There are a few things that every shopper ought to know. She should, for one thing, know exactly how much money it is proper or expedient to spend for a certain article. Of course, she is not obliged to expend the entire sum, if she has the good fortune to find what she wants at a lower price, but, the limit being fixed, she should have resolution enough not to be tempted to exceed it. In all probability the sum has been determined with reference to other needs, and if one purchase is allowed to overstep the margin, there will be inconvenient curtailing in other directions. With the stern fact of a slender purse to be kept in mind, it is weak in the shopper to spend her own time, and the salesman's, looking at expensive goods which are beyond her reach. The sight of such fabrics, contrasting with the more humble ones which must of necessity be her choice, will be apt to produce dissatisfaction.
Quite important it is, also, for the economical shopper to be aware of the quantity of material she will need. Rapid calculations made at the time of purchasing are very unreliable, and an appeal to the salesman will do little good, because the desire to make a sale will often prompt that person to suggest a smaller quantity than is needful. On the paper patterns sold by dealers the quantity of goods required is usually set down, but an economical cutter can often make the garment from a smaller number of yards than that given. A liberal quantity is mentioned, to allow for inexperience and more or less wastefulness upon the cutter's part. It Would be wise, after selecting a pattern, to measure it, and decide by turning the pieces about till every advantage gained by dovetailing them in and out may be taken note of. There are many ladies who manage to reduce the amount of cloth usually required for a dress, so greatly, that the saving thus made is quite a consideration. In expensive goods the saving of a yard or two will go a long way toward the purchase of another dress.
Very excellent managers have been known to cut all the required parts of a polonaise, jacket, or whatever form the pattern is in, from paper, (in cases where the pattern does not give duplicate sections), to better enable them to make the closest calculation as to the amount required. Such painstaking is sometimes laughed at and termed fussiness, but, depend upon it, any method which enables a woman in narrow circumstances to save a dollar, even, should be above derision.. To show that the sum thus saved may be of some magnitude, the case of two ladies in New York may be named, who bought silk dresses from the same piece. The silk was four dollars a yard, and the dresses were to be made in the same style. One lady referred to her dressmaker for the amount of yards necessary, the other made her own calculation in the manner just spoken of, and bought two yards less. Her dress appeared, after being made, to be as ample as her friend's, and she had the reward of her deliberate forethought in the saving of eight dollars. Probably, the other dress was honestly made, for the quantity supplied was far from exorbitant, but less careful cutting made the difference.
How much, or, rather, how little, material will it be safe to purchase for making into a silk dress, is a question often asked by ladies who are obliged to count the cost of every thing very narrowly. It is a question that could be answered more accurately regarding a single individual than in the abstract, but it is safe to say that, with careful cutting, a polonaise and simply-trimmed skirt can be made from thirteen or fourteen yards of silk, according to the height of the lady. The upper part of the skirt can be of black lawn, or, instead of continuing the silk to the bottom of the skirt, it may be pieced down with lining, beginning where the ruffle is put on. Even if more material is purchased, it is more prudent to piece out the skirt with other goods, and save some of the silk to use when the time for making over comes.
For ladies who live out of town, the present facilities for selecting from samples sent by mail simplify shopping greatly. Almost all merchants in large cities are very obliging about sending samples, and, even if the express charges on the goods ordered adds something to the cost, it is a trifle • compared to the expense of visiting the city. With the samples before one at home, one can make a cooler choice and use better judgment than when in a store, and country buyers have, on this score, a great advantage over town shoppers.
Among the many points to be considered in the selection of a winter dress, is its possibility for turning upside down and wrongside out, when its future destiny may demand such transformation. It is also desirable to have goods that can be dyed, and, on that account, mixtures of silk and wool should be avoided. There are also other objections to this class of goods. They are liable to change color when exposed to dampness, and will sometimes shrink and "cockle up" in a way that makes them unsightly, and often useless. All-wool materials, such as serge, cashmere, flannels and debeges, and all the goods of similar nature sold under various names, are far more satisfactory, and are often cheaper, even at the first cost, than the fancy mixtures.
