Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Lengths to Which Some Skirts Will Go.....And While We're At It....

Before I start my rant, let me explain a few things:

-I collect vintage clothing - specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. I especially like dresses from this period, which is a good thing, given that dresses were the main staple of women during this range of years, making them the most available item to find.

-I sell vintage clothing on Ebay and have for years. Again, specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. In order to successfully sell these items, I have to know something about what I'm selling. Proper identification of the decade the clothing originates from and all that.

-I own and have read numerous books about vintage clothing, style, and design.

-I make it a point to see movies that are "period" pieces. You know, those movies where entire research teams painstakingly develop costumes and sets that are exact to the years portrayed in the movie. Ditto for period TV shows, say for example, Mad Men.

-I religiously read Reminisce Magazine for numerous years now. That's the magazine that publishes people's original photographs and stories from the 1900's through the 1970's. Most of the stories are from the 1940's and 1950's.

-I am our family's unofficial genealogist and historian. Which means that all antique and vintage photographs end up in my care. Like hundreds of them, spanning from the middle 1800's to the 1980's. I look at and study them all.

Why am I explaining all this? Here's why:

To postulate the very obvious fact that American and western European women in the 1930's through to the present day (and in some instances, including the late 1920's) never, ever wore skirts or dresses that went to their ankles! (Noted exceptions made for 1950's ball/ballerina skirts and 1970's prom/formal dresses, which were not considered every-day wear anyway. Also hippie clothing, which I assume we'll just ignore.)

What precipitated this bold statement? The local Catholic homeschool conference I stopped in to last week. Yes, here we go. Ready?

So, OK, I was only there for an hour. Not exactly a scientific sample, I admit. My short visit was due to the rather lacking quality of the conference. (Note to the IHM Catholic Homeschool Conference people - it was TERRIBLE! Ten booths of vendors in a dark dingy auditorium does not a conference make. Especially when three or so of the vendors are poor, pitiful souls trying to sell their own homemade curriculum. But I digress.)

Anyway, of the women and teenagers I saw there, about 1/2 were wearing skirts. Impressive to see the other half wearing pants! I was encouraged! But those wearing skirts?

Every. single. one. ankle. length. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Even my husband noticed, which is unusual for him, because he hardly notices what women are wearing at all.

WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?
 
Let's face it: If you questioned these women as to why they're wearing what they are, one of the oft-cited reasons would be that they are dressing more in line with an older time when woman were dressed more modestly than today. OK, fine, I'll accept that reasoning. Except in those older times, women weren't wearing drippy, droopy, long skirts down to their ankles. (Oops, sorry, yes they were - about 100 years and more ago.)

My point is this: Do these women actually KNOW how women dressed 40, 50 or 60 years ago? If they answer, "Yes! Modestly!," they would be correct. But that's only half the answer. The other half of the answer they are making up and imagining.

I've said it before and I'll say it again (and will probably say it again and again and again): The women who insist on LONG, modest skirts as the Catholic Uniform of Holy Correctness have taken their cues from Protestants, specifically puritanical, Calvinistic Protestants. Which is understandable, given that for so many decades conservative Catholics had no decent leadership or guidance to show the way to live a holy life. So they looked around and saw conservative Protestants engaging in this long skirt practice, amongst other practices also copied, and decided it was better. Except no where in Catholic teaching does it dictate to dress like this.



Wake up, ladies! The only women back in the good old days of the 1940's to the 1960's who were wearing long skirts were ancient grandmothers whose birth date started with the number 18! Why is this important to point out? Because God didn't put you on this earth to live in the past! If you're trying to emulate the 1800's prairie lifestyle or the 1910 fashion ethic, something is very, very wrong.

I have no beef if you want to wear a skirt all the time, whether it's for modesty or because it makes you feel feminine or because you think guys aren't looking at your butt because you're in a skirt. (Actually, they ARE looking at your butt, long or short skirt, but that's a different blog post). If long skirts peel your banana, fine with me. But I do have an issue when ALL OF YOU are wearing what amounts to a UNIFORM. Isn't there a wild-and-crazy personality out there that says, "I'm gonna be daring and wear a skirt that goes to my knees!"?

