Saturday, January 10, 2015

Feminine Clothes

Some time ago I was asked the following question by a commenter from Finland:

I would like to ask, if you could concider writing a post about how rather unfeminine woman can become more feminine... I do wear mostly skirts at home...The problem is that I really don't like "feminine staff", ruffles, pastel colours, jewels and make up. Last one is easy because my hubby doesn't really like makeup or polished nails etc. My hair is long,but I like to keep it on simple braid or ponytail. I like collar shirts (from ladys department) and hate high heels -which is good because I couldn't were them anyway. I also like rahter plain style.

She also adds in her next comment:

I thought a lot about this being-more-feminine -matter yesterday evening. I think I must have misunderstood something. I started thinking about my both grandmothers. I am quite sure, that nobody would never ever have described them "manly". And yet they both were very strong women, farmer's wifes, and used to hard work. Neither of them were make up or jewellery (the latter was only worn in parties.) They wore dresses and skirts mostly, of course, but the colours were usually rather dark - they were that generation who concidered it inappropriate for elderly women to dress in light colours.

So I guess behaviour is the key word here? I know it is propably obvious to everyone else but here in Finland people usually do not behave very well. Women with most feminine attire can swear, yell on their children or husbands or behave very aggressively. My grandmothers would have never done that.

Writing about feminine clothes is difficult on its own because people often take offence at what you say as they tend to take everything personally nowadays, but since I was asked a question  I'm going to try to answer it according to the way I see things. Please note that it's not my intention to criticise or attack anyone who thinks differently.

From a historical point of view, traditional clothes for men in Western Europe were trousers, while for women it was long skirts/dresses. (It goes back to the Germanic tribes, because as we know, previously, in Ancient Rome and Greece, the difference between  male and female clothes was shorter robes for men vs longer robes for women). Things started changing when women moved into traditionally male occupations, went into professional sports and the equality of the sexes became a general principle. Yet, perhaps quite hypocritically, while the society accepts women wearing trousers it still doesn't react all too nicely when a man dons a skirt.

This fact above all demonstrates that deep down inside people still think that skirts/dresses are distinctly female clothes and can't be an appropriate garb for men.The same is true about hair, men generally have shorter hair than women, the majority of them prefers women with long hair as evidenced by this blog post. For those who are Christians among us, there is also the biblical admonition about women having long hair as a natural covering. So a lady who has long hair and mostly wears skirts, is already distinctly feminine.

As for other things mentioned in the comment, it's noteworthy that in the times past when women didn't normally wear that which pertains to a man heavy makeup was considered the mark of a prostitute, as we can read in old novels, such as Gone With The Wind. I don't think there is anything wrong with makeup, however, I wonder sometimes if there is a connection between women switching to wearing traditionally masculine clothes and heavy makeup, to highlight the fact that there still is a difference between male and female.

Now a collar shirt isn't always a very feminine thing to wear (it depends on a sort of shirt though), but it could be easily substituted with more feminine style tops. They don't have to have ruffles or only be in pastel colours. As for high heels, again, it's proven that men  react positively to women wearing them, but they aren't always convenient and can cause back pain, especially as one gets older. High heels are generally a must with formal wear, but outside that you can just wear some nice-looking flats. Here it would be probably a good idea to post some pictures, but since it costs so much time to find appropriate examples of what I'm talking about, it's probably better to write a separate post about it.

The second comment is very interesting because it shows that people in the previous generations knew the distinctions between formal and informal wear, something which we have chiefly forgotten. Makeup, jewellery, high heels were reserved for special occasions. In fact, a book I have suggests that women use plain woolen/cotton skirts for housework and reserve nicer clothes for going out, it also teaches that the day wear should be in dark colours as not to attract too much attention in the streets, which was considered indecent. (Here I'm not sure if it was more typical for European countries than for the USA).

