How to express your femininity in your clothing choices

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In a world that is becoming increasingly casual and a commercial fashion industry that plays up to it, it’s hard to find feminine dresses that feel flattering and really show off a woman’s body in a way that is both eye-catching but not overly exposing.

I receive lots of messages from ladies who are looking for nice feminine clothes (and especially dresses) but have no idea where to find them, or know what to look for among the current trends to carve out a certain style, and stay true to their ladylike preferences.

I’ll admit darlings, it is not an easy feat! I know that styles and fashions have always evolved, and trends do come and go, but there was a time not so long ago when the definition between women’s fashion and men’s was very distinct. Before you decide to string me up in the market square for it, I’m not just talking about the trousers vs. skirts debate here, but essentially in all things. There was a delicacy and adornment in women’s fashion through most of recent history.

The style and fashion choices women make for attractiveness beyond what is required for simply covering oneself, is a way to express one’s status, ideals, and lifestyle.

If you choose to have a romantic, and somewhat nostalgic lifestyle, like I do, with a traditional dynamic within your relationship and family structure, you may want to express this in what you wear too. This may also be the case if you’ve recently been feeling that something isn’t sitting right with the way women are portrayed in the modern world.

We are equal yes, but we are not the same. There is a certain power in dressing like a woman, and celebrating it, and not feeling like you have to make it sexy and provocative in order to define this beautiful difference.

Why dressing in a feminine style is a positive thing.

Of course, childcare, daily chores, cooking, and cleaning are all easier in a baggy t-shirt and leggings, but they don’t necessarily make you feel good. The current casual culture says it’s ok, but just because you can dress this way, doesn’t always mean you have to. I’m a big believer in that we should dress for the life we aspire to, and according to how we want to be addressed. Housewives and homemakers shouldn’t escape this ideal either.

The psychology of appearance doesn’t just affect the way other people treat you, but has a knock on effect on your own self-esteem too. I’ve covered this in depth within the pages of Ladies Like Us, and English Etiquette to great degree, but here we shall discuss feminine dressing in a way that answers the questions from our community over the past few years.

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Whether you like it or not, there is such a thing as modesty and femininity in dressing, just as there are “business”, “androgynous”, “casual”, “french chic”, “sports luxe”, and “sexy” looks, and so on….

I know lots of people take issue with idea of modesty, and femininity - these two words in particular rile many women, and likely because they can be used in a way that belittles those who do not subscribe to the lifestyle and/or aesthetic. Completely understandable.

However, if you understand the use of them on a sliding scale and in a way that is aimed at the pieces available on the rails, rather than women themselves, then this “look” will be easier to explain. Just as a woman can wear sexy clothing, and not be so. So can a woman cover herself in something feminine/modest and be anything but… it’s not the item that creates the overall impact but the woman herself.

Yet, it’s OK to want to dress to match your ideals. A sexy woman can wear something sexy, and a woman who wants to feel feminine can look for that aesthetic in her choices too. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, or shamed for.

What is femininity?

Among the people who criticise the TradWife movement (mostly women, I’d like to add), a lot of them are furious that “femininity” and traditional gender roles play into it, and want to know who exactly gets to decide what constitutes either. We are not claiming to be the benchmark, but we realise that the words (and therefore) matching definitions and biological, sorry, “socially constructed”  ideals of them actually exist. Femininity and masculinity do exist in their polar forms, just as everything else in between does. We simply like to celebrate and identify with the classic definition of them. It’s not meant to offend.

We never deny a woman’s choice to place herself on the sliding scale according to her lifestyle, outlook, and aspirations. So why demonise those who want to strongly identify with the aesthetic/lifestyle too?

Feminine adjective

“having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women”.

    Ahh, there is that beautiful word again…. traditional. Nothing wrong with it. Some of us wish to follow trends, and that’s ok. Some of us prefer to be more traditional, and some look to alternatives, and that’s ok too! Now, let us look at the word…

    Modest adjective

    dressing or behaving so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, especially to avoid attracting sexual attention (typically used of a woman). “the modest women wear long-sleeved dresses and all but cover their faces”

    (of clothing) not revealing or emphasising a person’s figure.“modest dress means that hemlines must be below the knee”.

    A popular argument against “modesty culture” is that it is used to assist men who “can’t help themselves from looking”, but actually - for many women, especially Muslim women, it’s because she is precious, a treasure, and why should any man be able to look at her lustfully? Some women just don’t feel comfortable being ogled, and so modest choices are more about her feelings, not simply saving men “from their lust”. Or her husband hiding her away from the world to exude his power over her. It’s a choice a woman can make for herself, and they often do!

      Modest, feminine clothing isn’t just for strict religious types. It is a beautiful way for a woman to express her self-respect. Alena Kate Pettitt

      So where can we find clothes that can express what we feel inside? I want to feel like a woman, and be respected as one, but not be gawped at, nor make other people feel uncomfortable with my clothing choices.