And another thing. If you're gonna stick with the long skirt schtick, why do you insist on just throwing a plain old t-shirt with it, along with hippie sandals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes? I cannot think of a more UNfeminine look at all, and yet you all claim you're dressing feminine and teaching your daughters the same. I know I'm gonna ruffle some feathers here when I say this, but I'm gonna be me and just throw it out there: You don't look feminine or attractive at all. Rather, you look like someone who just rolled out of bed and couldn't find the right top or shoes to go with your skirt, so you just put on whatever you could find lying around. (Note for those who like and understand the hippie/peasant look: You seem to get it right with the long skirts.)

This is not t o say I advocate women dressing like ho's, sex goddesses, or in an immodest manner. Hardly. If those new to my blog think that's what I stand for - wrong-o! What I stand for is dressing like it's 2014, in a relevant way that really shines to others. I say that a Catholic testimony is only relevant if the people giving the testimony appear to be, well, relevant. Why would I listen to a homeschool mother wearing a frumpy jean skirt down to her ankles tell me about why contraception is wrong? Nope, not gonna be moved. 


And while we're at it.....

I subscribe to a few Facebook homeschooling groups. Some are local, some are national with even international members. I'd like to note that I subscribe to learn about homeschooling, not to engage in moralistic discussions, but I've figured out that's too much to ask and those discussions are the price to pay in order to also get commentary on the pros/cons of certain books and curriculum.

As ALWAYS, there has to be ongoing modesty discussions ala, "Help! I don't know what kind of swimming suit to buy for my five-year-old daughter! What did you buy?" 

SCREAM!!!!!

Here's an idea, lady: Use your God-given brain to think it through and figure it out yourself, like generations of women before you have. After that, try to have some modicum of self-esteem and purpose and stick with your decision. Stop worrying about whether or not other conservative Catholics will judge you for putting a modest two-piece tankini on your kid or letting your son swim without a swim shirt. Live your life in the freedom God gave you. Don't turn your kids into body-hating head cases at the age of innocence believing that you're instilling in them all-important concepts of modesty. BACKFIRE ALERT!!!! 

Additionally, believe in yourself enough that when the time is right - and you'll know when that time comes - that you'll have the ability and resources to have discussions with your kids about reasonable, rather than oppressive ideas about modesty and clothing selections. Alongside discussions about peer pressure and resisting the urge to do what everyone else is doing just to fit in. (Which is sort of ironic, given that so many conservative Catholics just do what all the other conservative Catholics do. I often secretly laugh to myself about this sort of thinking/behavior. Thinking they're all counter-culture, and yet they're just sheep in a different pasture.) 

It's not that difficult, people! I swear that the internet has made people into insecure idiots. Way too many discussions out there about morals and conservative living, which confuses people or puts ideas in their heads with no authoritative basis of need-to-do.

There are people who will walk away from this blog post thinking I'm a judgemental bitch. So be it. There are some who will point out that I've only written this to justify my own discomfort at not fitting in with the local conservative Catholics, and that too would be partially true. But still, I think my observations need to be aired and discussed in terms of my ultimate, larger point, which is: Are you making certain decisions about how you dress as a Catholic woman on your own, free from undue influence by those around you or not?

Like so many other things I see Catholics around me doing, I don't "get it" and swear I didn't get the memo.

35 comments:

  1. I actually don't mind if gals want to wear long baggy skirts. What I don't like is when it becomes the measure by which you are judged. There is a TLM parish near us. Now even if I felt drawn to the EF (which I don't, but I am happy that those who are have it), I could not go there for many reasons, one of which is the dress code among others, the other would be their raging love of the Fatima conspiracy theory. Anyway, yeah, back to the skirts...I like a long, baggy skirt myself, but I like to pair them with a tailored shirt and sandals or ballet flats.
    ~Catlady

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  2. A poem from Long Skirts:

    Devil with the blue dress, blue dress, blue dress
    Devil with the blue dress on

    Fe, fe, fi, fi, fo, fo, fum
    Look at Molly now, here she come
    Wearin' a wig, has the shades to match
    Got a-high healed shoes and an aligator hat
    Wearin' her pearls and her diamond ring
    Got rasors on her fingers and everything


    What?

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    1. Terry, bless you for reading my rant! I've made jokes that someday I'm gonna attend the local Catholic All Saints party dressed as Mary Magdalen. She was a saint, after all. What?

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    2. My wife never liked a rather slatternly looking partial nude painting I have until I convinced her to just look at it as St. Mary Magdalen prior to her conversion.

      And although I had never given it much thought before, the skirt she is sitting in does look as if it would hang to her ankles.

