On Different Dresses for Different Occasions

“Let each dress worn by a lady be suitable to the occasion upon which she wears it. A toilet may be as offensive to good taste and propriety by being too elaborate, as by being slovenly. Never wear a dress which is out of place or out of season under the impression that “it will do for once,” or “nobody will notice it.” It is in as bad taste to receive your morning calls in an elaborate evening dress, as it would be to attend a ball in your morning wrapper. “
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It is one of the more glaring errors of our dark age to do away with the distinctive dress for morning and afternoon, for street and at-home. To wear the correct dress for each moment of the day is to acknowledge and appreciate the rising and setting of sun, the whole wonderful machinery of Universe. To wear the same cotton-knit garments all day, day apparel scarcely able to be differentiated from night wear, is to turn one’s back on the rhythms of nature in most hostile manner. A division of the day into parts, facilitates the successful discharge of its duties: housework, social life, attending to one’s wardrobe, meals, etc., each at it’s appointed hour. If the dress is not changed between breakfast at home and going to market, or street-dress changed again to tea-gown, what is there to distinguish the intimate from public, practical from luxurious, toil from pleasures? Everything is muddled into same uniform gray without distinguishing features. Only a scrupulous adherence to the necessary changes in attire prescribed by the hours of the day, days of the week and of the changing seasons ensures healthful spirit, elegance and continuous service to propriety and beauty.
Carefully observing the customs and rituals of each moment of the day, above all in dress, result in both universal and personal well-being. By wearing a severe, undecorated suit in her before-noon activities, a lady lays a strong base for lighter and more delicate clothes later in the day. If lace and silk are worn indiscriminately, what is there left for the full dress function? And a more common matter these days –  if cowboy trousers of toile de Nimes and cotton-knit shirt is worn to town and parties, what’s left for tending cows?

Mere theory or philosophy of Beauty and appropriateness is not enough. One has to dress for dinner. One needs a symbol, some external sign, to assist daily remembrance of what should be. If the standards are allowed to lapse on dress, everything else soon follows. While arts of all kind, from eternal to ephemeral, are important, it is the art of dressing and its rules which should be observed with strictest adherence. Not one day should pass in improper or ugly clothes. The correct dress at a correct hour is devotion to Beauty, and no other devotion can fulfill your mission if this principal one is lacking. Every breath you take clad in suitable and beautiful garments is a little hymn in praise of Beauty.

If you are reading these little sermons, you probably agree with the prime importance of Beauty in human life. But consider also Beauty’s sister Propriety and give her the due respect. A light pink organdy dress, worn with roses in the hair and embroidered silk slippers is perfectly beautiful. But all this beauty is in vain and the effect ridiculous, if this outfit is worn to do one’s shopping at the market. While a simple calico dress or a tweed suit with a felt basque are perhaps less beautiful, they are infinitely more appropriate and thus more Beautiful at the market. Ridiculous is never Beautiful.

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