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Long skirts back in style?


My supremely talented wife and daughters make a fair amount of their own clothing. They do this partly for the fun of it, and partly because clothing that is both modest and feminine is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to find on the racks in clothing stores.

I am pleased to offer anecdotal evidence that this dire situation may be changing for the better. In the past several years here locally, there has been an unmistakable increase in young women wearing long skirts and dresses. It's still not even close to a majority, to be sure, but it's worth noting that something which never used to be seen is now fairly commonplace.

And last week, upon returning from a shopping expedition, my daughters informed me that they discovered for the first time, in the women's clothing department, an entire rack full of long, modest, stylish-looking skirts.

This is California, folks. Is it not reasonable to conclude that long skirts are back in style, and soon to become a national trend?

Comments (36)

Where I teach is a conservative Christian college, but you wouldn't always know it by the way the young ladies dress. However, I've noticed more of them wearing long skirts in the last year or two, so I hope it is a trend. Of course, when they appear to have just taken the material that makes the skirt longer from the tops of the blouses . . . but it does seem more of them are even wearing more modest blouses lately, or at least wearing something under the low-cut blouses that makes them less "showy," shall we say.

Glad to hear it, Beth. I often wonder if Christian young people aren't making an extra effort to conform to worldly patterns specifically for the purpose of defying stereotypes.

Unfortunately, it seems that this trend is the opposite in maternity clothes right now. It's nothing but pants in the shops at the moment--low-cut, tight pants, no less. I'm not sure why they're doing this, unless they assume that the baby belly is quite enough femaleness and we shouldn't want to embrace it any further...

Yes, long skirts are back in style. Two caveats: Many of the skirts that look longest and prettiest at first sight are immodest in virtue of being completely see-through. This is true not only of light colors but also of dark colors. At our local superstore they had what at first sight looked like pretty, tiered, long black skirts. On investigation it turned out that they were so see-through that the manufacturer had put an interior layer underneath...unfortunately, only to mini-mini-skirt length. Rule of thumb is that a gauzy, layered, maxi-skirt will require a slip. Second caveat: The waists sometimes need to be taken in. The "low-rise" fashion in pants (on which be anathemas) has to some extent come to skirts as well. In practice what this means is that the skirt falls part of the way off when you put it on, unless you are heavy-set. This needn't be a really big deal if the material isn't too heavy. Even a complete tyro like me is capable of putting in a few stitches to tighten the waistline at a seam.

As Beth says, however, the modesty situation has _not_ improved for ladies' shirts and blouses. It remains very bad indeed, and if anything is getting worse. I saw on another blog lately that the author (a male) asked in all innocence, "Are normal blouses not being made anymore, which a woman can button up?" He clearly intended this as a rhetorical question. I decided not to take the time to comment, "You got it, buddy. Normal blouses are not being made anymore." For the most part, that is. Very, very difficult to find on the racks at the store. Normal blouses are available, however, if you know where to look. Blair.com being one place.

I guess I shd. also note that the colors in the long skirts I'm seeing around here tend to be pretty "noisy," which may not be to some people's tastes.

What a great blog (just stumbled across it). I felt compelled to add that the first time I saw my wife she was wearing a longer skirt that she made herself. Neither of us are particularly "country" types (though technically I am) but to this day, it remains one of my favorite outfits. There is something very special about a modest and feminine woman. I assume that over time more radical "sultry" looks will come about (or continue rather) but in the process, traditional modesty will resurge. I feel the same way about culture in general. The more debauched we become the more ripe we are for reform.

Having grown up in the full throws of secular cultism I feel competent to make that observation. It has been my continued exposure to liberal everything-goes living that has driven me closer to faith and conservative life. Breaking from the "me-now" attitude of the world is an ever-going process but it is good to know that there is a significant counter-culture to the counter-culture. How odd is it that holding traditional views has become so radical in our society~!

So, then, are long skirts coming back in style something to celebrate, even if many are immodest? Yes, I believe so.

There are two values in play here: femininity and modesty. It's hard to rate one as more important than the other, but femininity is the more fundamental, and its loss or neglect more destructive.

Yes, it is something to celebrate.

This, though, raises an interesting issue:

There are two values in play here: femininity and modesty. It's hard to rate one as more important than the other, but femininity is the more fundamental, and its loss or neglect more destructive.

