I'm finding myself being hit once again with the "skirt issue." Real Learning and a wonderful post at Sweetness and Light have brought up many good points.
I'm hard-pressed to say where I stand on this issue, actually. I first encountered it when my oldest was only 3. As a stay-at-home Mom, I spent my days in sweats, shorts, and jeans -- typical no-nonsense work clothes. After all, I was taking care of little ones, dealing with cleaning the house, and there was no need to be overly concerned with what I wore.
Then I read a quote from Guiseppe Cardinal Siri (Genoa) from the 1960's:
All children have an instinct for the sense of dignity and decorum of their mother... Children are as sensitive as can be on this point. Adults have usually left all that behind them and think no more on it. But we would do well to recall to mind the severe demands that children instinctively make of their own mother, and the deep and even terrible reactions roused in them by observation of their mother's misbehavior. Many lines of later life are here traced out -- and not for good -- in these early inner dramas of infancy and childhood.
I basically read this with a "yeah, right" sort of attitude, but it made me decide to conduct a little "experiment". So, the next morning, I called in Sean, then 3 years old. I opened up my closet and said, "Mommy needs help. I don't know what to wear today. Could you pick out something for me?"
He immediately chose a dress.
Thinking he just thought it was pretty, I thanked him, put it on, and said nothing else.
The next day I tried him again. Again, he picked out a dress. And the next day, and the next day, and the one after that.
I finally asked him why he kept picking dresses for me to wear. He looked up at me and said, "Mommy, you just look so beautiful in them!"
I thought that was sweet and, more to humor him than anything else, I kept wearing them.
Then my dh started making comments. Now, bear in mind that this man had never said anything about dresses or skirts before, so I figured he didn't have an opinion on the subject. Wrong. He told me that when I was wearing a skirt or dress when he came home from work, he really felt like he was coming home. When I was wearing pants, he felt like he was being greeted by a co-worker when he got home.
That floored me!
That was nothing compared to the reaction I got from the "outside world." Men started opening more doors for me, tipping their hats or bowing their heads, and the kicker... the real kicker... was the day a decently dressed older gentleman (think typical golfing attire: long walking shorts, golf shirt, etc) actually APOLOGIZED for being "inappropriately dressed in the presence of a lady."
I know my jaw hit the floor on that one.
After that, I came across a phenomenal book called A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit and that just about clinched it for me. I found that it spoke to me on so many different levels -- not just wearing skirts, but the whole modesty issue, and why I could rejoice in being a woman, being feminine, and not have to conform to what society thought.
So, for several years, I went pretty much the skirt/dress route. Not in a "militant" sort of way, but just for comfort, for style, and for the fact that my family seemed to protest if I didn't!
Then, I found myself feeling awfully frumpy at times... and, over the course of a year, started wearing capris again (occasionally).
Here's the thing. I don't think anyone's jeopardizing their immortal soul over a pair of pants. I allow my girls to wear (long) shorts because I think it works well for them as they play outside. I like the freedom that capris offer.
However, I am accutely aware of the fact that it makes me feel... "exposed," for lack of a better word. I feel a certain sense of shame... or that I should apologize... if I wear pants. Not that I'm committing some great sin, mind you, but simply that I "settled" for the ho-hum rather than taking the time to put my best self forward. I find myself scurrying to put on a skirt if I'm going out anywhere (even to WalMart). I feel like I am making a statement that I am proud of my femininity when I chose to wear a dress.
Just recently I spilled bleach on a much used nursing dress that I made. I told the kids in a matter of fact way that I was going to have to get rid of it since it was ruined... and my children's faces FELL! I was greeted with "oh no!" and "please don't throw that one away, Mommy! It's my faworite!" and the comment from Christopher: "but Mommy, that's what Mommy's are supposed to wear."
So, what's a Mom to do?