Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

should call it, except for the spice of a Grey. And well it might,- for eveningfew flowers and a little lace.

dress, at least. No, - iny taste, or, if you Grey. But from that point it begins to will permit me to say it, good taste, craves lose its semblance to a woman's shape, rich colors, and ample, flowing lines,(as you will see by raising your eyes colors which require taste to be shown in again to the Venus,) and after running their arrangement and adaptation, and two or three inches decidedly inward in forms which show invention and knowla straight line, where it should turn out- edge in their design. Your woman who ward with a gentle curve, its outlines dresses in white, and your man who wears break into a sharp angle, and it expands, plain black, are safe from impeachment with a sudden hyperbolical curve, into a of their taste, just as people who say monstrous and nameless figure that is not nothing are secure against an exhibition only unlike Nature, but has no relations of folly or ignorance. They are the mutes whatever with Nature. The eye needs of costume, and contribute nothing to the no cultivation, the brain no instruction, to chromatic harmony of the social circle. perceive that such an outline cannot be They succeed in nothing but the avoidproduced by drapery upon a woman's ance of positive offence. form. It is clear, at a glance, that there Miss Larches. Pray, then, Mr. Grey, is an artificial structure underneath that what-shall we do? You have conswelling skirt; that a scaffold, a frame- demned enough, and told us what is work, has been erected to support that wrong ; can't you find in all this collecdome of silk; and that the wearer is tion a single costume that is positively merely an automatic machine by which beautiful ? and can't you tell us what is it is made to perambulate. A woman in right, as well as what is wrong? this rig hangs in her skirts like a clapper Grey. Both,- and will. The first, at in a bell; and I never meet one without once; the last, if you continue to desire being tempted to take her by the neck it. Here are two costumes, quite unlike and ring her.

in composition and effect, and yet both Mr. Key. Those belles like ringing beautiful;— the first, the fashions of 1811 well enough, but not exactly of that and 1812 (for the variations, during that kind.

time, were so trifling, and in such unesGrey. The costume is also faulty in sential particulars, that the costume had two other most important respects: it is but one character, as you will see by comwithout pure, decided color of any tint, paring the twenty-four plates for those but is broken into patches and blotches years) ; the second, that worn by this of various mongrel hues,

peasant-girl of Normandy. Look first at Mrs. Grey. Hear the man! that ex- the fashion-plates, and see the adaptation quisite brocade!

of that beautiful gown to all the purposes Grey. — and whatever effect it might for which a gown is intended. How comotherwise have had, of form or color, pletely it clothes the entire figure, and would be entirely frittered away by the with what ease and comfort to the wearmultitudinous and multiform trimmings er! There is not a line about it which with which it is bedizened; and it is with- indicates compression, or one expressive out a girdle of any kind.

of that looseness and languishing abanMrs. Grey. Oh, sweet Simplicity, hear donment that we remarked just now in and reward thy priest and prophet! the costume of La belle Hamilton. The What would your Highness have the entire person is concealed, except the woman wear?--a white muslin gown, tip of one foot, the hands, the head with a blue sash, and a rose in her hair? and throat, and just enough of the bust

That style went out on the day that to confess the existence of its feminine · Mesdames Shem, Ham, and Japhet left charms, without exposing them; both the ark.

limbs and trunk are amply draped; and yet how plainly it can be seen that there cealed, falls round it in lines of exquisis a well-developed, untortured woman ite grace and softness, upon which the underneath those tissues ! The waist, eye rests with untiring pleasure, and girdled in at the proper place, neither which, upon every movement of the wearjust beneath the breasts, as it was a few er, must change only for others also beauyears before and after, nor just above the tiful. Notice also, that, although the gown hips, as it has been for many years past, forins an ample drapery, it yet follows the and as it was three hundred years ago, is contour of the figure sufficiently to taper of its natural size :-compare it with the gracefully to the feet at the front, where Venus, and then look at those cruel cones, it touches the floor lightly, and presents, thrust, point downward, into mounds of as it should, the narrowest diameter of silk and velvet, to which women adapted the whole figure, - not, contrary to Nathemselves about 1575, 1750, and 1830, ture, (I beg pardon of your modistes, laand thence, with little mitigation, to the dies,) the widest. present day. How expressive the lines Tomes. You needn't apologize so cereof one figure are of health, and grace, moniously to the ladies; for you've inand bounteous fulness of life! and how volved yourself in a flagrant contradicpoor, and sickly, and mean, and man- tion. You said that these two costumes made the other creatures seem! See, were equally beautiful; and here's the too, in the former, that all the wearer's lady of 1812 with her dress all clinging limbs are as free as air; she can even in little wrinkles round her feet, while clasp her hands, with arms at full-length, the peasant-girl's frock is wider at the above her head. Queen Bess, yonder, bottom than it is anywhere else. could do many things, but she could not Grey. A most profound and logical do that; neither could your great-great- objection, O Daniel ! which in due time grandmothers, ladies, if they were people shall be considered. But I am not now of the least pretensions to fashion, nor to be diverted from two other very imyour mothers. Can you ?

