Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a

cies, but for everybody,- contrasted as next essential of becoming dress. A man they are with the sober-hued and unpre- should not go partridge-shooting in a tending habits which all men wear, and Spanish cloak; a woman should not enin which little more is sought than com- ter an omnibus, that must carry twelve fort and convenience, we have an ex- inside, with her skirts so expanded by pression of the laborious and the lavish steel ribs that the vehicle can comfortspirit of the times -- the right hand gath- ably hold but four of her,-or do the ering with painful, unremitting toil, the honors of a table in hanging-sleeves that left scattering with splendid recklessness. threaten destruction to cups and saucers, Dress has an appreciable effect upon

the and take toll of gravy from every dish mental condition of individuals, whatev- that passes them. Hoops, borrowed by er their gravity or intelligence. There bankrupt invention from a bygone age are few men not far advanced in years, to satisfy craving fickleness, suited the and still fewer women, who do not feel habits of their first wearers, who would more confidence in themselves, perhaps as soon have swept the streets as driven more self-respect, for the consciousness through them, packed thirteen to the dozof being well-dressed, or, rather, when en, in a carriage common to every pasthe knowledge that they are well-dress- senger who could pay six cents; and ed relieves them of all consciousness hanging-sleeves were fit for women who, upon the subject. To decide upon the instead of serving others, were served costume which can secure this serene themselves by pages on the knee. No self-satisfaction is impossible. For to ex- beauty of form or splendor of material cellence in dress there are positive and in costume can compensate for manifest relative conditions. A man cannot be inconvenience to the wearer. It is partpositively well-dressed, whose costume ly from an intuitive recognition of this does not suit the peculiarities of his per. truth, that a gown which opens before son and position, — or relatively, whose seems, and is, more beautiful than one exterior does not sufficiently conform to that opens behind. The lady's maid is the fashion of his day (unless that should invisible. be very monstrous and ridiculous) to es- No dress is tolerable, by good taste, cape remark for eccentricity. The ques- which does not permit, and seem to pertion is, therefore, complicated with the mit, the easy performance of any moveconsideration of individual peculiarities ment proper to the wearer's age and conand the fashion of the day, which are un- dition in life. Such a costume openly known and variable elements. But max- defies the first law of the mixed arts, ims of general application can be laid fitness. Thus, the dress of children down, to which both fashions and indi- should be simple, loose, and, whatever viduals must conform at peril consequent the condition of their parents, inexpenupon violation of the laws of reason and sive. Let them not, girls or boys, except beauty.

on rare, formal occasions, be tormented The comfort and decency needful to with the toilette. Give them clean skins, dress — the Esquimau's double case of twice a day; and, for the rest, clothes skins and the Hottentot's cumberbund that will protect them from the weather need not be insisted on; for maxims are as they exercise their inalienable right to not made for idiots. But dress should roll upon the grass and play in the dirt, not only secure these points, but seem to and which it will trouble no one to see secure them ; for, as to others than the torn or soiled. Do this, if you have a wearer of a dress, what difference is there prince's revenue, - unless you would be between shivering and seeming to shiver, vulgar. For, although you may be able sweltering and seeming to swelter? to afford to cast jewels into the mire or

Convenience, which is to be distin- break the Portland vase for your amuseguished from mere bodily comfort, is the ment, if you do so, you are a Goth. Jew

VOL. IV.

26

66

sex.

els were not made for the mire, vases to As to distinctive forms of costume for the be broken, or handsome clothes to be sexes, long robes, concealing the person soiled and torn.

