And by economy I do not mean mere cheapness. To buy a poor, flimsy fabric merely because the price is low, is extravagance, not economy; still worse if you buy articles because they are offered cheap, when you have no use for them. In purchasing goods for the wardrobe, let each material be the best of its kind. The same amount of sewing and care that is put into a good material, must be put into a poor one, and, as the latter will very soon wash or wear out, there must be another one to supply its place, purchased and fitted, when, by buying a good article at first, this time and labor might have been saved. A good, strong material will be found cheapest in the end, though the actual expenditure of money may be larger at first. To be conspicuously elegant presupposes a cultivated body, but the secret of economy and art in dress lies in the selection of suitable materials, simple designs and conservative fashions.
If you can’t afford best silks for your dress and best lace for your collars, there is no shame or incorrectness in appearing in a modest but well-made wool dress and a neat, spotlessly clean and pressed pique collar. Beauty can be expressed as well in simple lines as in abundance of ornament. Both simplicity and ornateness have their place in the scheme of things, and both can be equally lovely. This being said, you should never use limitations of budget as an excuse for sloppiness. Simple beauty requires a lot of care and attention, and particular notice should be awarded to beauty and harmony of lines, if ornaments are few or absent. But do not aim to accomplish the impossible, as in garbing yourself in most refined luxuries, if you can not afford it. It is unladylike to the extreme, not to mention disruptive to the harmony and beauty of the Universe, to clothe yourself in inferior artificial silk or even worse, don an apparel of subpar lace. Foolish is also the lady who aims for wardrobe of sixty dresses, if her means permit her six. It is wiser to concentrate the efforts on a few well-made dresses instead of excess of cheaply-made things which will disintegrate soon and not elevate anyone’s sense of beauty while they are worn.
Find a style which is compatible with your means, cultivate the arts of the needle to create pleasing decorations for your simple dresses, and you’ll serve Beauty better than those who foolishly squander their fortunes on masses of disgusting rags which hardly deserve the name of clothes. After all, it is not the amount of money but the amount of good taste and care which separates a well-dressed lady from a poorly-dressed one. Let the hair be always cared for and becomingly arranged, each article exquisitely clean, neat collar and sleeves, and tidy shoes and stockings, and the simplest dress will appear well, while a torn or soiled collar, messy hair, or untidy feet will entirely ruin the effect of the most costly and elaborate dress. Where a rich toilet is worn for any occasion, be sure that everything is in keeping. If the gown be of velvet do not wear with it a linen collar or cheap lace. If real lace is beyond the means there are always the filmy tulles and crêpe lisse. If jewelry is worn, it should be of the best, be it much or little. The fan, also, for such a costume should carry out the idea of luxury.
I you still despair over the meagre amount of clothes money at your disposal, consider this: One of the few positive things in a life of a lady in our rotten age (although at the same time exceedingly melancholic) is the possibility to incur beautiful accessories for one’s person and home for ridiculously small sums of money. Since good lace and ornate porcelains have fallen out of favor – which only illustrates the sorry state of affairs regarding aesthetics these days – they are often found for nominal sums at thrift shops. If you are able to separate worthless fake lace and the true article, which are sold from the same box for the same price, you’ll be able to decorate your person with the most lovely treasures of the needle for perhaps less than the price of a decent cup of coffee. If you have the good sense and smart eye to discern the delicate beauty of fine porcelain, you’ll be able to arrange your tea-table with the discarded riches of a lady way beyond your actual means, and without disturbing the peace of your purse.