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Clothing Design

( Originally Published 1924 )



THE DESIRE to express beauty is ingrained in every woman. Nature she loves and from nature she has learned the laws with which she has built Art. For nature and its beauty is the work of the Creator, and art and its beauty is the work of mankind. Art is not nature, but its laws are learned from nature—only the application belongs to us.

Design or plan is fundamental to art—it is fundamental to art in dress. In considering the art of dress, it must be remembered that we are dealing with material given us in nature—not only textiles, but the human form. No matter how little dress may seem to have to do with the form beneath, it is always there and always will dominate the design.

THE IDEAL OF FEMININE BEAUTY

Fashionists idealize the human figure as eight heads in height ; so on this scale most style drawings are made and most gowns are planned. But there are so many types of women, many beautiful ones, who do not classify in the Fashionist's ideal group, that we shall consider eight heads as only a standard of measurement, not as an immovable criterion of Beauty. The controlling, commanding part of the figure, the source of wisdom, and. the radiation center of force is the head. It is oval in form. The length of the neck is equal to one third of the length of the head. The width of the neck is about the same as the head at the base of the ears. Shoulders come at five-sixths of the height of the figure and are three times as wide as the head. The knees are at one half of the distance from the hips to the floor, or in other words, at one-fourth of the height of the figure. The rib-section begins at the shoulders and ends at two-thirds of the height of the figure. The waist line normally is somewhere between the end of the rib section and the hip bones. The bust varies in fullness. It is of superficial form and has nothing to do with bone structure. The elbows come to the waist line and the wrists at one-half the height of the figure. The hands are as long as the face. The feet are as long as the head. The ideal figure has slender bones pleasantly covered with flesh, the joints flexible and delicately made. All proportions of the figure depend upon the proportion of the head. A long head multi-plied by eight makes a tall figure. A wide head multiplied by three makes a broad figure. An ill-proportioned figure is most easily made beautiful by increasing or diminishing the apparent size of the head. The child's head is larger in proportion to the body, so a mature woman with a large head looks fascinatingly child-like up to a certain age; then she should wear clothes which will decrease the apparent size of the head. A too small head gives an overgrown effect to a figure, also a some-what masculine appearance because of the increased breadth of shoulders produced by their contrast with the narrow head.

Observe that the proportions given are obvious measurements. The figure defies the mathematician; it can not be measured in a twinkling; it is subtle, and motion makes it even more so. In proportioning the dress to the figure, there should be no clearly recognizable thirds and fourths, and especially no exact halves.

A woman whose proportions are not in accord with the ideal can produce the effect of perfection by knowing how to sit and stand to change the apparent relationships of parts of the figure, head to shoulders, arms to torso, length of limb, and many others. A seated figure with body inclined slightly forward, hand upon knee, appears to have long arms. A standing figure slightly relaxed seems to be taller when the relaxed knee and foot extend toward the onlooker than when away from him. Shoulders dropped forward and down seem weak and narrow. Arms tight to the body seem short and awkward. In a sitting position, limbs crossed at the knee and drawn backward seem shorter than when relaxed forward or crossed at the ankle. A too stiff position always suggests iron rigidity and weight; a too relaxed position, like a sagging mouth and vacant stare, the witless.



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