      We live in an age of body-positivity which is fabulous, but honestly. I just don’t want to see some of the things people have on offer! Women and men’s bodies included. I’m not sure most people find it attractive either (correct me if I’m wrong). People who speak out about this get told it’s their problem, and sure, people can wear what they want, but I hope those people at least understand that it may make other people uncomfortable, and certain opportunities may not come their way.

      Align yourself for the life you want to lead! Clothing included.

      modest-style-fashion-blogger.jpgDress by @joules

      The feminine housewife uniform

      Over the past couple of years, I have been thinking deeply about what clothes make me feel most feminine while I’m cleaning and washing socks (not even joking), and I have been curating a wardrobe of options that help to make me look instantly pulled together but doesn’t require a thousand hours to get ready. I’ve noticed too that when I dress a certain way, I get treated better! Doors are opened (literally and figuratively), and I carry myself better.

      Steve Jobs, and many productivity and minimalism enthusiasts have espoused the same idea - have a uniform! It puts you in business mode. Just because we don’t work outside the home, doesn’t mean a uniform shouldn’t apply to our profession. In fact, it simplifies things greatly as well as demonstrates our position in life. It’s one that should command respect in a different way - thankfully the power suit can step aside.

      I have figured out the perfect formula for a uniform that helps me conduct my work as a housewife.

      It’s as simple as a seasonally appropriate Dress + Cardigan + Pretty Flats. On the rare occasion I don’t wish to wear a dress, swap it out for some pretty capri trousers, and a light sweater and pair with pretty flat shoes!

      Dress + Cardigan +Pretty Flats = The perfect formula for feminine everyday dressing. The Darling Academy

      Feminine wardrobe colour palette

      The very first thing I advise you to understand is what colour palette suits you best, and this will then apply it heavily to your uniform choices. It honestly helps with decision fatigue when shopping either online or in-store, and it can help you to hone in on items that are likely to flatter your colouring. Plus, everything in your wardrobe will likely match. Contrary to popular belief, not all feminine women look good in pastel pink! However, there will be a shade of pink that suits you. Some housewives will also look fantastic in black. It’s all down to the individual here.

      I am a “Warm Spring” which is why you’ll often see me in warm, spring colours (yes, I know - obvious right). It has nothing to do with thinking a housewife should wear these colours, and entirely based on what suits me. Honour yourself in the same way. Your feminine style, and wardrobe choices will only feel right when they are thoughtfully chosen.

      A woman looks her best, and most feminine when her clothing compliments her personality and natural beauty, rather than drowns it in a current trend.

      I recommend you find a local Colour Consultant via House of Colour, or a similar organisation. Yes, it is a bit of an investment initially (or an idea for a nice gift experience to ask for), however, I promise it will save you even more money in the long run, as you will no longer buy items that you find you don’t wear because they don’t look or feel right somehow.

      Alternatively, “Dream Wardrobe” is a good resourceful website with an ebook to help you figure out your palette in a budget-friendly way from the comfort of your own home.

      spring-colour-palette-wardrobe.jpgmy dresses in a spring palette

      Don’t forget your Apron!

      You know I’m a sucker for an apron, (hello ApronCladArmy), but they are for so much more than just aesthetics. They’re actually really, really practical! For some, they are a mindset too - like a cape, that’s just on backwards.

      I have a collection of about 8. In different styles, colours, and weights. Some heavier cotton drill ones I wear for cleaning, and lighter cotton ones for baking.

      An apron will save your clothes from flour, cooking fat, splatter, dust, soil, cleaning solutions, and many sticky toddler fingers! Some of my favourite places to buy Aprons in pretty colours are Cath Kidston and Sophie Allport.

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      How to find feminine and modest dress styles anywhere

      Women’s clothes used to have a prettiness that stood out for miles as “for women”, yet you can walk into any shop today and find a sea of grey, black, stretchy stuff that makes you question if you’re in the right place.

      I understand this is frustrating, and shopping for our feminine wardrobe is a lot harder than it was half a century ago, and so we must learn to first understand what we are looking for, and then go hunting for it among the offerings. Seeing as this blog is read by women then world over, it would be remiss of me to try and give you a definite list of places to shop. Instead I’d like to give you the tools to identify items within any shop…

      It’s a good idea to have a check-list of things that make the grade for your feminine wardrobe when you go shopping.

