This section is from the book "Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction", by Laura I. Baldt. Also available from Amazon: Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction.
Well-ordered clothing should, first of all, denote fitness to circumstances. We may dress as richly as our circumstances permit, but should let the keynote of that richness be simplicity. We should choose attractive and suitable garments or stuffs of pleasing colors. There should be evenness of attire; we should not sacrifice one garment for lavish expenditure upon another. Extremes of fashion are to be avoided; they are in bad taste, and moreover extravagant. To follow the extreme of fashion, is like chasing a will-o'-the-wisp; the fancy is subject to continual change, the purse to depletion.
Clothing should suit the occasion upon which it is to be worn. It is a grave mistake to go about unsuitably dressed, wearing clothing obviously meant for another occasion. A tweed tailored suit at a formal reception, a much frilled short-sleeved chiffon blouse in a business office, or a half-worn satin gown in the kitchen, do not bespeak fitness to occasion, yet how often are such "misfits" seen! The tailor-made suit were better replaced by a simple gown of inexpensive cotton material, if need be, but showing some note of the wearer's individuality; the satin dress were better made into a good petticoat, and the price of a petticoat expended on a suitable, but attractive, wash dress to take its place; and the chiffon blouse replaced by a semi-tailored waist of linen, cotton or silk. On the other hand, this fact is not to be lost sight of, that women,. having established for themselves a place in the business world, need no longer adhere to that rigid type of costume with which they invaded the field, the "tailored shirtwaist and skirt." A generous bit of femininity may enter into business attire, but let it be dignified, not frivolous.
Good sense should guide us in suiting our clothing to our environment. We should please ourselves in this matter, but we need not offend our neighbors nor -make ourselves the jest of others. Social life in a small town necessitates fewer and simpler toilettes than the varied functions in a large city; the busy little housewife will have less use for be-ribboned negligee than the society belle; the girl who spends her summers in the hills, ten or fifteen miles from a railroad station, will have little use for French-heeled slippers and chiffon dance frocks. We have all seen such flagrant examples of a misguided sense of the fitness of things - the flaunting of finery by some before their less pretentious neighbors ; soiled and draggled negligee meant only for a boudoir, garbing a woman at housework, or dainty slippers and chiffon gown trapesing across the lawn or dusty roads about a modest country house.
Last but not least, clothing should be chosen for its suitability to the wearer. It should be an expression of her highest individuality. It has been asked, "How many women dress for their own self-satisfaction?" Why should we not? Have we not set for ourselves standards of excellence, towards which we strive, in other modes of conduct ? Why not, then, in the conduct of our clothing? We should never give ourselves over to a blind following of fashion; this dwarfs our individuality and handicaps our sense of freedom. Because scores of other women, dissimilar in every way except their ambition to be "in style," have adopted some particular mode of dress, is no reason that you and I should adopt it without further consideration.
Paul Poiret, speaking of the well-dressed woman, says: "The well-dressed woman picks out her gowns, her adornments, simply because they make her appear more pleasing, not because other people are wearing that style. * * * There is only one motto for the well-dressed woman, and the old Romans expressed it in one word, decorum, which means, that which is suitable. * * * It takes time and patience. It is hard to attain. And that is why there are so few well-dressed women. But those who really are well-dressed, enjoy a sense of satisfaction equal to the triumphs of any other art. And they impart a breath of life, beauty and color to things around them. They inspire a love of harmony, of good taste, above all, they are living examples of decorum."
It is our privilege to express ourselves in the matter of clothing, in terms of freedom, the freedom to think and choose for ourselves apparel that is individual, attractive, durable, well-cut and well-made. To he always well-dressed is one of the greatest assets a woman can have. And this is possible even to the woman of limited means. It becomes, in any case, a matter of the intelligent selection and purchase of her apparel, and the scrupulous care of the same.