Wear what is Becoming, not what is Fashionable - Fabrics with Dull Surfaces - The Large
Black Picture Hat - Value of the Veil fter a woman reaches the solemn age of thirty, according to a cynical Frenchman who has made a serious study of the eternal feminine, each year strikes double. To attempt to put back the hands of the clock is a foolish device, and one that can deceive nobody. It is wise to accept things as they are, and study how to make the best of them.
Shakespeare's philosophy is never out of date, and it was he who said:
" . . . Frame your mind to mirth and merriment, Which bars a thousand harms, and lengthens life." These are golden words, for nothing does more to age a face than a continual expression of discontent or ill-temper.
In connection with dress, however, some practical hints may be of value to the middle-aged woman who is anxious to look as young and as pretty as possible. In the first place, she must try to find the happy medium between the foolishness of wearing frocks suitable for a girl of seventeen and the stupid indifference that would allow her to descend to the depths of dowdiness, to wrap herself in dreary old mantles, and to crown her badly dressed hair with a prehistoric bonnet.
Between the Scylla of seventeen and the Charybdis of seventy there must be some course which can be steered safely by the woman who is frankly middle-aged and wishes to study the art of growing old gracefully.
The difficulties are greatest for those whose figures err upon the generous side. An inclination towards massive proportions may give a suggestion of middle age even to women under thirty. Such people should remember that dark colours take away from the apparent size, and that softly flowing draperies held in below the fine of the waist are invariably becoming. Except in the street, long-trained skirts should be worn as a matter of course, and great attention should be paid to the choice of materials.
Fabrics with dull surfaces, such as crepe de Chine and cashmere, should be chosen by stout people, and for them also fine stripes, small conventional designs, and tiny spots are most desirable. Any bright shades or violent contrasts of colour should be carefully avoided
Wide scarves in lace or chiffon draped lightly round the shoulders, loosely knotted at the waist, and then arranged to fall in long, straight lines to the feet will also prove becoming The large black picture hat, moreover, with its sweeping curves and the kindly shade of its wide brim, will also assist the general scheme.
For the woman who has been fortunate enough to keep a slight and girlish figure it is easy to grow old gracefully. She can indulge in the mode of the moment to her heart's content, if she will only modify its temporary extravagances. She may wear Empire tea-gowns, close-fitting princess robes, trim tailor-mades, and even white satin evening frocks without making her-' self look ridiculous.
All the dainty shades of mauve and silver-grey, pale rose-leaf pink, and myosotis blue, are hers by right, and when she finds it necessary to soften the angles she will need only to arrange with deft fingers a drapery of fine old lace, or perhaps a scarf of gauze or chiffon, and the bodices of her gowns will take upon themselves the gracious curves which are inseparable from beauty.
In matters of millinery the woman who is no longer young should avoid anything very small or jaunty in the way of a hat or toque. No matter what the mode of the moment may be, she must have the courage of her opinions, and refuse to be guided by her milliner, who, in nine cases out of ten, will be anxious to push her own wares, regardless of the fact that they are unbecoming.
As the hair grows thinner the face naturally looks wider, and there is a need for something to shade the forehead. Anything which suggests the apex of a pyramid should be condemned at once.
Small, close-fitting hats may be worn by elderly women for travelling or in rough, wet weather in the country or by the sea. They should, however, always be draped with voluminous veils of chiffon or silk gauze, the soft folds of which will add to the apparent size of the hat and will help at the same time to soften an outline that might otherwise be too severe.
Furthermore, these light draperies will be of inestimable value when they are crossed at the back of the hat, brought round under the chin, and tied in a big bow in front. They will then hide altogether the unkind lines which Time's finger draws in the region of the throat and neck, lines which our wiser sisters across the Channel make a point of never leaving unveiled by some dainty drapery of lace or chiffon.
Let any woman no longer young try the effect of one of these veils in the glass, and she will be astonished at the years which it will take away from her. It need not cover the face, but should be folded round the front of the hat-brim.
In the same way a still older woman finds it to wear in the evening a scarf of fine real lace, draped on her soft grey hair, and brought round under the chin like the lappets of days gone by.
Beautiful old laces, fine of texture and mellow of tone, are the greatest friends of the middle-aged woman, because there are a thousand and one ways in which they can be draped and arranged so that they make a fitting framework for the face. Soft lace ruffles for the wrists are not to be despised either, for even the hands which have once been lovely show wrinkles sometimes with advancing years.
Heavy and bulky cloaks and wraps should never be worn by those who wish to grow old gracefully. A cloak of substantial material which entirely obliterates the waist-line adds to the apparent age of the wearer.
On the other hand, it is quite possible for an elderly woman to attire herself in a very becoming day or evening coat of chiffon, or of transparent lace arranged with long flowing lines which, while they give height to the figure, help also to soften or conceal any defect in the general outline.
Lace fichus and shoulder scarves are useful in the same way. They can be worn on all occasions, and with any sort of gown. They will be found equally becoming in black or in a soft tone of cream colour, and deserve a place of honour in every woman's wardrobe.
With an afternoon gown of grey cashmere there is no accessory more charming than a fichu of cream Alencon or Brussels lace, and there are infinite possibilities of graceful arrangement in the case of an evening gown in black crepe de Chine or satin ii the square-cut bodice is draped with a black Chantiily lace scarf.
Inspiration from the Old Masters
Inspirations of the most valuable kind may always be found also in pictures by old masters or in the engravings after their works. Among the famous portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Romney there are canvases innumerable which offer suggestions for afternoon and evening toilettes for the woman who is no longer young.
The large hat, with its waving plumes, the folded fichu caught with a single rose, the wide flowing skirts in soft satins and rich brocades are all fashions which will help us to grow old gracefully. Their grace of design is beyond all question. Fashions such as these, immortalised by great painters, are not for an age but for all time.