Since in Europe there always have been a strong class distinction, the clothes one wore were also dependent on one's social position. Nowadays the rules have become more relaxed, or I'd rather say, there are few of them left, at least for lower middle/middle class. In my opinion, it's still helpful to distinguish between formal and casual wear ( I have done a couple of posts on this topic, unfortunately, some of the pictures I linked to, have been lately deleted), however, since we live in the times when anything goes, you don't have to depend on one particular style, but can choose something which is more suitable for your figure type and your personal taste.

There are various feminine styles which are popular nowadays, such as more formal (think stewardesses), neo-Victorian, romantic, 1940s-1950s retro style, ethno style etc. This topic probably deserves a separate blog post, with pictures to illustrate my point, however, it's important to remember that there is space enough for individual choice. As for feminine behaviour, again, it's probably better to discuss it in a separate post.

I hope it was helpful!


  1. Scarves can do a lot for an outfit and there's so many different ways to tie them. Simple hoop earrings and a feminine watch are great too. Women don't have to spend a lot of time on make up - personally I quickly put on mascara, blush and lipstick. The older I get, the more I like skirts. A denim jacket with a long skirt is very nice. Just my thoughts.

  2. It sounds to me that the lady from Finland prefers simple tailored clothing like a-line skirts and plain blouses. These are feminine clothes, just not hyper feminine like things with lace and ruffles and lots of pink.

    My advice would be to stick with the simple lines you prefer but look for items with a feminine touch or color. Perhaps a 3/4 sleeve would seem more lady-like than one to the wrist, a collar with a rounded edge rather than coming to a point, a paisley pattern rather than a solid color for example. No matter what color palette you favor, there are sure to be more feminine shades available. Colors like teal, cobalt blue, bittersweet, all purples, sage green, emerald green, aqua, are feminine to me because men don't usually wear those kinds of colors. Feminine colors don't have to be soft and pale at all.

    You could always have a pretty hair ornament tying off your braid or ponytail instead of a plain one. Decorative hair pins instead of plain old bobby pins.

    Some people don't like jewelry because it gets in the way, feels heavy or smothering but a nice pin on your blouse could add a feminine touch without you feeling it.

  3. Oh, and behavior surely makes a difference. We have a saying in the USA that you can't put lipstick on a pig, meaning dressing up doesn't change what you are. So those crude women in their pretty dresses are still just crude and rude and not at all lady-like no matter how rufflely, flowery, or fragile their clothing is. Whereas a real lady could be dressed like a mechanic and her femininity would shine through due to her politeness, gracefulness, and kindness.

  4. Ladies, thanks for your suggestions, I'm sure the original commenter will appreciate it.She did mention scarves, btw.

  5. I too was thinking about a scarf or pretty colored ribbon intwined or at the end of her braid. Earrings even very simple seem to pick up the look. Style of wrist watch is usually either feminine or manly looking too. My mother preferred tailored clothing. She incorporated tucks or insets of a simple lace in some of her soft fabric blouses. Even softer materials are also lady like. She looked best in fall colors and so did not wear any pastels. When you see a piece of clothing think. Is it something a man would wear? Look at men's wear in a store. Much has to do with how you act and wear your clothes. Standing and bending ladylike and such. Hands down at your side and not into side pockets like men do and such. As you said just wearing a shirt goes a long way. I say thank you to her for trying to act like a lady in the first place! With so many dressing now a they don't care what they wear or look like I applaud a lady for caring so much! Bravo! Sarah

  6. Housewife from FinlandJanuary 12, 2015 at 5:51 AM

    Thank you ever so much fot the post and comments. I have now a lot to think about. :)

    The point about tailored clothins is very good. I have often thought that I like "uniform-like" -clothes and figured that that can't be very feminine. But luckily Sanne mentioned stewardesses; they were uniforms and nobody can call them masculine. Or if you think about nurses of the past - I am a huge fan of "Call the midwife" -series and books and I don't know which I love more, the midwives or the nuns.Even the nuns seem relatively feminine; I would actually think every one of them more feminine in their habit and flat shoes than for example this:

    Which reminds me of another thing. I have been thinking about the late fashions of female body. First we were supposed to be skinny. Now there is this fitspiration movement and people seem to think that women should also have six-packs (of course there is also oppositon, fat acceptance and HAES). Like we shouldn't look like women anymore but adolescent boys or men. I recall that Naomi Wolf wrote about this in her "Beauty Myth". But I don't think its men or patriarchy who does it -men in their right minds would never want women to loose their feminine figure- it's more like women competing other women in some mad race. That's actually why I find modesty very important; I don't want to be part of that competition, trying to lift myself up and press other women down.

