Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/551

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SERVILITY IN DRESS.

precisely the part which, during the last year or two, the malice of modistes has concealed with every ingenuity of structure. Vertical humps have been placed there, contrived so as to make the chest look as narrow, the shoulders as high, and the neck as short as possible.

The serious part of this is, that the immense cost of women's dress leaves nothing of value behind it. Sables are positively the only purchase that can be looked on as a safe investment. The most thoughtful selection and design of other materials is sure to be soon stultified by the imperious caprice of Monsieur Worth. By no means can the sorrowful folly of this thralldom be brought home to one more forcibly than by a visit to the cases in the British Museum, containing the little funebral figures from the tombs of Tanagra. The exquisite grace of raiment, the delicate hair-dressing, varied to suit each different cast of features, the care with which beauty of form is accentuated instead of being wrapped up or distorted—all convince one of the cruelty of the modern system which robs our eyes of legitimate delight. How would it be with us were it the custom to lay in the tombs of our departed ones little statuettes, representing them in their best clothes? Should we not shrink from the criticism of posterity? It must be confessed that women would stand this ordeal better than men: still, a modern ball-dress, with corsage cutting horizontally across the bust, is a terrible violation of the natural lines of the figure, especially when, by means of long stays, the cincture is thrust away down where no sculptor would dream of placing it. In the name of common honesty, whence comes the mock delicacy of forbidding the form of a woman's legs to be seen? Are they more suggestive of unlawful thoughts than arms and shoulders? Shall Diana be accounted less than chaste because her statue in the Vatican shows her with tunic girt well above her bare knees? The Spartan virgins were not the less reverently regarded because the graceful chiton, being open on one side to allow freedom of movement, flew open as they walked, and got them the name of φαινομηρίδεσ. It is utterly unjust that, because some women have indifferent legs, all should be compelled to wear long skirts on all occasions. If it is desired to see which is most becoming, compare an Ayrshire dairymaid in work-a-day attire of short pleated petticoat and the linen jacket called a bedgown, snooded hair, woolen hose, and serviceable shoes, with the same girl figged out on Sunday with a flyaway bonnet on her head, a travesty of Paris fashions on her back, trailing skirts, and high-heeled Balmorals. Of the two, the first is not only the more pleasing, but infinitely the more modest in appearance.

Marie Bashkirtseff, in composing the most self-conscious journal ever penned, was in the habit of subjecting her own actions