      These are some classically feminine dress shapes, fabrics, and construction styles to look for. It might sound obvious, but being strict about these pointers will really help you define what “makes the grade”, and what won’t. Remember to look for;

      • Fit-n-Flare dress shapes, that define the waist and skim the hips are universally flattering, the “hourglass” is the defining feature of a female body and this dress shape helps to play up to it. Happily, there are only two (as opposed to three) places you need to consider the fit (breasts, and waist). They are incredibly easy to move in (provided they aren’t fitted too tight), and are as good for cooking and cleaning, as well as snuggling on the sofa for story-time with little ones.
      • Dresses and skirts should be no shorter than knee length. The amount of bending we need to do to perform housework and childcare tasks make this a modest option.
      • Cycling or skimming shorts (some people call them chub-rub shorts which really tickles me),  worn under dresses, are great for making you comfortable if you’re a little curvy, and stop any unplanned “Marilyn moments” on their tracks on windy days.
      • Do consider if maxi length is practical for your lifestyle - if they trail on the floor it’ll damage the hem in time, and could pick up dirt and mud and track it into your house.
      • Sleeved styles are most transitional for the seasons (strappy dresses can only usually be worn in high-summer/hot climates). Flutter, cap, short, and three quarter sleeve lengths are all wonderful. If you do like to have strappy dresses in your wardrobe, make sure they are thick enough to cover a bra strap.
      • No cut-outs, splits, and deep necklines. For modesty and comfort. Having to pull at and adjust a dress all day just isn’t fun.
      • Keep the bust under wraps. Feminine dresses flatter rather than flaunt.
      • Sheath dresses (think 60’s shifts) are well suited to the uniform too, just make sure it’s not too tight. Ease of movement is key.
      • Consider the closures. Can you do it up (and take it off) easily yourself? If not, it’s not practical. How quickly can you whip it off if it gets covered in baby spit? Getting stuck in it with no help at hand to undo buttons or lacing is to be avoided.
      • Can it be thrown in the wash? I’m quite sure, like me, you don’t have a huge budget for dry-cleaning. This is the BLESSING with modern clothing - they are mostly easy-care.
      • Know which fabrics you like the feel of - and which make you sweat. A dress can be pretty, but if it won’t wick away that “glow”, then it won’t make you feel clean, or fabulous.
      • 100% cotton and linen are your best friends! They wash well, and will give you the most mileage.
      • If you find a style you like, consider investing in another colour, or even buying a backup!
      • Lastly, try it on! Perform random body movements in the changing room to see if it exposes you anywhere you don’t want to be, and make sure you’re comfortable. Clothes aren’t meant to control us, they are an extension of us, but not the master. That goes for fit, as well as trend.

      One of my favourite things to do to help me “refine” my shopping thought processes, and give me pointers on what to look for, and how to pair items is to peruse websites and the blogs that cater for Apostolic/Pentecostal women.

      Before you freak out and say “but I’m not religious”, that’s fine! We’re not even thinking about that - we are simply analysing how they translate modest dressing and make it really girly and attractive still!

      No one wants to look like a Nun, even the most spiritual of ladies. We still have husbands and boyfriends (or even potential suitors) we want to find us attractive. Just in a respectful way. We want to be beautiful, but set-apart.

      Great shops to look at for this kind of inspiration are Inherit Co., Aeterie, Simple Retro, and JanieLanie Boutique (use code Darling15 for 15% off).

      feminine-dress-shop.jpgDress by @aeterie

      My favourite clothing stores for Feminine Dresses

      I know you’re probably curious as to where I turn to for feminine clothing myself, here are the first places I look…

      Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley (especially vintage on eBay), Hobbs, Crew Clothing, Joules, Seasalt, Boden, Marks and Spencer…

      ..and the influencers who inspire me are Julia Berozlheimer, Rosie (especially now she’s a Mother), Ashley Brooke, Sarah Tucker, and Sarah Patrick. My lifestyle is nothing like theirs, and neither is my budget, but that’s the best thing about inspiration. You can take from it what you like and translate it into your own life. Even if most days are spent at the sink, batch cooking, or baking cookies, that comfortable dress and apron will make you feel cute while you do it!

      As always, shop the sales but intend on buying the highest quality fabrics you can. Housewives, as much as they like to be feminine, are still frugal, not flashy, and certainly not distracted with unnecessary fripperies.

      I hope these tips have been helpful to you. If there is one thing to take away, I’d like you to realise that dressing up to your femininity needn’t have been left behind in your “girlish” years, and there is real freedom in expressing outwardly what you feel inside.

      Further reading from The Darling Academy

      Wearing only dresses: choosing a feminine wardrobe
      How to embrace femininity and wear only dresses

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      A note to our Gentlemen readers

      I know we have a lovely growing readership of single men who are looking for traditionally minded, feminine women. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you might have taken a few pointers. Often, a traditionally minded lady will play up to her femininity in the way she dresses, and will have a conservative flair in her style. It may be a way to identify a potential date, or it may not. Consider how you’d like your future wife to dress, and approach those who align with it, and remember to dress nicely yourself! We often attract likeminded partners, and that is reflected in how we dress, as well as our social activities. Be the man your dream girl would want to date.

      If you like our values here at The Darling Academy and found this post useful or inspiring, would you kindly consider supporting the blog.

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