Why Southern Women Buy Easter Dresses

Let's talk dotted Swiss, church hats, and patent leather Mary Janes.

Remember when we all got new Easter dresses for the Sunday service? (It's among the Easter traditions we should bring back, along with hats and gloves. And shoes. Let's never forget new Easter shoes.)

The practice of buying new Easter clothes has deep roots, reaching all the way across the pond. There are references to it in English literature—including Romeo & Juliet. According to North Carolina's WFMY News 2, some people have long believed that wearing new clothes on Easter brings good luck: "It's like eating collard greens and black-eyed peas at New Year's."

easter dress girl
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Some sources cite the spring season of renewal as a reason we shop for something new at Easter time. Then again, maybe we just like to present our very best selves on this special day of remembrance and celebration in the church.

We asked our Facebook followers if they had memories of particularly special Easter dresses. They most certainly did—from sailor hats to "girly dresses." Two readers associated their Easter dresses with, of all things, a comeuppance. One got into trouble the day she wore her hot-pink Easter ensemble to school and forever after considered it tainted. Another let her cousin "play horse" using the untied bow of her Easter dress as reins. (The reins pulled completely off the dress, Mama found out, and you can guess what happened next. At least they got a good story out of it.)

Most Easter dress stories have happier endings. Read on for more—and be sure to share yours in comments as we will add to this story.

"I had a blue-and-white sailor dress with a big ole red ribbon in my hair. Had my picture made and everything! Even had a good hair day! I was about 5 years old." —Amy

"My grandmothers were both exceptionally fine seamstresses. When I was a teenager, my maternal grand created, for me, a powder-blue linen suit (jacket lined with powder-blue-and-white silk) and matching silk shell. Accessories were powder-blue faux alligator heels, matching purse, and white gloves. I felt as if I could walk proudly into Tiffany's!" —Glenda

"I loved the dotted Swiss dresses. I always had a 'duster' (light coat to match the dress) and patent leather shoes." —Brenda

"I was 6 years old—red, white, and blue dress and coat. Sailor hat and navy-blue patent leather shoes. We bought it all in Huntsville, and Mom bought a crinoline slip to make it stand out! I was too cute!" —Lynn

"When I was 6, my mother and I were walking past the local town square Diana Shop window, where I spied a pink lace, full-skirted, fluffy dress with a matching pink petticoat. I was smitten. I had a full-fledged meltdown until she agreed to get it for me. I also had to have the matching white straw purse with the clear plastic bubble of spring flowers mounted on the front. I know . . . tacky, tacky. My poor mother was sweet to indulge me, but I know she didn't like any of it one bit!" —Margaret

"I recently took my daughter, Elizabeth Kate, dress shopping for Easter finery for the first time. She initially picked out a gold (fully sequined) number that would outshine the resurrection celebration. Thankfully she moved on to a more tasteful peach-and-white dress, complete with a hat, of course." —Katie

"All of my Easter dresses were handmade by my great-aunt, but when I was ten, Mother let me pick out a fancy dress in a Birmingham children's store. It was made of sheer fabric in sea-foam green with a matching slip. The dress had some embroidery on it, and three-quarter puff sleeves. I have never known why my mom bought that for me, but I had a girly dress and wore it every chance I had. Thanks, Mother!" —Sherry

"I remember wearing a complete Easter outfit as a little girl. Mama would buy me a new dress, gloves, a bonnet, hose, shoes, and a purse. It didn’t matter where it came from, whether it was the department store or a garage sale. I felt so ladylike and proper and couldn’t wait to go to church to show it off." –Michelle

"And let’s not forget the orchid corsage worn by the mamas and grandmothers as they headed to church on Easter morning. I love looking at old photos—If the photo contains an outside front yard gathering of people wearing nice church clothes and women wearing corsages then you can bet it was taken on an Easter morning." - Amy

"Yes, my dresses were made by my grandmother. I was really proud of them." -Frankie

"My favorite dress as a little girl was a yellow dotted Swiss. I got it for Easter with hat, white gloves, white patent leather shoes with a purse to match." –Gracie

"Mom bought one pattern and made me and my sister dresses for Easter. She made them different colors. She made all our dresses, and she did a wonderful job." -Ann

"The shoes were important. Loved those little black shoes with the ruffled socks. So miss those days of big bows in my little girls hair. My babies are all grown now. I love seeing little girls with the big bows, just brings back sweet memories. And of course the shinny black shoes." -JimmieSheila

"Every Spring, we all went shopping for Easter outfits. Good times, special memories." -Angie

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