For those ladies who are obliged to follow some out-of-door avocation, such as carrying a subscription book, selling some articles from house to house, or any pursuit which requires them to brave all weathers, the most serviceable winter dress will be one of camlet, linsey or frieze-cloth. Either of these will be very satisfactory, if a grade is selected which is woven of pure worsted, with no mixture of cotton or any other fabric. If the material is bought at a reliable place, the dealer will be willing to point out the difference between the mixed and unmixed worsted material, but (the former not always being easy to find) irresponsible persons will sometimes attempt to palm off the latter upon the inexperienced. A jacket or sacque like the dress can be wadded and lined, and, if neatly made after a stylish pattern, will complete a walking costume that any lady might be willing to wear. Such a suit in dark gray, or "pepper and salt," made with emigrant skirt bordered with three or five rows of black braid, and easy fitting coat of the same, similarly trimmed, will be more stylish, and command more respect for the wearer than a half-worn silk or cashmere whose trimmings show stains of travel and dust, whose draperies have the dejected look common to long worn ornamentation. It is not to be supposed that the economist must never take advantage of a special bargain; but she must be wary, lest she is dazzled by cheapness and tempted into buying something that she could have gone without, and saved the money for a better use.
The habit of making a list, every season, of the things absolutely needed, with their probable cost, will assist an economical shopper very much in making her purchases, and dispose her to shun showy so-called bargains, unless she sees one that will supply some item set down in her list, or can be profitably substituted for something therein. Even then she should use very deliberate judgment, and carefully refrain from buying in haste to regret at leisure.
Merchants in cities are, at certain times, in the habit of offering, as bargains, the fragments of the last season's stock to clear them out before new goods are exhibited. These bargains are sold (very often) for any thing that they will bring. Experienced economists find this their golden opportunity, and rarely fail to take advantage of its coming. Remnants of summer goods are to be found often at a quarter of the price asked for them on their first appearance, and, with a little taste and a clever knack at securing an imitation of some of the many fashions of the day, it is an easy thing to effect an ingenious arrangement of a few yards of new goods upon an old dress that will delude the public into the belief that the whole costume is as new as it is elegant. The point having been thoroughly settled, that close following of passing styles is incompatible with systematic economy, the woman of small means will not hesitate to make her dollar do double duty by spending it for some of these kept-over goods without troubling herself with anxious doubts and fears lest they should not be in the latest of the ruling modes. Her choice among them, if her taste and judgment are good, will be those that are quiet and inconspicuous in color and pattern. Such dresses, be the fashion what it may, are always ladylike and in good style. There are some standard goods that are never obsolete; but because each season brings its own trivial variation in the shade of a color, the thickness of a twill, or some such unimportant feature, the infinitesimal change depreciates, in the eyes of large dealers, the materials of last year. Narrow stripes, fine checks and small dots are all unremarkable, and, not coming within the range of arbitrary fashions, are never out of date, and no one need ever be ashamed of wearing them. Prints, cambrics, calicoes, ginghams, and all the great varieties of the previous year's supply of cotton goods, are generally to be found among the bargains shown at such times; and there is no better opportunity for laying in a stock for children's summer dresses, or for their mothers and older sisters. Always make up cotton dresses without lining. They can be washed and ironed easily, and look almost as well as new after each time of laundrying. With a waist lining there is apt to be a shrinkage and drawing out of place in either the lining or outside that hinders the iron from doing its work nicely. For those who have to do actual hard work, such as washing, scrubbing, etc., it may be well, now that the material is so much thinner than of old to make dark calico working dresses with waist linings of unbleached muslin to help to resist the strain produced by constant motion of the arms; but for ordinary housework a loosely-fitting unlined waist with simply a stay or facing under the arms, is quite strong enough. It would also be sufficiently so for the hardest work if people were in the habit of making the calicoes worn for such use, simply with a skirt and half-fitting sacque. Many ladies make the calico skirts of working dresses of straight breadths and no gores in order that, when partially worn out, the front may be turned around to the back, thus bringing stronger breadths into the place of those which are thin and faded. The gathers are ripped from the waistband and the skirt turned upside down. After a new lease of life has in this way been secured to the skirt, there should be some way of renovating the upper portion, perhaps new sleeves, and, possibly, a renewal of the lower portions of the front if the waist is in sacque form.
The most economical and convenient time for making common dresses is at a season when more elaborate dresses are not in preparation. For calicoes and ginghams it will be safe to select any of the simpler styles or.
walking dresses. Plain percale and small checked ginghams combine well, and many very pretty combinations may 'be made with calicoes and prints. A very practical little English work on economy recommends keeping a little table of the widths of different materials and the respective quantities required for the ordinary garments used in the family for convenience in shopping.