Since your wife is a seamstress, I'm guessing that you haven't been in touch with what it's like to shop for young girls' clothing in the past decade. What we have seen during that decade has actually been not the masculinization of girls' clothing but just the opposite--the exaggerated feminization of girls' clothing in ways that are deliberately immodest. For example: Twenty years ago, a girl's basic shirt, such as a T-shirt, always had plenty of cloth to it. The sleeves were real sleeves. The T-shirt was not deliberately tight. In fact, it was made much like a boy's shirt, only, especially if intended to be worn with a skirt, in feminine colors or perhaps with some embroidery on it. Within the past decade we have seen the development of the _highly_ distinctive girl's T-shirt, which is deliberately made much too small. The cut is short in the body, so that the shirt does not stay tucked in. The cut is also curved in on the sides, making the shirt immodestly tight. And the sleeves are cap sleeves rather than normal short sleeves, making them almost non-existent. When you hold the shirt up, the look is quite feminine, and on the face of it, "cute." Until you try to put it on a real girl. Even if you buy the next size up, it will usually not fit modestly. If you just keep trying bigger and bigger sizes, eventually you will get to a size that is almost literally falling off, so you never actually reach something modest.

Something similar has happened with pants and jeans, but since you disapprove of pants and jeans anyway, I'll spare you the detailed discussion.

Something similar has happened in dresses and long-sleeved tops, with the sleeves growing longer, sometimes to the point that the girl's hands disappear, the cut growing more tight and curvaceous, and the body length or skirt length growing shorter.

In women's clothing, the unbelievable plunginess of the tops of both dresses and blouses are part of the same trend: In one sense, more "feminine," but deliberately immodest in the cultivation of this form of "femininity."

In essence, what we have seen is the replacement of nice and pretty femininity not with masculinized women's and girls' clothing but with "trampy" women's and girls' styles which are, if anything, in some ways more feminine than the older, more sober styles they replaced...in one sense of "feminine." In my opinion, there has not ever been a period where women could not find good clothes to wear *because the styles were insufficiently feminine*. There have been plenty of periods where women almost could not find good clothes to wear because the clothes were immodest, sometimes outrageously so, in one way or another.

I get your point, Lydia. As a Catholic man who strives for custody of the eyes, my eyes much prefer modesty in women at the expense of femininity, if need be.

But here's the thing. Feminine sluttiness, if I may be so crude, is sinful in a natural way. Androgyny is highly unnatural and therefore, in my view, more of a fundamental sickness. It's further down the road, so to speak. Androgynous clothing in general is the product of an androgynous worldview, though not necessarily in the case of individuals.

It's not that I'm opposed to pants and jeans on women per se, but that I'd like to see the norms and deviations reversed.

I think the issues aren't entirely in conflict. Feminine can be modest and vice-versa but exposed is not necessarily feminine!

There is also a trend in male clothing that emphasizes tighter more closely cut or exposed outfits as well. It is a hyper-sexualization more than it is a push into one particular gender category from my view. If Hollywood had it's way, we would all be nude or nearly nude.

I am fortunate enough to have a wife who can sew but we still typically shop at the big stores for our clothing (or at thrift stores that carry the same brands/styles). It is a constant struggle for my wife who would like to remain as you say "cute" and fashionable but not at the cost of looking trashy.

I am just happy that dresses and skirts are starting to show up in popular culture more than they have been and that not all of the options include barring your bum~!

I think it's been so odd and interesting that the hyper-sexualization and "feminine cut" phenomenon in women's clothing has come at the same time as the increasing androgyny of women's actual roles in society. I think it's definitely a sign of sickness. The designers both of our social roles and of our clothing literally *know nothing* of the concept of "being ladylike." Hence ladylike clothes are regarded as "frumpy" (considered a deadly insult among all too many women), women are pushed into ever-more-masculine activities in the world while at the same time wearing ever-more-immodest clothing. Sexuality is the only expression of femininity we are permitted to have anymore.

When I think back on the women's business clothes of the 1980's it is kind of interesting, because they were rather masculinized. The padded shoulders, for example, and the highly tailored look. I think though that, perhaps despite the best efforts of the designers, the result was not actually androgyny but rather something more school-marmish. Severe would be a good word. And it is possible to be feminine while being dressed in a style that is severe. One can dress up a "man-tailored" suit with, for example, dainty jewelry or long, feminine-styled hair (which was also "in" in the 80's).

