I once had a depressing wardrobe. I would open my drawers with dread, hoping to find something that would magically make me look like the woman I wanted to be. But I would rather have spent my time and small clothing budget on clothes for my kids, even if they didn’t need them, because it was much easier to find things that fit them well. I thought I was a lost cause and even trying to look put together and, dare I say, stylish, was an exercise in futility.
I have happily changed my attitude about neglecting my appearance and something that helped the process was re-reading Little Town on the Prairie (The seventh book in the Laura Years Series). The Little House Books are somewhat Biblical to me; I have learned much about life and love from these books. I love how Ma and Pa Ingalls work hard together, they overcome obstacles, they choose to accept the hardships of life with joy and love for one another and their girls.
In this particular book, Mary has lost her sight and she and her family are working hard to save enough money to send her to a college for the blind. When the time finally comes to prepare for Mary’s departure, Laura and Ma work nearly day and night making Mary’s dresses, petticoats, and underclothes. They buy luxurious materials and knit lace trimmings and work diligently so that every stitch, every seam, and every part of the fit is perfect.
They were unwilling to let Mary go out into the world without looking her very best. They intended not to feed her vanity but to confirm her confidence. They respected the valued her and this was just one way to show that.
The description of the look, the feel, and the fit of her clothes is inspiring even now, long after the fashions have changed and the characters of the story are long since dead:
“They all stood back to admire. The gored skirt of brown cashmere was smooth and rather tight in front, but gathered full around the sides and back, so that it would be ample for hoops. In front it touched the floor evenly, in back it swept into a graceful short train that swished when Mary turned. All around the bottom was a pleated flounce… Mary’s waist rose slim in the tight, smooth bodice. The neat little buttons ran up to the soft white lace cascading under Mary’s chin. The brown cashmere was smooth as paint over her sloping shoulders and down to her elbows; then the sleeves widened… Mary was beautiful in that beautiful dress….”
“For once Ma did not guard against vanity… ‘You are not only as stylish as can be, you are beautiful. No matter where you go, you will be a pleasure to every eye that sees you. And, I am thankful to say, you may be sure your clothes are equal to any occasion.'” (Little Town On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
The description of the dresses and the underclothes goes on for pages, and the hard work and sacrifice that went into making them is described in detail. Yet, it was important and necessary that Mary be able to look her very best. To wear the style of the day in total confidence even when she herself was blind.
Reading this passage helped me to wake up to the fact that I had allowed myself to neglect my looks. I was not caring for myself and not respecting my own beauty. I felt like I was not very good at shopping for my clothes, not good at finding things that complimented me, that looked stylish, or that were well priced. So instead of trying, instead of learning, instead of working at it, instead of putting the effort into it that it needed, I told myself that was vanity and unnecessary and I gave up on it. I allowed the way I dressed and prepared myself to reflect an attitude of listless indifference to myself and that kind of mindset about yourself carries into all that you do.
I think self neglect is an easy thing to do, especially for Mamas. We care for so many other things, our children, our homes, diets and schedules and budgets. and pets and on it goes. It becomes almost second nature to push our own needs aside. We can easily neglect our own bodies and begin to think of ourselves only as vessels that quench the needs of those we love. In our passion to selflessly give and give we run ourselves ragged and feel drab and lifeless in our souls. We need the sunlight and feeling beautiful is something that I think nourishes every woman’s soul and is, therefore, worth the effort.
I decided that I would no longer neglect my wardrobe, I would place value in the way I dressed and find clothes that fit well and flattered my appearance. I started shopping for myself on a regular basis. Not to say that I always bought what I found, but I started at looking, trying on, understanding what to look for and where to look for it. I started following fashion blogs that I liked, and created a Pinterest board for fashion. In short, I put the kind of effort into my appearance that it deserves
I hope to live so that whatever I do, I do well. I’ve heard it said that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Learning to care for my appearance is just another thing in life that I want to do well. I want the way I dress and look to say I value myself, I respect myself, and think it’s important to care for myself. I feel just the same for my children, my husband, our pets, and our home. All of these wonderful things are under the umbrella of my care, and I want to care for them well and with passion and love. I hope you will do the same!