Coming Soon: Modest Fashion Photos



...of my outfits.

I wasn't sure if I was going to do the old picture-thing. I felt like it was, I don't know, bragging? Not very modest? But I also know that I enjoy seeing other women's clothing choices and style. I like following fashion blogs. And part of why I decided to go this skirt and dress-wearing route was because I saw that, quite simply, a woman could look modest, elegant AND fashionable in modern dress. I didn't need to look frumpy or wear denim jumpers all the time (I've got to stop poking fun at the denim-jumper set.)

But here's the problem. I don't have a full length mirror in the house. I also don't want to populate the internet with photos of moi.

I felt a little squeamish about it too. I wasn't sure why. I ran it by an online group of women I belong to who are also dedicated to modest fashion from a Catholic perspective. They were overwhelmingly positive - "Do it! Show by example!" Most said that images inspired them, and felt they would be inspirational for others.

Okay, so no selfies...yes to sharing modest fashion...I can do this. I think.

So my solution is simple: clothes hanging on the back of the door. Picture. Voila!  And I can even photograph my outfits so when I whine, "I have nothing to wear...." well, I can just take out the pictures and SEE clearly that yes, I've got something to wear!

The whole skirt-wearing thing is going well, so well that it's starting to feel natural. I wish some of the new clothes I ordered would get here, though. I've been doing laundry more frequently so that my go-to denim skirt is washed. It's the one I feel most comfortable in when I go out shopping or running errands.

Today I am wearing my bright pink t-shirt from Wal-Mart with a matching tie-dyed maxi skirt that goes down to my ankles. It's comfortable, washable and fashionable. Paired with white low-cut sneakers, it's an easy outfit for a day spent hard at work in the office. I was able to run outside and help my husband in the garden for half an hour moving wheelbarrows of mulch back and forth before returning to office work without worrying about getting dirty or stained, and I was comfortable, too.

Until I get around to photographing my outfits, I'll keep sharing pictures that are okay to share (i.e., part of my Amazon account, or from Polyvore).

Until then - cheers!

Skirts I Love

Dinner for Two



Happy Easter! I hope you had a lovely Easter holiday. I sang with the choir at the Easter Vigil. It is my favorite Mass of the entire year, both for the joyous holiday and for the singing. I love singing Exodus 15, "The Song at the Sea". I love singing the "sprinkling song" about streams of water blessing the Lord. Most of all, the joyous "Alleluia!"

And to whoever decorated the church this year: my eternal thanks. Instead of Easter lilies, to which I am miserably allergic, someone used beautiful hydrangea...pink, blue and white....with only a few lilies. I had only moderate sniffles instead of a full-out sneezing attack. Thank you!

Easter day itself was a day of beauty here, too. The skies were crystal clear blue with a swift, cool breeze. We worked in the garden until noon, then came inside and read until dinner.

With just the two of us, it would be easy to let holidays slip by without a touch of elegance. But I love to set a formal table, and we both enjoy marking the holidays with someone special. I set a formal table even when it is just the two of us. We eat in the dining room, and I set the table with a linen cloth and napkins. We use our formal dishes, a beautiful set of 1930s china emblazoned with white cabbage roses, my husband's grandmother's wedding china. I even pull out the serving platters! I made a leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, and asparagus, and we had coconut cream pie for dessert.

Yes, it is a little more work to set a formal table. My dining room is not next to the kitchen, as it is in many homes. It is down the hallway near the front of the house. It is extra work to wash and iron the linens afterwards, and to hand wash all the special china, crystal and silver.

But wouldn't life be boring without celebrations? Why have beautiful china if you don't use it? Why have an entire dining room just to say you have it...why not use it? Sure, it's just the two of us this year. But that's two people who both love a nice, elegant dinner.

I think if I calculated how much "extra work" it was to dress up for our intimate Easter dinner, to set the table and to make a beautiful meal, it wouldn't add up to much. What did add up was the pleasure we shared in a beautiful table, a relaxed meal, and pleasant surroundings.