Now, if you go to the section of the J.C. Penney web site that is apparently supposed to represent their current idea of office wear...well...don't go. I mention JCP because they used to sell a very classy line of women's white business shirts and blouses, women's dress skirts and jackets, etc.

Mark, I highly recommend to your wife that she check out


I'm not saying I would buy every single item they sell, but there are many things there that I would buy, and do buy, for both myself and my daughters. (No children's clothes, unfortunately, so daughters have to be old enough to wear Misses or women's sizes.) I think they cater to an older clientele, which is *just fine*. That older clientele sometimes knows how to buy nice ladies' clothes!

My only word to the wise about Blair is that if something is very inexpensive, on some hard-to-believe sale, chances are the cloth is lightweight and not super-high-quality. Similarly, the winter dress I recently purchased there, despite being black, modest, and looking very nice, was not winter-weight cloth. I have to wear a sweater with it much of the time.

I think it's been so odd and interesting that the hyper-sexualization and "feminine cut" phenomenon in women's clothing has come at the same time as the increasing androgyny of women's actual roles in society. I think it's definitely a sign of sickness.

It is odd and seemingly incongruous. The phenomenon only makes sense in view of radical feminism's agenda of "empowerment", especially power over men, which female hyper-sexuality is especially good at.

I get your point, Lydia. As a Catholic man who strives for custody of the eyes, my eyes much prefer modesty in women at the expense of femininity, if need be.

The sexiest thing I have ever seen in person was my ex-girlfriend's (non-Asian) roommate dressed in a very nice kimono. It managed to simultaneously leave almost everything to the imagination while accentuating every feminine grace and charm she had. Note to Western women: you're doing it wrong.

I had a funny experience last week. Walking the last 3 blocks to work, a young woman was in front of me for 1 block (I walk too fast for anyone to be in front of me very long). She had on a very feminine, almost-mid-calf skirt and a modest feminine blouse, and the particular styles complemented her physique well. I wanted to compliment her on her taste and on the choice of modest styling, but of course I could do nothing of the sort. Even to say "nice skirt" probably would have made her think I was trying to pick up on her or something. And if I made any comment at all on the modesty, I am sure it would have come out wrong, as if it were my place to judge her or something. So I said nothing at all. But I am sure that she could have used some positive reinforcement in her choices.

Of course you couldn't say anything, but there's another point: You couldn't tell if it really was modest until you passed her and saw how the outfit looked from the front!

Note to Western women: you're doing it wrong.

They're doing it wrong if they want the respect and admiration of good men. But maybe they want other things ....

So I said nothing at all. But I am sure that she could have used some positive reinforcement in her choices.

Tony, I know the feeling very well. As someone who is challenged in the social graces department (ahem) I am sure my saying something would come across all wrong. So, like you, I say nothing but smile inwardly.

A question for the ladies: Is silence the best approach for admiring men who only want to encourage you? I expect there might be different answers for friends, acquaintances, and mere strangers.

Remarks I've appreciated from my men friends at work: "You look very nice today"; "I appreciate how you model modest dress for our young ladies on campus"; "That's an attractive outfit." I wouldn't want more specificity than those kinds of compliments, I don't think.

From male colleagues who aren't actually friends, just collegial acquaintances, I'd probably prefer not to be complimented beyond "You look nice today." I think anything else would make me feel a little uncomfortable, like someone was trying to get closer in friendship without having been invited.

From male strangers, a compliment would make me feel very awkward. A smile and a nod, to note my existence, would be fine, and of course any appropriate small talk depending on the context. But a comment on my appearance would seem very much out of place to me.

Other women probably have other observations; I'm pretty old-fashioned and "prudish"!

Beth, that's very helpful. Thanks a bunch.

I think the rules are a little different for women complimenting men. Women who are strangers sometimes will compliment me on my tie, or my hat, etc. and I eat it right up. ;-)

If women still wore hats, I imagine a man who was a complete stranger could compliment a lady on her hat without seeming intrusive at all. A hat is a little impersonal. I would to some extent second Beth's feelings, though I would be happy to accept, "What a lovely dress" or "That dress is such a nice color" from a male acquaintance who was not a good friend, as long as we didn't actively dislike each other.

