« AnteriorContinua »
could she talk with me; so why should I loped flounces of white and graduated trouble myself about the matter? Had I tints of green! With her pale, sodden gone, I should only have seen her flush- complexion, she must have looked like ed and nervous, her poor fresh-caught an enormous chicken-salad mayonnaise. husband looking foolish and superfluous, Mrs. Grey (after a brief pause]. Why, and an uncomfortable crowd of over- so she did! You good-for-nothing thing, dressed, ill-dressed people, engaged in you've spoiled the prettiest dress I ever analyzing her emotions, estimating the saw, for me! It was quite my ideal; and value of her wedding-presents, and crit- now I never want to see it again. icizing each other's toilettes.
Grey. Your ideal must have been of Mrs. Grey. You're an unfeeling wretch! marvellous beauty, to admit such a com
Grey. Of course I am. Any woman parison,- and your preference most inwill break her neck to see two people, telligently based, to be swept away by for whom she does not care a hair-pin, it! stand up, one in white and the other in Tomes. Come, Grey, be fair. You black, and mumble a few words that she know that merit has no immunity from knows by heart, and then take position ridicule. at the end of a room and have “ society" Grey. True ; but no less true that paraded up to them by solemn little cor- ridicule does no real harm to merit. If porals with white favors, and then file off this Mrs. Robinson Crusoe's gown had to the rear for rations of Périgord pie been truly beautiful, my ridiculous comand Champagne.
parison could not have so entirely disTomes. Well said, Grey! Here's an- enchanted my wife with it; - she, mind other of the many ways of wasting life you, being supposed (for the sake of our by your embellishment of it.
argument only) to be a woman of sense Mr. Key. I don't know precisely what and taste. Mr. Tomes means; but as to ill-dressed Mrs. Grey. Accept my profoundest people, I'm sure that the set you meet at and most grateful curtsy, - on credit. the Jones's are the best-dressed people It's too much trouble to rise and make in town; and I never saw in Paris more it; and, to confess the truth, I can't; my splendid toilettes than were there this foot has caught in my hoop. Help me, morning
Laura. Miss Larches. Why, to be sure! What [Disentanglement,— from which the gencan Mr. Grey mean? There was Mrs. tlemen avert modest eyes, laughing the Oakum's gray and silver brocade, and while.] Mrs. Cotton's point-de-Venice mantle, and Grey. I do assure you, Nelly, that, unMiss Prime and Miss Messe and Miss til you leave off that monstrosity of steel Middlings, who always dress exquisitely, and cordage, your sense and taste, so far and Mrs. Shinnurs Sharcke with that su- as costume is concerned, must be taken perb India shawl that must have cost two on credit, as well as your curtsies. thousand dollars! What could be finer? Mrs. Grey. Leave off my hoop? Would
Mrs. Grey. And then Mrs. Robinson you have me look like a fright ? - as Smith, celebrated as the best-dressed slinky as if I had been drawn through woman in town. Being a connection of a key-hole ? the family, and so a sort of hostess, she Miss Larches. Leave off her hoop ? wore no bonnet; and her dress, of the Mr. Key. Be seen without a hoop? richest gros d'Afrique, had twenty-eight Why, what a guy a woman would look pinked and scalloped flounces, alternately without a hoop! I suppose they do take one of white and three of as many grad- them off at certain times, but then they uated tints of green. So elegant and dis- are not visible to the naked eye. tinguished !
Tomes. Yes, Grey,-- why take off her Grey. Twenty-eight pinked and scal- hoop? I don't care, you know, to have
hoops worn. But worn or not worn, what been made. Not to go back to those difference does it make?
bristling horrors of the Middle Ages and Grey. All against me ? a fair repre- the renaissance, look at this ball-dress of sentation of the general feeling on the 1810: a night-gown without sleeves, made momentous subject at this moment, I
of two breadths of pink silk, very low in pose. But ten years ago,--that's about the neck, and very short in the skirt. a year after I first saw you, and a year Tomes. And these were our modest before we were married, you remember, grandmothers, of whom we hear so much! Nelly, — no lady wore a hoop; and had They went rather far in their search alter I said then that you looked like a fright, the beautiful. or, as Mr. Key phrases it, a guy, I should Grey. Say, rather, in their revelation bave belied my own opinion, and, I be- of it. That was, at least, an honest fashlieve, given you no little pain.
