|(this is a posting that didn't post in the past and I am posting it today)|
|CLOTHES are to us what fur and feathers are to beasts and birds; they not only add to our appearance, but they are our appearance. How we look to others entirely depends upon what we wear and how we wear it; manners and speech are noted afterward, and character last of all.||1|
|In the community where we live, admirableness of character is the fundamental essential, and in order to achieve a position of importance, personality is also essential; but for the transient impression that we make at home, abroad, everywhere in public, two superficial attributes are alone indispensable: good manners and a pleasing appearance.||2|
|It is not merely a question of vanity and inclination. In New York, for instance, a woman must dress well, to pay her way. In Europe, where the title of Duchess serves in lieu of a court train of gold brocade; or in Bohemian circles where talent alone may count; or in small communities where people are known for what they really are, appearance is of esthetic rather than essential importance.||3|
|In the world of smart society—in America at any rate—clothes not only represent our ticket of admission, but our contribution to the effect of a party. What makes a brilliant party? Clothes. Good clothes. A frumpy party is nothing more nor less than a collection of badly dressed persons. People with all the brains, even all the beauty imaginable, make an assemblage of dowds, unless they are well dressed.||4|
|Not even the most beautiful ballroom in the world, decorated like the Garden of Eden, could in itself suggest a brilliant entertainment, if the majority of those who filled it were frumps—or worse yet, vulgarians! Rather be frumpy than vulgar! Much. Frumps are often celebrities in disguise—but a person of vulgar appearance is vulgar all through.||5|
Frumps are not very typical of America, vulgarians are somewhat more numerous, but the greatest number of all are the quietly dressed, unnoticeable men and women who make up the representative backbone in every city; who buy good clothes but not more than they need, and whose ambition is merely to be well enough dressed to fit in with their background, whatever their background may be.
|Less numerous, but far more conspicuous, are the dressed-to-the-minute women who, like sheep exactly, follow every turn of latest fashion blindly and without the slightest sense of distance or direction. As each new season’s fashion is defined, all the sheep run and dress themselves each in a replica of the other, their own types and personalities have nothing to do with the case. Fashion says: “Wear bolster cases tied at the neck and ankle,” or “A few wisps of gauze held in place with court plaster,” and daughter, mother, grandmother, and all the neighbors wear the same. If emerald green is the fashionable color, all of the yellowest skins will be framed in it. When hobble skirts are the thing, the fattest wabble along, looking for all the world like chandeliers tied up in mosquito netting. If ball dresses are cut to the last limit of daring, the ample billows of the fat will vie blandly with the marvels of anatomy exhibited by the thin. Comfort, convenience, becomingness, adaptability, beauty are of no importance. Fashion is followed to the letter—therefore they fancy, poor sheep, they are the last word in smartness. Those whom the fashion suits are “smart,” but they are seldom, if ever, distinguished, because—they are all precisely alike.||7|
THE WOMAN WHO IS REALLY CHIC
The woman who is chic is always a little different. Not different in being behind fashion, but always slightly apart from it. “Chic” is a borrowed adjective, but there is no English word to take the place of “elegant” which was destroyed utterly by the reporter or practical joker who said “elegant dresses,” and yet there is no synonym that will express the individuality of beautiful taste combined with personal dignity and grace which gives to a perfect costume an inimitable air of distinction. Une dame élégante is all of that! And Mrs. Oldname is just such a person. She follows fashion merely so far as is absolutely necessary. She gets the latest model perhaps, but has it adapted to her own type, so that she has just that distinction of appearance that the sheep lack. She has even clung with slight modifications to the “Worth” ball dress, and her “wrapped” or fitted bodice has continued to look the smartest in every ballroom in spite of the Greek drapery and one-piece meal bag and all the other kaleidoscopic changes of fashion the rest of us have been through.
|But the average would-be independent who determines to stand her ground, saying, “These new models are preposterous! I shall wear nothing of the sort!” and keeps her word, soon finds herself not at all an example of dignity but an object of derision.||9|
FASHION HAS LITTLE IN COMMON WITH BEAUTY
Fashion ought to be likened to a tide or epidemic; sometimes one might define it as a sort of hypnotism, seemingly exerted by the gods as a joke. Fashion has the power to appear temporarily in the guise of beauty, though it is the antithesis of beauty nearly always. If you doubt it, look at old fashion plates. Even the woman of beautiful taste succumbs occasionally to the epidemics of fashion, but she is more immune than most. All women who have any clothes sense whatever know more or less the type of things that are their style—unless they have such an attack of fashionitis as to be irresponsibly delirious.