from the waist to considerably below the Next to convenience is fitness to years knee, are required by the female figure, and condition in life. A man can as if only to veil certain inherent defects,— soon, by taking thought, add a cubit to if those peculiarities may be called dehis stature as a woman take five years fects, which adapt it to its proper funcfrom her appearance by“ dressing young." tions and do not diminish its sexual atThe attempt to make age look like youth tractiveness. Woman's figure having its only succeeds in depriving age of its pe- centre of gravity low, its breadth at the culiar and becoming beauty, and leaving hip great, and, from the smallness of her it a bloated or a haggard sham. — Condi- feet, its base narrow, her natural movetions of life have no political recognition ment in a costume which does not conwith us, yet they none the less exist. ceal the action of the hip and knee-joints They are not higher and lower; they are is unavoidably awkward, though none the different. The distinction between them less attractive to the eye of the other is none the less real, that it is not written down, and they are not labelled. Reason In color, the point of next importance, and taste alike require that this differ- no fine effects of costume are to be attainence should have outward expression. ed without broad masses of pure and posThe abandonment of distinctive profes- itive tints. These, however, may be ensional costume is associated with a move- livened with condimental garniture of ment of social progress, and so cannot be broken and combined colors. But dressarrested; but it is much to be deplored in es striped, or, yet worse, plaided or checkits effect upon the beauty, the keeping, ered, are atrocious violations of good and the harmonious contrast of external taste; indeed, party-colored costumes are life.

worthy only of the fools and harlequins Of the absolute beauty of dress form to whose official habits they were once is the most important element, as it is of set apart. The three primary, and the all arts which appeal to the eye.

The three secondary colors, red, yellow, and lines of costume should, in every part, blue, orange, green, and purple, (though conform to those of Nature, or be in har- not in their highest intensity,) afford mony with them. · Papa,” said a little the best hues for costume, and are inexboy, who saw his father for the first time in complete walking-costume, “ what a squeezed upward out of their gowns,- its high hat! Does your head go up to the berthe, concealing both the union of the arms top of it?” The question touched the

with the trunk and the flowing lines of that cardinal point of form in costume. Un

part of the person, and adding another dis

cordant straight line (its lower edge) to the broken, flowing lines are essential to the

costume, - its long, ungirdled waist, wrought beauty of dress ; and fixed angles are

into peaks before and behind, and its gathermonstrous, except where Nature has plac- ed swell below, is an instance in point, of uted them, at the junction of the limbs with ter disregard of Nature and deliberate violathe trunk. The general outlines of the

tion of harmony, and the consequent attain

ment of discord and absurdity in every parfigure should be indicated; and no long

ticular. It is rivalled only by the dress-coat, garment which flows from the shoulders

which, with quite unimportant variations, has downward is complete without a girdle.

been worn by gentlemen for fifty years. The

collar of this, when stiff and high, quite equals * Mr. Grey (in parenthesis, and by way of the berthe in absurdity and ugliness; and the illustration). The fashion for ladies' full dress useless skirt is the converse in monstrosity to during several years, and but recently aban- the hooped petticoat. doned, with its straight line cutting pitilessly * For instance, the movements of balletacross the rounded forms of the shoulders dancers, except the very artificial ones of the and bust, and making women seem painfully feet and hands.

66

haustible in their beautiful combinations. less they serve a useful purpose, -as a White and black bave, in themselves, no brooch, a button, a chain, a signet or costumal character: but they may be guard ring, -- or have significance,--as a effectively used in combination with oth- wedding-ring, an epaulet, or an order. * er colors. The various tints of so-called But the brooch and the button must fastbrown, that we find in Nature, may be en, the chain suspend, the ring bear a employed with fine effect; but other col- device, or they sink into pretentious, vulors, curiously sought out and without dis- gar shams. And there must be keeping tinctive hue, have little beauty in them- between these articles and their offices. selves; and any richness of appearance To use, for instance, a massive golden, which they may present is almost always or, worse, gilded chain to support a cheap due to the fabric to which they are im- silver watch is to reverse the order of parted. Colors have harmonies and dis- reason and good taste. cords, like sounds, which must be care- The human head is the most beautiful fully observed in composing a costume. object in Nature. It needs a covering at Perception of these cannot be taught, certain times; but to decorate it is supermore than perception of harmony in fluous; and any decoration, whether of music; but, if possessed, it may be cul- flowers, or jewels, or the hair itself, that tivated.