A return to elegance isn't just about fashion or timeless values...it's also about celebrating the elegance in our lives. And that includes using the beautiful things you have, whether you're entertaining  many guests or just sharing a meal with your spouse.


IMAGE CREDIT:  Photo by Marco Maru. Used under the Morguefile.com license.

Ripples

Reflections and ripples in Douthat Lake last fall.


Ripples spread in concentric circles from something tiny disturbing the water. I lean over the splintery railing on the stairway over Douthat Lake, Shadow straining at the leash. She wants to sniff the reeds where the pit bull who passed before us a few minutes ago peed, but I want to watch the ripples. The blue depths swirl, circles of light and shadow. It's a skimmer bug, gently tapping the surface tension of the water with tiny feet. As I watch, the ripples spread until they touch the shore.

Life sometimes feels like ocean waves are crashing over us, but often life is a series of ripples, tiny circles spreading from our smallest actions. I have an online friend I will call B.  B and I are both writers, and I've gotten to know him through the magic of social media. Last week, I realized that B's posts had changed; the tone was different. Quieter, milder. More thoughtful. Religious. More "we" - about his wife A and himself, rather than just himself, or just business.

And then I skimmed back a while on his posts, and realized the ripple I had missed. He was in the process of conversion to the Catholic faith, and he was being welcomed into the church through the sacraments, tonight, at the Easter Vigil, along with his family.

I dropped him an email of congratulations, and he responded. "Thank you," he said, "Many times things you have said in your posts stayed with me."

Ripples.

I'm not good at explaining the faith to people. Eight years of Catholic grammar school, a very rigorous Catholic upbringing, and Catholic college still have me muddled.

But I can make ripples.

Ripples are soft and subtle. They can be created from the tiniest actions. A kind word, a simple action. A word said at the right time and place. Wearing a beautiful, feminine outfit. Taking time to speak softly and patiently to an elderly person. Being unafraid to make the sign of the cross before praying a blessing over your meal at Ruby Tuesday's or even McDonald's despite the gawking all around you.

This Holy Saturday, I think of the ripples created in Jerusalem 2,014 years ago.  Mary was a big ripple in the stream of time with her fiat, her yes to the Lord. Jesus was a ripple too, a ripple that turned into a wave that is still traveling towards the shores of time.

I am a ripple, a pebble, a skimmer bug stepping over the still waters of a lake. My ripples travel to the shore, but the effect they make, I cannot see. It is enough to trust the process that ripples do reach the shore, and are seen by those who need to see them.

Good Friday Thought for the Day




Did You Ever Think I'd Get Excited About...Cleaning Kits?

I've officially entered middle age.

My husband gave me a gift of a cleaning kit, and not only did he live another day...I loved it.

Here's the gift - it's called the High Reach Cleaning Kit

Our home has an entrance hallway with a very high Cathedral ceiling. There's an oval window at the front of the house and a chandelier hanging in the entrance hallway.  We have one ladder - a rickety wooden ladder that I hate. I also have a thing for heights. As in, anything higher than standing on a kitchen chair and a get seriously light-headed.

We didn't plan very well.

Oh, okay. So on any given day, what does it matter? Well, over the seven years we have lived here, spiders have had a field day spinning webs on the beautiful oval window that lets natural light into the entrance way. Big, thick cobwebs hung from the window, which I could see every time I walked downstairs...and since my office is upstairs, and the kitchen where I brew endless cups of writer's block tea (brewing tea is great when you don't want to work on something), I saw those darned cobwebs about a zillion times a day.

If the chandelier hadn't broken and fallen from the ceiling in the middle of the night several years ago, the cobwebs would have been worse. That's another story for another day...

Anyhow, after using a broom, standing on a chair, and generally making disparaging remarks about spiders, hubby spied the kit in the improvements catalog. We ordered it.