|To describe any details of dress, that will not be as “queer” to-morrow as to-day’s fashions are bound to be, would seem at the outset pretty much like writing about next year’s weather. And yet, there is one unchanging principle which must be followed by every woman, man and child that is well dressed—suitability. Nor does suitability mean merely that you must choose clothes suitable to your age and appearance, and that you must get a ball dress for a ball, and a street dress to walk in; it means equally that you must not buy clothes out of proportion to your income, or out of keeping with your surroundings.||11|
DISPROPORTIONATE EXPENDITURE IN BAD TASTE
About fifteen years ago the extravagance in women’s dress reached such a high-water mark that it was not unheard of for a New York woman to spend a third of her husband’s income on clothes. All women of fashion bought clothes when it would not have occurred to them to buy furniture—when it would have seemed preposterous to buy a piece of jewelry—but clothes, clothes, and more clothes, each more hand-embroidered than the last, until just as it seemed that no dress was fit to be seen if it hadn’t a month or two of some one’s time embroidered on it, the work on clothes subsided, until now we are at the other extreme; no work is put on them at all. At least, clothes to-day are much more sensible, and let us hope the sense will be lasting.
|The war did at least make people realize that luxuries and trimmings could go too far. Ten years ago the American woman who lived in a little cottage, who walked when she went out or took the street car, wore the same clothes exactly that Mrs. Gilding wore in her victoria, or trailed over a Ming rug. The French woman has always been (and the American woman of taste is now) too great an artist to sit in a little room with its cotton-print slip covers, muslin curtains, and geranium pots on the window ledge, in anything strikingly elaborate and expensive. Charming as her dress may be in line and cut and color, she keeps it (no matter how intrinsically good it may be) in harmony with her geranium pots and her chintz.||13|
|On the other hand, clothes that are too plain can be equally out of proportion. Last winter, for instance, a committee of ladies met in what might safely be called the handsomest house in New York, in a room that would fit perfectly in the Palace of Versailles, filled with treasures such as those of the Wallace collection. The hostess presided in a black serge golf skirt, a business woman’s white shirt-waist, and stout walking boots, her hair brushed flat and tidily back and fastened as though for riding, her face and hands redolent of soap. No powder, not a nail manicured. Had she been a girl earning her living, she could not have been more suitably dressed, but her millions and her palace background demand that her clothes be at least moderately in keeping.||14|
|One does not have to be dowdy as an alternative to being too richly dressed, and to define differences between clothes that are notable because of their distinction and smartness, and clothes that are merely conspicuous and therefore vulgar, is a very elusive point. However, there are certain rules that seem pretty well established.||15|
Vulgar clothes are those which, no matter what the fashion of the moment may be, are always too elaborate for the occasion; too exaggerated in style, or have accessories out of proportion. People of uncultivated taste are apt to fancy distortions; to exaggerate rather than modify the prevailing fashions.
|For example: A conspicuous evidence of bad style that has persisted through numberless changes in fashion, is the over-dressed and over-trimmed head. The woman of uncultivated taste has no more sense of moderation than the Queen of the Cannibals. She will elaborate her hairdressing to start with (this is all right, if elaboration really suits her type) and then she will “decorate” it with everything in the way of millinery and jewelry that she can lay her hands on. Or, in the daytime, she fancies equally over-weighted hats, and rich-looking fur coats and the latest edition in the most conspicuous possible foot-wear. And she much prefers wearing rings to gloves. Maybe she thinks they do not go together? She despises sensible clothing; she also despises plain fabrics and untrimmed models. She also cares little (apparently) for staying at home, since she is perpetually seen at restaurants and at every public entertainment. The food she orders is rich, the appearance she makes is rich; in fact, to see her often is like nothing so much as being forced to eat a large amount of butter—plain.||17|
|Beau Brummel’s remark that when one attracted too much notice, one could be sure of being not well-dressed but over-dressed, has for a hundred years been the comfort of the dowdy. It is, of course, very often true, but not invariably. A person may be stared at for any one of many reasons. It depends very much on the stare. A woman may be stared at because she is indiscreet, or because she looks like a left-over member of the circus, or because she is enchanting to look at.||18|
|If you are much stared at, what sort of a stare do you usually meet? Is it bold, or mocking, or is it merely that people look at you wistfully? If the first, change your manner; if the second, wear more conventional clothes; if the third, you may be left as you are. But be sure of your diagnosis of this last.||19|
EXTRAVAGANCE NOT VULGARITY
Ostentation is always vulgar but extravagance is not necessarily vulgar—not by any means. Extravagance can become dishonest if carried beyond one’s income.
