Dress And Health
( Originally Published 1927 )
The clothing problem, like the poor, is always with us. It is complicated by the fashions, which are one of the moving, compelling forces of society. As Abraham Lincoln remarked, "If you don't believe in the sway of fashion just go to meeting with your wife's hat on."
Fortunately, women can now dress sensibly and still be in style, which could not be done several decades ago. Look at the fashion plates of the eighteen-sixties, seventies, and eighties.
It is useless to rail against the fashions, but it is well to remember that human beings should not tightly imprison the vital organs, nor should they assume such unnatural positions that the body is thrown out of balance.
A moderate amount of clothing in hot weather is good for the white races, for they do not bear the direct rays of the sun as well as the dark races. But when the weather is hot, the clothing should merely protect against the rays of the sun. The clothes should be porous and not heavy enough to keep the skin moist with perspiration. Fibres from the vegetable kingdom, such as cotton and linen, are best for underwear.
In cold weather clothing helps to conserve the physical energy, for it prevents the rapid dissipation of the body heat. In this way it makes parts of the earth habitable that are unsuited to nude human beings.
The problem is to strike a happy medium between overdressing and underdressing. These two extremes are injurious. Thin, delicate persons are easily made ill by exposure. Everybody is injured by too much protection, for artificial pampering weakens the constitution. Those who wear wool next to the skin make it tender, and it soon becomes clammy and loses a large part of its protective function. The best way to acquire cold feet is to wear woolen stockings. Why? Because when woolen hose are incased in leather shoes, the feet will under ordinary conditions become too warm; then there is perspiration, but it is almost impossible for this perspiration to dry; the feet become slightly damp and clammy; the surface circulation deteriorates, and then we have cold feet.
Those who have to be exposed much in very cold weather should wear thin cotton next to the skin, and over the cotton a suit of woolen underwear. In this way they get the benefit of the heat-preserving qualities of the wool, without suffering the disadvantages of the debilitating effects of wool long worn next to the skin. Also, vegetable fibres are more easily cleaned than animal fibres. Woolen underwear should be changed more frequently than any other kind, for wool soils quickly. There is no danger in changing woolens. Keep the underwear clean.
Those who wear woolen hose should put on a freshly laundered pair every morning.
If the feet, especially in the region of the toes, grow moist, red, and tender, with a tendency for sores to form between the toes, powder the toes every morning, also put a little powder in the shoes. There is no advantage in using antiseptic powder. Talcum powder is as good as any. But this is only palliation. The cure for this condition is to use shoes that are properly ventilated, and to have them wide enough in the toes to prevent crowding. Sandals permit ventilation and are good. Our leather shoes have the disadvantage of not allowing free ventilation, and as a consequence there are many sore feet.
Shoes and stockings should always be long in. the foot. Short stockings, and short shoes tend to produce pigeon-toes in children, and they make adults most uncomfortable.
The military sole is correct from the stand-point of comfort and health, the inner line of the sole going straight forward, instead of slanting outward to meet the outer sole line in a point. The English style sole is ridiculous.
Because a pompous little chap was once king of France, and desired to make himself appear more tall, women are today throwing them-selves out of balance by using very high French heels. No unspoiled foot takes kindly to high French heels, and every woman who wears them-there are no exceptions—unbalances her knees and her hips, and thus upsets the whole pelvic axis. Many cases of sore, aching legs, and many painful backs get their start this way. It is a high price to pay for being shod in extreme fashion. A two-inch heel is high too high—and should be the limit, but it is not so. Shoes of this nature often ruin the arch of the foot.
Shoes should be comfortable, with room enough for the toes, and heels moderately high. And they should really be ventilated. If they are not ventilated, use powder in them to keep them from becoming too damp. Air them well.
Clothes should not confine any part of the body so as to make motion difficult. Constriction about the waist is bad. Those who wear belts should have them rest on the hip bones, instead of constricting the abdomen. Remember the commissary organs crave freedom of motion, even if they are hidden within.
All individuals who spend much time indoors should wear light weight clothes but they should have warm wraps to use when going out. If a person is very warmly clad while in the heated house and then goes out of doors, he is apt to suffer from the congestion known as a cold.
Well fleshed, robust individuals need not wear heavy clothes, for they have plenty of fuel within to keep them warm.
Thin, pale individuals should keep from getting chilly, because in their case chilling drains the vital energy. They should have warm wraps, and they should also build up their general health.
It is a great mistake to allow the feet to remain cold, especially in bed. Warm them before retiring. If necessary, use slumber hose at night, or use artificial heat in the foot of the bed. It is best to have some extra covering for the feet and legs. The upper part of the body keeps warm in bed with greater ease.
Elderly individuals should take special care to guard against continually chilly feet. Cold feet depress digestive power, and are a part of the process of aging. Warm feet help to keep one young. The saying, "Keep your head cool and your feet warm," teaches a vital truth.
To summarize: Clothes should be comfortable and so made that the body is allowed free movement; and all of them should allow the body to remain in its natural postural relationship ; in cold weather they should protect us, but they should not be so warm that they pamper us.