This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
Change is ever going forward in nature. To-day it is spring and all nature is waking to new life. A few weeks hence and every tree and shrub will be clothed in a garb of green, sprinkled with blossoms. Later the green of various shades will merge into the autumn tints; and, later still, nature will doff her garb entirely, only to clothe herself in the coming years again with various changes, according to the seasons.
So mankind instinctively change in style of costume, oftentimes for better, and sometimes, it must be admitted, for the worse. But the change ever goes forward, fashion repeating itself within the century, often within a generation, almost as certain as the seasons do within the year.
There is no use, therefore, in issuing a flat against changes of fashion. Best judgment is shown in accepting of the inevitable and adapting ourselves to circumstances.
It is best to conform to fashion, avoiding extremes.
While it is well to guard against the adoption of a decidedly unwise fashion, it is well also to avoid an oddity in dress.
Well-dressed gentlemen wear dark clothing cut and made to measure. Watch-chain, one ring, shirt-stud and sleeve-buttons, are all the jewelry allowable for the gentleman.
Other colors than black will be appropriate in their season and for various kinds of enjoyment.
Give the boy a good suit of clothes if you wish him to appear manly. An ill-fitting, bad-looking garment destroys a boy's respect for himself.
To require the boy to wear men's cast-off clothing, and go shambling around in a large pair of boots, and then expect him to have good manners, is like giving him the poorest of tools, because he is a boy, and then compelling him to do as fine work with them as a man would with good tools.
Like the man or woman, the boy respects himself, and will do much more honor to his parents, when he is well dressed in a neatly fitting suit of clothes. Even his mother should relinquish her rights and let the barber cut his hair.
As a rule well-dressed children exhibit better conduct than children that are careless in general appearance. While vanity should be guarded against, children should be encouraged to be neat in person and dress.
The mother should strive also to make her boy manly. Possibly, as a pet, her boy has in infancy had his hair curled. Even now, when he is six or eight years of age, the curls look very pretty. But the mother must forego her further pleasure in the curls; for the boy, to take his place along with the others, to run and jump, to grow manly and strong, must wear short hair. His mother can no longer dress it like a girl's. It will be necessary and best to cut off his curls.
Best taste will dictate an observance of fashion, avoiding extremes. 'Dress the hair so that it will exhibit variety and relief, without making the forehead look too high. Have one pronounced color in dress, all other colors harmonizing with that. See "Harmony of Colors."
A dress should fit the form. Well-fitted and judiciously trimmed, a calico dress is handsomer than an ill-fitting silk dress.
To present a handsome appearance, all the appurtenances of the lady's dress should be scrupulously neat and clean. Every article that is designed to be white should be a pure white, and in perfect order.
Much taste may be displayed in dress about the neck, and care should be observed not to use trimmings that will enlarge the appearance of the shoulders. The dress should be close-fitting about the waist and shoulders, though it should not be laced too tightly. As with the gentleman, quiet colors are usually in best taste. Heavy, rich, dark materials best suit the woman of tall figure; while light, full draperies should be worn only by those of slender proportions. Short persons should beware of wearing flounces, or horizontal trimmings that will break the perpendicular lines as the effect is to make them appear shorter. The pictorial illustrations herewith show how differently people appear with different dress, our opinions of their intellectual capacity, their standing and respectability being largely influenced at first sight by this appearance.
Care should be taken to dress according to the age, the season, the employment and the occasion. As a rule, a woman appears her loveliest when, in a dress of dark color, we see her with the rosy complexion of health, her hair dressed neatly, her throat and neck tastefully cared for, her dress in neither extreme of fashion, while the whole is relieved by a moderate amount of carefully selected jewelry.
We have aimed in this chapter on the toilet to present the scientific principles of dress - principles that can be applied at all times, whatever may be the fashion. It now remains for the reader to study these principles and apply them in accordance with the rules of common sense and the fashions as they may prevail.
Graceful and Refined in Appearance.
WHATEVER may be the fashion, there is such grace and refinement bestowed upon the persons shown above, through properly made dress, as to win our admiration.