|Nearly everything that is beautiful or valuable is an extravagance—for most of us. Always to wear new gloves is an extravagant item for one with a small allowance—but scarcely vulgar! A laundry bill can be extravagant, flowers in one’s city house, a piece of beautiful furniture, a good tapestry, each is an extravagance to an income that can not easily afford the expenditure. To one sufficient to buy the tapestry, the flowers are not an extravagance at all.||21|
|To buy quantities of things that are not even used after they are bought is sheer wastefulness, and to buy everything that tempts you, whether you can afford to pay for it or not, is, if you can not afford it, verging on the actually dishonest.||22|
DRESSES FOR DINNERS AND BALLS
Supposing, since clothes suitable to the occasion are the first requisite of good taste, we take up a few details that are apart from fashion.
|A dinner dress really means every sort of low, or half low evening dress. A formal dinner dress, like a ball dress, is always low-necked and without sleeves, and is the handsomest type of evening dress that there is. A ball dress may be exquisite in detail but it is often merely effective. The perfect ball dress is one purposely designed with a skirt that is becoming when dancing. A long wrapped type of dress would make Diana herself look like a toy monkey-on-a-stick, but might be dignified and beautiful at a dinner. A dinner dress differs from a ball dress in little except that it is not necessarily designed for freedom of movement.||24|
|Hair ornaments always look well at a ball but are not especially appropriate (unless universally in fashion) on other occasions. A lady in a ball dress with nothing added to the head, looks a little like being hatless in the street. This sounds like a contradiction of the criticism of the vulgarian. But because a tiara is beautiful at a ball, or a spray of feathers, or a high comb, or another ornament, does not mean that all of these should be put on together and worn in a restaurant; which is just what the vulgarian would do. Whether, to wear a head-dress, however, depends not alone upon fashion but upon the individual. If the type of hair ornament at the moment in fashion is becoming, wear it, especially to balls and in a box at the opera. But if it is not becoming, don’t.||25|
|Ladies of fashion, by the way, do not have their hair especially dressed for formal occasions. Each wears her hair a certain way, and it is put up every morning just as carefully as for a ball. The only time it is arranged differently is for riding. An informal dinner dress is merely a modified formal one. It is low in front and high in the back, with long or elbow sleeves—or perhaps it is Dutch neck and no sleeves.||26|
|When trains are in fashion, all older women should wear them. Fashion or no fashion, no woman who has passed forty looks really well in a cut-off evening dress. An effect of train, however, can very adequately be produced with any arrangement or trimming that extends upon the floor.||27|
|The informal dinner dress is worn to the theater, the restaurant (of high class), the concert and the opera. Informal dinner dresses are worn in the boxes at the opera on ordinary nights, such as when no especially great star is to sing, and when one is not going on to a ball afterward, but a ball dress is never inappropriate, especially without head-dress. On gala nights, ball dresses are worn in the boxes and head-dresses and as many jewels as one chooses—or has.||28|
Every one knows that a tea-gown is a hybrid between a wrapper and a ball dress. It has always a train and usually long flowing sleeves; is made of rather gorgeous materials and goes on easily, and its chief use is not for wear at the tea-table so much as for dinner alone with one’s family.
|It can, however, very properly be put on for tea, and if one is dining at home, kept on for dinner. Otherwise a lady is apt to take tea in whatever dress she had on for luncheon, and dress after tea for dinner.||30|
|One does not go out to dine in a tea-gown except in the house of a member of one’s family or a most intimate friend. One would wear a tea-gown in one’s own house in receiving a guest to whose house one would wear a dinner dress.||31|
WHEN IN DOUBT
There is one rule that is fairly safe to follow: When in doubt, wear the plainer dress. It is always better far to be under-dressed than over-dressed. If you don’t know whether to put on a ball dress or a dinner dress, wear the dinner dress. Or, whether to wear cloth or brocade to a luncheon, wear the cloth.