    Anyway I think I have a good start here:
    1. focus on feminine grace and behaviour
    2. skirts or dresses at least at home
    3. keep the hair long. :)
    4. Little feminine detail in every outfit, just to remind myself to act like a lady.

    1. Your comment almost brought me tears - how I wish modesty was discussed in Finland! It is a topic that does not exist there, as far as I know :-(

      Many of the fashion gurus and designers are gay.I wonder if it's coincidence women don't look like women anymore?

      Six-pack in not feminine, imno. To me it screams 'GIRL POWER'. 'I don't need help, I trust nobody except my biceps'...

  7. Housewife from FinlandJanuary 12, 2015 at 6:33 AM

    One more thing: I totally agree with separating formal and casual wear. My mother used to be wery strict with these things; homeclothes were different than school/work clothes and party clothes. And then there was funeral clothes. Nobody seem to have funeral clothes anymore, even middle-aged women come to funerals in blue jeans decorated with rivets. Or ladies other than bride wear white in wedding.

    One should have special clothes to special occasions. To show respect and/or help yourself to lift up your spirit/party mood.

  8. I find an apron very effective if I want to feel more feminine at home :-)

  9. I'll write another post about feminine styles soon, with examples.

  10. Oh, and please ladies, do hide your c****toe (excuse my language!) some way or another.

  11. Housewife from FinlandJanuary 13, 2015 at 3:49 AM

    Miriam: I agree that modesty as a topic does not exist in Finland, except among muslims and followers of Laestadius. There is no one you can talk to, if you are modest housewife, have traditional values and interested in homemaking. That's why I was so happy when I found Sanne's blog. The american blogs are wonderful but the States are so far away and the circumstances differ so much.

    I also agree with the c-toe. I cannot understand why most ladies sportwear is nowadays just tights. Very few ladies look good on them and there is absolutely no way to prevent that thing showing every now and then. Of course we shouldn't be staring each others crotches, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

    BTW, I have a new power sentence for myself: "What Would Jane Eyre Do?" I hope that will keep me on right track. Adn even her had one brooch, so I guess I can wear some jewelry.

    1. You are a lucky woman, if muslims or laestadians talk to you :-) My experience is that they like to interact only with their kind of people. I have discussed once about modesty and it was with a young mother who was thinking about to join the laestadians.

  12. Excuse me, ladies, but who are laestadians?


  14. Housewife from FinlandJanuary 14, 2015 at 6:20 AM

    Lars Levi Laestadius was finnish priest (1800-1861). I think he and his followers would be called pietists in english (in finnish it is called "herännäisyys", which refers to "waking up". Laestadianism is the biggest pietist movement in Nordic Countries and part of The Evangelical Lutheran church. They are very concervative, and there is also even more concervative "wing" that night be called "old order".

    Miriam: I have never spoken personally to laestadians or to muslim about -well, anything but maybe Hi and Bye. :) I just read their blogs and forums and other stuff. Though laestadians seem not to be very active online which is pity; people would understand them better if they would tell their own fews somewhere. (for non-finns: Laestadians are almost despised in Finland because they are so conservative and "opressing women". There is every now and then reports in media, when some poor soul has managed to "escape" the community and then they tell how awful their lives were.)

    But it is very sad that mostly here in Finland one has to refer to muslim bloggers or forums if you want to see finnish women talking about modesty. And even more sad to see finnish ladies converting to islam because they don't find standards they seek and need in our Lutheran church.

  15. Thanks, it's very interesting, never heard about them before!