Styles and Stays
Modesty is a word that was repeated in our house day after day, year after year and more often as we grew up. We were taught from childhood that you never wore
dresses too short or too tight. Many times we wore dresses with the hem line very visible where the dress hem had been let down. There would be a faded line around the tail of the dress. Sometimes Mama would put a row of ‘rick-rack’ around the line to cover it. We wore hand-me –downs and loved getting them, but we were not allowed to wear dresses too short. We wore dresses with holes in them, but if the hole was in a place that might be too revealing it was thrown away or patched; more often patched. We were fortunate that Mama was good at making clothes and we had good dresses to wear to school. She often altered clothing that had been given to us, too. Sometimes the style was for an older woman and the material was not suitable for a child, but Mama would somehow adapt the dress to fit and we wore it like it was brand new. I had a dress once made from an older one someone had given us. It was made with some crepe material and when wet it shrunk. If it started raining while we were out for recess, look out the dress would start crawling up. I sometimes marvel at how the clothing styles have changed. My Uncle Odell once said to me , after seeing a young man cross the street in a pair of shorts, “ When the weather turns warm you see more of your neighbors.” He was of the old school and thought a woman should always wear a dress; never pants. My daddy never allowed us to wear shorts. I still cannot wear shorts. I hear my Dad’s voice every time I try to put on a pair of shorts. He has been gone for 37 years, but his voice is still clear. “Wear decent clothing.” Then too, the undergarments folks wear today are not the same. I hear words like, “Speedos, teddies, Bikinis, leggings, halters, thongs and other things I cannot write here. I would cringe at the thought of even mentioning these skimpy items of clothing to my mother. What we had back in the day were, drawers, bloomers, no bras, slips with wide straps over the shoulders, and girdles! A girl could be as thin as a rail and still feel undressed if she did not have on a girdle. I remember corsets! I never wore one, but it was evident when you went to church who wore one and who did not. The ladies who wore them sat as if starched and ironed with the stays tight as they could be. I guess my mother would have worn one if we had enough money to buy one. I remember the first time I had store bought underwear. Mine were hand made from flour sacks. We wore our new, store bought, silk underwear for Sunday and on weekdays we wore our flour sack ones. I had a friend who wore silk underwear. I was so envious of her. She had a drawer full of silk undies. She never knew, until she reads this, how envious we were of her silks. She had older sisters who had left home to work and they had sent her nice things to wear. Today the magazines and other periodicals are covered with pictures of nearly nude models. It seems that the editors of these magazines think that a publication will not sell unless it has as its cover the picture of some unclad soul. I found an old Sears Roebuck catalog a while back and took a look at the changes in styles. I laughed to see the ladies wearing broad brimmed hats with feathers, flowers and netting. They wore laced up medium heeled shoes or buttoned up ones, stockings with seams in the back and high necked blouses with circular collars that could be taken off and worn with several different outfits. Their dresses were below calf length; some flowing and some pencil slim. None of the ladies wore pants. The only good thing about it was that the price was low, low, low. Some of the dresses were $2.98. Yes, there have been a lot of changes in our time; some good, some bad. I have a feeling that it does not matter too much to God what style we wear or how long our dress is. I do believe he wants a clean heart and right attitude. When our heart is right and our hands are clean, we will wear the right wardrobe.
Nannie Maude Reynolds