ON THE STREET
Your tea-gowns, since they are never worn in public, can literally be as bizarre as you please, and if you are driving in a closed motor, you can also wear an “original” type of dress. But in walking on the street,—if you care to be taken for a well-bred person—never wear anything that is exaggerated. If skirts are short, don’t wear them two inches shorter than any one else’s; if they are long, don’t go down the street dragging a train and sweeping the dirt up on the under-flouncings. (Let us hope that fashion never comes back!) Don’t wear too much jewelry; it is in bad taste in the first place, and in the second, is a temptation to a thief. And don’t under any circumstances, distort your figure into a grotesque shape.
Nothing so marks the “person who doesn’t know” as inappropriate choice of clothes. To wear elaborate clothes out of doors in the country, is quite as out of place as to parade “sports” clothes on the streets in town.
|It is safe to say that “sport” clothes are appropriate country clothes—especially for all young people. Elderly ladies, needless to say, should not don “sporting eccentricities” nor wear sweaters to lunch parties; but sensible country clothes, such as have for many decades been worn in England, of homespun or serge or jersey cloth or whatever has replaced these materials, are certainly more appropriate to walk in than a town costume—even for a lady of seventy! Young people going to the country for the day wear sports clothes; which if seen early in the morning in town and again late in the afternoon, merely show you have been to the country. But town clothes in the country proclaim your ignorance of fitness. Even for a lunch party at Golden Hall or Great Estates, every one who is young wears smart country clothes.||35|
SHOES AND SLIPPERS
Sport shoes are naturally adapted to the sport for which they are intended. High-heeled slippers do not go with any country clothes, except organdie or muslins or other distinctly feminine “summer” dresses. Elaborate afternoon dresses of “painted” chiffons, embroidered mulls, etc., are seen only at weddings, lawn parties, or at watering-places abroad.
A SUGGESTION TO THOSE WHO MIND SUNBURN
No advice is intended for those who have a skin that either does not burn at all, or turns a beautiful smooth Hawaiian brown; but a woman whose creamy complexion bursts into freckles, as violent as they are hideous, at the first touch of the sun need no longer stay perpetually indoors in daytime, or venture out only when swathed like a Turk, if she knows the virtue in orange as a color that defies the sun’s rays. A thin veil of red-orange is more effective than a thick one of blue or black.
|Orange shirt-waists do not sound very conservative, but they are mercifully conserving to arms sensitive to sunburn. Young Mrs. Gilding, whose skin is as perishable as it is lovely, always wears orange on the golf course. A skirt of burnt-orange serge of homespun or linen, and shirtwaists of orange linen or crepe de chine. A hat with a brim and a harem-veil (pinned across her nose under her eyes) of orange marquisette,—which is easier to breathe through than chiffon—allows her to play golf or tennis or to motor or even go out in a sailboat and keep her skin without a blemish.||38|
|Constance Style, who also has a skin that the sun destroys, wears orange playing tennis, but for bathing wears a high-neck and long-sleeved bathing suit and “makes her face up” (also the backs of her hands) with theatrical grease paint that has a good deal of yellow in it, and flesh color ordinary powder on top. The grease paint withstands hot sun and water, but it is messy. The alternative, however, is a choice between complexion or bathing, as it is otherwise prohibitive for the “sun afflicted” to have both.||39|
The distorted circus-mirror clothes seen on men who know no better, are not a bit worse than the riding clothes seen on actresses in our best theaters and moving pictures—who ought to know better. Nothing looks worse than riding clothes made and worn badly, and nothing looks smarter than they when well made and well put on.
