Clothing Type Is Variable
( Originally Published 1924 )
A woman may decide that she will be athletic and unconventional for the season. Her clothes, her manner, even her voice, then, are keyed to this out-of-door, somewhat swaggery pose. The very next season her hair is put up, her dresses are "trailing clouds of glory," a slouching glide takes the place of the quick, firm step, and—she has developed in herself a new type.
It is not even necessary to await the change of season. She may be one kind of creature today and tomorrow an entirely different one.
But whatever she decides to become, that she ought to carry out completely.
However, for the sake of analysis, let us suppose that there still are Gibraltar-like women who, beat upon by Fashion's variable waves, still maintain their balanced vision and are loyal to their acknowledged and permanent types.
The Hush-a-bye lady from Rock-a-bye Street, tender, thoughtful, and self-effacing is an unchanging, consistent type.
How should this very wonderful person clothe herself to be in harmony with her temperament?
For her no cold colors, no sea-green with icy crystals, no somber black, no earthy browns, no spiritless gray; but instead she will wear soft blues, soft greens, neutralized reds, and all the lovely rust shades.
No stiff, mannish garments, but curving, caressing clothes.
No pompous, austere hats, but hers will be curving, small, and intimate.
No extremely high heels, but dainty, yet practical, footwear which show a conservative taste.
Furs of softness without smothering length-chinchilla, beaver, caracul.
In truth, every garment she wears must be dainty. If she is a housekeeper, as well as a home-keeper, her house dresses are crisp and immaculate.
Perfume which she loves is delicately refined; sachet placed in hat, glove box, and in padded hangers.
She does not wear long, dangling earrings, but medium-sized pearls may reflect a high light on her chin as they tip her ears. Pearls, turquoise, pale pink coral, topaz, amethysts, and other softly colored apocalypse jewels, add a color note to her picture which is in harmony with her own coloring.
Dark-eyed, red lipped, hair black and shiny as onyx, full hipped, well rounded, is the one of whom the poet says, "Warm on her cheek sits Beauty's highest rose." Her rich coloring is dark and low in value.
Her clothes are very straight and as tube-like as Pharaoh's queen would have chosen, or are draped in long fluid lines that seem like shadows of spirit lovers.
She chooses barbaric designs in jewelry; very high-heeled shoes; large black velvet hat with perfection of line, or closely wrapped Oriental turban; furs—ermine, lynx, or black fox; flowers—longstemmed red roses or yellow orchids; perfume—spicy oriental odors and jasmine.
If the romantic one is very young and willowy—delightfully full of youth—she will have a penchant for basques, bouffant skirts, quaint panniers, nose-gays, and moonlight, color symphonies and shawls.
In school and business, of course, she may not be romantic in her clothes, for then she would be just ordinary ! And what could be worse than that !
The school girl or the business woman who is clad in festive raiment when her real objective is the schoolroom, the shop, or the office, looks as if she had slept in the clothes she wore to the party the previous evening. And no amount of wit can ever take away the sting of being dubbed ridiculous !
The joyous one, while not especially an athletic type, is gay with laughter and her feet instinctively respond to dance music. She knows no fear, for from babyhood she has been surrounded by love and tender care. She responds with a love for every one, and even to a love of sky and wind and all of Nature's beauties.
She has a wide variety in the selection of her clothes, so far as color is concerned. She is vivid when wearing bright, warm colors, and distant and elusive in the cooler shades—a chameleon in adapting herself to color. Always and ever she is as intoxicating as the breath of Spring.
The lines of her clothes are embued with the spirit of her own grace and suppleness.
Her jewels are seed pearls. Her choice in per-fume is delicate; expressed in the purple lilac and anemone. Apple blossoms are her favorite flower; she wills to be married in the old orchard back of grandfather's home in New England. Yes, she too is romantic—but always happily and joyously so.
The professional, or business woman : she has a well ordered mind. Medicine, law, politics, executive, social, or educational work, all the fields which express practicability, demand and receive from her efficient service. Her business clothes are always dark in tone, altho not drab. She is always immaculate. You feel certain that she loves the dash of her icy shower. She probably sleeps out of doors. She has her favorite retreat in the Canadian woods where she wears a flannel shirt, knickers, and heavy, high laced shoes. Standardized she may appear for the work-a-day world, but for a social function—she is of course popular for her wit and her sane views of life—she is always richly and faultlessly clothed.