ion, and men who married could not well Mrs. Grey. Master Presumption, I'm complain that they had been deceived responsible for none of your conceited by concealment. But that tells nothnotions; and if I were, it wasn't the ing against the modesty of our grandfashion then to wear hoops,- and to be mothers. What is modest in dress deout of the fashion is to be a fright and pends entirely on what is customary; and a guy.
there is an immodesty that hides, as well Miss Larches. Yes, the fashion is al- as one that exposes. Unconsciousness is ways pretty.
molesty's triple shelter against shame. Grey. Is it, Miss Larches ? Then it See here, the dissolute Marguerite of Namust always have been pretty. Let us varre, visible only at head and hands;
Look you all here. In this small the former from the chin upwards, the portfolio is a collection of prints which latter from the knuckles downwards; and exhibits the fashions of France, Italy, and here, La belle Hamilton, rightly named, England, in more or less detail, for eight as chaste as beautiful, and so modest in hundred years back.
her carriage that she escaped the breath Miss Larches. Is there ? Oh, that's of scandal eyen in the court of Charles charming! Do let us see them! II., and yet with a gown (if gown
it can Grey. With pleasure. But remember be called) so loose about the bust and that I expect you to admire them all,- arms that the pink night-gown would although I tell you that not one in ten of blush crimson at it. them is endurable, not one in fitty pretty, Tomes. The ladies seem convinced, not one in a hundred beautiful.
though puzzled; but that is because they Miss Larches. Why, there aren't more don't detect your fallacy. You contound than two or three hundred.
the woman and the fashion. An immodGrey. About two hundred and fifty ; est woman may be modestly dressed ; and and if you find more than two that fulfil if it is the fashion to be so, she most cerall the conditions of beauty in costume, tainly will, unless she is able herself to you will be more fortunate than I have set a fashion more suited to her taste. been.
For usually a woman's care of her cosMiss Larches [after a brief inspec- tume is in inverse proportion to that she tion]. Ah, Mr. Grey, how can you ? Most takes of her character. of these are caricatures.
The Ladies (having a rague nolion Grey. Nothing of the sort. All veri- that "inverse proportion" means sometable costumes, I assure you. Those froin thing horrible]. Mr. Tomes ! 1750 down, fashion-plates; the others, Grey. Don't misapprehend my friend portraits.
Daniel. On this occasion he has come Mrs. Grey. True, Laura. I've looked to judgment upon a subject of which he at them many a time, and thought how knows so little that it is worse than nothfearfully and wonderfully dresses have ing. I have reason to believe that he
has a profound respect for one of you, how did they go to parties? No opera ? and, being a bachelor, such exalted no- What did they do on winter evenings tions of your sex in general that he when there were no parties? would not wantonly misjudge the hum- Grey. They went to parties in the dayblest individual of it. His remark was time on horseback; and on the days when but the fruit of such sheer innocence with there were no parties, of which there regard to your charming sisterhood, that were a great many then, they gave themhe has yet to learn that there is not a selves up to a very delightful mode of single member of it, who confesses to less passing the time, when it is intelligently than seventy years, to whom, even if she practised, known as staying at home. is black, deformed, and the meanest hire- Mr. Key. What a bore ! ling household drudge, her dress, when Grey. But don't confine your criticism she is to be seen of men, is not the object of head-dresses to the fifteenth century. of a watchful solicitude at least next to Look through the costumes of the three that which she feels for her reputation. succeeding centuries, and see how often Among the sharpest of Douglas Jerrold's invention was taxed for artificial decoraunmalicious witticisms was his saying, that tions of the head, equally elaborate and Eve ate the apple that she might dress. hideous. Anything but to have a head
Mrs. Grey. Eve's daughters — two of look like a head! anything but to have them, at least
t-are inexpressibly oblig- hair look like hair! See this lady of ed to you for your defence of the sex 1750, her hair drawn violently back from against the valorous Tomes. Another her forehead and piled up on a cushion time, pray, leave us to our fate. But, nine inches high. She is plainly one of Laura, do look here! See these hide- those lovely, warm-toned blondes whose ous peaked and horned head-dresses of hair is of that priceless red that makes the fifteenth century. That one looks all other tints look poor and sad; and like an Old-Dominion coffee-pot with so she defiles its exquisite texture with wings. How frightful! how uncomfort- grease, and blanches out its wealth of colable! how inconvenient! How could or with flour. She might have gathered the women wear such things ?
