have been banished by city officials fifty years ago, as causing harm to society and endangering the reputation of the nation! It was a poor reflection on the country you were from. If someone was immodest, they were also thought to be disloyal and unpatriotic. It was considered a shame to dress so shabbily, as well as uncivilized!

Butterick Pattern #4125
If you can't find pretty or modest clothing for summer, try sewing this for yourself with just 4 yards of fabric. At a dollar a yard with cotton from a discount store, you can make this for about $5.00.

Here is a dress shown in a summer setting--still modest and very feminine! Look for summer patterns without zippers, using two or three pattern pieces (just one piece for front and one for back), substituting different sleeves of your choice from other patterns, and you can make a dress in just a few hours. If you'll use weights, instead of pins, to hold the pattern down, you'll save yourself hours of time just pinning the fabric. To eliminate the cost of a zipper, choose patterns that do not require zippers. Sewing summer dresses is a perfect project for young ladies. I can remember when teen girls looked forward to spending some of their summer days sewing pretty dresses.

If you like a more old-fashioned look, try this pattern:

Burda 8448, from

Dress to keep cool.

If you will take the trouble to view paintings of women of the past centuries, you will observe that many of the paintings depicting ladies in summer--when the temperatures are particularly high--still show them fully dressed. Do you think they were miserably hot? The excuse today is that the immodest clothing (shorts, skimpy tops, short skirts, bathing suits) worn in public are "cool." This is not necessarily true. There is a way of dressing to keep cool that involves more fabric, rather than less, believe it or not. If the material is designed for summer wear, it will not feel hot, but cool, and protect your body from the blistering heat. Summer fabrics allow moisture to evaporate and the skin to "breathe." Without fabric, the skin is laid bare to the harsh elements, and you can become even hotter from being unprotected.

Skirt from April Cornell
Many of April Cornell's clothes are very feminine. Check out her website for her regular newsletter and other interesting items.

Proper summer fabrics, such as the white dresses shown in the paintings, kept the 19th century ladies cool. You can still find these summer materials in clothing today. We cannot dress exactly like these women, but we can use the principles of dress: long, loose, flowing, feminine, and modest.

It is still possible to dress for coolness and beauty in the summer. Summer should be a happy celebration of color, light, and mood. Everything has blossomed to life after a long winter. Seeing the sun sparkle on the water or hearing the summer wind in the tree leaves above you can bring on a feeling of pure joy. Why not choose clothing that complements and reflects this wonderful creation? Do you ever wake up in the morning and just "feel" like you should wear something pretty and cheerful to "go with" the summer day?

Dress from Coldwater Creek.

Dress for good health.

These dresses have good design principles. They drape over the body in such a way as to make a woman feel cooler in the heat. Tight clothing tends to trap heat and sweat. Women who are concerned about health may want to be careful about wearing shorts in public. Everywhere you sit, your bare skin on the back of your legs sticks to the very seat where some stranger before you has just sat and sweat profusely! Covering yourself modestly has a great health advantage.

Blue pin-tucked bodice from Coldwater Creek

Dress to reflect the beauty of the past.

With styles looking so horrible on the rack these days, where does one go to get a sense of design and loveliness? We can learn a lot from the paintings and pictures of the past. Though there appeared to be a uniformity in the standards of clothing, not everyone dressed exactly alike. If you'll look carefully, you'll rarely see a duplicate dress on anyone in these pictures. The principles of design and modesty were what made the clothing appear to be so similar. Since clothing was tailor-made to fit a person exactly, each dress or skirt and blouse was unique.

Not every woman will look good in the same style of dress. Through trying on and experimenting, you can discover the style that makes you look and feel your best. You may be surprised how comfortable some of these modern dresses, though modest, really are.

Dress from Bedford Fair. Women can still dress modestly today.

Below is a photo, obviously taken of a woman with summer clothes, from the 1800s (courtesy of the New York Public Library). Although I'm not suggesting that women dress exactly like this, these photos show that even in summer, women could cover themselves completely. Would this photo be as enchanting if the woman were wearing the unlovely summer styles that pose as clothing today?

Would the next painting be as charming if the subjects were dressed as immodestly as they do on the beach today?

On the Beach by Herman Seeger, from

Dress for comfort.

Notice again, in these summer paintings and photographs, how decently the women are covered, and how the glory of summer shines in their faces. When you dress immodestly, no one will notice the real you, as the bare skin will distract the eye of the beholder away from your face. If you aren't used to dresses, I encourage you, as the weather becomes warmer, to just try wearing them at home at first, until it becomes second-nature to you. Dressing more feminely will require undergarments to prevent the see-through look. Add a petticoat, slip, bloomers or leggings to create more comfort. Check them out HERE.

Dress as though you are a special person and are expecting someone special in your home. Your family is important, and they deserve to see you at your best. You are creating memories for them and for those who might visit you. Women today are more depressed an unhappy than ever before. Some of this comes from the styles of clothing that they think they have to wear. Some of this can be alleviated by choosing more feminine clothing and by being more careful to dress modestly.

Women have a high calling. They ought to dress to reflect that calling, in beautiful fabrics and styles like some of the ones presented here. Now that summer is here, let us all respect ourselves and be more mindful of helping others to think right thoughts and have pure motives, by dressing respectfully and beautifully.

© Copyright 2002-2009 by LAF/

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