For perfume, she uses lavender-scented bags among her intimate things. Jewelry—she would "just as soon wear a ring in her nose" as to wear earrings; but she admires them on others, if they are well chosen. She has a decided taste for Chinese amber, topaz, or alluring jade. Sable is her choice of fur. Of course, she always goes to a good tailor. Her milliner gives a quiet but unmistakable air to the plain, close-fitting hat. Her gloves are always correct—she buys them by the dozen pairs.
There is no indecision about this lady either in speech, gesture, or apparel. She is the soul of consistency.
"Her yellow hair beyond compare
This is the woman who is contradictory. She is picturesque, but "variable as the shade by the light quivering aspen made."
She never wastes her energy by giving way to emotions. She "kens" the way of men and plays on their foibles, but she never loses control of her-self. Her hand is always on the button which controls the machinery of life. Intellectual she may not be, but wise she always is. She may not exactly resort to scheming to obtain her favorite furs or jewels, but somehow she acquires them !
She delights in costume balls, for she loves to make of herself a picture more striking than even her non-conventional life will permit. When she goes to luncheon, she wears a form-fitting, tailored suit of faultless cut, a plain black close-fitting hat trimmed with a cockade. In her buttonhole is a gardenia; over her arm is carried a neck fur of Fisher; on her feet the seeming incongruity of patent leather slippers adorned with cut-steel buckles. Even in tailored clothes, because of her carriage, she is picturesque !
In her boudoir she ties over her hair a scarf of yellow-rose; from her ears hang gypsy earrings of gleaming gold, and a robe of yellow-green crêpe completes the picture.
Her favorite jewel is a great flawless emerald which for evening she wears on her forehead. She loves the orchid and exotic perfume.
"A violet by a mossy stone,
"Dress doesn't interest me—not in the least—I just wear clothes to cover me and keep me warm or cool."
What a lot of pleasure this dear little lady is missing! Suppose she is a Jenny Wren—usually the real reason why a woman has "no interest in clothes" is that she feels she is too hopelessly plain to be adorned by them.
Now I knew a colorless little lady : her hair had grown a citron-gray, or the same greenish cast as her skin; her eyes were pale green and lusterless; her figure had grown plump around the waist. Her time was given over to the work of building up a community library, to five hours of daily practise on a priceless Stradivarius, and to a deep interest in a husband who was making a name for himself as a pioneer writer in a new field of prominent endeavor. In spite of all these interests there was an expression of unsatisfied longing in this woman's face.
Permission was gained to "fit her out" from top to toe as an experiment in the study of personality in relation to clothes. Instead of the large careless-looking black velvet hat, a very soft turban of greenish-blue was fitted on her tiny Greek-like head. The turban was placed—there is such art in the correct position—so that the citron-colored hair gave the transition tone from hat to flesh. This green-blue of little intensity, by harmonizing in likeness but with greater brightness, dimmed the citron-green of the hair, and made it seem soft and silvery. The green-blue gave a deeper and brighter cast to her eyes by reflection, and, by the law of simultaneous contrast, brought out the pink in her skin and lips.
In place of a cinnamon-brown coat with a big nutria collar, another shade of green-blue was suggested, the darkest value in color of the hat, and this was relieved by a close collar of beige caracul. The sleeves of the coat were set in close fitting arm-holes. A little flare at the bottom made hips and waist appear smaller and in better proportion to the shoulders. Every detail of the costume was selected with the idea of suiting a little woman. Refused were the voluminous sleeves set in a waist-deep arm-scye ; refused also were long-haired or bulky furs.
"And to think I believed I was so hopelessly ugly that nothing could be done ! I wanted to be physically attractive and to have charm; and when the consciousness that I couldn't came over me, I resorted to a woman's last hope and tried to be so clever and intellectual that I forgot all about clothes."
The drab woman can not make of herself a parakeet, nor should she wish to; but she can have a spirit that is as winsome as the song of a lark and an appearance that is just as harmonious.
Her general rule in colors, textures, furs, per-fumes, flowers, in fact her whole make-up should be to develop character and definiteness ; but withal she must use restraint; she must not have an "also ran" personality in clothes.
"Here's to the maiden of bashful fifteen;
She is forever a spirit that thinks and dreams and discovers, the heart of Peter Pan adorably enshrined in a woman's form. Her thoughts are emotions ; she has the universal desire to create, to leave behind her a poem, a painting, a piece of sculpture, a child—something that will carry on her own mind.