It's like...cleaning magic.

He got down the cobwebs, and then some. I cleaned ceilings. I cleaned baseboards without hurting my back. I cleaned the ceiling fans! Gone the whirlagig of pollen spinning dust and pollen back into the rooms to make us sneeze. Hurray!

Elegance means good house keeping. In lieu of hiring a maid, I'm all for looking for time-savers.  This kit gets a thumbs up.

This review is my own opinion...not a paid endorsement...just random thoughts....

Today's Ladylike Outfit

I'm totally dressed for cleaning today and plan to tackle housework later. Brown Shaker knit sweater over a denim pencil skirt, sneakers and blue socks with brown cats cavorting on them. Hurray for denim. I'm off to scrub trash cans, vacuum, and swab out the bathroom. Cleanliness is elegance, y'all!

A Blessed Good Friday to you.


 





Day Three, and I Thought My Husband Would Faint


Day 3 of challenging myself to wear only skirts and dresses....and I thought my husband would faint.

I'd just finished getting dressed when the mail carrier's car horn honked from the driveway. I ran downstairs, yelled to my husband, "I'll get it," and ran out meet the mailman. I could tell by the impatient way he honked that it was the man we nicknamed Ginger Moustache. We have three regular mail carriers, Peggy, Crystal and Ginger Moustache. Ginger Moustache reminds me of the crazy mailman from the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm. He drives like him, stuffs our mail unceremoniously into the country mailbox, and barrels out of our driveway scattering cats as he goes.

Ginger Moustache brought a package from my eldest sister and my godmother, Mary. A birthday present! I unwrapped it to find a cat garden statue. I love, love it! It is inscribed with the Japanese symbol for independence. Perfect. I loved the timing of the present, too. Because isn't independence about being yourself? And isn't wearing dresses and skirts a statement today of independent thought? When the whole world thinks you're crazy, then you're being independent!

Anyway, I placed the smiling Buddha Zen cat sculpture near the welcome sign by the walkway to the house. He's opposite my little state of St. Francis of Assissi. The angel who graces the other side of the walkway has to come out from her winter quarters this weekend, and then my statues are all set for the season.

I walked over to the garage to throw away the wrapping from the box and show Hubby the card that came with the statue when I realized his eyes were sort of popping out of his head.  He looked confused, pleased and puzzled all at the same time.

"Like my outfit?"

He hesitated, then beamed. "Sure!"  That's about as positive as he ever gets.

I'm wearing a comfy outfit today.  Two tops from Old Navy, layered, in shades of blue; earrings my friend Sharon Mossy made for me; a black, below the knee corduroy A-line skirt from Dress Barn; Wal-Mart black tights; and my favorite knee-high boots.  I may need to change before heading out to Holy Thursday Mass and Eucharistic Adoration tonight simply because the skirt tends to pick up every fluffer and bit of cat hair in the house, but I could just as easily greet Ginger Moustache and sign for a package in this outfit as I could head out to church.

My husband has seen me go through "I'm dressing like a Catholic lady" phases before, and I think I've disappointed him. It's hard to write that, but it's true. I always revert back to my old "uniform" of Levis, t-shirt in summer, sweater in winter, and sneakers.  I'm determined though that this time, I'm going for it.  I'm really surprised by how comfortable it is; and even more so by the fact that it's really not that hard. I do need to buy more winter outfits, but I just ordered two church dresses, one comfortable summer dress, and another black denim skirt. With that and the clothes already in my closet, I'm set through October, I think.

I hope I don't disappoint my husband again. He's a wonderful man, and he appreciates my intelligence, my humor and my kindness (he's told me so; I'm not bragging). I think he appreciates more the fact that I am making an effort to return to elegance in our household, to be different and follow my heart.

Image credit: J Durham, licensed from Morguefile.com

Day Two of Wearing Only Skirts and It's Freezing



God, the universe, or just plain luck is having a good laugh at my expense. It's day 2 of my self-proclaimed "I'm going to dress like a woman if it kills me" and wearing only skirts and guess what?

