Dressed For Success

Just about every well-dressed Farmgirl has a penchant for hats, gloves and aprons, but different occasions require different types of these very necessary accoutrements. When outdoors, a carpenter’s apron, a straw hat and work gloves are vitally important tools … and it took a nasty brown spider bite to convince The Mountain Farmgirl that she needs to be as well dressed “in the field” as she is in ‘society’! Read all about it in “Dressed for Success” …

{NOTE: The program I am using had an error and would not let me  upload the rest of the photos.  Sorry about this! -- MFG)

Success comes in many different forms. Those of us who are professional women know that, for better or for worse, important impressions are made in the first 10 seconds of meeting any new acquaintance. While you can’t always judge a book by its cover, the way we dress and present ourselves to the world has a lot to say about who we are, and what we think of ourselves.

In the 1970’s, the notoriously rebellious years that I was in high school, the message of the day was that “surface stuff” doesn’t matter; it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Many of us grew out our uncombed hair and dressed in the rattiest jeans we could find to prove it. While this thought is partly true, I have to admit that age, wisdom and good looks (haha!) have taught me that my mother and grandmother were spot-on in their advice to be well-groomed and well-dressed.  As a business owner, I am often in the position of interviewing people for many types of positions at our inn. While I try to listen to what a potential employee may be saying first and foremost, I find that  the untidy appearance of wrinkled clothing, unpolished shoes and uncombed hair all detract and distract me from their words, no matter how well meaning and qualified they may be. Even those slightly disheveled folks I’ve taken a chance on by giving them the benefit of the doubt, have usually turned out to be somewhat sloppy in other aspects of their lives as well. It turns out that ‘Dressing for Success’ is more than just a catchy slogan and best-selling book title!


But being well-dressed is not just for the workplace. I’m guessing that most Farmgirls reading this post are no strangers to Aprons and Hats around the homestead, and this Farmgirl is no exception! I LOVE them, and have an extensive collection of each. Being home alone this week and ‘minding the shop’ while my husband and son are visiting relatives, I don’t have anyone who can take my picture wearing some of them, but here are a few of my favorites, which I’ll have to be content sharing from the back side of the camera:

I’ve always been an apron sort of gal, since way back in the days of the restaurant I used to own. I feel positively undressed in the kitchen without one, and have dozens of favorites.  This one, given to me by MaryJane, has a special place in my heart, and comes complete with matching potholder and oven mitt. How fetching!

A local lady, Leslie David, who has become a fun and zany acquaintance of mine, makes a line of gorgeous aprons in addition to her one-of-a-kind designer fashions.  This is one I just couldn’t resist, and picked it up recently at our local health food store:


And then there is this colorful beauty, purchased one evening when I was taking a flower class at our local florist. Carrie has exquisite taste in gifts and unique artifacts in her little shoppe, and I just couldn’t pass up the temptation of adding  just one more …



Aprons may be a necessity, but then then there are hats. I love hats almost as much as I love my aprons. Or maybe it’s more, I forget! Remember Meg Ryan in the movie called “You’ve Got Mail”? I love her as an actress and I’m crazy about that film, but I don’t agree with the quote she made in it, which said, “Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one! It got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where, I assume, it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake, as almost all hats are.”  Hats are NOT mistakes. Well, all right  … maybe these are:


My personal collection of hats is large and has been growing for more than 30 years.  Someday I will give a large afternoon tea in the garden, and every Farmgirl for miles around will come and wear hats.  Those who don’t have one can wear one of mine! Here are a few:

Here is a funny hat story and I swear that every word of it is true.  (My husband will vouch for it, as he was there). I was 17 years old at the time and my husband and I were taking an adult education class in Heavy Equipment Operation at a local school every Saturday. On our first day of class, we were given instruction on how to operate a bulldozer, and the “sandbox” fun was about to begin. The class consisted of a bunch of old men (although that was only the perception of a teenager; they probably were not all that decrepit!!!), and me, the only female in the class. We were each given a hard hat to wear before we got on the dozers, which I thought was as cool as the coolest of my fancy dress-up lids!  And as I was about to put it on, an old gentleman came up to me and asked, “Can I help you adjust your hard hat?!” It was very sweet, really, but it struck me SO funny, and I’ve never forgotten it. I mean, was there ever a funnier pick-up line?!

Okay, so fancy duds aside, now we need to get down to the brass tacks of my article this time around. (Forgive me; sometimes I get a bit side-tracked). I want to talk about being successfully dressed when working outside, and lest you think I’m a snob from my snooty comments about appearance above, let me show you my favorite pair of work jeans. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about appearances!