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  3. I think women just dress for their peer group, whatever that may be. My teenage and tween daughters dress like their friends. since becoming a yoga teacher I now dress like a yoga instructor (!), mainly because I spend a lot of time each week either doing or teaching yoga. I have a feeling I'd be totally busted by the modesty police :((( in my workout wear.

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    1. JMB, agreed, women dress for their peer group. I do too. And I suppose the long skirt crowd would counter that our clothing choices are just as brainless and less thought out than theirs. But I still maintain that looking relevant is a value to consider. People like Jennifer Fulweiler and Simcha Fisher, etc., and listen to what they say because they come off as modern and relevant while still following the Church. There's a difference and the dowdy long skirt crowd either doesn't know or doesn't care. I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that they don't care and that they want to be left alone in the bubble. Also problematic. Lights shining only for other Catholics in the bubble.

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    2. PS I am totally down with you running around in your yoga wear. Kudos to you.

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    3. I'll send you a video of me teaching yoga in my gear. I'm sure it will shock the prairie skirt crowd.

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    4. I love this article and completely agree, however as a side note id like to say that yoga is spiritually dangerous for Catholics to engage in - heres an article explaing why- http://saint-mike.org/warfare/library/reiki-and-yoga/

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    5. I teach Vinyasa yoga which is a quick paced athletic asana (posture sequence) which emphasizes breath, alignment and movement (usually in a warm or heated room). There is absolutely nothing "spiritual" or religious about this form of exercise. As a practicing Catholic myself, I am aware that there is confusion on the internet in certain Fundamentalist Protestant circles about what yoga is and what it is not which has seeped into Catholic circles. The Catholic Church has not prohibited yoga as a form of exercise. If anything, yoga has helped me truly live St. John Paul 2 "Theology of the Body".

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  4. I get on this same rant about "Catholic veiling" so don't get me started on HATS, particularly hats from the 20s through the 60s. No, women in the US wore HATS to church, HAYS, HATS, HATS, and very seldom wore mantillas, what are being presented as "Catholic veiling" these days. I was there- at least for the 50s and 60s. And I studied it.

    But I digress...

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    1. Exactly! Same thing, different clothing item. The lace veils are European, if anything.

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    2. My Grandmother had a closet full of hatboxes for her Sunday best. Char, you'd be in heaven in her and my Mom's old closets. Mom still has some of her dinner party dresses from the 50's and early 60's.
      -Maureen

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    3. Yes, that's right, I remember my grandmother wearing hats to Mass, different ones to match her skirt suits. I also remember my Irish grandmother, she wore a scarf around her head, tied under her chin, all different fabrics and patterns. Not a lace mantilla. And she also wore it there, didn't just put it on when she got there. I think it was performing double duty of keeping her hair dry in the constant Irish mist ~Catlady

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  5. Yeah, I like my skirts long. To me they are feminine, but I'm not following fashion. Clean, presentable...don't judge me. Aren't we all just trying to work out our salvation in fear and trembling? I'd like to believe that of others. Regarding the FB pages, you will find good homeschool stuff ...just ignore the other stuff. Baby. Bathwater. :)

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    1. Allison, I highly doubt you're going out in a 1989 floral long skirt with teva sandals and a t-shirt or white tennis shoes. Just sayin'. Point being that you look put together. I wouldn't expect any less of you.

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  6. I agree that every group has some sort of "uniform", especially the ones who consider them selves true "individuals" (HA, always makes me laugh). My biggest problem with dowdy-dressing homeschoolers is that they present an image that ALL of are painted with, even if a lot of us dress normally, fashionably, etc. Even my adult home-schooled children (who never dressed in the so-called "modest" fashion of dumpy floor length sackcloth clothing) often point a finger at people who DO dress that way and judge them to be homeschoolers! It is a stereotype that really annoys me! By the way, I do like the tiered skirt that you have pictured above. I would definitely wear that with a pair of cute boots and a pretty top.

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  7. Where did all these weird Catholics come from? Are they mostly protestant converts? I never heard of "feeling called to veil", homeschooling catholics, NFP only families until I started reading Catholic mommy blogs a few years ago. This sub-culture is really foreign to me. I'm a few months shy of 40 and nearly everyone I knew was just a regular Catholic- well except for the one Opus Dei couple my parents knew.

