Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Remember When . . . Bathrobes Were All the Rage?

This is going to be my last blog of the week, since tomorrow morning I'll be winging my way to Denver for the ACFW conference--woo hoo!!

We'll credit Stephanie for this entry, since she asked "What's a stola?" last week. Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie! We're going to travel back 2,000 years and take a look at fashion today.

It's kind of funny, because we've all done those low (or NO) budget plays in church, right? Where we want to look biblical, so we don an old bathrobe, throw a towel over our head, and voila! If we want to be really authentic, maybe we'll get a long length of cloth to drape over our shoulders or something, right?

It's an image that's hard to shake, so I had to do some research when working on Stray Drop. I mean, some things I know about the time makes me think, "Okay, maybe it's not so far off, especially for women. They were second-class citizens at the time, so maybe they did wear formless, bland stuff." But . . . no. I mean, come on. When in history have women ever been happy to let their figures go totally unnoticed??

Women's fashions started out much like the men's, in that they wore a tunic--long, robe-like thing, two seams up the sides, neck hole. Men would then cover it with a toga (if Roman) or (if Hebrew) a cloak or mantle. This isn't the cape/coat type of cloak so much as an over-jacket, decorated and adorned. The toga, of course, is a whole lot of cloth draped and tucked into the classic lines we all recognize.

But to jump back to women. Even back then, they were all about emphasizing assets. Tunics were belted, knotted, draped to show off curves. (The picture is actually of an Egyptian priestess, but Israelites often borrowed styles from their larger neighbor.)

Roman women often even fancied up the tunic, opting for the Greek-style chiton, which has the fastened sleeves we often call "Roman fashion" when we do it today. Roman women were entitled to wear a stola when they got married, but not all did--it wasn't particularly stylish or practical. The belted or draped their clothing to make it figure-flattering.

For variety (since the stola was probably undyed wool), they went super-fancy in hair, headdresses, and jewelry. Hebrew women, on the other hand, usually tied their hair back with a piece of cloth, and would cover their heads for protection from the sun.

Now, if you think makeup is a modern invention, you're waaaaaay off. Women back then would pain their faces too. It's obvious from Egyptian paintings that they especially favored eye makeup, and as already stated, neighboring countries loved to borrow their colorful style.

I think what it comes down to is a pretty unchanging human nature--and female nature, lol. We like to look good. Maybe it's part of the curse from the Garden: that we will we desire our husbands and work to please them. Maybe that's why women throughout history have spent hours figuring out how to make their clothes flattering, their makeup attractive, their hair so pretty.

Now don't think I'm above it just because I point that out! I tell my hubby all the time, "I'm vain. I can't help it. If I'm going out in public, you better bet I want to look good." Hence why I spent hours picking out the perfect outfits for conference, got the perfect haircut, just sifted through my makeup bag yesterday to make sure I had all that I needed without taking too much. I know, I know, appearances aren't the most important thing. But at the same time, that's what makes a first impression, and I believe in making the best of what the good Lord gave me. You'll never find me spending money I don't have on it (I'm notorious in my family for being the one who goes shopping and puts everything back, saying, "I really don't need that. I don't want to spend the money on it."), but I choose carefully, making sure what I do buy or wear flatters me.

Nice to know we've been doing that since of the dawn of time, eh?

Now . . . see some of you in Denver! Can't wait!!


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