Draw now an oblique line beside a perpendicular, making both the same length. It appears that by so doing the perpendicular line is further lengthened. This is the reason why trains seem to add to the height and dignity of a figure.
Put a short woman into a loose robe with perpendicular lines from neck to feet - the feet hidden - add an oblique line by a court train suspended from the shoulders, and she needs must look "queenly." But the train must not be too long. A long train - long in proportion to the figure, that is - gives a decided horizontal line across which the onlooker's eye travels to the detraction of the apparent height.
Exaggeration of any line defeats its own end ; it destroys the symmetry. Thus one sees good dressers complying to the mode of hooped skirts and panniers to increase the apparent size of the hips, counteracting this exaggeration by wearing their hair in a huge erection, the whole producing a pleasing result because symmetry is thus restored.
Another in a quiet, dark-coloured, simply made and trimmed dress thinks to improve matters by wearing a large and elaborately trimmed hat. The onlooker gets the impression that this bad dresser either has a large head or is in need of physical exercise to develop her figure.
The sight of a stout woman in a tightly fitting dress is common enough, because the stout woman knows nothing of the rule of confusion. Were she to drape her bodice, have it loose or semi-fitting, the waist ill-defined and the arms in flowing sleeves, she would not look stout. On such lines she could even wear white, provided it was dull. A very stout woman gained the admiration of a whole theatre in a part which required a young figure, simply because she understood the rule of confusion. The back of the dress fitted tightly - her back was straight - but the bust was hidden in drapery which fell from it in straight lines to the feet. The hips were diminished in size by means of a girdle which came from the waist-line at the back, and was tied low on the figure and weighted with heavy tassels, thus confusing instead of defining tell-tale and unbecoming curves, and coaxing the eye to believe that these were straight lines on the figure, lines to which the girdle bore false witness.
Of course, the ideal figure can wear any form of dress. Eccentricities and exaggerations merely accentuate the good points, but few figures are ideal and can afford to wear any and every dictate of fashion.
Every rule must be taken advantage of, therefore, by the average woman who wishes to produce a harmonious whole, and for this defects must obtain more attention than the good - a seeming neglect of a bad point by playing up to a good one is in reality careful attention to the bad.
Finally, for the woman with a poor figure and few or no good points, the woman who is sometimes so disheartened with herself that she lapses into the mood of supposing any style of dress will serve so long as it is useful, the following deserves notice : "No one is so ugly but that her ugliness can be increased ; ' therefore one can at least be improved by avoiding that which is disfiguring."
It has been seen that the lines of the dress can accentuate or modify those lines of the body which make (or mar) its beauty, and how, with knowledge of the general laws of ornamentation, one can give an effect of the ideal where it is not in reality.
It is thus realised how a badly cut gown will make a flat, ugly figure appear worse than it is, because here the gown dominates the figure. On the other hand, the same gown on a good figure will pass muster, because the lines of the figure dominate those of the gown, and make them, perforce, take on a beauty not theirs.
This, of course, is the reason why a dress looking charming on a mannequin, whose figure is literally her fortune - or at any rate her source of income - does not of necessity look well either in the hand or on the figure of the purchaser of the dress.
If you have a tall, flat figure, do not wear boleros or short bodices cut off at the waist.
Do not wear straight, ungored gowns or tight-fitting bodices with backs in one piece.
Do not wear belts with points or ornaments going up from the waist, or, by the same rule, corselet skirts.
The tall, thin woman can wear any mode of dress which tends to widen the skirt, such as a crinoline and its modifications, draperies cut on the cross, and flounces. She must cut the ends of her boas and long scarves, or give them to her short sister.
Reverse these rules and they apply to the short, stout figure.
It will be of use to notice in detail the parts of a woman's dress from our own particular point of view, in order to get a few general working ideas on the whole matter, so that any woman can be her own artist in dress.
The bodice is used to indicate and at the same time confuse the lines of the upper part of the figure. Coquetry in dress is to conceal, apparently, yet at the same time to disclose.
This is often better effected in a high bodice of transparent material than in the other extreme, when the bodice is cut low and round, a shape only to be worn when the neck and shoulders are beyond criticism. The V shape suggests beauty, and the square-cut neck is like the round, a decisive statement, which, while banishing curiosity, also banishes interest.