|A riding habit, no matter what the fashion happens to be, is like a uniform, in that it must be made and worn according to regulations. It must above all be meticulously trig and compact. Nothing must be sticking out a thousandth part of an inch that can be flattened in.||41|
|A riding habit is the counterpart of an officer’s uniform; it is not worn so as to make the wearer look pretty! A woman to look well in a habit must be smart or she is a sight! And nothing contributes so much to the “sights” we see at present as the attempt to look pretty instead of looking correct. The criticism is not intended for the woman who lives far off in the open country and jumps on a horse in whatever she happens to have on, but for those who dress “for looks” and ride in the parks of our cities, or walk on the stage and before the camera, in scenes meant to represent smart society!||42|
|To repeat, therefore, the young woman who wants to look pretty should confine her exercise to dancing. She can also hold a parasol over her head and sit in a canoe—or she can be pretty how and where she will, so long as it is not on a horse in the park or hunting-field. (To mention hunting-field is superfluous; the woman who can ride well enough to follow the hounds is too good a sportswoman, too great a lover of good form to be ignorant of the proper outline necessary to smartness of appearance in the saddle.)||43|
|In smartest English society it is not considered best form for a young girl to ride astride in the hunting-field or in the park after she is grown. A high-born English girl rides astride as a child, but as soon as she is old enough to be presented at Court, she appears at a Meet or in the “Row” in a lady’s habit, trigly perfect in fit, and on a side-saddle. In America this is an extreme opinion, and it is only among the most fashionable that a young girl having all her life ridden in a man’s saddle, finds the world a joyless place and parents cruel when she is no longer allowed to ride like a boy. But she becomes, in spite of her protests, “another who looks divine on a horse.” And you can look divine too, if you choose! On second thoughts the adjective must be qualified. No one looks divine on a horse who is not thin as a shingle. But since diet produces a shingle shape and every one strong-minded (or vain) enough, can diet, you need only care enough to “count your calories” and be as slim as you please.||44|
|Next, the best habit possible. And best habits are expensive, and there are no “second best.” A habit is good or it is bad. Whatever the present fashion may be, have your habit utterly conventional. Don’t wear checks or have slant pockets, or eccentric cuffs or lapels; don’t have the waist pinched in. Choose a plain dark or “dust” color. A night blue that has a few white hairs in the mixture does not show dust as much as a solid dark color, and a medium weight close material holds its shape better than a light loose weave.||45|
|You may wear a single white carnation or a few violets in your buttonhole—but no other trimming. Keep the idea of perfect clothes for men in mind, get nothing that the smartest man would not wear, and you can’t go wrong. Get boots like those of a man, low-heeled and with a straight line from heel to back of top. Don’t have the tops wider than absolutely necessary not to bind, and don’t have them curved or fancy in shape. Be sure that there is no elbow sticking out like a horse’s hock at the back of the boot, and don’t have a corner on the inside edge of the sole. And don’t try to wear a small size!||46|
WHEN YOU PUT YOUR HABIT ON
First, hair: Never mind if you look like Mme. Recamier with your hair fluffed and like a skinned rabbit with it tight back, tight, flat back it must go. Brush it smooth as you can, braid it or coil it about level with the top of your ears and wind it in a door mat, not a knob in the back.
|If you have a great quantity of hair, you should take all the inner part of it, coil it on top of your head so it will go under your hat out of the way. Then take the outer edge of it and braid or wind it as flat as possible. A large bun at the back of the head is almost as bad as hair drawn over the ears at the side. If you have short hairs likely to blow, you must wear a hunting hair net. And if it is bobbed, it must be drawn back into a silk riding net and made to look trim.||48|
|Correct riding clothes are not fashion but form! Whether coat skirts are long or short, full or plain, and waists wasp-like or square, the above admonitions have held for many decades, and are likely to hold for many more.||49|
|Gloves must be of heavy leather and at least two sizes bigger than those ordinarily worn.||50|
|A hat must fit the head and its shape must be conventional. Never wear a hat that would be incorrect on a man, and don’t wear it on the back of your head or over your nose.||51|
|Wear your stock as tight as you comfortably can, not too tight! Tie it smartly so as to make it flat and neat, and anchor whatever you wear so securely that nothing can possibly come loose.||52|
|And if you want to see a living example of perfection in riding clothes, go to the next horse-show where Miss Belle Beach is riding and look at her!||53|
WHAT CLOTHES TO TAKE FOR A WEEK-END
Unless fashion turns itself upside down (which it is, of course, perfectly capable of doing), elaborate clothes, except evening ones, are entirely useless, even in Newport. We have all of us abandoned Paris fashions for country wear in favor of those of England. The Valenciennes insertions and trailing chiffons of some years ago, still seen at watering-places in France, have been entirely superseded by country clothes.
|In going to any fashionable house in the country, you should take a dinner dress for each evening, with stockings and slippers to match. You need a country dress for each day, or if the weather is uncertain, a thick one and two thin ones, with a long coat, and a dress suitable for church. This one can perfectly well be a country dress, but not a “sports” one.||55|
|If you are not too young and are going to stay in an informal house where you will probably be the only guest, and where it is likely no one will be asked in, a tea-gown or two should be taken.||56|
|If you are going especially for a ball, but not given by your hostess, needless to say, you take a ball dress and an evening wrap. In the autumn or winter, a fur coat will do double service for coat and wrap.||57|
|Do not take a big trunk full of all the things you don’t need. Don’t take sports clothes for all occasions if you are not a sportswoman. But if you do ride, or play tennis or golf, or skate or swim, be sure to take your own clothes and don’t borrow other people’s. There are plenty of ingeniously arranged week-end trunks, very compact in size, that have a hat compartment, holding from two to six hats, and plenty of room for a half a dozen dresses and their accessories.||58|
WHEN THE INCOME IS LIMITED
No one can dress well on nothing a year; that must be granted at the outset. But a woman who has talent, taste, and ingenuity can be suitably and charmingly dressed on little a year, especially at present.