It's freaking COLD outside.

I'm not fond of wearing skirts in cold weather, which is one reason why until now I haven't taken the plunge of wearing only skirts or dresses.  Part of this hearkens back to my Catholic school days. We wore a plaid uniform skirt and knee socks, and I had to walk about a mile to school. In the cold, in the snow, in the freezing rain. My parents didn't believe in coddling us with rides to school. So I froze. My legs froze. My knees froze. Polyester skirts don't do anything to keep you warm.

For a while in 5th grade, I wore slacks under my skirts to walk to and from school. I had to slip them off in the hallway, from under my skirt. It's trickier than it sounds but modest.

Thank God for the 1980s and leg warmers. By eight grade, leg warmers were all the rage, and my sister bought me a thick pair of cream-colored leg warmers with musical notes on them and a pair with shiny gold sparkly threads in it. They were great.

Now it's 2014 and it's supposed to be spring. Yesterday's skirt adventure went fine. The morning dawned warm and bright, and on went my new 'uniform' - denim skirt (calf-length, with big comfy pockets, purchased from Modest Apparel USA and made in the USA - great product), t-shirt from Wal-Mart, and white Mary Jane sneakers from the Lane Bryant online store.

The day started pouring rain, and my noon the temperatures began dropping. By the time my husband and I headed out to celebrate my birthday at Charley's Waterfront Cafe, my favorite restaurant, it was 40 degrees! It went from 70 to 40 in one afternoon. Welcome to spring in Virginia....

I changed the t-shirt to a long-sleeved red blouse, threw on a pair of black tights and black boots, and was a little chilly but okay. The skirt went into the wash last night.  This morning, it was 35 degrees.  Apparel choices? Long gray corduroy skirt from Chadwicks of Boston, navy blue sweater from LL Bean layered over a navy Wal-Mart t-shirt, argyle socks (because I love argyle and have a thing for it), and black ankle boots. I also threw on a short scarf, dark green, for the heck of it.

I'm comfy. I have to admit it. My legs are a wee bit cold. I had to go outside for a photo shoot, and was outside in the 40 degree damp chill for at least half an hour. But all in all, I'm comfortable. My clothes are picking up a tremendous amount of cat hair and lint, but I'm seeing it as my impetus for better house keeping, which is another of my resolutions for this year of femininity and a return to elegance.

Wearing skirts is, so far, working out.  Comfort is my number one priority, with fashion and appearance, second. And yeah, modest, Biblical womanhood and femininity. I promised I wouldn't go all Bible-thumping on you and I mean to keep my promise, but I do think there is something to dressing like a woman that makes you feel a little better about yourself.  Do I think you can do it in pants? Yup.  And I also want to reiterate - it's a personal choice. My choice is to try this experiment and embrace my Catholic, ladylike heritage, and see where it leads this year.

Last night, we were watching TCM.  For those who don't recognize the acronym, it's Turner Classic Movies, the BEST TV channel for those seeking a return to elegance. Last night's movie was the 1963 classic "Bye, Bye, Birdie", and while it seems sort of like a cheesy Elvis Movie, there was one song "How Lovely to Be a Woman" that I thought really summed up my feelings about this fashion experiment I'm into right now.

When I was growing up, it was NOT lovely to be a woman. Being more masculine, thanks to the feminists, was what was expected of us girls. And to an extent, that was a good thing: we were encourage to participate in sports, encouraged to think, encouraged to enter careers. All good.

However, I never "got" the female trappings of life. Listening to this video last night, I suddenly realized that it is okay to embrace my girly side...while still being the smart business woman I am.



Until next time, happy winter in spring....and here's to WARM corduroy skirts.

Modest Underwear for Teen Girls

Age-appropriate fashion. How do you react to that phrase? Do you hate it? Love it? Wonder what it means?