She asks guidance of no one. Opinions and gossip are as winds which fret not.
She is unafraid of fashion's dictates. She wears a hat, not because the world says it is becoming, but because she enjoys wearing it. Her own taste is to her infallible. She has brought art so intimately into her life that everything she does is artistic.
She is the kind who can take a nondescript piece of furniture, a little paint, and create for herself an artistic result that blends into her already cheerful environment. Everything she influences be-comes an artistic expression. Her clothes, more than anything else, reveal this gift. I recall an incident of a time when she was invited on a yachting party and realized that she had nothing quite suitable to wear. Her ingenuity was challenged, but she was equal to the occasion. At a late hour she went aboard dressed jauntily in the white outfit in which she had ostensibly been playing tennis, even to the racquet in her hand. No one, of course, dreamed but that she had just completed the game.
No matter how long she lives she can never get away from the spirit of Youth ! No matter how juvenile her clothes, she wears them with such verve that one never thinks of her as "dressing too young."
"O Miracle of Noble Womanhood !"
It is strange, but true, that life seems to be less problematical for the woman who is large or Amazonian in build. We are not considering just now the stout woman who may be short or tall, but the woman who is proportionately built on general large lines.
To keep her charm of feminity and yet conform to scale is the problem for this Juno. As many have stated, "There are no inexpensive clothes for the woman who must select out-sizes." If it is necessary for her to practise economy she will take such meticulous care of her clothes that she gets longer wear from them, and only the best of service-giving materials will be purchased.
The regal one can wear heavy-figured brocade, carry a huge feather fan; and if she wears a diamond tiara, our imagination will readily vision the golden scepter in her hand !
Of course, she never attempts to be coy or coquettish. Her greatest charm is in sparkling repartee.
From this type more than any other, we expect grace of movement as well as the aloof but gracious qualities of a queen.
No woman ever outlives her desire to be beautiful, nor does she ever outlive the definite influence of appropriate clothing. The wise woman of advancing years gives quite as much attention to her appearance as her daughter gives.
In looking over such an assemblage as the audience in the Hall of Philosophy at Chautauqua, New York, one notes the number of silver-haired women with faces of deep intelligence. They bring to mind at once the thought of Robert Browning's, "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be," or that of George Eliot, "You are getting into years? No, the years are getting into you—the ripe, rich luscious years."
As one grows older, one should think of beauty, not as departing, but as changing. The full-blown rose is just as beautiful as the bud—the heart of the rose is not visible until the flower is full-blown -and the full-blown rose never attempts to look like the bud !
Dignity is the most pleasing quality in dress as one grows older. It is far better for one to hear, "She dresses a little too old for her years," than to hear that she resembles "a moth-eaten debutante !" Or, as one man said when he caught a glimpse of the face of a woman who was walking on a city street dressed in sport clothes, bright red shoes, and all the vivid incongruity of a campus parade, "That face has worn out two figures such as hers appears to be!"
There is a real beauty in gray hair as it softens the lines of the face, and any woman who tries to gild the lily by painting her face and having her hair "touched up" is defying the judgment of Paris.
For one of maturity's greatest charms lies in daintily cared-for silver hair.
The older woman should not hold aloof from prevailing modes, nor should she glibly adopt the latest fashion regardless of its adaptability to her own expression of charm.
A lovely Southern woman who left her print of usefulness in every community where she lived, made a beautiful picture when, tho a semi-invalid, she received many visitors. Her iron-gray hair was worn like a crown above her cameo face. Her gown of the style made popular by Empress Josephine, was a wonderful irridescent gray, the long sleeves finished with rare, ivory-tinted lace. About her neck was a lace fichu which completed a picture of such artistic simplicity and perfection that it had the enduring charm of a Mona Lisa. Early in life, this very artistic person found the style most be-coming to her type; and through the years of fashion's capricious changing, she dared to be constant. Her favorite stone was the opal with its changing smoldering fires, and when she was living in Albuquerque, to which city ill-health had exiled her, the Indians and Mexicans and many others searched for the most perfect stones to be presented to this charming lady whose little hands held regal power.
Tho the passage of years has whitened her hair and lined her cheeks, she is still the dearest and most understanding of women, The silver aureole about her queenly head, the kind eyes, the lips whose smile, tho tired at times, is always there, every feature of her face denotes a beauty of spirit that time can never take away.
This is the portrait of a lady.