This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
The question of dress is one of leading importance in modern society, and the woman who affects indifference to it lacks judgment. A woman who dresses badly loses half her opportunities, that is, if the defects in her toilet are the result of her indifference on the subject. Mme. de Maintenon asserted that good taste indicated good sense.
It was also she who justly blamed women for overbrimming heavy stuffs and wearing ill-chosen ornaments. Nothing can be more ridiculous than ornaments out of place. A gown of cheap material, if well made, is often pretty, though simple and unpretentious.
Short, stout women should never wear gowns of rough, shaggy materials. Skirts made of them fall in stiff and ungraceful folds, and the bodies are equally unbecoming.
Dress fabrics in woolen goods should always be soft to the eye and to the touch. China crŕpes, colored silks of medium weight, make charming costumes, and are to be preferred to the stiff silks; but a black silk gown should be of good quality, as an inferior grade does not wear well and soon grows shabby.
Beautiful feathers are durable and graceful ornaments for bonnets; cheap ones are poor economy. Low-priced finery is not worth buying. One should never economize in this way. It is never wise to buy one article of dress noticeably richer than the rest of the wardrobe. For example, a velvet dress is serviceable, but unless one can afford other costumes as elegant, it is out of place.
Mixed cotton and wool goods are usually almost worthless. One all-woolen gown is worth two of them.
Pale-blue is apt to make blondes look ashen. Dark-blue, on the contrary, is very becoming to them, and a blue velvet gown brings out all their delicate coloring. Neutral tints are very unbecoming to them. Brunettes with an inclination to be sallow will do well to avoid blue, as it makes them appear greenish or tawny. Green is trying to them unless they are very fair. It suits blondes perfectly, especially those who have color.
Pale brunettes should affect shades of red, which increase their beauty. Crimson may be worn by blondes. Yellow is a superb contrast for a pale brunette, especially under artificial light, when it is more subdued than in the sunlight. This color softens an olive skin, and borrows from it a creamy tint, harmonizing wonderfully well with dark hair and brilliant eyes. On the contrary, yellow is unbecoming to most blondes.