|First of all, to mind wearing a dress many times because it indicates a small bank account, is to exhibit a false notion of the values in life. Any one who thinks well or ill of her, in accordance with her income, can not be too quickly got rid of! But worthwhile people are influenced in her disfavor when she has clothes in number and quality out of proportion to her known financial situation.||60|
|It is tiresome everlastingly to wear black, but nothing is so serviceable, nothing so unrecognizable, nothing looks so well on every occasion. A very striking dress can not be worn many times without making others as well as its owner feel bored at the sight of it. “Here comes the Zebra” or “the Cockatoo!” is inevitable if a dress of stripes or flamboyant color is worn often. She who must wear one dress through a season and have it perhaps made over the next, would better choose black or cream color. Or perhaps a certain color suits her, and this fact makes it possible for her habitually to wear it without impressing others with her lack of clothes. But whether her background be black or cerise it should invariably blend with her whole wardrobe, so that all accessories can be made to do double or quadruple service.||61|
|Supposing you are a young woman with more beauty than wealth! Let us also suppose you have three evening dresses, a blue, a pink and a green. At the moment you can wear flesh-colored slippers and stockings with everything, which rather weakens the argument—however, a blue fan does not look well with a pink or a green dress, nor do the other combinations. Supposing, however, you had instead a cream-colored dress, a flesh-colored, and an orchid one. Flesh-colored slippers look much better with cream and orchid than with either green or blue, at any rate! A watermelon pink fan is lovely in night-light with all three; so is a cream one. Or perhaps by changing both fan and slippers, a different effect is produced, since the colors of your clothes are background colors.||62|
|But nothing really can compare with the utility and smartness of black. Take a black tulle dress, made in the simplest possible way; worn plain, it is a simple dinner dress. It can have a lace slip to go over it, and make another dress. With a jet harness—meaning merely trimming that can be added at will—it is still another dress. Or it can have a tunic of silver or of gold trimming; and fans, flowers and slippers in various colors, such as watermelon or emerald, change it again. In fact, a black tulle can be changed almost as easily as though done with a magician’s wand.||63|
|To choose daytime clothes that go with the same hats, shoes, parasols, wrist-bags, and gloves, is equally important. A snuff-colored dress and a gray one need entirely different accessories. Russet shoes, chamois gloves, and sand-colored hat go also with henna, raspberry, reds, etc.; but gray must have gray or white shoes, gloves, and hat, which also go with blues, greens and violets.||64|
DON’T GET TOO MANY CLOTHES
Choose the clothes which you must have, carefully, and if you must cut down, cut down on elaborate ones. There is scarcely anywhere that you can not fittingly go in plain clothes. Very few, if any, people need fancy things; all people need plain ones.
|A very beautiful Chicago woman who is always perfectly dressed for every occasion, worked out the cost of her own clothes this way: On a sheet of paper, thumb tacked on the inside of her closet door, she put a complete typewritten list of her dresses and hats, and the cost of each. Every time she put on a dress she made a pencil mark. By and by when a dress was discarded, she divided the cost of it by the number of times it had been worn. In this way she found out accurately which were her cheapest and which her most expensive clothes. When getting new ones she has the advantage of very valuable information, since she avoids the dress that is never put on, which is a bigger handicap for the medium-sized allowance than many women realize.||66|
WHAT TO WEAR IN A RESTAURANT
Restaurant dress depends upon the restaurant and the city. Because women in New York wear low-necked dresses and no hats, does not mean that those who live in New Town should do the same, if it is not New Town’s custom. But you must never wear an evening dress and a hat! And never wear a day dress without one. If in the city where you live, people wear day clothes in the evening, you can only very slightly differ from them.