its gleaming waves into a ravishing knot Miss Larches. Perfectly ridiculous ! behind her head; but no, she has four How could they get into their carriages stiff, enormous curls, noisome with a minwith those steeples on their heads ? and gled smell of hot iron, musk, and amhow they must have been in the way at bergris, hanging like rolls of parchment the opera!
from the top of her cushion to below her Grey. Miss Larches forgets. These . ear. O' top of this elevation is mounted head-dresses, monstrous as they are, are a wreath of gaudy artificial flowers, in its not exposed to the objection of being in- turn surmounted by four vast plumes, two consistent with the habits of life of those yellow, one pink, one blue, from the midst who wore them, as so many of the fash- of which shoot up two long feathers, one ions of later periods and of the present green and one red, while behind hangs day are. There were no such vehicles down a greasy, floury mass gathered at as she is thinking of until more than a the end into a club-like handle, which century after these stupendous head- has some fitness for its place, in suggestdresses were worn, until which time la- ing that it should be used to jerk the dies very rarely used even a covered heap of hair, grease, and feathers from wagon as a means of locomotion; and the head of the unfortunate who susthese steeple-crowned ladies, and many tains it. Just think of it! that sweet generations after them, had passed away creature must have given up at least two before the performance of the first op- hours of every day to this disfigurement
of her pretty head. Miss Larches. No carriages? Why, Tomes. And I've no doubt she made
severe a censor.
a sensation in the ball-room or at court, of which ruffs and stomachers formed a in spite of all your ridicule, and so at- part. tained her purpose.
Mrs. Grey. What can you mean? Our Grey. Certainly she did ; for she was fashion like that frightful rig? Why, see so beautiful in person and alluring in this portrait of Queen Elizabeth in full manner, that even that head-dress, and dress! What with stomacher and pointed the accompanying costume 'with which waist and fardingale, and sticking in here she was deformed, could not eclipse her and sticking out there, and ruits and cuffs charms for those who had become at all and ouches and jewels and puckers, she accustomed to the absurd disguise which looks like a hideous flying insect with she assumed. But it was the woman that expanded wings, seen through a microwas beautiful, not the costume; and the scope,
not at all like a woman. woman was so beautiful, in spite of the Grey. And her costume is rivalled, if costume, that she was able to light up not outdone, by that of her critic, in the even its forbidding features with the re- very peculiarity by which she is made to flection of her own loveliness. There look most unlike a woman ;- the straight have been countless similar cases since; line of the waist and the swelling curve - there are some now.
below it, which meet in such a sharp, Mrs. Grey. Miss Larches, doubtless, unmitigated angle. Look at the Venus appreciates the approving glance of so yonder,--she is naked to the hips,- and
see how utterly these lines misrepresent Grey. And this head-dress was open those of Nature. You will find no into the objection which Miss Larches stance of such a contour as is formed by brought against that which preceded it the meeting of these lines among all livthree centuries. These ladies were in ing creatures, except, perhaps, when a each other's way at the opera; and while turtle thrusts his head and his tail out riding there in their coaches, they were of his shell. obliged to sit with their heads out of the Miss Larches. But there's a vase with windows.
