This section is from the book "Clothing And Health. An Elementary Textbook Of Home Making", by Helen Kinne. Also available from Amazon: Clothing And Health.
The Pleasant Valley girls have decided that it is worth while learning about suitable and attractive dress. They are anxious to begin this study. Suppose we learn some of the things one must think about and study in order to be properly and attractively dressed.
One does not have to be expensively dressed in order to be attractively and well dressed. Much depends on appropriateness. It is not appropriate for a girl to wear jewelry, thin stockings, low fancy slippers, lace waists, feather hats, to work or to school. How much more attractive and appropriate is a plain, neat shirt waist and cloth skirt, a plain necktie and a simple hat, and plain boots or ties. One should not dress as if one were going to a party when one goes to work or to school. Do you understand what appropriateness means? It means wearing the suitable kind of clothing for every occasion. It is our duty to be as well dressed as possible, for our friends' sakes as well as for our own; but a well-dressed girl is never conspicuous. Clothes which would be appropriate in a large city for a reception might be very inappropriate in a small town. Our daily clothes should be adapted to our uses, whether in country or city. Would you wear your party dress for gardening or for tennis or skating ?
Criticize your own garments. Try to have them neat and clean, for this makes one more self-respecting. Try to have your clothes convenient, neat, graceful, beautiful, allowing for free movements of the body. Choose something which is not overdecorated but which will emphasize your charm and personality. Young girls do not need jewelry or much decoration on clothes, for youth is always charming in itself.
Some girls try to copy every "latest style." Do you? One should not unless it is a style which will suit one. Cousin Ann heard a talk at the Young Women's Christian Association one night. It was on simplicity of dress. The speaker was from a large department store in Paterson where Ann lives, and she gave Ann some new ideas about dress. She said simplicity is not necessarily plainness, but it means being so intelligent that one knows what to leave off in the way of decoration. She said being well dressed is knowing what to omit. She also said that trimmings and ornaments without reason are foolish and spoil a gown. Because one bow looks well it does not follow that ten will improve one's appearance. So many girls are really caricatures. They wear every exaggerated thing and many things which are not refined, as the very low neck, or the very scant or transparent skirt. This is not beauty of dress, but very bad and vulgar taste. The speaker said that " beauty of costume is not necessarily the result of costliness, but of artistic appreciation." Cousin Ann said several of the members of her sewing club were at this lecture, and they decided to ask Miss Willing, who leads their club, to talk about "artistic appreciation." Cousin Ann said she did not quite understand what the speaker meant. This is what Miss Willing told the girls, and then they understood perfectly. Perhaps you would like to know, too. A costume is a work of art. She said we must think of our costumes as being works of art. Every girl has a style of her own, and she should study it and dress so as to bring out all her good points and conceal those not so attractive. One's hair or eyes should be considered in choosing color. Stooped or narrow shoulders, if they cannot be corrected, can be made to look less narrow by the plan of the gown. Stout figures can be made to look less stout. So by choosing the right colors and correct decoration and right lines, one can often improve one's appearance. Miss Willing says to understand about this is to have what the speaker at the Young Women's Christian Association called "artistic appreciation." One should cultivate artistic appreciation for good furnishings as well as for appropriate dress. Miss Willing told the girls another evening about color and good lines, for they are all so anxious to learn. They never even imagined before that any one ever thought about such things. Marjorie Allen and the other girls at Pleasant Valley School are very glad Cousin Ann told them too.
Fig. 131. - Which of these girls looks ready to do her work ?
The costume should be the background as it were. Miss Willing says to remember always that a really artistic costume is one which makes us say "what a lovely girl!" rather than "what a lovely gown she is wearing." A costume should not be so strong in color or design that one thinks only of that. Do you remember how in some rooms we feel the pattern of the wall paper or of the carpet. When one does, the design is poor; the wall is the background. Our clothes should make the wearers' good qualities stand out. They should be subordinate, Miss Willing says. Do you understand that word?
Miss Willing says the outline of our clothed figures should be pleasing. (Have you ever walked to town and seen girls with large hats which were not balanced on their heads, and short skirts and perhaps large muffs? If you watch them as they come towards you down the street, you will see that the whole outline or silhouette against the sky or house is poor; they look top-heavy or, we say, unbalanced. Such a costume is not good. A smaller hat with the short skirt is what is needed in order to have a balanced figure. The outline of the natural human figure is most beautiful. Look at the lovely figure of the Grecian woman (Fig. 132); see how the lines follow her figure. Costumes which make ugly lumps, as bustles and large muffs, and other ugly shapes are not well balanced.]
An artistic dress shows good taste. Do you remember your talks in your art class about the spaces in a design, and the relation of one to the other. This is true in dresses too. Tucks, buttons, seams, bands of trimming all mark off spaces on our bodies (Fig. 133). In order to have a really artistic dress, there must be a plan about the arrangement of spaces. A short, stout girl with bands of trimming running around her skirt and with lines of trimming running up and down the waist will present a very strange appearance to one who has "artistic appreciation." Can you tell why this would not be good taste? A stout figure should wear vertical lines of trimming rather than horizontal; and the spaces between lines should be such as will make the girl look smaller rather than larger; so dresses must be really designed, and the spaces, colors, values, really thought about. Do you know what value means? Some costumes have contrast in values. Black and white are sharp contrasts. One sees the black or the white at once. These spots of black or white jump at one unless there is something to connect the two, as gray, which would be an intermediate value. Spotty costumes are not good or restful. Have you seen, perhaps, a white dress with black hat and gloves and shoes? Did you notice how the black things stand out and the eye jumps from one spot of black to another? A white dress with white shoes and gloves and a black hat trimmed with some white, thus carrying some of the white to the black, would be better.
Fig. 132. - Notice the lovely folds of the Grecian costume.
Miss Willing said this is called studying values. We can study values of color as well as of black and white. Next lesson we shall learn what Miss Willing told the girls about color in selecting or making dresses.
Fig. 133. - Notice the good spacing and arrangement of lines.
1. Why do you think Miss Willing had "good taste" in dress ?
2. What can you tell about Miss Willing's talk on artistic appreciation? What does it mean in relation to dress ?
3. Criticize your own garments in relation to line, simplicity, decoration, appropriateness.