|It is never good form to be elaborately dressed in a public place, except in a box at the opera or at a charity ball.||68|
AT A WEDDING, A GARDEN PARTY OR AFTERNOON TEA
These are the occasions when elaborate day dresses are appropriate. But if you have very few clothes, you can perfectly well wear any sort of day dress that may be in fashion. A coat and skirt is not appropriate, since a skirt and shirt-waist is and always has been a utility combination. Unless, of course, the waist is of a color to match the skirt so that it has the appearance of a dress.
|You need, however, seldom worry about your appearance because you are not as “dressed” as the others; the time to worry is when you are more dressed than any one else.||70|
|For a garden-party a country dress is quite all right; though if you have a very elaborate summer dress, this is the only time you can wear it!||71|
|No one has to be told what to wear to church. In small country churches, at the seashore, people go to church in country clothes; otherwise, as every one knows, one puts on “town” clothes, and gloves.||72|
|At a formal luncheon in town, one sees every sort of dress from velvet to tailor-made. Certain ladies, older ones usually, who like elaborate clothes, wear them. But younger people are usually dressed in worsted materials or silks that are dull in finish, and that, although they may be embroidered and very expensive, give an effect of simplicity.||73|
|One should always wear a simpler dress in one’s own house than one wears in going to the house of another.||74|
A FEW GENERAL REMARKS
The fault of bad taste is usually in over-dressing. Quality not effect, is the standard to seek for. Machine-made passementerie on top of conspicuous but sleazy material is always shoddy. Cut and fit are the two items of greatest importance in women’s clothes, as well as in men’s. But fashion changes too rapidly to make value of material always wise expenditure for one of slender purse. Better usually have two dresses, each cut and made in the whim of the moment, than one which must be worn after the whim has become a freak. In men’s clothes the opposite rule should be followed since good style in men’s clothes is unchanging.
|To buy things at sales is very much like buying things at an auction; if you really know what you want and something about values, you can often do marvellously well; but if you are easily bewildered and know little of values, you are apt to spend your good money on trash. A woman of small means must either be (or learn to be) discriminatingly careful, or she would better have her clothes made at home, or if she is of “model” type, buy them ready-made. The ready-to-wear clothes in the Misses’ Department are growing every year better looking; unfortunately and for some inexplicable reason, the usual Women’s Department does not compare in good taste in selection of models with the former, and it is unusual to find a dress that a lady of fashion would choose except among the imported models, for which store prices are as a rule higher than those asked by the greatest dressmakers. Evening clothes are still usually unbuyable by the over-fastidious, except for a certain flapper type (and an undistinguished one at that!), and the ultra-smart woman is still obliged to go to the private importers for her débutante daughter’s ball-dresses as well as her own—or else into her own sewing-room.||76|
FASHION AND FAT
For years the thin, even the scrawny, have had everything their own way. The woman who is fat, or even plump, has a rather hopeless problem unless fashion goes to Turkey for its next inspiration, which is so unlikely it is almost possible! Two things the fat woman should avoid: big patterns and the stiff tailor-made. Fat women look better in feminine clothes that follow in the wake, never in the advance, of modified fashion. Fat women should never wear elaborate clothes or clothes in light colors or heavily feathered hats.
|The tendency of fat is to take away from one’s gracility; therefore, any one inclined to be fat must be ultra conservative—in order to counteract the effect. Very tight clothes make fat people look fatter and thin people thinner. Satin is a bad material, since high lights are too shimmeringly accentuated.||78|
|Heavy ankles, needless to say, should never be clothed in light stockings and dark shoes; long, pointed slippers accentuate a thick ankle, and so does a short skirt that has a straight hem. A “ragged” edge is most flattering.||79|
|Dress, stockings and slippers to match are unavoidable in evening dress, but when possible a thick ankle should have a dark stocking—or at least a slipper to match the stocking.||80|
|People should select colors that go with their skin. And elderly women should not wear grass green, or Royal blue, or purple, or any hard color that needs a faultless complexion. Swarthy skin always looks better in colors that have red or yellow in them. A very sallow person in pale blue or apple green looks like a well-developed case of jaundice.||81|
|Pink and orchid are often very becoming to older women; and pale blue or yellow to those with fair skin. Because a woman is no longer young is no reason why she should wear perpetual black—unless she is fat.||82|
CLOTHES FOR TRAVELING IN EUROPE
Ideal traveling clothes are those which do not wrinkle or show rain spots; and to find which these are it is necessary to take a sample of each material, sprinkle it with water, and twist it to see how much abuse it will stand. Every woman knows what she likes best, and what she considers suitable. Two alternating traveling dresses at least will be necessary, and two or three semi-evening dresses to put on for dinner. One very simple half-dinner dress of black, that has a combination of trimmings such as described earlier in this chapter, is ideally useful. Tourists do not put on evening clothes except in very fashionable centers, such as London, Paris, Monte Carlo or Deauville, and then only if staying at an ultra fashionable hotel. To be over-dressed is always in bad taste. So that unless you are going to visit or make several-day stops the one black evening dress suggested would answer every possible purpose.
