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propriety of dress, the coat, waistcoat, and breeches. must be of the same piece.
As Aristotle obliges all dramatic writers to a strict observance of time, place, and action, in order to compose a just work of this kind of poetry; so it is absolutely necessary for a person that applies himself to the study of dress, to have a strict regard to these three particulars.
To begin with the time. What is more absurd than the velvet gown in summer? and what is more agreeable in the winter? The muff and fur are preposterous in June, which are charmingly supplied by the Turkey handkerchief and fan. Every thing must be suitable to the season, and there can be no propriety in dress without a strict regard to time.
You must have no less respect to place. What gives a lady a more easy air than the wrapping gown in the morning at the tea-table? The Bath countenances the men of dress in shewing themselves at the pump in their Indian night-gowns, without the least indecorum.
Action is what gives the spirit both to writing and dress. Nothing appears graceful without action; the head, the arms, the legs, must all conspire to give a habit a genteel air. What distinguishes the air of the court from that of the country but action? A lady, by the careless toss of her head, will shew a set of ribbons to advantage; by a pinch of snuff judiciously taken will display the glittering ornament of her little finger; by the new modelling her tucker, at one view present you with a fine turned hand, and a rising bosom. In order to be a proficient in action, I cannot sufficiently recommend the science of dancing: this will give the feet an easy gait, and the arms a gracefulness of motion. If a person have not a strict regard to
these three above-mentioned rules of antiquity, the richest dress will appear stiff and affected, and the most gay habit fantastical and tawdry.
As different sorts of poetry require a different stile: the elegy, tender and mournful; the ode, gay and sprightly; the epic, sublime, &c., so must the widow confess her grief in the veil; the bride frequetnly makes her joy and exultation conspicuous in the silver brocade; and the plume and the scarlet die is requisite to give the soldier a martial air. There is another kind of occasional dress in use among the ladies; I mean the riding-habit, which some have not injudiciously styled the hermaphroditical, by reason of its masculine and feminine composition; but I shall rather choose to call it the Pindaric, as its first institution was at a Newmarket horse-race, and as it is a mixture of the sublimity of the epic with the easy softness of the ode.
There sometimes arises a great genius in dress, who cannot content himself with merely copying from others, but will, as he sees occasion, strike out into the long pocket, slashed sleeve, or something particular in the disposition of his lace, or the flourish of his embroidery. Such a person, like the masters of other sciences, will shew that he hath a manner of his own.
On the contrary, there are some pretenders to dress who shine out but by halves; whether it be for want of genius or money. A dancing-master of the lowest rank seldom fails of the scarlet stocking and the red heel; and shews a particular respect to the leg and foot, to which he owes his subsistence; when at the same time perhaps all the superior ornament of his body is neglected. We may say of these sort of dressers what Horace says of his patch-work poets :
'Purpureus latè qui splendeat unus et alter,
ARS POET. ver. 15.
Shine thro' th' insipid dulness of the rest.'
Others who lay the stress of beauty in their face, exert all their extravagance in the periwig, which is a kind of index of the mind; the full-bottom formally combed all before, denotes the lawyer and the politician; the smart tie-wig with the black ribbon shews a man of fierceness of temper; and he that burthens himself with a superfluity of white hair which flows down the back, and mantles in waving curls over the shoulders, is generally ob served to be less curious in the furniture of the inward recesses of the scull, and lays himself open to the application of that censure which Milton applies to the fair sex,
of outward form
Elaborate, of inward, less exact.'
A lady of genius will give a genteel air to her whole dress by a well-fancied suit of knots, as a judicious writer gives a spirit to a whole sentence by a single expression. As words grow old, and new ones enrich the language, so there is a constant succession of dress; the fringe succeeds the lace, the stays shorten or extend the waist, the ribbon undergoes divers variations, the head-dress receives frequent rises and falls every year; and in short, the whole woman throughout, as curious observers of dress have remarked, is changed from top to toe, in the period of five years. A poet will now and then, to serve his purpose, coin a word, so will a lady of genius venture at an innovation in the fashion; but as Horace advises, that
all new-minted words should have a Greek derivation to give them an indisputable authority, so I would counsel all our improvers of fashion always to take the hint from France, which may as properly be called the fountain of dress, as Greece was of literatur.
Dress may bear a parallel to poetry with respect to moving the passions. The greatest motive to love, as daily experience shews us, is dress. I have known a lady at sight fly to a red feather. and readily give her hand to a fringed pair of gloves. At another time I have seen the awkward appearance of her rural humble servant move her indignation; she is jealous every time her rival hath a new suit; and in a rage when her woman pins her mantua to disadvantage. Unhappy, unguarded woman! alas! what moving rhetoric has she often found in the seducing full-bottom! who can tell the resistless eloquence of the embroidered coat, the gold snuff-box, and the amber-headed cane?
I shall conclude these criticisms with some general remarks upon the milliner, the mantua-maker, and the lady's woman, these being the three chief on which all the circumstances of dress depend.
The milliner must be thoroughly versed in physiognomy; in the choice of ribbons she must have a particular regard to the complexion, and must ever be mindful to cut the head-dress to the dimensions of the face. When she meets with a countenance of large diameter, she must draw the dress forward to the face, and let the lace incroach a little upon the cheek, which casts an agreeable shade, and takes off from its masculine figure; the little oval face requires the diminutive commode, just on the tip of the crown of the head:
she must have á regard to the several ages of women; the head-dress must give the mother a more sedate mien than the virgin; and age must not be made ridiculous with the flaunting airs of youth. There is a beauty that is peculiar to the several stages of life, and as much propriety must be observed in the dress of the old, as the young.
The mantua-maker must be an expert anatomist; and must, if judiciously chosen, have a name of French termination; she must know how to hide all the defects in the proportions of the body, and must be able to mould the shape by the stays, so as to preserve the intestines, that while she corrects the body, she may not interfere with the pleasures of the palate.
The lady's woman must have all the qualities of a critic in poetry; as her dress, like the critic's learning, is at second-hand, she must, like him, have a ready talent at censure, and her tongue must be deeply versed in detraction; she must be sure to asperse the characters of the ladies of most eminent virtue and beauty, to indulge her lady's spleen; and as it hath been remarked, that critics are the most fawning sycophants to their patrons, so must our female critic be a thorough proficient in flattery: she must add sprightliness to her lady's air, by encouraging her vanity; give gracefulness to her step, by cherishing her pride; and make her shew a haughty contempt of her admirers, by enumerating her imaginary conquests. As a critic must stock his memory with the names of all the authors of note, she must be no less ready in the recital of all the beaus and pretty fellows in vogue; like the male critic, she asserts, that the theory of any science is above the practice, and that it is not necessary to be able to set her own person off to