The next material in alphabetical order is silk, and it is also the first product of the animal world to be considered. As is well known, it is obtained from the cocoon of the silk-worm. The fibres of this material are round in shape like those of linen, and they are even softer than the latter. On this account the phrase "as soft as silk " has passed into a saying. It is softer to the feel than either cotton or linen, and is a bad conductor of heat, as it has little tendency to remove the heat from the body. It is therefore a warmer material than either of them; but, on the other hand, from some peculiar action caused by the slightest friction against the skin, it seems at times to cause irritation, and draw the blood to the surface. In many instances the flow of blood is so severe as to set up an eruption of the skin, and there is often so much irritation and intolerable itching produced, that the garment has to be left off.
Last, but not least, of the quartette under consideration comes wool, and it is just one of those materials whose place it would be almost impossible to fill. It is obtained from the sheep, and is one of our chief productions in Australia. Unfortunately it is somewhat irritating to some skins, and many persons will declare that they cannot bear the feeling of anything woollen. Another objection may be taken to it on cosmetic grounds, and it certainly is difficult to make a flannel garment look attractive; but still, with a little taste in the way of bordering, this may be overcome to a great extent. On the other hand, it has great advantages which none of the foregoing fabrics possess, and which have been already referred to.
Having thus minutely and scientifically examined into the properties of the various clothing materials, it will clearly be seen that the one which possesses the greatest advantages with the least possible disadvantages is wool. Hence it is to be chosen in preference to all other fabrics for wearing next the skin, because it wards off all risk of a chill striking the body. Its disadvantages, as said before, are mainly two, the first being that some declare it is impossible to wear it next the skin on account of its causing irri-tation; this, however, can only apply to new flannel, since after two or three washings it feels as smooth as the most fastidious skin could desire. The next objection, that it cannot be made to look attractive or ornamental, is to a certain extent true; but if it is simply a question of health versus appearance, those who would sacrifice the former deserve to suffer. In this matter we may learn a wrinkle from a practical class of men, namely, sailors. One will find many of them pin their faith on the virtues of an abdominal flannel bandage, reaching from the lower part of the chest well down to the hips. It thus covers the loins and abdomen, and for warding off attacks of lumbago and muscular rheumatism, and for protecting the kidneys, it certainly is valuable.
A flannel under-garment reaching from the neck well clown to the hips should always be worn, and in summer it may be of a thinner material than in the cooler weather. It is better to have four made, so that two can be washed at a time. In this way two can be in use every week, changing them day by day, so that one is getting thoroughly aired while the other is being worn. The one which is being aired should be turned inside out, so that the part which has been in contact with the skin becomes thoroughly purified. It must be remembered, however, that flannel is very liable to shrink from repeated washings. This may be provided for by taking care that the under-garment, when first obtained, is several sizes too large. In fact, it can hardly be too large at first, especially in the case of the thicker one for the cooler months, which shrinks much more proportionately than does the thinner one for the hot season. This shrinking, however, can to a great extent be prevented by paying attention to the following points : These woollen under-garments should be washed by themselves, not with any other clothes, in only moderately hot water. Next, while they are still damp, and before becoming dry, they should be thoroughly stretched upon a table and then well ironed out.
With regard to the sleeping apparel, there is no doubt the modern pyjamas are a great improvement on the old-fashioned bedgown. They are more thoroughly protective to the skin, and keep the extremities uniformly warm, which the latter fails to do. They are better made of flannel, thin in summer and thicker in winter. Persons who are in the habit of wearing woollen material next the skin during the day should certainly keep to the same at night, otherwise the change is too great, and there is thus great risk of taking a chill. The flannel under-garment which has been worn during the day can then be taken off at night without any danger, and has the opportunity of being aired. It might hardly seem necessary to refer to this fact, namely, that the under-garment which has been worn during the day should be taken off at night. Yet I can only say that instances in which this particular garment is never taken off at all, but is worn continuously both night and day, perhaps for a whole week at a time, are not altogether so rare as they might be.
In conclusion reference may be briefly made to a subject which is probably within the experience of everyone. There are many people who pride themselves on not requiring any extra clothing during the colder months, and evidently look upon this fact as a proof that they possess Spartan powers of endurance, and that cold is a matter of perfect indifference to them. Now, it may be that a few individuals differ essentially from the rest of humanity, and do not require any change of clothing all the year round. But the majority of people who profess this disregard to climate certainly appear as if they would be all the better for warmer material, for their faces look pinched and their hands seem nearly frozen with the cold. But the fact is that even if the want of thicker clothing is not particularly felt during the cold weather, it is always wiser to wear an extra allowance, for the heat of summer can be endured better if this principle is carried out. If a common-sense view of the matter is taken, then it will be readily apparent why it is desirable to wear plenty of warm clothing during the colder months.