|If you intend staying for a long time in one place, you take all of your season’s clothes; and if you are going to visit in England, or to stay anywhere in the country, you will need country clothes, but not on ordinary touring. For motoring, space is precious, and clothes should be chosen with the object of packing into small dimensions. Motoring in Europe is cold. A very warm, long wrap is necessary. An old fur one is much the best, and a small, close hat that does not blow.||84|
CLOTHES AND PARIS
It is something like this: You have been hypnotized before, and you vow you won’t be again! You make up your mind that you are going to get a black dress and a dark blue—and nothing else.
|You enter the lower reception hall and mount the bronze balustraded stairs half way when already Mlle. Marie is aware of your approach. She greets you not only as though you are the only customer she has ever had, but as though your coming has saved—just saved in time—the prestige of the house.||86|
|She tells you breathlessly that you are just in time to see the parade of models; she puts you where you may have an uninterrupted view. She then begins her greetings all over again by asking not alone after all the members of your family and an extraordinarily long list of friends, but makes a solicitous inquiry after each dress that she has ever sold you. “Did Madame like her white velvet?” she coos. “Was it not most useful? Was not her black lace charming? And the bisque cloth—surely Madame had found great satisfaction in wearing the bisque cloth?” But your ears are as stone to her blandishments! As a traveling suit, bisque-colored cloth had not been serviceable! Black lace with a cerise velvet under petticoat might be effective at Armenonville, but it had seemed queer, to say the least, at the tennis match in August. No, you are at last immune from any of those sudden attacks of new fashion fever that result in loss of judgment. You open your little book and consult your list.||87|
|“I should like,” you say, “a navy blue serge trimmed with black braid or satin or something like that; a black crêpe de chine absolutely plain; I really need nothing else.”||88|
|You do not look at Mlle. Marie’s crestfallen face, you watch the procession of models. But the old spell works. Besides zebra stripes and gold shot with cerise and purple, you think an emerald green charmeuse is really a perfect substitute for the plain black crêpe de chine you had in mind. You show that you are hypnotized by remarking absently, “It is the color of the grass.”||89|
|Instantly, Mlle. Marie, the most skillful vendeuse in Paris, becomes radiant. “Listen, Madame,” she says to you in that insinuating, confidential, yet humbly ingratiating manner of hers. “Let me explain, Madame,—the idea of dress this year is altogether idyllic! Never has there been such charming return to nature. The great originator of our house has taken his suggestion—but yes! from the little animals of the fields and woods—from Nature herself! Our dresses this year are intended to follow the example of all the little animals dressed to match their backgrounds. Is not that thought exquisite? Is not that delicious? Is an emerald lizard conspicuous in the tropics? Is a zebra even seen in patches of sun and shade? And in the snow, think of all the little animals who put on white coats in winter! Obviously white is the color intended for winter wear. And for the spring, green. Emerald green assuredly. It is as Madame herself said, the color of the grass. The emerald charmeuse on a lawn in summer would be a poem of harmony. The cerise for afternoons at sunset; this orange shading into coral embroidery to wear beside the fire. The dark blue chiffon embroidered in silver is for night. All the colors that Madame at first found so bright—they are but the colors of a summer flower garden. What would Madame wear in a flower garden? Black crêpe de chine? Assuredly not! See this shell pink chiffon, how lovely it would look under trees of apple blossoms. Blue serge! Oh, what an escape. And now if Madame will permit me to suggest?—the green, but assuredly! and the orange and coral, and the pink chiffon garden dress, and the zebra, for travelling, and the blue and silver....”||90|
| However, to be serious, people do go to Paris and buy their clothes—beautiful clothes! Of course they do; especially those who go every year. But the woman who goes abroad perhaps every four or five years is apt to be deficient in a trans-Atlantic sense. “Match backgrounds, like charming little animals?” Never! Oh, a very big Never Again! And yet—the next time shall you not find it a temptation to go just out of curiosity to find out what the newest artfully enticing little tune of the Pied Pipers of Paris will be!|
Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com