Tuesday, July 10, 2012
On Wearing Dresses: The Practical Aspects
This, however, is not a skirts vs. pants post.
It is a post about skirts and dresses.
But, since wearing skirts can apparently be a shockingly controversial topic, I'll begin with my standard disclaimer:
Standard Disclaimer (that must accompany all skirt/dress/headcovering/modesty posts): I'm not saying I think that you have to wear __________ items of clothing, or that ________ will make you a better or worse person. I'm just sharing my experience. Thanks in advance for not being offended by things that I haven't said/written and for not reading anything that isn't here and responding to it in a heated manner!
I write that disclaimer somewhat jokingly and yet... it's also somewhat serious. The "issue" can be so ridiculously overblown that the words "skirt" or "pants" can cause an otherwise sane, rational person to see red. But I digress. That is not what this post is about and I hope that it can stay that way here and in the combox!
I'm not saying that skirts and dresses are appropriate for all types of work or occasions and common sense must be used. If you're working with heavy machinery, skirts probably aren't the way to go. And while I would wear a skirt to work in the garden, I wouldn't wear one riding horses (oh I can just see the horses at my parents house using that as an excuse to bolt), or while driving Grumpa's tractor. So yes, there are exceptions.
However, for day to day life, I've found skirts and dresses to be ideal for my vocation (although today I'm going to focus on the practical).
I'll admit, I did begin wearing skirts because I felt that it was easier (for me) to dress modestly in them. Here's the thing: my hips have been in a perpetual state of flux for the past 58 months. They expand and then kind-of go back and then expand again in roughly two year cycles. Throughout the cycles I "could" fit into my jeans, for the majority of the time (one of the few advantages of the words "low rise" being printed on pretty much every pair of pants a few years back). But "could" didn't mean that I "should." Sure I could button that top button... but as I began to learn more about my faith, I just didn't feel comfortable in painted on jeans. It seemed that I needed three separate wardrobes to cloth my ever changing figure.
Yet initially I struggled to find skirts that worked for me as I went about my day. I quickly realized that not all long skirts were created equal. If that skirt in anyway impeded the length of my stride by being to narrow, I wasn't going to enjoy wearing it. And the skirt that hugged by hips, tapered in towards the knees and then flared out with cute little godets at calf length? It wasn't practical and it certainly didn't feel modest, despite it's length and thick fabric.
Over the past twenty months I've developed a skirt/dress buying rule that works for me. It's based on what I feel comfortable in. If you are thinking about wearing dresses and skirts more often, these are some dress buying ideas to keep in mind, and then you can assess them and figure out what works for you. Here's what I keep in mind:
This was tough for me. I constantly see skirts that are almost long enough. They would look long enough on the rack. Then I try them on and find that the hemline fell just short of t he tops of my knees. I would give the dress a little tug in the dressing room, and it would be perfectly knee length.
Yet, when I'd get the dress home and began wearing it, I would find myself annoyed. I would be tugging constantly.
You see, despite the fact that I once loved mini skirts and short shorts, I now find myself bothered when I wear anything above the knees. Knee length and I'm set. Above the knee and I tug... and tug... and tug. It's not pretty. And it's incredibly annoying.
So... If I don't love a dress enough to alter it and add a bit of fabric around the bottom, it needs to stay in the store.
Finding a length you feel comfortable with when wearing dresses can be incredibly important. If you feel like something's too short (even when it's pretty long by societies standards) you're not going to be comfortable in it. And that's going to make dress wearing a lot more difficult.
As a mom, I avoid pencil skirts and narrow maxi dresses at all cost. If I can't take a normal length step in a dress without the back layer of fabric and front layer of fabric catching and restricting my gait as I walk, then I won't be comfortable in a skirt. I need to be able to run and play and get down on the floor in a skirt. And narrow skirts just don't allow that sort of freedom.
Also, this overlaps with length. If you are buying a narrow skirt, try sitting down in it. See how long it is then. Are you tugging on it? Are you still comfortable? These are important questions since you won't be standing all the time.
On the other hand, a skirt with a wider, more flowing cut, allows me to play with the girls without worrying about anything riding up. And a flowing cut can often fit throughout the bodily changes that go hand in hand with motherhood. Especially if the skirt fits below your baby bump.
The logical "does this fit" would also fall into this category. Buying (or sewing) the right size is important. No one wants to squeeze into something that's much to small. If you want a closet full of comfortable dresses that you want to wear, trying things on and making sure they fit correctly, is definitely important.
Another important factor to take into account when shopping (and not just for dresses and skirts) is how sheer the fabric is. These days quite a few companies would like to pass off see through jersey knit as a comfortable clothing choice. However, few women feel comfortable in the clothing that turns see through when the sun hits it. While slips can help with this (and when I'm not in Florida where it's 1000 degrees and a million percent humidity I appreciate slips so much more!), it can also be nice to just pass on the too sheer fabric and get something that you don't have to worry about becoming transparent in a certain light.
The Top Side
When buying dresses I'm a bit more forgiving when evaluating the neckline. In our society it can be a serious struggle to find a dress that both covers one's cleavage and one's bum. It's unfortunate, but it's true, and it's been true for quite a while. I will buy dresses that are much too low cut if the rest of the dress is acceptable.
Then I do one of two things. If the dress is long enough I'll snip a bit of fabric off the bottom, re-hem the dress and then sew in a triangle of fabric at the neckline to cover up all the parts that I'd rather people other than my husband didn't see.
If the dress isn't long enough, or I haven't gotten around to sewing it, I wear one of the cami-secrets (those little camisole cutouts that most drug stores have in the "made for TV" section) that I have laying around the house. I have to replace them every few months, but since I wear them almost every day, and they seriously help my comfort level by modifying tops that I wouldn't otherwise wear, it's definitely worth it.