Yes, these are old, old friends, along another vintage pair of carpenter jeans in about the same state of disrepair that I just can’t let go. It is really hard to find great jeans like these today that aren’t “fashion” jeans made to look like they are for working in, but aren’t!  Farmgirls will know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I just got through planting almost 1000 annuals here at our inn the other day, as I do every year in our gardens. It is always a balancing act to wait long enough to escape that last frost, but early enough to escape the black flies. In the case of the last two years, I also had to juggle planting time around two weddings and a college graduation. But plant I did, almost 350 per day, and I discovered a few necessary items I’d like to tell you about if you are to dress successfully for some really productive outdoor WORK. Let’s dig in!!

First and foremost, is sun protection. This includes sunblock, UV sunglasses and  a hat. Many people like to wear baseball caps but I’ve never cared for them.  My outdoor hat of choice of a straw hat with a wide brim that keeps the sun out of my face. I fought this for many years as I love to feel the sun on my face, but as I age, so does my skin, and sunlight can do a number on it in both the wrinkle department as well as being a leading cause of skin cancer. Fortunately, I do not have the skin type that burns; I am brown as a berry after only 15 minutes in the sun, and tan deeply by summer’s end. But regardless of our skin pigmentation, skin cancer is something every outdoors woman must guard herself from every way she can. This includes a good sunblock as well as well a pair of UV protection sunglasses, which can help prevent macular degeneration later in life.

Next is an apron … Yes, the good news is that we get to wear our beautiful aprons even when we work outside! Until recently, I always tucked my cell phone into my sports bra, right next to my skin. Having it there, I would always know where it was (I have a habit of losing it), and can feel it vibrate as I always have the annoying ringer turned off. Also, I just hate carrying things around; I like to ‘travel light’. Recently, however, a friend saw me doing this, and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but two friends have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and both of them kept their phones tucked in just as you do.”  Yikes!!  While this hasn’t been scientifically proven, it sure makes a lot of sense, and frankly, why take the chance? So a carpenter’s nail apron (or two … or three)  is a must for me, but Farmgirl style, of course:

And finally, no well-dressed Farmgirl outfit is complete without a fashionable pair of gloves!!  This is a new one for me … I have always resisted wearing work gloves, as I have so much more control with bare hands (and I have the hands of a working woman to prove it!).  But on Day Two of planting my hundreds of annuals, I came in at the end of the day with an extremely painful and swollen finger. In fact it hurt so much I told my husband I thought I must have somehow sprained my finger. This struck me as very odd … I mean, who doesn’t know it the very moment they sprain a finger?  Mine was on the knuckle of my right ring finger, and the joint was HUGE, easily twice the size, red, hard, hot and an ‘8 or 9’ on the pain scale. I thought perhaps I had just overdone it digging so many holes, as I do get passionately “into it”!

By evening, a black spot appeared on my finger, looking very much like a spider bite, and by morning there was a large deep red scary looking blotch, and I was convinced that this was the result of a hungry arachnid.  I have never had such a painful insect bite in my life, nor one that looked so horrific. I thought that I would most likely be taking a trip to the Walk-in Clinic by days end.  I am not sure whether it was the bite of a brown recluse spider or not, but it was nasty enough and had all the symptoms, minus the ulcerated skin.  I had certainly encountered enough spiders in my gardening project to have been bitten by one in all that digging.  Some people are spider-phobic, but oddly, I am not one of them. They register rather neutral on my fear meter. Perhaps this is because I have enough fear and loathing for snakes to make up for it.  All I do know is that since then, I have been wearing gloves outside every time I work. It is now a week later, and my finger is still twice the size and hard as a rock, but the redness and feverishness of my finger have subsided, so I know it is slowly on the mend. As a final thought, while we’re all dolled up in our working aprons and hats, we might just want to spray ourselves with a bit of outdoor  ‘perfume’ to complete our ensemble … only make sure it’s the kind that also repels black flies and mosquitoes!!  Happy Working Outside, Farmgirls  … Summer is here!

Until Next Time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from  Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl



By: bonnie ellis
On: 06/10/2013 12:43:18
Cathi: I hope your finger recovers quickly as I was bitten right under the front of the waistband of my skirt while picking Queen Annes's lace. For me it didn't go away for a month. Great advice about wearing the proper clothing. In Minnesota in the winter our gloves must be warm enough to ward off frostbite. Great column!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir