Clothing. This is one of the most difficult items of the budget, not in making a decision as to the amount to be spent, but in using the amount to the best advantage. The primary purpose of clothing is undoubtedly to protect the body, a matter of health. But this purpose is almost obscured by the two secondary purposes that count most with all of us, that of adornment and that of conforming to the social usage of our group. In America that group is not a class, as in many of the older countries, but the people we. wish most of all to be like. Many a girl with a small income, many a clerk on a small salary, give the same general effect when met on the street as the daughter or son of the multi-millionaire. Their variety of clothing cannot be as great, but their standard of style and even of quality is the same. Undoubtedly this leads many times to real and serious extravagance on the part of those - especially the young - of small income, since they sacrifice health and family or social obligations to the desire to be "well dressed." On the other hand, the desire to look well is one of the elements of progress, and any attempt to urge young or middle-aged or old to dress plainly at a low cost without regard to effect would be not only ineffectual but reactionary.
The ideal is a right one - to be "well dressed." The trouble is with the individual interpretation. To be well dressed is to be suitably dressed for the occasion, in clothing that is becoming in color and line and good in texture, but more than this, it is also to be dressed without deception, without the attempt to make others think that our incomes are larger than they are. It is the temptation to violate this last rule that brings most of the trouble. The average American is constantly tempted to a foolish sort of lying through outward details, tempted to appear richer or more powerful than he or she actually is. This falsifying is often quite or partially unconscious. It is certainly not often faced and accepted. One of the great values of the budget is that it almost forces one to honesty in the matter.
But when the question has been settled and the sum of money to be spent is known, difficulties are not over. In the first place, the sum should be divided fairly among the different members of the family, so that the account may be kept separately for each. If the schoolgirl is to have her silk stockings and the school-boy his silk shirts at the expense of Mother's winter coat or Father's summer suit, the money is being used extravagantly, and the children are being badly trained.
Here also, in keeping accounts, it is of great importance to use the subheadings. They may seem unnecessarily detailed, but they will be found very helpful, especially after three or four years. Then the card or the loose leaf (strongly urged in Chapter VII) will show at a glance the range of expenditure from year to year. Most people who have not kept such accounts decide at first sight that some of the subheads are unnecessary. "Jewelry? I never buy jewelry for myself." This has a virtuous ring. The obvious answer is: "Do you never break a watch crystal or have your watch cleaned? Never buy a hat pin or cuff links or a collar stud?" And the less obvious one is: "Why should you not, if you wish? If you prefer the permanency of a topaz brooch or gold shirt studs to the vanishing attractiveness of a more expensive silk or serge, why should you not indulge in the jewelry? If you provide for your actual needs in clothing, it is for you to choose what will in the end give you the most pleasure."
Clothing-Accessories puzzles many people. It might perhaps be called Miscellanies except that that word suggests an idea that is taboo in good accounting. An umbrella is an accessory, a bathrobe, a belt, gloves. Stockings can be put here or with Clothing-Shoes, to show what dressing the feet costs. Materials for mending and sewing naturally fall here, the item Repair being kept for the larger charges of remaking or, if it is put here instead of under Laundry, of dry cleaning. In considering clothing expenditure the first consideration in judging values is the fact that the net cost of clothing is the first cost plus care and repair, divided by the amount of wear. In other words, the undergarment of fine material trimmed with delicate lace whose first cost is "only $1 more" (probably 50%) must be laundered with such care that its cost is thereby much increased, and even then cannot be worn as many days as the one that cost $1 less. This is not to say that the daintier garment may not be justified, but only that its actual cost should be recognized. If it is, it may be worth to the owner the making for herself or the laundering by herself that will lengthen its life and make the cost per day little or no greater than that of the sturdier garment. The suit or gown that will clean well has a longer life before it than the one that will not stand cleaning. The garment of such style and quality that it will be good to look at through two or three seasons is better than the garment that will last but a single season. If the first costs three times the last, and the extra amount is paid for quality and good construction, the garment is well worth it, since the wearer will be better dressed all the three seasons than he or she could ever be in the cheaper material and style.
The daily care of the clothing worn extends the clothing income in a surprising way. Such care means that outer garments are properly brushed, and hung smooth on hangers - in free air until all dampness has evaporated and then in a well-arranged closet, where they are not crushed or wrinkled. It means also that they are pressed whenever they need it, for tailored garments, once in a while by a tailor. It means that the least repair is made when it is first noticed - a hook or a button made secure, a rip sewed up, a small hole darned. It means that a spot is removed as soon as it is seen, and that for a woman collars and cuffs that can be laundered are kept constantly clean and smooth. For undergarments it means the same care in mending and also that these are never so soiled before laundering that much rubbing is needed to remove the soil. If the garments are mended before sending to the laundry, the repair is almost invariably less, and they should never be so soiled that they are objectionable to handle in mending. The habit of putting in or on the mending basket or table any garment as soon as it is seen to need repair, when there is not at the moment time to mend it, helps to ensure the mending before the next wearing.