portant elements of the beauty of these [Mrs. Grey, presuming upon her demi- costumes of 1811 and 1812. They are

toilette, with a look of arch defiance, in one or two, or, at most, three colors, lifts her hands quickly up above her the tissues of the gowns, the outer garhead; but before they have approached ments, (when they are worn,) and the each other, there is a sharp sound, as bonnets or head-dresses being of one unof rending and snapping; and, with a broken tint; and they are almost entiresudden flush and a little scream, she ly free from trimming, which appears subsides into her crinoline.]

only upon the principal seams and the Miss Larches. Why, you foolish crea- edges of the garments, and then in very ture! you might have known you couldn't. moderate quantity, though of rich quality.

Mr. Key. A most ignominious failure ! Miss Larches. Why, so it is! I should Mr. Grey, you had better announce a not have noticed that. course of lectures on costume, with illus- Grey. You did not notice the lack of trations from the life. Your subjects will it, because it is not required to make the cost you nothing

dress complete or give it character. It is Grey. Except for silk and mantuamak- only the presence of trimming that ating. I have no doubt that I could make tracts attention ; its absence is never felt such a course useful, and Mrs. Grey has in a well-designed costume.- Now turn shown that she could make it amusing to my pretty peasant-girl, who, although But we can get on very well as we are. she is not in full holiday-costume, is unObserve this figure again. Its chief beau- mistakably “dressed,” as ladies call it ; ty is, that the gown has, or seems to have, for we see that she is going to some slight no form of its own ; it adapts itself to the merry-making, as she carries in her hands person, and, while that is entirely con- the shoes which are to cover those stock

of tender green.

ingless feet. She, too, is entirely at her and pure; the apron, blue; she is a bruease and unconscious of her costume, ex- nette, and so has wisely chosen to have cept for a shy suspicion that it becomes that enviable little shawl or kerchief, the her, and she, it. Her waist is of its nat- ends of which reach but just below her ural size and in its proper place. Her waist, of yellow; while that high headshoulders are covered, and her arms have dress, quaint and graceful, that serves free play; and although her bodice is cut her for a bonnet, and in fact is one, is rather low, the rising chemise and the falling kerchief redeem it from all objec- Miss Larches. She is not troubled with tion on that score.

trimming. Tomes. But how about the length, or Grey. Not troubled with it; but she rather the shortness, of that skirt ? It has it just where it should be, - on the seems to me to cry excelsior to the pink bottom of her gown, which is edged with night-gown.

black,- in the flowered border of her kerGrey. You are implacable as to this chief,-on the edge of her bonnet, where poor girl's petticoats. Don't you see that there is a narrow line of yellow,- and in her arms are bare ? and yet you make the lace or muslin ruffle of the cape no objection. Now, a woman has legs as which falls from it. If she were a queen, well as arms; and why, if it be the cus- or the wife of a Russian prince who owntom, should not one be seen as well as ed thousands of girls like her, she might the other? That girl's grandmothers, to have trimıning of greater cost and beauthe tenth degree of greatness, wore skirts ty, but not a shred more without deterioof just that length from their childhood ration of her costume, which, if she were to their dying day; and why should not court-lady to Eugénie and had the courtshe? She would as soon think of hid