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    1. Anonymous, these weird Catholics came from the long pontificate of JPII - who was successful in making Catholics feel good about being Catholic again, alongside the advent of the internet, which allowed the true teachings of the Catholic Church to be widely available, researched, promulgated and discussed. At least that's my theory. The problem is that everyone took to the internet on their own private soapbox, and well-meaning folks who rediscovered what it actually is to be Catholic felt emboldened by all that's been broadcast out there. And then the insecure people took their cues from all the soapbox bigmouths. Again, just my two cents. I consider myself an authentic Catholic - I loosely (and I mean loosely) use NFP and I homeschool (but only because the public schools are being run by idiots), but I don't buy into this uber-holy pious crap. A lot of it's a show and/or people just toying with lifestyles and beliefs to see what fits. Sadly, there are tons of internet loudmouths out there who write things that easily set people into fear, and thus perpetuate crazy Catholicism.

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    2. I just found your blog and adore it!! WHY do folks not get that the crazy stuff (full time veiling, skirts only, homebirth, homestead, etc) are from fundy Protestants? Folks, I grew up around those types, and they are NOT the crowd you want to emulate.

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  8. Not personally a fan of the skirt style posted... but I'm all about the maxi dresses or skirts/below-knee-length ones right now because I'm 8 months pregnant and really don't feel like shaving my legs every day or showing off my awesome varicose/spider veins :o) I promise I'm not a hippie... just lazy and vain! Most of the time it's pants with that niiiiice, stretchy belly panel. I do love those vintage dresses... maybe in 6 months! Definitely agree that the whole long skirt/modesty thing gets really overdone...

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    1. Just ordered 3 maxi dresses from QVC! Hope they work out, because if they don't, fatty here is out of luck.

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  9. My close friend is a TLMer and wears a denim skirt, but she is nonjudgmental. (Probably b/c she doesn't homeschool) another acquaintance, (yes, homeschool) won't even allow her daughters to own a pair of Levi's, what is immodest about a pair of jeans on a kid? Granted, it is hard to find appropriate, non-skank clothing for my daughter to wear to church. I am thrilled that maxi-dresses are in. She looks stylish, and appropriate. Win win.

    I am wearing Tevas right now, they are my go to show in summer, but wearing petal pushers with.

    Since you like fashion, have you ever seen how the traditional Navajo women dress? When I was a kid, all of the Navajo women wore a floor length,tiered purple velvet dress. And they accessorize it with gorgeous silver jewelry. Sadly, very few Navajo women wear that now, now they just wear clothes from Walmart like the rest of us. It's too bad, because it was a distinctive, beautiful look. But again, I didn't have to wear it in the Aeizona heat. Great post, I love it when you do my ranting for me,ZBarZona

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    1. Tevas are made for shorts, pedal-pushers, sweats, and jeans. Or really cute flirty summer skirts on the boardwalk - they are not meant for jean skirts at mass or homeschool conferences....unless you have really huge bunions or a medical condition or something.

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  10. Let me introduce you to Sheikha Mozah! She is one of the wives of the Sheikh of Qatar. She is Muslim and must dress modestly and cover her head. She wears couture that has been altered to reflect her religious beliefs and she is gorgeous, glamorous and just plain fierce! She always wears long dresses and skirts, has covered arms, high necklines, and matches her little turbans to her clothing. However, her clothes fit her perfectly and there isn't a denim Frumper in sight! Just google her image - you'll see how dressing for your faith can be done tastefully and attractively. And yes, I know she has a gazillion dollar budget and she's on the extreme side of things but I think she really shows how you can modify modern clothing and still look current and relevant.
    Angela M.

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  11. However...maxi skirts ARE in fashion now, so perhaps the long skirts are simply what's on the store racks these days? I personally like them but I'm tall, and normal to the knee skirts end up like minis. Ah well. I do agree that we shouldn't create a "holiness uniform" - yuck.

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    1. And by the way...would love to follow your blog, or connect via social media. You can find me through my blogs, Seven Oaks (www.homegardenjoy.com) and A Return to Elegance (www.areturntoelegance.com).

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  12. I agree wholeheartedly. I also have no beef with those who want to wear long skirts and have several myself. But the idea that we have to dress like we are in another century is ludicrous. I also agree that the look of many conservative protestants is awkward and ungainly, and not feminine at all. It just looks sloppy. They look like the hippies of old. And I don't understand the ultra-modest look paired with a tiiiight t-shirt. It is incongruous.

