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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/165

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

liable to diseases, chiefly because they are not guarded from the access of fresh air by too many garments (Adair's "Medical Cautions," p. 389). It is also well known that baldness is the effect of effeminate habits as often as of dissipation; and yet there are parents who think it highly dangerous to let a boy go out bareheaded even in May or September. The trouble is, that so many of our latter-day health codes are framed by men who mistake the exigencies of their own decrepitude for the normal condition of mankind. Thousands of North American mothers get their hygienic oracles from the household notes of some orthodox weekly, where the Rev. Falstaff Tartuffe assures them—from personal experience—that raw apples are indigestible, and that rheumatism can be prevented only by nightcaps and woolen undershirts.

Girls, it seems, have to pass through a millinery climacteric, as their brothers through a wild-oats period; but even during that interregnum of reason the instinct of self-preservation would assert its supremacy if the health laws of physiology and their antagonism to certain fashions were more generally understood. Claude Bernard speaks of a French philanthropist who proposed to offer a prize for the most tasteful female dress, manufactured from the cheapest materials; and, if the votaries of the Graces would consent to a reform in the shape and stuff of their garments, we could well afford to indulge them in chromatics and a flounce or two, for there is no reason to afflict them with Quaker-drab, if more cheerful colors are as cheap. As long as they avoid excesses in the quantity and form of their dress, and restrict themselves to four dimes' worth of vanities per month, we need not grudge them a display of their taste in the selection of pretty patterns; let them radiate in all the colors of the rainbow and all the gems of the "Chicago Prize-Package Company." Veniunt a veste sagittæ—the dress problem has always employed the leisure of gossips and Doctors' Commons, especially in cities, and more especially in the wealthy and indolent cities of the Old World. There is a legend of a New England virgin fainting at the mention of "undressed lumber," but that tradition must be of Eastern origin. The dry-goods worship is carried nowhere further than where children are treated like dolls and women like children, unfit to be intrusted with any more important business. The "organ of ornamentativeness," or fashion-mania, may, after all, not be an innate instinct of the female mind. Madame de Staël and Mrs. Lewes at least deny it, and, if they are right, an enlarged sphere of activity will by-and-by help their sisters to outgrow that bias. In the mean while, the best palliative is a liberal education, besides a zealous propaganda of the two chief theses of the dress reform: wider jackets and shorter under-garments; no trailing dresses, keeping the feet wet and impeding locomotion; no stays, corsets, and strait-jacket bodices.

Next to the regulation dress of the Turner hall, the present style