Sunday, January 15, 2017

Modesty for the Active Woman: Farm Work / Gardening, Part 1


Hey y'all,

This is the first part of the first installment of my Modesty for the Active Woman series. Any suggestion by me is purely from my personal experience, which is fallible.  

One of my greatest dreams as a child was to work on a farm. At the time, I had not embraced modesty, I had no worries about my feminine dignity. There was no question of what kind of clothes I would wear.

All that changed after the age of 16, when I was introduced to the concept of modesty via the example of Catholic women at my parish and more specifically by Colleen Hammond and Rita Davidson's works. Suddenly what clothes I wore and how I wore them became VERY important.

That being said, the idea of a farm life still drew me. However, farming can be a very laborious line of work, requiring lots of movement. I knew from research that women before the 20th century and Amish women could retain a good example of modesty and still operate small machines and do various kinds of manual labor. I thought, what more proof do I need?

That being said, some members of my family looked upon askance at the idea. They were mostly concerned about my safety, that a skirt would impede my movement to the point of danger. (Valid point as that may be, there are ways to work around it.)

So I started experimenting with upcycling jeans and styles of skirts. By this time, I had a part-time job as a groundskeeper. This job, and later a farm internship, proved to be a great testing ground for do's, don'ts and iffies when dressing modestly for farm work.

The Don'ts:
  • Make/Buy tight skirts for outdoor work!!!! 
You need to move and move without restriction in a farm setting. Honestly, the wider the skirt, the better off you will be. How can you tell if a skirt is too tight in this case? Run as fast as you can for a short distance. I'm serious!!! If the skirt is going to impede you at all, it will be when you are trying to outrun an animal. Another way to test this is to climb in it. If you can climb into a high truck or wagon without lifting the skirt to your knees (or worse, thighs), you should be good. If you want a specific skirt circumference to aim for, go for wider than 80" if possible.
  • Have the skirts go longer than ankle. 
Again, mobility issue. Also, your skirt remains cleaner longer if it is not dragging in the farm muck.  Ideally, I would have the skirt around mid-calf, maybe a little longer.

The Iffies: 
  • Petticoats....
I have never worn a petticoat with a work skirt, unless it is a short wool one to keep warm in winter. Personally, I think it may be more of a hassle (one more article to get dirty, etc.) but I won't stop people from wearing them otherwise.
  •  Have some way to get out of the skirt in a hurry....
This is a really iffy personal rule, but it wouldn't hurt to mention it. I mentioned earlier that I had some family members raise some safety concerns. One of their biggest ones was the fear of my skirt being caught in some piece of machinery and me going with it. I honestly don't think that will ever happen. Anyone with common sense would use some safety precautions when operating machinery. I'd rather let the men handle the machinery anyway, I'm scared of breaking something. That being said, I tend to stick to skirts that are button or snap downs to give them peace of mind. (Disclaimer: I have lost multiple (especially bottom) buttons and I have had trouble with poor quality snaps opening during work. I may eventually ditch this 'rule' should more experience prove this to be the case.)

 Do's:
  • Durable fabric, such as denim, heavy broadcloth, etc. 
Can't stress this enough. Any outdoor clothing really needs to stand up to branches, brambles, thorns, fence, and other snaggy things. Otherwise you'll be making/buying new work clothes every few months.
  • Wear thick leggings/jeans underneath your skirts. 
Now I know what you all are thinking: what heresy is she spouting???

Trust me, there is a couple of very good reasons why I say this.

First things first, wearing jeans will protect your legs from being scratched up and filth, as well as limit creepy-crawlies. Stockings do not do anything to protect your legs. One day during my internship, my jeans were in the laundry, so I was stuck with wearing thin black stockings or nothing. Turns out that day, one of the draft horses lost a shoe. Let me tell you, weeds up to your knees will stick up under your skirt...and scratch you...and leave holes...and leave you itching the entire day. My legs were filthy by the end of the day and I was pulling seed pods out of those stockings for a solid week.

Jeans on the other hand, give a thick layer between you and Mother Nature's barbs. Filth will stay on the outside. There is one disadvantage of jeans-under-skirts that I discovered fairly recently. In the heat of summer, these two layers of denim are extremely warm. Sweating can be a problem, as air flow under the skirt may not be felt as easily. I'm still stymied on how to solve this particular problem. After I noticed that stockings by themselves didn't work, I tried pairing them with long socks, but even that idea has been met with very limited success. Right now, I'm offering the discomfort of wearing jeans in summer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory until I can find a better solution.

Second, should (heaven forbid) you get parted with your skirt in an accident, your dignity is still somewhat intact, as no skin will be showing.

Now some people think that wearing jeans/pants under skirts is just plain weird. I personally don't think so. I wear sweatpants under my skirts all the time, especially when I don't feel well or it's really cold outside. I also have never lost the habit of wearing at least a pair of shorts underneath my skirts. I just feel more comfortable that way.

In the second part of this installment, I'll go through some styles of modest skirts that I use for farmwork/heavy gardening.

Old-fashionedly yours,

Farm Lassie 

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