painter to help her, could not be in beting her nose as her ankle ; and why ter taste. should she not? Besides, as you will Mrs. Grey. But, Stanford, don't you see, her gown is not shorter than those see? (just like a man!) you are charmed our grandmothers wore, or our moth- with these women, not with their dresses. ers, twenty-eight or thirty years ago ; These fashion-plates of fifty years ago are and that they were modest, which of us designed by very different hands from will deny ? And now as to the width those which produce our niminy-piminy of these skirts. You will see that they looking things,— by artists plainly; and reach only a little below the calf of the your peasant-girl was seized upon by some leg, and therefore it is both impossible errant knight of palette and brush, and and undesirable that they should fall so painted for her beauty. These women closely round the figure as in the case of are what you men call fine creatures. the fashionable gowns of 1812 that we Their limbs are rounded and shapely, were just examining. And besides, in the their figures full and lithe; they are what case of our peasant-girl, we see that the I've heard you say Homer calls Briseis. lines of her gown are determined by the Grey. White-armed, deep-bosomed ? outline of her figure; and we also see her Mrs. Grey. Yes; and their necks rise feet and the lower part of her legs. Her from their shoulders like ivory towers. humanity is not extinguished, her means Any costume will look beautiful on such of locomotion are visible;- but in looking women. But how are poor, puny, illat a lady nowadays, we see nothing of made women to dress in such fashions ? the kind; from the waist down, she is a They could not wear those dresses withpuzzle of silk and conic sections, a mar- out exhibiting all those personal devellous machine that moves in a myste- fects which our present fashion conceals. rious way. See, again, how beautiful in It's all very fine for perfectly beautiful color this peasant's costume is. The gown women to have such fashions; but it's of a rich red, not glaring, but yet positive very cruel to those who are not beautiful.

Don't

you remember, at Mrs. Clarkson's cases needless. No,-by flying in the face party, just before we were married, you, of fashion, a woman attracts attention to and half a dozen other men just like her person, which can be done with imyou, went round raving about Mrs. Horn, punity only by the beautiful; but do you and how elegantly she was dressed ? and not see that an ugly woman, by conformwhen I saw her, I found she had on only ing to fashion, obtains no advantage over a plain pale-blue silk dress, that couldn't other women, ugly or beautiful, who also have cost a penny more than twelve shil- conform to it ? and consequently, that a lings a yard, and not a thing beside. All set fashion for all rigidly preserves the the women were turning up their noses contrasts of unequally developed Nature ? at her.

If there were no fashion to which all felt Grey. Because all the men were ready that they must conform at peril of singuto bend down their heads to her ?

larity, then, indeed, there would be some Mrs. Grey. Yes. — No.— The upshot help for the unfortunate ; for each indiof it was, that the woman had the figure vidual might adopt a costume suited to and complexion of Hebe, and this dress his or her peculiarities of

person. Yet, showed it and set it off; but the dress even then, there could only be a mitigawas nothing particular in itself. tion or humoring of blemishes, not a rem

Grey. That is, I suppose, it was not edy for them. There is no way of makparticularly fanciful or costly;- no det- ing deformity or imperfection beautiful. riment to its beauty. But as to the Mrs. Grey. But, Stanford, there are beauty of these costumes depending on times when the beauty of the women who wear them, Grey. There are no times when womand their unsuitableness to the needs of an's figure has not the charm of womanwomen who are without beauty,-- it is un- hood, unless she attempts to improve it deniably true, that, to be beautiful in any by some monstrous contrivance of her costume, a woman must be - beautiful.

own; no times when good taste and This may be very cruel, but there is no womanly tact 'cannot so drape it that help for it. Color may enhance the beau- it will possess some attraction peculiar ty of complexion, as in the case of Mrs.

to her sex. And were it not so, how Horn's blue dress; but as to form and irrational, how wrongful is it to extinmaterial, the most elaborate, the most guish, I will not say the beauty, but, in costly, even the most beautiful costume part, the very humanity of all women, ever devised, cannot make the woman that at all times, for the sake of hiding for wears it be other than she is, or seem so, some women the sign of their perfected except to people who do not look at her, womanhood at certain times ! but at ber clothes. What did all the ugly Mr. Key. It certainly results in most women in 1811 and ’12 do ? and what astonishing surprises. In fact, I was quite have all the ugly peasant-girls in Nor- stultified the other day, when Mrs. Novamandy done for hundreds of years past? mater, who only a week before had been Do you suppose that their beautiful cos