distorts its form or is in discord with its Extrinsic ornament or trimming should outlines, is an abomination. be avoided, except to indicate complete- Perfumes are hardly a part of dress ; ness, as at a hem,- or to blend forms and yet, as an addition to it often made, colors, as soft lace at the throat or wrists. they merit censure, with slight excepThe essential beauty of costume is in its tion, as deliberate contrivances to attract fitness, form, and color; and the effect attention to the person, by appealing of this beauty may be entirely frittered to the lowest and most sensuous of the away by trimmings. These, however cost- senses. Next to no perfume at all, a faint ly, are in themselves mere petty acces- odor of roses, or of lavender, obtained by sories to dress; and the use of them, scattering the leaves of those plants in except to define its chief terminal out- clothes-presses, or of the very best Colines, or soften their infringement upon logne-water, is most pleasant. the flesh, is a confession of weakness in In its general expression, dress should the main points of the costume, and an be cheerful and enlivening, but, at least indication of a depraved and trivial taste. in the case of adults, not inconsistent When used, they should have beauty in with thoughtful earnestness. There is a themselves, which is attainable only by a radical and absurd incongruity between clearly marked design. Thus, the exqui- the real condition and the outward seemsite delicacy of fabric in some kinds of ing of a man or woman who knows what lace does not compensate for the blotchy life is, and purposes to discharge its duconfusion of the shapeless flower-patterns ties, enjoy its jovs, and bear its sorrows, worked upon it. Not that lace or any

and who is clad in a trivial, grotesque, other ornamental fabric should imitate or extravagant costume. — These, then, exactly the forms of flowers or other nat- are the elementary requisites of dress : ural objects, but that the conventional that it be comfortable and decent, conforms should be beautiful in themselves and clearly traced in the pattern.- Akin * Thus, it is the office of a bonnet or a hat to to trimmings are all other appendages to protect the head and face; and so a sun-shade dress,— jewels, or humbler articles; and carried by the wearer of a bonnet is a confes

sion that the bonnet is a worthless thing, as every part of dress should have a

worn only for show: but an umbrella is no function, and fulfil it, and seem to do so,

such confession; because it is not the office and should not seem to do that which it

of the hat or bonnet to shelter the whole perdoes not, these should never be worn un- son from sun or rain.

venient and suitable, beautiful in form sert that this uniform phase of costume is and color, simple, genuine, harmonious not a logical consequence of social adwith Nature and itself.

vancement, that it is the result of vanity

and petty pride, and in its spirit at vaMrs. Grey. All very fine, and, doubt- riance with the very doctrine of equality, less, very true, as well as sententious and

irrespective of occupation or condition, profound. But hark you, Mr. Wiseman, from which it seems to spring. For the to something not dreamt of in your phi- carpenter, the smith, the physician, the losophy! We women dress, not to be lawyer, who, when not engaged in his simple, genuine, and harmonious, or even calling, makes it a point not to be known to please you men, but to brave each as belonging to it, contemns it and puts other's criticism; and so, when the time it to open shame; and so this endeavor comes to get our Fall things, Laura and of all men to dress on every possible ocI will go and ask what is the fashion, and casion in a uniform style unsuited to lawear what is the fashion, in spite of you bor, so far from elevating labor, degrades and your rudiments and elements. it, and demoralizes the laborer. This is

Grey. I expected nothing else; and, exemplified every day, and especially on indeed, I am not sure that in your pres- Sunday, when nine-tenths of our populaent circumstances I should desire you to tion do all in their power, at cost of cash do otherwise, or, at most, to deviate more and stretch of credit, at sacrifice of futhan slightly from the prevailing mode ture comfort and present self-respect and toward such remote points as simplicity, peace of mind, to look as unlike their genuineness, and harmony. But if you real selves on other days as possible. Our were to set the fashion instead of follow

very maid-servants, who were brought up ing it, I should hope for better things. shoeless, stockingless, and bonnetless, and Mrs. Grey. Fall things ?

who work day and night for a few dolTomes. But society has little to hope lars a month, spend those dollars in profor from you, who would brand callings viding themselves with hoops, flounced and conditions with a distinctive costume. silk dresses, and variegated bonnets for That was a part of the essay that sur- Sunday wearing prised me much. For the mere sake of a Tomes. Do you grudge the poor creapicturesque variety, would you perpetu- tures their holiday and their holidayate the degradation of labor, the segrega

dress? tion of professions, and set up again one Grey. Far from it! Let them, let us of the social barriers between man and all, have more holidays, and holidayman ? Your doctrine is fitter for Hin- dresses as beautiful as may be. But I dostan than for America. This unifor- cannot see why a holiday-dress should mity of costume, of which you complain, be so entirely unlike the dress they wear is the great outward and visible sign of on other days. I have a respect as well the present political, and future social, as an admiration for the white-capped, equality of the race.

