On Fabrics


It is on creation of fabrics that womankind has lavished her creativity, diligence and powers of reasoning. Research and educate yourself about them. Allow yourself to indulge in their romance and excitement. Each fabric has its own mood, character and personality, with which you should acquaint yourself. The fabrics you select for your dress should invariably be those best suited to your needs, as well as to the season of the year, the time of day in which the garment is to be worn, and the character of the garment. A knowledge of the things that lead to harmonious dress is valuable to every one. A garden-party, for instance, or out-of-door tea at a private house demands a muslin, light silk, linen batiste, French cambric, cotton voile – at any rate a delicate, airy material. Those materials, and many more which are impossible to list here exhaustively, are consistent with the charm of celebration of summer among flowers and trees. Each one of them requires a slightly different styling of dress, and highlight a different aspect of the wearer’s beauty. Some of them have a more luxurious air, others possess graceful simplicity and sweetness. Some are, or convey the feeling of, translucent fragility, while others are despite their daintiness, quite opaque and trim. Even if twelve ladies were dressed in twelve identically cut white summer frocks, but each of different material, not two would appear alike but easy to distinguish from her neighbor.

It is recommended that you visit a good fabric-shop to learn about fabrics, since words and pictures alone cannot convey the characteristics of fabrics. They are to be experienced with eyes and hands, and to truly understand the character of a fabric you should see how it falls in folds and how it behaves in movement. When visiting a fabric-shop for this end, skip over the department of quilting cottons with their various amusing prints and colours. With the basic calico you are most probably already familiar, and your attention will all too easily be captured by the novelty print themes and rainbow hues. Aim instead at the counters which display varieties of silk, wool and cottons of different characteristics. Touch them to discover some which are cool to the touch, others warm, some rough, some smooth. Let your finger enjoy the subtle variations of texture. Notice differences of drape and movement. If you feel awkward to visit a business establishment without a legitimate reason, make up your mind to buy half a yard of pretty material suitable for a scarf: silk crepe, soft challis, peau de peche, chiffon, or any other fabric with good drape and suitability to your needs. It will not be too expensive, and you will learn a lot during the process of choosing.

The variety of dressmaking materials is sadly diminishing year by year, a testament to the pernicious effect of the cloud of ugliness which envelopes our world. Even if you are dazzled by the seemingly endless rolls of fabric at the fabric shop, it is but a shadow of what there used to be available. Some categories of materials have almost disappeared, and all in all there is a definite tendency towards cheaper, more simply made fabrics, which lack character and subtlety. Since the better fabric mills are forced out of business by general lack of understanding of fabric quality, and flood of sub-par but very cheap fabrics, the supply of quality fabrics made with utmost care and dedication is dwindling. While I would not otherwise advise my readers to hoard possessions, a good fabric (a good one, not one which you found cheaply on sale!) makes sense to keep almost indefinitely. There will in the end be a good use for it.


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