just such an outline, that I have heard Mrs. Grey. Their carriages must have you admire a hundred times. been of great service when it rained !- Grey. True, Miss Larches; but a womBut look at these stomachers, stiff with an is not a vase ;-more beautiful even embroidery and jewels, and with points than this, certainly more precious, perthat reach half-way from the waist to the haps almost as fragile, but still not a ground! See those enormous ruffs, stand- vase; and she shows as little taste in ing out a quarter of a yard, and curving · making herself look like a vase as some over so smoothly to their very edges! potters do in making vases that look like What a protection the fear of ruining those ruffs must have been against chil- Mr. Key. But I thought it was deciddren, and other troublesome creatures! ed that the female figure below the shoul
Grey. It is true, that ruffs and stom- ders should be left to the imagination. achers seem to indicate great propriety Does Mr. Grey propose to substitute of conduct, including an aversion to chil- the charming reality of uudisguised Nadren and other troublesome creatures;
ture? but students of the manners and morals of Grey. True, we do not attempt to dethe period at which those articles of dress fine the female figure below the waist, at were worn do not find that the women least; but although we may safely veil or who wore them differed much in their even conceal Nature, we cannot misrepconduct, at least as to the other trouble- resent or outrage her, except at the cost some creatures, from the women who of utter loss of beauty. The lines of nowadays have revived one of the most drapery, or of any article of dress, must unsightly and absurd traits of the costume conform to those of that part of the figure
which it conceals, or the effect will be the very junction of the arm with the deforming, monstrous.
bust, and partly because her bust and Mr. Key. Does Mr. Grey mean to say waist are defined by her gown with a tolthat ladies nowadays look monstrous and erably near approach to Nature, instead deformed ?
of being entirely concealed, as in the case Grey. To a certain extent they do. of her sister-in-law, by stiff lines sloping But such is the influence of habit upon outward on all sides to the ground, makthe eye, that we fully apprehend the ef- ing the remorseless Queen look like an fect of such incongruity as that of which enormous extinguisher with a woman's I spoke only in the costumes of past gen- head set on it. And these advantages of erations, or when there is a very violent, form in the Princess's costume are eninstead of a gradual change in the fash- hanced by its presentation of a fine conion of our own day. Look at these full- trast of rich color in unbroken masses, length portraits of Catherine de Médicis instead of the Queen's black velvet and and the Princess Marguerite, daughter of white satin elaborately disfigured with Francis the First.
embroidery, ermine, lace, and jewels. The Ladies. What frights !
You were prompt in your condemnation Mrs. Grey. No, not both; Marguerite's of the fashion to which your eye had not dress is pretty, in spite of those horrid been accustomed: now turn to the cossleeves sticking up so above her shoul- tume that you wear, and which you are ders.
in a manner compelled to wear; for I Grey. You are right. Those sleeves, am not so visionary as to expect a womrising above the shoulders - as high as an, or even a man under sixty, to fly dithe ear in Catherine's costume, you will rectly in the face of fashion, although observe - a
- are unsightly enough to nullify her extravagant caprices may be gracewhatever beauty the costume might have fully disregarded by both sexes and all in other points; though in her case they ages. Here are two fashion-plates of only complete the expression of the cos- the last month,— * not magazine caricatume, which is a grim, unnatural stiff- tures, mind you, or anything like it,- but ness. And the reason of the unsightli- from the first modistes in Paris. Look ness of these sleeves is, that the outline at that shawled lady, with her back towhich they present is directly opposed ward us. If you did not know that that to that of Nature. No human shoulders is a shawl, and that the thing which surbulge upward into great hemispherical mounts it is a bonnet, you would not susexcrescences nine inches high; and the pect the figure to be human. See; there peculiar sexual characteristic of this part is a slightly undulating slope at an anof woman's figure is the gentle downward gle of about sixty-five degrees from the curve
ve by which the lines of the shoulder crown of the head to the lowest hem of pass into those of the arm. Our mem- the skirt, so that the outline is that of a ory that such is the natural configuration pyramid slightly rounded at the apex, of these parts enters, consciously or un- and nearly as broad across the base as it consciously, into our judgment of this cos- is high. What is there of woman in such · tume, in which we see that Nature is de- a figure ? And this evening-dress; it sugliberately departed from ; and our con- gests the enchantments in the stories of demnation of it in this particular respect the Dark Ages, where knights encounis strengthened by the perception, at a ter women who are women to the breasts glance, that great pains have been taken and monsters below. From the head to to make its outlines discordant with those as far as half-way down the waist, this of the part which they conceal. You figure is natural. qualified your censure of Marguerite's Mr. Key. Under the circumstances it dress partly because, in her case, the could hardly be otherwise. Au naturel, I , slope of the shoulder is preserved until
* March, 1859.