Years ago, women dressed in age-appropriate fashions. Girls, teens and young women dressed in certain fashions, but once you were married and a mother, that changed. Grandmothers didn't dress like their grand daughters, and vice versa.

Now I'm not about rules.  I am, however, all about common sense.

And common sense says that selling overly sexualized bras to teens and pre-teens is just stupid.

I don't have children, but I've heard from friends who are the mothers of young girls how difficult it is to buy them underwear. It's either childish, for the young kiddos, or overly sexual - we're talking Victoria's Secret lace and push up bras and what not. For girls as young as 12.

Let's return to elegance, and common sense. A young girl, realizing the situation, took action and started her own company called Yellowberry. How cool is that? She hated the fashions she saw at the mall and realized that her younger sisters and friends hated them, too. So she started her own lingerie company!

Here's an article on Yellowberry. I think it's fantastic that this youngster is already an entrepreneur. You go, girl!

Full Skirts or Full Length Skirts?

I was perusing Amazon today and saw an ad for "full" skirts. I thought, "Oh, that one looks pretty!" and clicked on the picture of the pretty, knee-length floral skirt. Never mind that it was $200...which is 10X more than I paid for my prom dress and just a little less than I paid for my wedding dress. It was the list of so-called "full" skirts under it that made me shake my head in frustration.

When I see a link called "full" skirts, I think "full" as in "covering me".  Past the knee, A-line, with a little more material to cover my ample, middle aged butt.

What I saw instead on the page were "full" skirts that looked like big bubbles on tiny stick like models.




This skirt is beautiful, but $248 worth of beautiful? What do you think? (Image used under Amazon Affiliate license).


Who the heck decides these fashions? Some sick person who thinks a lollipop looks good?

The last time I wore a mini skirt, I was 19.  I had a navy blue twill skirt that I loved. The hemline ended somewhere above my knees. I had a skirt and sweater set around them that I loved too, all bronze and black stripes and stretchy material that made it give a little. Somewhere around age 22, I retired short skirts and short-shorts for longer hemlines. I love the sweep of a long, full skirt; I love the fact that I can wear flats with it or heels, sandals or sneakers.

Full skirts? If I'm going to look like a lollipop with a weird big bulbous middle, no thanks. If you're talking full sweeping skirts, like the beautiful skirts of the early 1990s, prairie prints and all, or even a beautiful Maxi skirt, them I'm with you.

Below, $14 Maxi skirt by Wet Seal...available from Amazon. Yeah, I could go for that. 




Would you wear a "full" skirt like the top one? Do you have to be thin to pull it off?

What do you think?

Here's a Quick Way to Add Elegance to Your Day

Tea. Not a quick cup brewed in the microwave, but a cup of tea brewed in your favorite china and sipped for a few moments to savor it.

Photo by MC Connors and used under the Morguefile license.

I used to think that making a cup of tea took soooo much time.

So, being the daughter of an engineer, what did I do?

I measured it.

I timed making a cup of tea against waiting for a pot of coffee to brew. The results? It takes the same amount of time.

There's something uniquely soothing about the ritual of making tea.  I haven't even delved into the ritual of making a "proper" pot of tea, which in and of itself is a beautiful and elegant ritual.

No, I'm just talking about the simple action of brewing a cup of tea in your favorite china mug or tea cup.  

Try it. Instead of making a quick cup, get out your favorite mug or - gasp - your wedding china. You know the set I'm talking about. The one you never use because it's "too good" for every day use.  What the heck are you saving it for, your funeral feast? You won't be there to enjoy it. So use it now.

Clean the cup. Heat the water. Choose the tea. Allow it to seep for two minutes. Then fix your tea as you like it, find your comfortable chair, and settle back. Sip. Savor. 

Elegance is savored, never rushed.  Adding this simple ritual to your day adds a tiny touch of elegance. Slowing down quiets the mind. Brewing a cup of tea like this is really an easy way to add elegance to the day.