Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

us,

ciples of dress. Indeed, we cannot be sup posed to argue well upon any subject without correct definitions, and without retracing the subject as far as possible, and endeavouring to profit by those who have

gone

before In like manner, we shall certainly understand one another better upon the subject of dress, if we are able to agree as to what dress is, and what it was intended for.

Now, on these two questions, or at least on the second, a very considerable light was lately attempted to be thrown. Dr. Johnson gives no other definition of dress, than by these three words, clothes, garment, habit ; which are by no means satisfactory, because they tell us merely that dress is clothes, and clothes is dress. But perhaps we shall acquire more correct notions on the subject if we inquire what dress was intended for? And it is upon this important question, as just now hinted, that considerable light has lately been thrown.

There used to be two opinions on this subject; the one, that dress was intended for ornament, the other, for warmth and decency. The first opinion, I think, must be given up, unless they who hold it will consent that it should be blended with the other. The second opinion is what we are most concerned in, and

what must now, I think, appear to be one of those antiquated opinions which we derive from our ancestors, but which are not consistent with the liberality of mind and freedom of thinking that distinguish their posterity. If we appeal to facts only (and to what can we appeal with more certainty ?) this opinion will appear to have very little foundation. If dress were intended for warmth, would so many persons have thrown it almost entirely off on the approach of a severe winter? Would they have been content to perish in the extremes of frost and fashion, if warmth had been any part of the use of clothes ? As to decency, the opinion of our ancestors may perhaps have a better foundation ; but even with respect to that, the fashionable world are by no means agreed, and the experiments of our milliners and mantuamakers on the subject, have alarmed some very well-meaning people of the old school. They have, I must confess, carried the stripping system much farther than it ought to be carried in this country, and must ere now have been the destruction of their own trade, if they had not made a small reserve of dress which they claim the privilege of new-modelling at pleasure.

It has been a question with some reflecting persons, to what all this tended ? and numerous

а

a

invectives, in all shapes, essays, pamphlets, and caricature-prints, have been employed to ridicule the fashion. For my part, I chose to contemplate the whole as the result of an experiment tried in conjunction with our Parisian neighbou.s, in order to solve the question on the utility of dress, in the first instance, and then to determine the smallest quantity of dress necessary for a belle of the first fashion. That æconomy entered at all into consideration, must, I think, have been a vulgar error. I have been assured that some of those ladies who put themselves on the shortest allowance as to clothing, have perceived no deductions from the accustomed charges of Bond-street, and that they paid as much for cold and nakedness, as others did for warmth and clothing. And a Parisian lady, it is said, pays as much for a bust, as she would have done for the close covering and ruff of Queen Elizabeth's days. The experiment, then, has been tried. Three years

have witnessed some of the boldest attempts that ever were made to discuss the usefulness, or necessity of dress. It is surely high time to know what has been the result; what particular advantages have been derived ;

. whether .courtships have been more ardent or successful; whether hearts have been more

or four

easily assailed; whether the list of killed and wounded has been more numerous; whether marriages have been more frequent, and more remarkable for the constancy of the parties ; whether delicacy, upon the whole, has increased, when left entirely without any support; whether the character of the sex has gained or lost by imitating the dress of those who

pretend to no character; and whether the almost unlimited exposure of the body has made it easier to captivate lovers, or to catch cold, to invite a courtship, or bring on a consumption ?

But whatever improprieties may be observed in respect either to the quantity or quality of dress, I am unwilling to throw all the blame on the wearers. The origin of the evil does not altogether lie with them. They may

be, indeed, blamed for their submission to the dictates of a class of

them to dress or undress the ladies of Great Britain as they please. Such persons are tied down by no laws, and their precepts are to be implicitly obeyed, although they are not themselves of consequence enough to propagate even a sleeve by example. The mischief is, that dress is a matter of trade, and not of taste; and that shops are allowed to dictate what shall be worn in drawing-rooms.

upon

persons who take

a

To remedy this, it is said, ought to be the business of a PROJECTOR; but after much serious consideration bestowed

upon

the subject, I can think of no better scheme than the calling together of a sort of Female Convocation, or Parliament, whose employment shall be to regulate dress in all its changes and varieties. This assembly I would have composed, in imitation of our Parliament, of a House of Ladies and a House of Commons; and as all distinctions between ladies and women have been long ago abolished, no cap should be allowed to pass, nor a single ribbon be enacted, without the joint consent of both houses. As to the House of Ladies, the name sufficiently expresses the quality of the persons to sit in it, who are of course members for life. The Com. mons should be under certain restrictions as to qualifications, none being eligible who have not ...l. per annum of pin-money, or separate maintenance; and the Ladies of Members of Parliament should represent the counties, cities, or boroughs, for which their husbands are chosen; but no milliner, mantua-maker, or other dealer in fashions, to be eligible upon any account, although it may be in the power of any member to summon persons of that description to the bar, to give information respect

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »