I read this story today and it fitted so well with how wearing a skirt all week has made me feel and expresses it's message far more eloquently than I could. It is such a sweet story! I love Victorian stories as they are adorable and generally have a moral or piece of wisdom to pass on.
The Young Woman Magazine - 1894
The Moral Effect Of Pretty Gowns.
“I have chosen the adjective “pretty” rather than “elegant” , “costly” or even “tasteful”, because “pretty” is exactly what I mean. The other day at sunset I was on my way home, after hours of absence, and, with the pressure of desire to be beside my own hearth, felt little inclined to stop anywhere. But as I passed a neighbour’s, a girl I know tapped in the window, and then ran to the door, throwing it open so that the light in the hall streamed out on the shadowy street.
“Come in, dear,” cried my girl friend coaxingly; “I have something to show you.”
So in I went, and with real interest examined the lovely water-colour, framed in carved white wood and gold leaf, which Fanny’s friend, a young artist, had sent her for a birthday present. As I said, I know Fanny, who is one of my girls, and I know her John, and they both occupy a warm corner in my heart. One of these days they are to be married, and I think they will be very happy, so congenial are their tastes, and so generous are their sympathies.
What has all this to do with the moral effect of a pretty gown? More than you imagine.
Fanny’s mother died five years ago, and Fanny has been mother as well as sister to three brothers – bright, sturdy little fellows, rapidly shooting up to tall, aggressive adolescence. Fanny has had a great deal to do, far too much for one so young, if Providence had not ordained it as her duty, and some time ago she began to feel that she had no time to spend on her dress.
“It is as much as I can do,” she told me, “to slip into an old gown in the morning and stay in it all day; I haven’t time to put pretty dresses on, much less to make them, and then John never gets here before nine o’clock. When I expect him I dress on purpose.”
Meanwhile the boys were growing unmanageable. They were bright, loving fellows, but the street was growing increasingly attractive to them. Of their father, a lawyer, absorbed in his profession and a recluse in his library when at home, they saw little. It depended on Fanny to tide her brothers over the critical time when boyhood’s barque slips over the bar into the sea of manhood.
Fanny and I put our heads together and I urged upon her the trial of personal charm as a home missionary effort. I begged her to discard her old gowns. “Let your brothers see you simply but prettily dressed every day, looking bright and neat and sweet, with little touches of adornment about your costume, and observe whether the effect will be for good or not.”
The effect was at once visible in the line of a certain toning-up of the whole house. It is not for nothing that the soldier in service is required to keep his uniform and accoutrements in perfect repair and in shining cleanliness. A profound truth lies under the strict requirements of military discipline, for he who is negligent of the less will inevitably slur the greater.
Fanny’s bright simple dresses made her more careful that her table should be attractively appointed as well as generously provided with viands; it made her intolerant of dust in the parlour; it sent her on a tour of inspection to the boys’ rooms. She found, she could not explain how, that she had time enough for everything, time to go walking with her brothers, time to talk with them over school affairs and over the matches and games in which they took delight. The boys realised that they counted a good deal in their sister’s eyes, that she even thought it worthwhile to dress for them, and they were, therefore, on their best behaviour.
You can fill out the story for yourselves. Perhaps some of you are at work in Sabbath schools and working girls’ clubs and young people’s societies. Do not make the mistake of supposing that there is any merit in going into these benevolent works in a dowdy gown or an unbecoming hat. Try the effect of a pretty toilette; you will discover it to have far-reaching influence on the side of good morals.”
I love that wearing a pretty dress isn’t seen as vain and that the affect it has on both yourself and in turn the people around you is so positive. Simple, bright and feminine clothes! I have had a wardrobe clear out and sent the things that I either don't feel are modest enough or that I just don't feel feminine in to charity. I realised that I wore clothes that I didn't feel good in. Why would I do that when it is just as easy to wear sweet clothes that make me feel confident and that express who I am. It is different for me to think about what impression my clothes give to others as I would rather pretend that no one notices me! I really do have to be aware of the example I set to others and that my clothes and manner accurately show my values.
At the moment the extra attention at work has made me feel uncomfortable but really I should be using this opportunity to be a good example. Everything in me wants to be modest and not to make myself the centre of attention. I think it is just a balance of letting people come to me rather than going out and seeking the attention. I am happy to go about life in my quiet way not creating or participating in drama!