Historically, when a young woman prepared for her wedding, she was not only planning her first major social event as a hostess, she was also preparing for a new station in life. It was the culmination of her education as a woman. For years, a girl observed her mother and learned the running of a household, selection and construction of her wardrobe, management of a household staff, entertaining, social graces… in sum the art of being a lady.

 

This may seem like an outmoded idea in our modern age. I sit in my Grandmother’s living room, typing on a laptop, and considering these concepts from another age. While email and telephone, Facebook and Twitter often take the place of face to face and handwritten notes, the manners that Emily Post encouraged still do not go amiss. In fact, those traditional things learned by a young woman leading up to her wedding are still vital things for women to learn.

 

Adapting this concept to modern life isn’t very difficult at all. Rather than learning these things in preparation for marriage, a young woman should learn these things as she prepares to move out on her own, begin her career, or leave college. A woman’s life no longer hinges on marriage like it used to. To equate the steps that young women used to take in gaining independence, the junior or senior prom is something like a girls’ debut into society. It’s at that time that she really begins to socialize like an adult without the direct input and supervision of her parents. The next transition would then be when the young woman completes her training (whether it be college or a lower level job or whatever) and gets her first real, career worthy job would equate to the status change that young women would make when they got married. At that time a woman is seen as a full adult.

I can hear the cries of protest from those who believe that embracing these traditional feminine roles and talents is taking a step back in woman’s rights. I strongly disagree. I feel that the feminist movement’s major accomplishment was to give women the right to CHOOSE. If choosing to embrace this heritage and also be a successful career woman makes me somehow less in someone else’s eyes, that sounds like their problem, not mine. In my mind, it takes a strong woman to not only be successful in a career, but also learn the graces that made our Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers true ladies.

 

As a girl grew into a young woman, she would begin assembling her trousseau, often years before she was even of a marriageable age. The expectation was that the young woman would bring with her the linens and household goods she would need to set up housekeeping as well as a full wardrobe appropriate to her station in life. In more recent history, young girls assembled hope chests with similar items, though the focus moved away from wardrobe. Again, on the surface it may seem like a completely outmoded concept, yet I think that the spirit of this task is something that every woman should consider when she enters full adulthood. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard young women panic over needing a full new wardrobe when beginning a new job because the clothes they wore during college aren’t appropriate for a business setting. In reality, this shouldn’t be something that ever takes a young woman by surprise. Rather than a trousseau being focused toward marriage preparation, it should be focused towards the transition from education to career. That’s why I’ve chosen to assemble my own trousseau for whatever comes my way in the near future.

 

I’d like to re-define the term trousseau for the 21st century. After the recent (and ongoing) financial crisis, doesn’t it make sense for young women to prepare themselves for life by using their skills to build a wardrobe that will work for them in their chosen career? I am talented in both sewing and bargain hunting, and so in the process of creating my trousseau I’m going to celebrate those talents. I like to think of this trousseau as a coming of age present to myself. And what an amazing gift: to spend a year and a half doing something I love to better prepare myself for the future.

 

The selection of an appropriate wardrobe is an important part of growing up. Once upon a time, young women either purchased their trousseau or displayed the accumulated skill with sewing to create their wardrobe. I’ve been sewing since I was about 5 years old, and so for me, the challenge of creating an entire wardrobe for myself is an exciting prospect. I invite you along with me on this journey as I create a whole new wardrobe and try to be a more graceful and lady-like woman.

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