Resources for Life – A weekend extra


Dress as a Fine Art, by Mrs. Mary Philadelphia Merrifield (Boston: 1854)

We violate the laws of nature when we seek to repair the ravages of time on our complexions by paint, when we substitute false hair for that which age has thinned or blanched, or conceal the change by dyeing our own gray hair; when we pad our dress to conceal that one shoulder is larger than the other. To do either is not only in bad taste, but is a positive breach of sincerity. It is bad taste, because the means we have resorted to are contrary to the laws of nature. The application of paint to the skin produces an effect so different from the bloom of youth, that it can only deceive an unpracticed eye. It is the same with hair: there is such a want of harmony between false hair and the face which it surrounds, especially when that face bears the marks of age, and the color of the hair denotes youth, that the effect is unpleasing in the extreme. Deception of this kind, therefore, does not answer the end which it had in view; it deceives nobody but the unfortunate perpetrator of would-be deceit. It is about as senseless a proceeding as that of the goose in the story, who, when pursued by the fox, thrust her head into a hedge, and thought that, because she could no longer see the fox, the fox could not see her. But in a moral point of view it is worse than silly; it is adopted with a view to deceive; it is acting a lie to all intents and purposes, and it ought to be held in the same kind of detestation as falsehood with the tongue. Zimmerman has an aphorism which is applicable to this case – “Those who conceal their age do not conceal their folly.” (p12-13)

The immediate objects of dress are twofold – namely, decency and warmth; but so many minor considerations are suffered to influence us in choosing our habiliments, that these primary objects are too frequently kept out of sight. Dress should be not only adapted to the climate, it should be also light in weight, should yield to the movements of the body, and should be easily put on or removed. It should also be adapted to the station in society, and to the age, of the individual. These are the essential conditions, yet in practice how frequently are they overlooked; in fact, how seldom are they observed! Next in importance are general elegance of form, harmony in the arrangement and selection of the colors, and special adaptation in form and color to the person of the individual. To these objects we purpose directing the attention of the reader. (p16)

Had the Bloomer costume, which has obtained so much notoriety, been introduced by a tall and graceful scion of the aristocracy, either of rank or talent, instead of being at first adopted by the middle ranks, it might have met with better success. We have seen that Jenny Lind could introduce a new fashion of wearing the hair, and a new form of hat or bonnet, and Mme. Sontag a cap which bears her name. But it was against all precedent to admit and follow a fashion, let its merits be every so great, that emanated from the stronghold of democracy. We are content to adopt the greatest absurdities in dress when they are brought from Paris, or recommendation by a French name; but American fashions have no chance of success in aristocratic England. It is beginning at the wrong end.



Published in: on January 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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