The trouble is that none of this advice will help you gentlemen except in contexts where you are working with normal, that is, somewhat old-fashioned, ladies. I would guess that such gentlemanly compliments would be a complete minefield in the secular workforce. Ironically, we "prudish" ladies probably know better than the liberated woman how to interpret and graciously accept, without taking it to mean anything bad, a compliment like, "You look nice today."

I would guess that such gentlemanly compliments would be a complete minefield in the secular workforce.

You've got that right, Lydia. In my last position as a manager of five women - definitely not the old fashioned kind - I was misinterpreted practically every time I opened my mouth. Jokes, especially. I suppose I'll never learn.

Definitely true about complimenting a hat, Lydia; I always appreciate a compliment when I wear one. And, sadly, true about the "minefield" today. Even my colleagues here feel pressure to be extra-extra careful -- beyond reasonable careful -- at times. I've sometimes conveyed their thoughts, as though they were mine, to our female students, either for encouragement or for rebuke.

Fashion - by which I mean the prevailing mode in women's clothes - seems to acquire its mysterious influence from an irrational compliance by the majority with what's imposed by a few 'trendsetters'. I guess that most young women, nowadays, inhabit a world in which modesty isn't a consideration that troubles them much. It's no use telling them they look vulgar or lewd in a come-and-get-me dress; they regard such remarks as compliments.

Of course men also are slaves to fashion. They can be smothered with ridicule if necessary, but what a woman wears has moral significance. In an age when every woman refused to be seen in public without her hat, I'd be prepared to believe the moral tone was much higher.

"Of course men also are slaves to fashion."
About twenty years ago I was shopping for a suit. I walked into a haberdashery and told the salesman my specifications, wool, vent back, three button front, ect. He proceeded to show me suits that did not meet my specifications. I reminded him of my requirements. He told me about contemporary mens fashion. I told him I was not interested in the latest creations by faggot French fashion designers; but wanted something my grandfather would have been comfortable wearing to Court or Church. The salesman went ballistic. I walked out, and went to Brooks Brothers and found just what I was looking for. When I was young all women wore hats to Chruch. Some of my Tridentine Catholic and conservative Reformed friends still wear hats to Church services. It is sad that this custom is not still a universal even in conservative Christian circles.

I agree that people are much too willing to follow fashion in a sheeplike way. On the other hand, in fairness, I have to say that the fashion-makers have a way of filling the stores with what they want to insist that people wear, which makes it very difficult to opt out. If you have the money, the motivation, and/or the know-how, you can get around their diktats. If not, I'm not sure what you do. (Know-how might be either the ability to make one's own clothes or the knowledge of how and where to search for good clothes.)

Because I do wear modest pants and long shorts, as do my girls, I remember my shock about ten years ago at the incredible speed with which pants became low-rise and hence immodest, not to mention uncomfortable. It happened seemingly overnight. I can still remember suddenly realizing what was happening, going to a local superstore that had _boys'_ jeans on a special sale (boys' jeans at that time were not yet low-rise or falling off), and buying pair after pair of them, in all sizes, for the future. I can say that we have used those jeans, except for a pair or two that I forgot to pull out until the relevant daughter had outgrown them. But it took a lot of forethought, not to mention the money to go and do that big purchase.

Since then I have had to buy from some pretty expensive outfits, usually searching diligently on-line, to avoid the fashion monsters. And not only in the area of pants but also the area of dresses, especially. And nowadays, blouses and even casual tops.

I imagine too that there is a phenomenon where a person spends money for something, discovers it is somewhat immodest, and then doesn't want to return it, reasoning something like, "It's not _that_ immodest, I need a shirt, I didn't see any that were any better, and I already spent the money."

Reasonably priced modest attire for women can still be found for women at boutiques catering to Indian and other Asian women.

Watch an episode or two of Project Runway and you'll understand why fashion is the way it is. Trust me.


I’ve noticed an increase in the number of women who wear long, flowing skirts too. Based on the designs I’ve seen them wearing and the tops they pair with these skirts, I’m guessing that these women are quasi-hippie, back-to-the-earth types rather than Christian traditionalists. I’m assuming the skirts are organic cotton or organic linen grown using sustainable farming practices or some such thing.

My wife ordered some skirts from Orvis and they were way more flowing than they appeared to be in the catalog. She didn’t like them because of their “hippie” look.

