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be criticised. But whatever piece of dress conceals a woman's figure, is bound in justice to do so in a picturesque way. This a shawl can never do, with its strict uniformity of pattern-each shoulder alike --and its stiff three-cornered shape behind, with a scroll of pattern standing straight up the centre of the back. If a lady sports a shawl at all, and only very falling shoulders should venture, we should recommend it to be always either falling off or putting on, which produces pretty action, or she should wear it up one shoulder and down the other, or in some way drawn irregularly, so as to break the uniformity. One of the faults of the present costume, as every real artist knows, is, that it offers too few diagonal lines. Nothing is more picturesque than a line across the bust, like the broad ribbon of the Garter across our graceful Queen, or the loose girdle sloping across the hips, in the costume of the early Plantagenets. On this very account the long scarfshawl is as picturesque a thing as a lady can wear. With the broad pattern sweeping over one shoulder, and a narrow one, or none at all, on the other, it supplies the eye with that irregularity which drapery requires ; while the slanting form and colours of the border, lying carelessly round the figure, give that Eastern idea which every shawl more or less implies. What Oriental would ever wear one straight up and down, and uniform on both sides, as our ladies often do?
The female hat of the present day is one of the only very artificial features, and will puzzle future
costume-hunters to account for, both in its construction and its use, more than any other article now worn--if, indeed, any memento of it survive, for it is unfit either for painting or sculpture. It is come of a bad race-having nothing to do with the large Spanish beaver-or the picturesque chapeau de paille (which, by the way, is not a straw hat at all)-or with the celebrated churchills of the last century, in which the beautiful sister Gunnings turned all heads ---being in fact a combination of the frightful machine invented to cover the high toupee, of which the Quakeress hat is a living relic, and the squat, flat, projecting caps of silk or gauze, trimmed with bows and feathers, which accompanied the low coiffure and short waist of the commencement of this century; from which latter arose the confusion of terms between the French bonnet and the English bonnet. Not but what a hat of the present day is becoming enough to some, as any frame-work filled with laces, ribbons, and flowers round a pretty face must be but it is at best an unmeaning thing, without any character of its own, and never becoming to any face that has much.
There is one of the race, however, for which we must make special exception-not for its native beauties alone, its polished glistening circles, and delicate neutral tints, but for a deep mysterious spell, exercised both over wearer and spectator, in which it stands unrivalled by any other article of female attire—we mean the plain straw hat. From the highest to the lowest there is not a single style of
beauty with which this hat is not upon the best understanding. It refines the homeliest and composes the wildest-it gives the coquettish young lady a little dash of demureness, and the demure one a slight touch of coquetry it makes the blooming beauty look more fresh, and the pale one more interesting it makes the plain woman look, at all events, a lady, and the lady more ladylike still. A vulgar woman never puts on a straw bonnet, or at least not the straw bonnet we have in our eye: while the higher the style of carriage, and the richer the accompanying costume, the more does it seem in its native element; so much so, that the most aristocratic beauty in the land, adorned in every other respect with all that wealth can purchase, taste select, or delicacy of person enhance, may not only hide her lofty head with perfect propriety in a plain straw hat, but in one plainer and coarser still than a lower style of woman would venture to wear. Then all the sweet associations that throng about it !-pictures of happy childhood, and unconscious girlhood -thoughts of blissful bridal tours, and of healthy country life !—and of childhood, girlhood, tours and life such as our own sweet country can alone give. For the crowning association of all consists perhaps in this--that the genuine straw bonnet stamps the genuine Englishwoman-no other country can produce either the hat or the wearer.
But, after all, in all these important matters of dress, however recommendable some of these details may separately be, it is a lady's own sense on which
their proper application depends. She did not choose her own face and figure, but she does choose her own dress, and it should be ordered according to them. Attention to a few general rules would prevent a great many anomalous appearances : for instance, a woman should never be dressed too little, nor a girl too much-nor should a stumpy figure attempt large patterns, nor a bad walker flouncesnor a short throat carry feathers, nor high shoulders a shawl--and so on. But, as we have just said, every woman in the world may wear a plain straw hat.
Enough has been said now to show that the general elements of female costume were, upon the whole, never more free from the reproach of artificiality or disguise, or more adapted to give full scope to the natural charms of youth and beauty. Still, before quitting the subject, there remains something to be said on the other side: for our arguments, in milliner phraseology, “can bear turning,” being of that peculiarly immoral texture which they coolly designate as having“ neither wrong side nor right."
Of course, to the inward eye of the imagination the mere name of woman presents a vision clothed in perpetual youth and loveliness, or floating in a region too far above us to know precisely how she is clothed at all. But to the outward eye of the senses, which acts as man of business to the inward eye of the mind, bothering it with particulars it never wants to know, it is not to be denied that
there are some of these visions which appear not beautiful, and many by no means young. This being the case, a costume expressly adapted for the display of natural charms is hard upon those who never had any to begin with, or who have parted company with them some time ago. It is like setting a fine stone and an ordinary one both equally transparent-forgetting that what tests the beauty of the one only betrays the defects of the other, which a little dexterous foil might hide. Every jeweller will tell you that it is the inferior stones which depend most on the setting--first-rate ones may stand on their own merits. We have seen, for instance, some grey pearls produce a most beautiful effect in a brilliant setting of red and green enamel, which, strung plainly like the Salisbury necklace, would have been frightful. Dress, by the same rule, is the setting of our sweet human pearl :--each delicate and precious, and but increasing in beauty and value the longer and the closer it is worn ; though not all valuable or beautiful alike to that same vulgar outward eye which knows nothing of a jewel but its market-price. For the young and the lovely dress is of no importance: they may wear what they please, and the less perhaps the better. The tappa girdle of the nymphs of the Marquesas would be enough for them--but a tappa girdle itself would hardly embarrass the old and the plain more than a style of dress which presumes them to be neither one nor the other. 'Tis for them, then, alone that dress should be studied. Where is the