Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Modesty in my day

Juanita Agan-1I have written about changes in kitchen appliances and other changes in the last sixty-five to seventy years. Just as radical were the rules and the way ladies must conduct themselves to maintain a spotless reputation. You can realize how lenient the rules are today.

First of all, no lady ever wore a sleeveless dress or blouse. There must be a sleeve at least down to the elbow. OF course, no lady wore a dress too tight or cut too low in the front of the neck.

Hemlines varied. During the twenties the short dress appeared with the "flapper" look. That was the era of the "Clara Bow" look, especially in the movies.

Girls and young ladies had a curfew each night. At 23, my curfew was ten at night. Now if we went to an out-of-town ballgame such as Vivian or Mansfield I was allowed to be later than ten. And my date was my fiance, later my husband.

Also, a girl could not ride in a car with more than one boy, two boys and one girl was a "no-no". This was my mother's decree and I assumed other girls had to live by that, too.

When your date came for you, he should park his car, and come to the door to escort you back to the car. The same at night, he escorted you back to your door and saw you safely in.

Men and women could not board and room at the same establishment unless there was a lady in residence, such as the owner of the boarding house or a resident '"House Mother" which was in reality a "Chaperone."
If your dress was dimity, organdy or voile it required a slip with a shadow panel in it. If a light placed your body in silhouette you must not be able to see the outline of your legs. A lady never crossed her legs, only her ankles.

When my house caught fire and partially burned, I rode in the truck to Shreveport with the contractor to pick out the new floor covering. My mother had a "conniption fit" because it was just the two of us in the truck.
He had no idea she was furious with me for disgracing this family. I never gave it a second thought because he was a gentleman and I sure was a lady.

Mr. Lynn said no lady would wear sequins on clothes; beading, but no sequins. I had bought a pretty black dress (at Goldring's) with a row of sequins about three inches wide at the waist. I sat down and carefully removed every one of them after someone told me his words.

No lady ever appeared in public without hose. During the war there were no hose, and we saved the few old pair for church even if they had runners.

Finally someone came up with the idea of painting legs with deep tan pancake makeup. You appeared to be wearing hose, unless you perspired (sweated) and it ran down your legs like runners.

Elsie Hock remembered that a girl in high school (1929-1933) appeared in ankle socks and was sent home to put on hose, because that was a "no-no."

That had changed by the time I reached high school (1935-1939) because I never wore hose to school or to business college but I had to wear them when I worked at West Bros.

It was required. I learned to take colorless nail polish and daub a little to stop a run. It worked. We sewed up runners and continued to wear the repaired stockings.

A man was not supposed to buy personal clothing such as wearing apparel or underwear or nightwear for a lady, things like perfume and such only was permissible.

Even today I would be reluctant to go to visit a man alone with no one else in his house at night.

I think nothing of my classmates and close friends coming to my home, but I would not go alone at night to a man's home. Lots do, and nothing goes wrong, but I feel like Mama would turn over in her grave if I did.
In my youth girls did not discuss pregnancy in mixed company, or we just said they were "in the family way" and looked out into space and did not meet anybody's eyes.

No girl would ever mention cramps, nor give any indication what was the matter. That was surely a "no-no". My mother dismissed my monthly agony with the statement that every girl had that problem, and just wear an extra pretty dress, a little extra rouge and lipstick, and a pleasant smile. My mother said to do that and I did.

Of course no bodily function was ever discussed in mixed company - bathroom functions were a secret and you must just suffer the need to visit one until you could get away - no mention of what was wrong.
These are just a few of the extreme rules girls lived by in the thirties and even the forties. Before that it was even worse.

President Carter called this the "Age of Innocence" but it was more the "Age of Ignorance" and if we were not either innocent or ignorant we sure didn't let our Mothers know.

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years before her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing selected articles from Mrs. Agan's Cameos column every Wednesday.­­






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