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What You Should Know Of Fabrics

( Originally Published 1924 )

ONE MAY look at fabrics in two ways : Some insist on the close-up or careful examination of materials to ascertain with assurance their real value. For the woman who must dress on a limited income, this observation is most important; in good fabric she finds an efficient means of economy.

Others view fabrics from the angle of perspective. They think chiefly of the effect which can be created by a certain piece of material. They are the ones who accept the "goods the gods provide" without consideration of a possible day of reckoning.

She whose wardrobe shows intelligence as well as pleasing effect has in all probability combined these two methods, and has accomplished thereby something distinctly worth while.


Some women derive great pleasure from examining and caressing textures. They love to have their senses stirred by the sheen, shadows, sparkle, softness, smoothness. They love to discriminate between different fabrics, as flower lovers choose between the pansy and the orchid, between the "Jac" and the American Beauty. The texture of flower petals, as much as their color and form, appeals, as the fineness of one's skin may be lovelier than the contour or coloring of her face.

Certain fabrics always appeal more to certain temperaments. Mrs. A. chooses chiffons, gauze, tulle, maline, mull, mousseline de soie, lace, and net; she prefers marquisette to velvet for her formal dress. She cares little for the brocades, the metallic tissues, crÍpe satin, moire, which Mrs. Z. adores. So, in a way, fabrics express personality in the same manner as color and line.

Silhouettes are dependent to a large measure up-on the materials chosen for garments. For the tall willowy type, flowing lines are essential. She must choose fabrics which are soft and supple.

Pompadour silks with panniers, satin with curved flounces or the bouffant organdies, taffetas with their stiff bows, all these materials belong to the woman who is neither tall nor short, nor very plump. These fabrics denote a youthful quaintness, but at the same time have somewhat of an acceptance of propriety.

The regal or statuesque person may wear brocades of bright color low in value. These may be woven in designs of gold and silver. She may also wear velvets and the printed silks of barbaric inspiration.

The athletic girl loves tweeds and knitted fabrics, but chooses for evening, crÍpe de Chine, a serviceable silk. To the athletic girl, the practical in wearing apparel carries a certain appeal.

Consistency, thy name is not woman. So what one chooses to-day to accord with her temperament may not do at all to-morrow. .

Fabric very often disputes one's good taste ! A shiny satin dress or one of organdie worn in a business office does not give its wearer any suggestion of efficiency.

Tweed country clothes would never suit the atmosphere of a formal College Tea. A woman who goes on a canoe trip or to a picnic wearing satin sandals and a flowery transparent hat is certainly not in keeping with the mood of the outing. Upon the return of the picnickers, her wilted hat is probably quite in keeping with her drooping spirits.

Clothes for morning should always possess the characteristics of serviceóserge, kasha, and similar fabrics are well suited to the shopping day in town; Canton crÍpe or some other inconspicuous silk is better for warm mornings.

The fabric rather than the color or design is oft-en the test as to whether or not certain clothes are suited to a particular occasion.

Sufficient Unto Itself is the Rich Fabric. This is a good maxim to follow. If a material is rich and decorative in itself, it certainly would not be enhanced by adding any ornamentation.

Celebrated dressmakers have controlled the products of certain manufacturers so that they may hold the exclusive rights to patterns and weaves. The fabrics themselves rather than their line or trimmings are then emphasized.

Since the passing of hand-made materials we have lost much of our fine sense of appreciation of fabrics. The loom is at best an impersonal ma-chine, yet into the machine-made product has gone such originality of design and vision of color that at once we respect the intelligence which has been behind the plan of the fabric. One often experiences a real joy in beholding certain hand-woven material, whether it be a bit of real lace or some other concrete form of another's expression. We never fail in appreciation of what is finely wrought.

The making of textiles dates back to the very beginning of man's existence. It is probably the oldest domestic art. Long before known history began, men learned to weave. It may have been that by watching the birds as they constructed their nests they obtained their first idea of crossing threads to form fabrics. At different periods they have used the fibers of flax, hemp, broom leaves, strands of plants, grasses, fibrous coatings, intestines of animals, sheep's wool, goat's hair, and even silver and gold and copper wire. In the warm countries, linen became the most popular and in cold countries, wool.

Few women take time to test materials by really approved scientific methods. The best stores today have buyers of textiles who are specialists in that line and give their knowledge concrete expression in the goods which they have selected. One who buys at a store which has a reputation for reliability and is willing to stand back of its merchandise, may always have confidence in what she buys. It has been said that ex-President Wilson, when approaching some undertaking that required exhaustive research, rather than spend the necessary time in detail work, often obtained his in-formation from one who was thoroughly versed in the subject and honest in his opinions. The modern woman is a busy one and depends much on the knowledge and integrity of an honest merchant. There are such merchants everywhere if she will but look for one.

For those who are interested in textiles, the following pages of this chapter are offered.

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