out yachting with me tume made them look any uglier than Mrs. Grey. Declined going again. That ugly women do now and here ? Not a was not strange. I fear that you did not whit. Ugliness may be covered, but it take good care of her. cannot be concealed. And does the fash- Mr. Key. I was not as tender of her ion of our day so kindly veil the personal as I might have been; but it was her defects in the interest of which you plead? fault, or that of my ignorance,-- not realAt parties I have thought differently, ly mine. But, Mr. Grey, why can't you and sorrowed for the owners of arms and boil all this talk down into an essay, or a busts and shoulders that inexorable fash

paper, as you call it, for the “Oceanic"? ion condemns on such occasions to an ex- You promised Miss Larches something posure which, to say the least, is in many of the sort just now.

Miss Larches. Yes, Mr. Grey, do let rived at, — being within the reach of us have it. We ladies would so like to persons whose minds are uninformed and have some masculine rules to dress by! frivolous, whose souls are sensual and

Tomes. Don't confine your endeavors grovelling, and whose taste has little culto one sex. Think what an achievement ture,-as in the case of many American, it would be to teach me how to dress! and more French women, who have had

Grey. Unanimous, even in your iro- a brief experience of metropolitan life : ny! for I see that Mrs. Grey looks quiz- the least important, because it has no inzical expectation. Well, I will. In fact, tellectual or even emotional significance, I'm as well prepared as a man whose and is thus without the slightest æsthetic health is drunk at a dinner given to him, purpose, having for its end (as an art) and who is unexpectedly called upon for only the transient, sensuous gratification a speech, — or as Rosina, when Figaro of an individual, or, at most, of the combegs for un biglietto to Almaviva. [Opens paratively few persons by whom he may a drawer.] Eccolo quà! Here is some- be seen in the course of not more than a thing not long enough or elaborate enough single day; for every renovation of the to be called an essay nowadays, though dress is, in its kind, a new work of Art. it might have borne the name in Bacon's As men emerge from the savage state time. I will read it to you. I call it and acquire mechanic skill, the distaff,

the spindle, and the loom produce the THE RUDIMENTS OF DRESS.

earliest fruits of their advancement, and To dress the body is to put it into dress is the first decorative art in which a right, proper, and becoming external they reach perfection.

Indeed, it may condition. Comfort and decency are to be doubted whether the most beautiful be sought first in dress; next, fitness to articles of clothing, the most tasteful and the person and the condition of the wear- comfortable costumes, have not been proer; last, beauty of form and color, and duced by people who are classed as richness of material. But the last object barbarous, or, at best, as half-civilized. is usually made the first, and thus all What fabrics surpass the shawls of India are perilled and often lost; for that which in tint or texture ? What garment is is not comfortable or decent or suitable more graceful or more serviceable than cannot be completely beautiful. The the Mexican poncho, or the Peruvian retwo chief requisites of dress are easily at- bozo? What Frenchman is so comfortably tained. Only a sufficiency of suitable or so beautifully dressed as a wealthy uncovering is necessary to them; and this sophisticated Turk? There seems to be varies according to climate and custom. an instinct about dress, which, joined to The Hottentot has them both in his strip the diffusion of wealth and the reduced of cloth; the Esquimau, in his double price of all textile fabrics, has caused it case of skins orer all except face and to be no longer any criterion of culture, fingers ; – the most elegant Parisian, the social position, breeding, or even taste, most prudish Shakeress, has no more. except as regards itself.

The two principal objects of covering Dress has, however, some importance the body being so easily attainable, the in its relations to society and to the indiothers are immediately, almost simulta- vidual. It is always indicative of the neously sought; and dress rises at the temper of the time. This is notably true outset into one of those mixed arts which of the wanton ease of the costume of seek to combine the useful and the beau- Charles the Second, and the meretritiful, and which thus hold a middle place cious artificiality of that of the middle of between mechanic art and fine art. But the last century. And in the deliberate of these mixed arts, dress is the lowest double-skirted costliness of the female and the least important: the lowest, be- fashions of our own day,— fashions not cause perfection in it is most easily ar- intended for courts or wealthy aristocra

« AnteriorContinua »