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advantage of a natural coiffure where there are neither curls like silk, nor coils like marble to display ?—where is the policy of a plain simple gown exhibiting the whole contour of the figure, when there are only angles to be seen instead of undulations, and shady hollows instead of sunny banks ?or the advantage of uncovering an ear which is less like a delicate shell than some ugly fungus ?-or of showing an arm which may be like a stick, but certainly not of pink coral ?
Far more wisdom is there in concealing natural deficiencies than in bringing them to light; and some of the old costumes, however absurd and unnatural they may now appear, not only possessed this merit, but likewise developed much beauty and character in faces which now-a-days are thought to have none. The old head-dresses were particularly recommendable for this. The reticulated head-dress, or crespine-a gold caul in which the hair was enclosed, sometimes with a fillet round the forehead and under the chin, or a veil hanging from the back—was far more becoming to a majority of faces than the scanty hair, which in this country the bad management of a former generation has too generally bequeathed to the present. The enormous horned structures, too, which towered upon a woman's head from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century
some of them starting straight from the forehead, and outlining the upper part of the face firmly, with the drapery pendent on each side—for instance, as seen in the fine effigy of Lady'de Thorpe, Ashwellthorpe
* I; UIA ART OF DRESS. ; -, ! 11!
Church, Norfolk- gave a grandeur and dignity to countenances which in their present self-dependent state look mean or peculiar. The hair, it is true, was turned to no account except on bridal or coronation days; but because a few ladies have fine hair, must all be compelled to uncover? Every fancyball brings out some striking or interesting face, generally in some such head-dresses as these, which the day before, seen in its own scanty native suit, was overlooked as plain. And such faces are usually of far higher character than those which attract by mere prettiness of complexion or brightness of eye. Take, for instance, a grand Italian contadina, strip her of her tavaglia and spilla, and put her into an English abigail's costume. An artist may discover some latent beauty, but the majority would condemn her as heavy, dingy, and decidedly plain. Or look nearer home at the Newhaven fishwoman, who, seen “every lawful day" in her cap of Norman extraction, with a bright coarse handkerchief thrown carelessly at the back of it, exhibits always a fine strongly-marked countenance, and often a very handsome one : and see the same woman on Sunday, in a silk or velvet hat, with all due appurtenance of blonde lappets and artificial flowers, and you no longer recognise the common unmeaning face, which has lost all its real character in the attempt to assume one utterly foreign to it.
Certain it is there is no greater mistake or more serious loss to art than in habiting all classes in one and the same costume, as now done in England.
SIMILAR COSTUME UNFIT FOR ALL CLASSES.
How is it possible that the same form of garment which is adapted to the rich and delicate materials, and the slight figure of the woman who lives at ease, should suit the rough textures and clumsy make of the woman who lives by labour! The very association of ideas would alone destroy all possibility. It is this which defrauds our lower class of women of all style of beauty peculiar to themselves, and the world of an incalculable number of fine living pictures. In point of fact, an English peasant woman in her best garb, however comely she may be, only reminds us of a coarser featured, worse-dressed lady. She ought not to remind us of a lady at all. But neither the plain woman nor the
poor woman suffers so severely by this state of things as another class to whom we have slightly alluded—those advanced and advancing in life. The present style of dress is worse even than your economist's beau ideal of a Poor Law, for it makes no provision at all for the infirmities of age. An old woman, now-a-days, literally does not know how to dress herself; and many we have the honour of meeting in society display in their appearance symptoms of a perplexity of mind on this point which at their time of life must be very bad for them, Altogether they are very hardly dealt with. Of course it can be no pleasure to them to exhibit the empty nests of charms which have long taken wing—for the attenuated to reveal an outline which has lost all roundness or for the corpulent to uncover a surface which has lost all freshness; and it is doubly dis
tressing to think how very little pleasure the world has in seeing either. Instead of being the most welcome sitter that can enter his studio, an old woman is now too often one the cleverest artist does not know what to do with. How is he to treat a subject which appears before him with December in her face and May in her costume-with faded eyes and eyebrows, and dark glossy tresses above them--fallen colourless cheeks, and bright roses beside them-withered throat and neck covered only with a necklace or a velvet band, which calls aloud for stout silk above and good flannel below it —a figure either shrunk and mummified, or heavy and unwieldy, but all scrupulously shown! If he paints her exactly as she is, he paints a monstrously absurd thing: if he suits the face to the roses, and the neck to the necklace, he does not paint her at all. In either case he makes no picture of what might be the most picturesque thing in the world. Lady Mary Wortley says that age and ugliness are inseparable— being arrogant herself with youth and beauty, and everything else that could heighten either ; but we deny the proposition in toto. Some women are never good-looking at all till they are old -all have a right divine to the picturesque by the very nature of old age---and a few, whom we have been privileged to know, have been the loveliest objects mind or eye could dwell upon.
Let us look for a moment at the portrait of the old woman who is an old woman indeed. See the plaited border, or the full ruche of the cap, white as snow, circling close round the face, as if jealous to preserve the oval that age has lost; the hair peeping from beneath, finer and more silken than ever, but white as that border, or grey as the shadow thrown by it; the complexion withered and faded, yet being relieved, as Nature has appointed it to be, by the still more faded tints of the hair, in a certain degree delicate and fresh; the eyes with most of their former fire extinguished, still, surrounded only with the chastened hues of age, brighter than anything else in the face; the face itself, lined with deep wrinkles, but not one that the painter would spare; the full handkerchief, or rich bustling laces scrupulously covering neck and throat, reminding us that the modesty of her youth has survived, though not its charms ; some deep sober shawl or scarf, which the French rightly call “ le drapeau de vieille femme,” carefully concealing the outline of the figure, though not its general feminine proportions--all brilliant contrasts, as all violent passions, banished from the picture, and replaced by a harmony which is worth them all.
Think also of the moral charm exercised by such a face and figure over the circle where it belongs the hallowing influence of one who, having performed all her active part in this world, now takes a passive, but a nobler one than any, and shows us how to grow old: who, having gone through all the progressive periods of life, and their accompanying rank in the estimation of mankind-the palmy days of youth and admiration-- the working time of cares