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Morals Of The Dress Question

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Extravagance in dress is a constant source of temptation and trouble to those who have to earn their own living and that of those dependent upon them. Few people have the courage to wear old clothes until they can afford to buy better ones. Hence people are constantly going into debt for better and more expensive clothing than they have any right to purchase. We are told that no class of tradesmen are called upon to do so large a credit business as merchant tailors. To look at their books, one would think that all the world were without clothing, that half the world were forced to ask credit for it, and the other half were hopelessly bankrupt and never expected to pay for garments already worn out and thrown aside. It is simply amazing to be behind the scenes and learn to . what straits people are put, to obtain the gay clothing with which they try to eclipse their associates. The whole difficulty lies in thoughtless people trying to imitate those better able than themselves to buy expensive apparel. Millionaires set the example in extravagance and all classes of society strain every nerve to reach it. The result is that every man is more or less embarrassed to pay for the clothing that he and his family wear. He gets behind in payment. Bills mount higher and higher, and at last his business is wrecked and the earnings of a lifetime have gone out in senseless folly that only serves to make him and those dependent upon him less able to meet the stern realities of poverty. It is a public misfortune that our people will not learn economy in dress, until they are forced to do so by the iron hand of want. Five-sixths of all the financial failures that disgrace our land are traceable to this reckless and senseless folly in dress. Fond husbands and indulgent fathers give unsparingly to wives and daughters the money for their gay attire. In far too many cases the women are hopelessly ignorant of even the cost of the gay dresses they wear. When embarrassment comes, the anxious men try to stem the tide still longer and drive off the evil day. At last the crash comes. The husband and father is broken in health, as well as in purse, and the idiotic family are left to bemoan for years the waste and extravagance of the period of prosperity. There are hundreds of families in our towns and cities that are sure to come to want before a decade goes by. They are wasting money to-day that would keep them in comfort ten years hence, when they shall be face to face with poverty. One of the saddest things in human experience is to come down from a life of affluence to one of poverty and look back upon money, time and opportunities squandered in reckless extravagance. Few souls have the courage or faith to withstand a shock like that and ever be happy again.

This passion for dress is one of the crying evils of the times. It intrudes upon us in all the relations of life. It haunts us in the quiet of home-life; it is with us in the sanctuary; it mocks our grief in the hour of mourning ; it follows us to the graveyard and hounds us out of life, after filling our days with unspeakable labor and sorrow. It is time to look the dress question in the face, and cease all foolish display of wearing apparel. It is time for men to instruct their families in a little homely wisdom. It is time for mothers and daughters to learn that the family treasure is not all to be expended upon bonnets, ribbons and silks. Let wives, mothers and daughters dress with modesty, economy and sense. Let husbands, fathers and sons cease their extravagance at clubs and theatres. Let women lay off their expensive luxuries, and men their expensive vices, and the millennium of home-life shall have dawned upon the world.

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