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  13. I'm sure you have been accused of being unkind in your post. However, I have noticed that many of the women who dress as you say are unkind to those of us who wear slacks or high heels or trim our hair. No mercy is shown by them to us. But they don't like it when the shoe is on the other foot. Don't forget, Jesus told us not to make a show of our religion.

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  14. Ok, so my first comment disappeared...sorry if they both end up posting. I LOVE this post. Thanks for writing it!! My family has recently started attending a TLM parish and I am fully aware I will never be a part of a certain "group" there. I am an active homeschool mom of four boys, we fish, we hunt, we hike and while I will probably always wear a skirt to mass (I am a rebel and wear a few that are knee length) the other 6 days are yoga pants, jeans or athletic/jean shorts. I am there for the liturgy and Jesus and as long as people aren't wearing pants with "juicy" across the butt paired with a cami (very common at my old parish) people need not worry what others are wearing. I think they should keep their noses in their missals and on Jesus. I hate that this "faction" gives the TLM such a bad name. Ours is in a bad neighborhood and my husband and I have often said the church should be a place of refuge. What if a prostitute who just got beat up or raped is walking by and decides to come in? That attitude of non skirt wearing=bad Catholic or scandalous woman certainly won't make her feel welcome now, will it?

    I am totally fine with not fitting in. I practice NFP because I don't believe God intended us to have as many children as we are physically able (often at the expense of being psycho mother) to prove how Catholic we are. This is often paired with the understanding that the husband has complete control over and should dictate his wife's every move. (They should be a team), and I don't wear skirts all.the.time. So yeah, I am definitely a TLM rebel!! LOL

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  15. A Catholic acquaintance shared this on FB. This is not an issue just w/Protestants or Catholics. This also runs rampant in the Fundamental/Legalistic Baptist movement! The argument that I've heard the most, and have used, is that skirts make a distinction between men and women and "softens the lines" of a woman's figure. Oh, I'm sure you've also heard the one about wearing anything that pertaineth to a man and vice versa is an abomination (Deut 22:5 KJV). How did that one article of clothing become the only abominable thing?

    I've only been wearing skirts or dresses for about 8 years, but some things have bothered me, for example, in the old testament it talks about men wearing robes/skirts. How does my skirt differ from that and what all of sudden made me more modest or holy because I was wearing it? I swear a lot of women think that if you don't wear skirts that you can't possibly be redeemed!

    But hearing it preached over and over, along with not being raised in a Christian home w/no standards what so ever, I just pushed these thoughts to the back of mind. Assuming that my preacher knew better and I just needed to let it go and get on board. And I have always hated wearing a mid-calf length jean skirt w/my big ol' clunky tennis shoes. I mean really how feminine is that? It's not, it just looks frumpy and unattractive. And in the winter time...forget it. I felt like a total idiot wearing skirts, w/long underwear underneath, with aforementioned tennies. I don't even want to think about it honestly!

    I'm not so sure about a lot of things anymore. There are also quite a few women at my church in the same boat, including our new pastors wives; which just happen to be the son and son-in-law of my previous pastor! How's that for irony! Don't get me wrong, we're not all going out and replacing our entire wardrobes now, but we are definitely broadening our horizons now, guilt free!

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    1. Next time you're around fundies who throw around that abomination verse, wear a long denim skirt with a neck tie. That'll confuse 'em.

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  16. In my experience, when women first start learning about dressing modestly they're just not sure where to turn. Modest doesn't have to mean frumpy. I have a Pinterest page dedicated to the topic. http://www.pinterest.com/colleenmhammond/modest-fashionista/

    Oh, and I was at that conference! I wish we could have met. Maybe you didn't see me, but I was (evidently) the only woman in the room wearing a skirt that did NOT drag on the floor but was instead hit my leg just below my (fat) calves. :-)

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  17. A fellow homeschool alum and I always joke that the pictures in our Exercises in English books were soft porn for modern Traditionalist kids. Of course the illustrations are standard pictures from the 1940s and 50s, but we saw so many knees and even a bathing suit or two!

    Personally I like long skirts and wear them quite a bit. Most of the time I just blend in, because they're "in" right now, but one time I was out for ice cream with my family and what appeared to be a youth group from a skirt wearing church was there too. People kept staring at me and then I realized that with my long skirt and long hair, I looked like one of their group and they were trying to figure out why they didn't recognize me.

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