Wednesday, 18 August 2010

1811 Fashion Wisdom

When researching I always look at primary source evidence whether it is an original dress, painting, miniature or text of the epoch. Whilst researching corsets I read further into 'The Mirror of Graces' and thought these passages particularly interesting with advice that is relevant today.

"But in our days, an English woman has the extensive privilege of arraying herself in whatever garb may best suit her figure or her fancy. The fashions of every nation and of every era are open to her choice. One day she may appear as the Egyptian Cleopatra, then a Grecian Helen ; next morning the Roman Cornelia; or, if these styles be too august for her taste, there are Sylphs, Goddesses, Nymphs of every region, in earth or air, ready to lend her their wardrobe. In short, no land or age is permitted to withhold its costume from the adoption of an English woman of fashion.

Elegant dressing is not found in expense; money without judgment may load, but never can adorn. You may show profusion without grace: you may cover a neck with pearls, a head with jewels, hands and arms with rings, bracelets and trinkets, and yet produce no effect, but having emptied some merchant's counter upon your person. The best chosen dress is that which so harmonizes with the figure as to make the raiment pass unobserved. The result of the finest toilet should be an elegant woman, not an elegantly* dressed woman. Where a perfect whole is intended, it is a sign of defect in the execution when the details first present themselves to observation.

In short, the secret of dressing lies in simplicity, and a certain adaption to your figure, your rank, your circumstances- To dress well on these principles, (and they are the only just ones) does not require that extravagant attention to so minor an object, as is usually exhibited by persons who make the toilet a study. When ladies place the spell ol their attraction in their clothes, we generally see them arrayed in robes of a thousand makes and dyes, and curiously constructed of materials brought from heaven knows where. Thus much time, thought, and wealth are wasted on a comparatively worthless object. To lavish many of the precious hours of life in the invention and arrangement of dress, is as criminal an offence, as to exhaust the finances of your husband or parents by a thriftless expenditure on its component parts".

1 comment:

Hungarican Chick said...

I love that; an elegant woman, not an eleganty dressed woman.. I love the 'having emptied some merchant's counter upon your person' too. LOL.. thanks for sharing that!