“Transparent muslin, the cheapest of all materials, is one of the prettiest, too, for summer’s wear, and with the addition of some bows of delicate coloured riband, or a bouquet of fresh flowers, forms a most becoming dress. The lowness of the price of such a robe enables the purchaser to have so frequent a change of it, that even those who are far from rich may have half a dozen, while one single robe of a more expensive material will cost more; and having done so, the owner will think it right to wear it more frequently than is consistent with the freshness and purity that should ever be the distinguishing characteristics in female dress, in order to indemnify herself for the expense.
“I was never more struck with this fact than a short time ago, when I saw two ladies seated next each other, both young and handsome; but one, owing to the freshness of her robe, which was of simple organdie, looked infinitely better than the other who was quite as pretty, but who, wearing a robe of expensive lace, whose whiteness had fallen into ‘the sere and yellow leaf,’ appeared faded and passe.
“What a multiplicity of pretty things we women require to render us what we consider presentable! And how few of us, however good-looking we may chance to be, would agree with the poet, that loveliness needs not the foreign aid of ornament, but is when ‘unadorned, adorned the most.’ Even the fairest of the sex like to enhance the charms of nature by the aid of dress; and the plainest hope to become less so by its assistance.
“Men are never sufficiently sensible of our humility, in considering it so necessary to increase our attractions in order to please them, or grateful enough for the pains we bestow in the attempts. Husbands and fathers are particularly insensible to this amiable desire on the part of their wives and daughters, and when asked to pay the heavy bills incurred in consequence of this praiseworthy humility and desire to please, evince any feeling rather than that of satisfaction. It is only admirers, not called on to pay these said bills, who duly appreciate the cause and effect, and who can hear of women passing whole hours in tempting shops, without that elongation of countenance peculiar to husbands and fathers.
“I could not help thinking with the philosopher, how many things I saw to-day that could be done without. If women could be made to understand that costliness of attire seldom adds to beauty and often deteriorates it, a great amelioration in expense could be accomplished.
“Be wise then, ye young and fair; and if, as I suspect, your object be to please the lords of creation, let your dress in summer be snowy-white muslin, never worn after its pristine purity becomes problematical; and in winter, let some half dozen plain and simple silk gowns be purchased, instead of the two or three expensive ones that generally form the wardrobe,-and which consequently soon not only lose their lustre, but give the wearer the appearance of having suffered the same fate.
“And you, O husbands and fathers, present and future, be ye duly impressed with a sense of your manifold obligations to me, for thus opening the eyes of your wives and daughters how to please without draining your purses; and when the maledictions of lace, velvet, and satin sellers, fall on my hapless head for counsel so injurious to their interests, remember they are incurred for your’s!”
Chit-Chat of Fashions – May, 1844
Collection: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Date: May, 1844
Title: Chit-Chat of Fashions
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
About Godey’s Lady’s Book
Godey’s Lady’s Book was published by Louis A. Godey from Philadelphia for 48 years (1830–1878). Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb“) was its editor from 1837 until 1877 and only published original, American manuscripts.
Our collection provides the complete run of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and is the only one containing the color plates as they originally appeared. Our search and retrieval system allows searchers to limit by Image Type, which includes chromolithograph, color plate and color plate fashion, as well as advertisement, cartoon, drawing, engraving, fashion plate, illustration, map, mezzotint, portrait, sheet music, table and woodcut.