There’s a particular young lady here at work whom I’ve seen wear incredibly trampy clothes one day (with the giant, ugly tattoo on her back showing) and then wear what looks like a Sunday church dress the next day. I think women (and men too but especially women) these days are very much into radical autonomy. So they can self-define from day to day based on their choices. They can be a tramp one day and a lovely princess the next and who are you or I to say that they’re not what they choose to be each day they wake up.

Not to change the subject but here’s another thing I’ve seen that I don’t get. I know another young lady who’s pretty and petite. She wears these piercings in her upper ear that look like spikes. Not a diamond stud or gold hoop or some other sparkly, shiny thing. An ugly, dull-colored spike that looks like a weapon that’s been left in a victim. I don’t understand the point of this look. Are we supposed to conclude that she is tough and has a high threshold for pain? Is it supposed to be an outward symbol of her inner pain? She’s pleasant and normal, if liberal/libertine. I don’t understand the point of this sort of thing.

Lydia suggests that Jeff doesn’t approve of women wearing pants. I agree with Jeff. Skirts and dresses emphasize sex distinctions. We definitely need more of an emphasis on sex distinctions. Besides, skirts and dresses look lovely, pants don’t. If women need to be physically active, they can purchase skorts. Skorts look feminine but are also functional. They don’t look like anything a man would wear which is a good thing.

Note, I am not implying anything about the character of women who wear pants and shorts.

From male strangers, a compliment would make me feel very awkward. A smile and a nod, to note my existence, would be fine,

Right, that's exactly what I was thinking. But I think that our having that be the standard is the effect of a couple of areas where our society is damaged. One is the destruction of the tradition of difference between men's place and women's place in society (where part of men's place was gallantry). Another is the objectification of the opposite sex, so that any verbal expression about attractiveness becomes (at least is suspect of) an expression about sexual status. So, take away gallantry, and throw in overt sexualization of any notice a man takes of a woman's looks, and voila, it becomes impossible for a man to compliment an unknown woman.

I suppose if I wore a hat, I could make a point of raising my hat to a woman who is well turned out, (and ignore women who are not). But of course I did not grow up wearing a hat, and I don't think it's going to happen at my age.

what it's like to shop for young girls' clothing in the past decade

Amen, gads. My big girl has finally gotten large enough for "big girl" clothes... and I am NOT putting her in hot pants, so I end up taking T3 clothes and slip-stitching the shoulders so that they fit, then putting a belt on the pants. (Or using baby pants, since she takes after my elfin husband.) Since my sewing ability is... highly limited, we got issues!

I actually end up wearing a lot of maternity clothes and old T-shirts from when I was in high school. I was a pudge, so the shirts let me nurse, and I wear men's jeans because they're cheap and cover my underwear.

I'll echo Beth in the "complements" aspect-- I do NOT take complements from strangers very well, they usually come with huge hooks!

Foxfier, if I had to buy pants and shorts for a little girl these days starting from a young age, and did not have the hand-me-downs that I do have from older sisters, I would consider (but I'm sorry, they are a tad expensive) the Wes & Willy line of boys' pants at CWD Kids:


They come in a denim color/cloth if you want a jeans look. In fact, as you see, a huge variety of colors, including some that will look a little dressier. They're on sale right now, which means that the price is better but also that some colors and sizes are not available. As you can see, a high, normal, elastic waistline. I recommend buying a size smaller than your girl unless she is unusually tall or big for her age, because they are boys' pants and hence sized bigger.

The Wes & Willy shorts have the same good features (same advice about size) and should fit a bit long on a little girl, even if you are going a size smaller because they're boys'.


Full disclosure: I've only bought the shorts, never the pants (because of that massive boys' pants-buying trip a decade ago at the local superstore mentioned up-thread), but as pictured they look like a great style similar to the shorts.

For tops (I hope Jeff will forgive me): Buy her boys' T-shirts in colors you like. I don't mean undershirts, of course. Just play T-shirts. For something more dressed-up if you can spend a little more, Lands End has some pretty and entirely decent girls' polo shirts in all sizes.

We spend a lot of time going through the local second hand stores. ^.^ Some of her clothes are hand made, most are hand-me-downs at least technically, but we just don't know from who!

What is surprising is that the bohemian look and long conservative designs are becoming synonymous. The old fashion and the odd fashion are becoming infashion. Just look at these designs http://www.thelittlebazaar.com/category/Clothing/ Very true feminine can be modest and vice-versa but exposed is not necessarily feminine!

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