Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Pursuit of a Modest Wardrobe for a Young Lady

Happily joining Elizabeth for Thursday's needle and thREAD.

I decided I really need to start sewing for my 14yo daughter; to create a modest wardrobe for a young lady.  I'm hoping to feature versatile pieces and share patterns that work as I move along this path.  We began with a pretty summer skirt, from Simplicity 2215. But let me tell you the story of how this came about.

As a Catholic family, we try to be aware of how we dress - paying attention to the concept of modesty (1 Timothy 2: 9-10. We are not extremists in the area of modest dressing, however.  To some, modesty means no skin showing at all, but we are not there.  To some, modesty means girls wear shirts with floor-length skirts but never pants or jeans because of the 5th verse in Deuteronomy 22.  We are not there either.  I've had long discussions with family members who think short skirts are very sweet and pretty and harmless; yet our requirements are that my daughters' skirts must be at the knee - that's darn hard to find when your 14yr old is really tall!  Trying to find an appropriate Easter dress this year was an awful experience for her and for me.  Everything she liked or tried on ... I had to say no.  It was either way too short or too tight or too open at the chest.  We were shopping with family who could not understand. As the day wore on, my daughter and I were fighting back tears - she getting more and more frustrated and disappointed; me getting more angry that all the options were so trashy.  Why do people think this stuff is nice? Anyway, it was then that I made the decision I needed to get sewing for this girl!!

Modesty should be valued for many reasons, but I think mostly because it is respectful to the Lord, glorifying Him and not yourself.  In what outfit would you greet Him? Oh sure, it doesn't matter what you wear, God loves you as you are and all that. But wouldn't you want to give God your best?  In what outfit would you greet him?  

Modest dressing is respectful to our own bodies, which are 'temples of the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).  Our bodies are private and personal.

Earlier in my parenting it didn't really matter to me.  I adored the spaghetti strap sundresses for little girls. But its a slippery slope, because once you start its hard to backtrack and explain why those dresses are no longer permissible in your eyes. You don't think your little girl will grow up, but then it happens and the clothing she may have been accustomed to wearing is no longer really appropriate. Better to start with a policy from day 1.

So over the years we have come up with a few guidelines for my daughters and I.  Not to negate that boys need to be modest too - all God's people do - but it seems more of an issue with girls.
  • little girls, PLEASE keep your clothes ON! Why do little girls love to run around in their undies?
  • no spaghetti straps, not even for the little girls; lasagne strap OK pending the neckline :) 
  • skirt hemlines at the knee or longer 
  • no cleavage (well, none of us really have any but ... you know ... if there were cleavage we couldn't show it)
  • no tops/bottoms so tight you cannot breath (I admit to owning a pair of skinny jeans but I don't need a pair of pliers to get them on and my bottom is covered with a shirt - but you *could* call me on the skinny jeans)
  • no short shorts
  • no bikinis
  • no belly buttons or midriff skin
  • if you bend over I shouldn't be able to see down your shirt; if I can you need to wear a scarf to cover up or change shirts (the "scoopy neck" t-shirts are really bad for this).
  • and in church, all the above, plus: no shoulders visible, and normally no jeans permitted
Again, these are just our personal guidelines.
Now let's talk about the skirt.  It is SO sweet, pretty and feminine!

The skirt is made in a lightweight cotton, perfect for summer. You can wear it with a casual white T-shirt, or you can dress it up with something more blousy.  I have more of the dot fabric and we are going to try a matching blouse.

Pleats are easy to do - just fold the fabric back on itself based on pattern markings, then pin and sew.

Can you see the topstitching? Its a good 2 inches of a hemline. I really like the wide hem!

This is the pattern, Simplicity 2215. Fairly easy instructions, but it does call for using an invisible zipper, and to do that you need an "invisible" zipper foot.  I LOVE mine, and I LOVE the results.

The invisible zipper foot has a groove on the bottom so the zipper coils actually run in the groove as you sew, and your stitching lines are wonderfully close, closer than a standard zipper foot.

I saw plastic invisible zipper feet at JoAnn in Arizona ... they most likely fit your standard sewing machine.  Way cool.

Normally at this point, I would say "Now on to the READ of needle and thREAD".

Except I did not have time to read this week.  Too busy in the yard and playing with kids and sewing up all kinds of storms!  Working on a gorgeous grad dress for a friend. So reading - maybe next week?  


  1. Sweet skirt. I am just in LOVE with polka dots!

    And she looks so very happy in it!

    Never heard of a lasagne strap, although I can extrapolate. I suppose I accept a fettuccine strap here and there (for my daughter, that is), but I suppose that may change as she ages.

  2. Agreeing (for the most part) on your ideas of modesty! We don't buy bikinis for our 2 year old for the reason of having to change the "rule" later. We do have some ribbon width strap dresses (that would require a tee in a few years). The skirt is very cute and stylish and your daughter looks like a sweet young woman!

    Here is my recent project:

    1. Come to think of it, my littles have summer pillowcase dresses with wide ribbon ties at the shoulders, and they are acceptable to me, too. In fact, I'm hoping to make them a new batch for this summer!

  3. The skirt is just lovely as is your "model!" Modest clothing is hard to find... I'm totally with you on making your own, it's the only way forward.

    My littlest has one sundress with spaghetti straps but she wears a T- Shirt underneath, which gets round the problem nicely!!

    Have you read "A Girls Night Out" by Michealann Martin and co- written with her daughter Maryanna? It essentially a series of mother and daughter date nights, ie trip to a coffee house/homemade spa at home, that also incorporates topics such as modesty, virtuous friendships and Mary as our Mother and Model of Beauty.

    Hope you manage to find many more modest sewing patterns.

    Happy Sewing


    1. No, I have not read "A Girls Night Out" but would love to see a copy! Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Super cute skirt, and model! She looks so sweet in the polka dots.

  5. You lost me at the invisible zipper; however, the skirt is love-ly! I always enjoy seeing what your girls are wearing, yet not unlike today my little Lu may be leading the charge running around your house in her undies. ;-) It must be because of all the changes required during dress up??!!

  6. I found your blog via Kimberlee. Thank you for sharing this information. I have a tall daughter (5'11") and am having a hard time finding clothes for her.


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