bonnetless head of the French maid, Grey. You forget that the essay ex- wbich I cannot feel for my own wife's pressly recognizes, not only the connec- nurse, when I meet her flaunting along tion between sucial progress and the the streets on Sunday afternoon in a abandonment of distinction in profes- bonnet which is a cheap and vulgar imisional costume, but admits, perhaps some

tation of that which my wife wears, and what hastily, that it cannot be arrested, really like it only in affording no protecand deplores it only on the score of the tion to her head, and requiring huge pins beauty and fitness of external life. If to keep it in the place where a bonnet is we must give up social progress or vari- least required. I have seen a farmer, ety of costume, who could doubt which

whose worth, intelligence, and manly to choose? But I do not hesitate to as- dignity found fitting expression in the

a

now.

dress that he daily wore, sacrifice this can they discard so true a type of their harmonious outward seeming in an hour, tender power that its mere lengthening and sink into insignificance, if not vul- makes every man their servant? garity, by putting on a dress-coat and a Tomes. Your bringing up the poets to shiny stove-pipe hat to go to meeting or your aid reminds me that you have the to “ York.” A dress-coat and a fashion- greatest of them against you, as to the able hat are such hideous habits in them- importance of richness in dress. What selves, that he must be unmistakably a do you say to Shakespeare's “ Costly man bred to wearing them, and on whom thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not they sit easily, if not a well-looking and expressed in fancy" ? distinguished man, who can don them Grey. That it is often quoted as Shakewith impunity, especially if we have been speare's advice in dress by people who accustomed to see him in a less exacting know nothing else that he wrote, and costume.

who would have his support for their exMr. Key. The very reason why every travagance, when, in fact, we do not man will, at sacrifice of his comfort and know what Shakespeare would have bis last five dollars, exercise his right to thought upon the subject, had he lived wear them whenever he can do so. But It is the advice of a worldly-mindyour idea of a beautiful costume, Mr. ed old courtier to his son, given as a mere Grey, seems to be a blue, red, or yellow prudential maxim, at a time when, to make bag, or bolster-case, drawn over the head, an impression and get on at court, a man mouth downwards, with a hole in the had need to be richly dressed. That need middle of the bottom for the neck and has entirely passed away. two at the corners for the arms, and Miss Larches. But, Mr. Grey, I rebound about the waist with a cord; member your finding fault with the powfor I observe that you insist upon a der on the head-dress of that marquise girdle.

costume, because it concealed the red Grey. I don't scout your pattern so

hair of the wearer.

In such a case I much as you probably expected. Cos- should consider powder a blessing. Do tumes worse in every respect have been you really admire red hair ? often worn. — - And the girdle? Is it not, Grey. When it is beautiful, I do, and in female dress, at least, the most charm- prefer it to that of any other tint. I don't ing accessory of costume ? that which

mean golden hair, or flaxen, or yellow, most defines the peculiar beauties of wom- but red,— the color of dark red amber, an's form ? that to which the tenderest or, nearer yet, of freshly cut copper. associations cling? Its knot has ever There is ugly red hair, as there is ugly had a sweet significance that makes it hair of black and brown, and every other sacred. What token could a lover re- hue. It is not the mere name of the colceive that he would prize so dearly as or of the hair that makes it beautiful or the girdle whose office he has so often not, but its tint and texture. I have envied ? " That,” cries Waller, - seen black hair that was hideous to the

sight and repulsive to the touch,—other, “That which her slender waist confin'd

also black, that charmed the eyes and Shall now my joyful temples bind.

wooed the fingers. Fashion has asserted

herself even in this particular. There Give me but what this ribbon bound,

bave been times when the really fortuTake all the rest the sun goes round." nate possessor of such brown tresses as

Miss Larches's would have been deemed Have women taste ? and can they put unfortunate. No troubadour would have off this cestus with which the least at

sung her praises; or if he did, he would tractive of them puts on some of Venus's either have left her hair unpraised, or beauty ? Have they sentiment ? and else lied and called it golden, meaning

« AnteriorContinua »