There is a bald economy which shows its pitiful bareness in every point of dress, and there is an economy which struggles to conceal its devices and makeshifts by making everything appear to the best advantage. No one can dispute the fact that of the two the latter is far the most graceful and praiseworthy. It costs more thought and effort to make garments stylish and pretty, but the well-dressed woman has her reward in increased self-respect. One woman will make over a hard worn dress into a dreary gored wrapper unrelieved by trimming. Another will convert the same material into a jaunty skirt and basque, and from the apparently unusable portions decorate them in some tasteful way. Certainly the lady who wears the latter costume will be better pleased with herself, and grace the family table more satisfactorily to her friends than the other.
There are people who pretend to be too good to care for dress, and despise others for being fond of what they please to call frivolity. A close analysis of the character of such people would often bring to light far graver faults and weaknesses than a love for dress, which, kept within proper bounds, is not reprehensible, but rather commendable.
It can hardly be repeated too often that quiet dressing should be the rule for those who are unable to procure a variety of clothes. The wearer of a showy dress is so soon recognized by it, and she, as well as her friends, grows sick of it long before its term of usefulness is over. A plain black or dark dress can be made stylishly and will be as dressy as a figured one, and will not be remembered from time to time, even if it is worn on every occasion for a long while. Bright ribbons and fresh ruffles and laces will change and beautify the plain quiet dress, and give one a reputation for becoming and tasteful toilettes without its occurring to any one that the same old dress forms the basis of all the pretty changes. It is in making over an old dress that fancy material can be used to good advantage to freshen and piece out, but in buying and making a new dress, when the event is a rare one, it is infinitely wiser to buy it of a solid color and make it in an inconspicuous manner, not forgetting to get a sufficiently ample pattern to allow of a large piece to lay aside for future alterations and improvements.
Even a very poor lady may dress with taste, and a working-girl may show more of it in her simple dress than an extravagant and wealthy lady will in hers. In fact the ability to buy finery of all sorts, and gratify a strong fancy for decoration often leads to bizarre effects, which destroy the beauty of ex-pensive costumes. One need hardly be afraid of offending good taste by dressing too plainly, provided the plainness is the perfection of neatness. That, indeed, should belong to all styles of dress; for nothing so entirely takes away one's reputation for being well-dressed, as torn, soiled or shabby apparel or trimmings Not only that, but other unfavorable deductions as to character and habits are apt to be drawn of those whose habitual appearance is other than neat.
People who are not rich can not afford to be careless, because clothes that are not taken care of will not last as long as those which are kept in order. A small outlay of money and a liberal expenditure of time and patience will keep even a meager wardrobe in good order, and will forestall the outlay of considerable sums. Eternal vigilance is the price of decency for poor folks. Garments often wear out faster when not being worn than when they are in use. Dresses crowded into a closet, and allowed to hang for days under the weight of a cloak or two or three other dresses, will not pass the ordeal without injury. Lingerie carelessly tossed into a drawer, where there is a confused assortment of other articles, will not come out in good order for wearing again; and torn flounces, mended with pins, do not add to the durability of a dress any more than does putting it away with an accumulation of street dust on the bottom.
Handsome dresses that are not often worn should be folded with extreme care, with every ruffle and plaiting in place. This plan is supposed to prevent the sagging of the drapery that is sometimes given oy constant hanging. Another way to prevent this is to hang it upside down occasionally by tapes pinned upon the bottom of the skirt; this reverses all the customary folds, and freshens the general appearance. Of course every bit of dust should have been previously wiped off, and for this purpose nothing is better than an old silk handerchief. The dress should be pinned up in towels or pices of old muslin, and laid away upon a shelf, or in a drawer, if an empty one sufficiently large is available. The importance of keeping dresses in shape when they are off the person is so well understood in Franee that many ladies who do not have maids of their own hire a professional expert to fold away their more elegant dresses. When unfortunately, the closets of a house are not roomy enough to contain good dresses without folding too much, large pasteboard boxes may be ordered from any box maker or book bindery, which will soon save their cost by preventing injury to costly garments. As a rule, put away every article of apparel as soon as it is taken off. Dresses must be shaken and brushed, and if they have been worn in the street, thoroughly cleaned upon the bottom, then they should be hung up by loops sewed on the back of each armhole, and if possible allowed the full possession of the hook or nail, as hanging under or against other garments is no advantage to dress. Shawls should be carefully folded in the original creases and pinned up in a square of clean linen before laying away in a drawer. Cloaks must be brushed, and either laid in a long drawer or trunk and subjected to no pressure from other garments, or hung up by a loop on the back of the neck; or better still, cut a piece of wood something in the shape of a wooden yoke, such as is sometimes used across men's shoulders to suspend milk pails to, and fasten it up by a string tied in the middle and hang the cloak upon that. It will keep the back and shoulders in good shape. It is a good plan, in a large closet that is often opened, to have a calico curtain to protect that part of it devoted to cloth and woolen goods, as by contact with dust they soon grow gray and dingy.