A Skirted Journey

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I love dresses! As my friends can attest, I wear skirts or dresses most of the time. In fact, I often get passively irked by friends who make shocked faces and comment loudly, “Maria, you’re wearing jeans today!” (Disclaimer: I do wear jeans often enough on film sets or hikes or camping trips—its more practical—and I wear shorts every time I play sports.)

Maybe I think skirts are more feminine or more modest—I do—but I mainly wear skirts because I love them. I like the way they feel, the way they look, their classiness. Somehow skirts make me feel so much more womanly. I can spin and dance gorgeously in them, I can look fluid and graceful. (I also feel very adventurous and beautiful climbing a rock wall and leaping nimbly off the other end in a dress that flows along with me!) Looking back on how skirts became an almost daily part of my life makes me laugh, too, because it was in a rather unexpected way.

My sisters and I always wore dresses to Sunday Mass (except for the Sunday before Lent when we were going to our parish’s Mardi Gras festival right afterwards). They were usually the long, rather straight cotton or velvet or chiffon dresses typical of the nineties and early two thousands. Our all-time favorite dresses were the Christmas and Easter ones; they had gorgeous material and beautifully spinnable skirts that poofed out like an Alice in Wonderland outfit when we sat down. Other than that though, we usually wore knit pants or jeans or shorts. That is, until when I was around nine or ten years old.

From the time we were three or four, my sisters and I also loved dressing up. Our dress-up bin overflowed with dresses my great-grandma sewed for my mom and aunts when they were little. It also overflowed with cowboy items, Native American-esque costumes, tea party wardrobe, and anything that could remotely pass as immigrant or pioneer or colonial related. Those were our favorite make believe games. We were infatuated with Daniel Boone, our immigrant ancestors, and the Oregon Trail. As time went on, we also added medieval castles and ancient Roman Christians to the list. I was the girl who would proudly parade around in a makeshift medieval dress with a stick sword stuck in my sash or a pioneer dress and apron with a stick gun over my shoulder, regardless of what the neighbors thought. I also played colonial Hispanic housekeeper to my younger brother who played a settler priest—Padre Juan Pablo and Señorita Maria. But it was Laura Ingalls that blew away all competition. We loved her dresses, pinafores, and bonnets.

Thus, we started begging our mom to take us to the thrift store to find “nice dresses.” Our standards were high—no jean skirts, no straight skirts, no ankle length skirts particularly if they were straight and narrow. What was the use of a skirt if you couldn’t twirl, run around, or play tag in it? Our family rule was that whatever we got had to cover our kneecap, sitting or standing. We also had to learn to sit and act in ways appropriate to skirts.

We loved it! Gradually we got more and more dresses. At that time we mainly looked for dresses. They were just so much easier than trying to find a skirt and shirt outfit, plus you didn’t have to worry about your shirt flying up because it wasn’t attached to the skirt. By the time I was fifteen though, it was very difficult to find dresses according to our action-oriented standards. Thus, we started getting more and more skirts. Now, I have mainly skirts and am just starting to get back into buying more dresses as I find more affordable and cute stores that fit my guidelines.

By the time I was eighteen, wanting to wear skirts and dresses was so familiar that it became a family rule. At home, the females in my family rarely—outside of sports and outdoor activities—wear pants in public. Certainly an opposite idea from where we started. For myself, I have always believed that certain outfits—pants or skirts—suit certain activities or jobs better. For instance, working on a film set I will often wear jeans and I never wear a skirt that is longer than at the knees; otherwise would be a hazard on the job. Going to church I wear a skirt or dress as a matter of course, especially because it is usually less distracting than pants and is also more classy and elegant. Playing sports or working out, it would be ridiculous to wear a skirt, so I dress accordingly. It all depends on what I am doing and where I am going.

As I have grown older, my taste in skirts-and-dress style has also been refined as I discovered the various periods of clothing. My favorite will always be the classy vintage styles of the ’30’s, ’40’s, and ’50’s. I also love anything that has an elvish or ancient Greek or fairy or medieval twist to it. And then of course there is the modern classy look that I am always trying to perfect. But lest I digress into my fashion history…my favorite skirt-and-dress lengths are at the knee or all the way to the ground (half way between is an awkward length for a petite gal). I love to try all different styles as long as they correspond to my modesty principle of at the knee and my personal principle of being able to move adequately in my outfit. (I have always been a fan of wardrobe that requires the least amount of attention on the job no matter the effort it takes to get ready beforehand.)

In the end, the tale being told of my journey from ten-year-old me to now, I honestly have Laura Ingalls to thank for starting me on an amazing journey into the world of skirts and dresses!

(Photo: me in highschool in a medieval dress I designed and sewed)

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