Shakespeare makes one of his characters say, "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy" but much more than mere cost must be considered in order to regulate our expenses wisely in the matter of dress.
An everyday dress, for example, should be made of cloth that will not shrink or roughen if wet, that will not fade when exposed to the light, and that has no loose threads in the weave to catch and draw. If intended for winter wear, it should have warmth without much weight; if for summer, it should be cool and thin without being flimsy. Good homespun, merino, cashmere, serge, cheviot, and broadcloth are standard materials, and far more serviceable than so-called novelties for which a high price is charged on account of some peculiarity in the weave. In summer goods, lawns, percales, linens, ginghams, dimities, grenadines, China silk, and taffeta are suited to various uses, and all are serviceable and hold their own in the favor of good buyers, in spite of the many fancy materials that are "made to sell."
All cheap and pretentious cloths should be avoided.
They are manufactured to deceive persons who know little about the real value of goods. Spend the same amount of money for a plain standard material, and the garment will be far more satisfactory at the first and will last much longer. Important as careful mending is, a great deal of mending may be saved by buying only substantial goods that are even in warp and woof and closely and firmly woven.
Dresses should be appropriate to the occasion. Elegance of material has no place in a walking dress, for example.
They should not be overloaded with ornament at any time. A good gown well fitted and carefully made from simple, appropriate goods is far better than one made of inferior material and loaded with trimmings. If lace or embroidery is used at all, it should be good of its kind. Cheap trimming of any sort cannot be made to appear artistic.
Clothing will look better and wear longer if properly cared for. Careful folding, brushing, and cleaning have much to do with the appearance of a wardrobe. Garments should be hung up with double loops or on curved hoops.
If a garment is to be remodeled, it should not be worn until it is very shabby, but should be carefully ripped apart, brushed and shaken in the open air. If the material can be turned, remove all stains by stretching it out on a clean, smooth board and scrubbing it with a soft brush and soap and warm water, rinsing such places by holding the material over a bowl and pouring water through it. Be careful not to stretch it while doing this. Lay a cloth over it and press on the wrong side while it is still damp.
If the material is very much soiled and worn, soak a small quantity of soap bark in warm water overnight; strain through a fine cloth; if any woody particles come through, strain again. Put this suds into two tubs; add warm water until it is about 98° Fahrenheit. Place the fabric in the first tub, and knead it as you would bread. Never rub soap on the fabric or use a washboard. Keep turning it over and kneading until you have taken out as much dirt as possible. Many of the washing machines are very good for this purpose. Fold the material carefully and put it through a wringer; repeat this process through the second tub. Rinse it in water, which is of the same temperature as the first; and make sure that all soap is out of the material before finally putting it through the wringer. If the wringer creases the cloth, take it out of the rinsing water and hang it, by the selvage or straight edge, upon the line to drain and dry. When nearly dry, iron it with a piece of goods between the material and the iron. Care should be taken in ironing not to flatten the threads of the fabric. Silks, ribbons (except white), kid gloves, etc., can be best cleaned with naphtha, but as this is highly explosive, it must be used in the open air, away from fire. Delicate fabrics had best be sent to the professional cleaner.
In remaking any material, it is generally advisable to combine it with some other fabric. Frequently this may be done by making a yoke or vest, cuffs and collars on the waist, and introducing a panel or bias fold on the skirt, being careful to select materials whose coloring will be low in tone and that will not attract attention to any lack of freshness in the original goods.