Routledge's Manual of Etiquette
Part 4 out of 6
disruption of the engagement from some unexpected cause ensue, it
is obvious that any such premature assumption would lead to very
embarrassing results. In short, his conduct should be such as to win
for himself the esteem and affection of all the family, and dispose
them ever to welcome and desire his presence, rather than regard him
as an intruder.
_Conduct of the Lady on Retiring from her Engagement_.
Should this step unhappily be found necessary on the lady's part, the
truth should be spoken, and the reasons frankly given: there must be
no room left for the suspicion of its having originated in caprice or
injustice. The case should be so put that the gentleman himself must
see and acknowledge the justice of the painful decision arrived
at. Incompatible habits, ungentlemanly actions, anything tending
to diminish that respect for the lover which should be felt for the
husband; inconstancy, ill-governed temper--all which, not to mention
other obvious objections--are to be considered as sufficient reasons
for terminating an engagement. The communication should be made
as tenderly as possible: room may be left in mere venial cases for
reformation; but all that is done must be so managed that not the
slightest shadow of fickleness or want of faith may rest upon the
character of the lady. It must be remembered, however, that the
termination of an engagement by a lady has the privilege of passing
unchallenged,--a lady not being _bound_ to declare any other reason
than her will. Nevertheless she owes it to her own reputation that her
decision should rest on a sufficient foundation, and be unmistakably
_Conduct of the Gentleman on Retiring from his Engagement_.
We hardly know how to approach this portion of our subject. The
reasons must be strong indeed that can sufficiently justify a man,
placed in the position of an accepted suitor, in severing the ties
by which he has bound himself to a lady with the avowed intention of
making her his wife. His reasons for breaking off his engagement
must be such as will not merely satisfy his own conscience, but will
justify him in the eyes of the world. If the fault be on the lady's
side, great reserve and delicacy will be observed by any man of
honour. If, on the other hand, the imperative force of circumstances,
such as loss of fortune, or some other unexpected calamity to himself,
may be the cause, then must the reason be clearly and fully explained,
in such a manner as to soothe the painful feelings which such a result
must necessarily occasion to the lady and her friends. It is scarcely
necessary to point out the necessity for observing great caution in
all that relates to the antecedents of an engagement that has been
broken off; especially the return on either side of presents and of
all letters that have passed.
This last allusion brings us to the consideration of
Letter-writing is one great test of ability and cultivation, as
respects both sexes. The imperfections of education may be to some
extent concealed or glossed over in conversation, but cannot fail to
stand out conspicuously in a letter. An ill-written letter infallibly
betrays the vulgarity and ignorance indicative of a mean social
But there is something more to be guarded against than even
bad writing and worse spelling in a correspondence: _saying too
much_--writing that kind of matter which will not bear to be read by
other eyes than those for which it was originally intended. That this
is too frequently done is amply proved by the love letters often read
in a court of law, the most affecting passages from which occasion
"roars of laughter" and the derisive comments of merry-making counsel.
Occurrences of this kind prove how frequently letters are not returned
or burnt when an affair of the heart is broken off. Correspondence
between lovers should at all events be tempered with discretion; and,
on the lady's part particularly, her affectionate expressions should
not degenerate into a silly style of fondness.
It is as well to remark here, that in correspondence between a couple
not actually engaged, the use of Christian names in addressing each
other should be avoided.
_Demeanour of the Suitor during Courtship_.
The manners of a gentleman are ever characterized by urbanity and a
becoming consideration for the feelings and wishes of others, and by
a readiness to practise self-denial. But the very nature of courtship
requires the fullest exercise of these excellent qualities on his
part. The lover should carefully accommodate his tone and bearing,
whether cheerful or serious, to the mood for the time of his
lady-love, whose slightest wish must be his law. In his assiduities to
her he must allow of no stint; though hindered by time, distance, or
fatigue, he must strive to make his professional and social duties
bend to his homage at the shrine of love. All this can be done,
moreover, by a man of excellent sense with perfect propriety. Indeed,
the world will not only commend him for such devoted gallantry,
but will be pretty sure to censure him for any short-coming in his
performance of such devoirs.
It is, perhaps, needless to observe that at such a period a gentleman
should be scrupulously neat, without appearing particular, in his
attire. We shall not attempt to prescribe what he should wear, as that
must, of course, depend on the times of the day when his visits are
paid, and other circumstances, such as meeting a party of friends,
going to the theatre, &c., with the lady.
_Should a Courtship be Short or Long_?
The answer to this question must depend on the previous
acquaintanceship, connection, or relationship of the parties, as well
as on their present circumstances, and the position of their parents.
In case of relationship or old acquaintanceship subsisting between
the families, when the courtship, declaration, and engagement have
followed each other rapidly, a short wooing is preferable to a long
one, should other circumstances not create an obstacle. Indeed, as a
general rule, we are disposed strongly to recommend a short courtship.
A man is never well settled in the saddle of his fortunes until he be
married. He wants spring, purpose, and aim; and, above all, he wants
a _home_ as the centre of his efforts. Some portion of inconvenience,
therefore, may be risked to obtain this; in fact, it often occurs that
by waiting too long the freshness of life is worn off, and that the
generous glow of early feelings becomes tamed down to lukewarmness
by a too prudent delaying; while a slight sacrifice of ambition or
self-indulgence on the part of the gentleman, and a little descent
from pride of station on the lady's side, might have ensured years of
satisfied love and happy wedded life.
On the other hand, we would recommend a long courtship as advisable
when--the friends on both sides favouring the match--it happens
that the fortune of neither party will prudently allow an immediate
marriage. The gentleman, we will suppose, has his way to make in his
profession or business, and is desirous not to involve the object of
his affection in the distressing inconvenience, if not the misery,
of straitened means. He reflects that for a lady it is an actual
degradation, however love may ennoble the motive of her submission, to
descend from her former footing in society. He feels, therefore, that
this risk ought not to be incurred. For, although the noble and
loving spirit of a wife might enable her to bear up cheerfully against
misfortune, and by her endearments soothe the broken spirit of her
husband; yet the lover who would wilfully, at the outset of wedded
life, expose his devoted helpmate to the ordeal of poverty, would be
deservedly scouted as selfish and unworthy. These, then, are among the
circumstances which warrant a lengthened engagement, and it should be
the endeavour of the lady's friends to approve such cautious delay,
and do all they can to assist the lover in his efforts to abridge it.
The lady's father should regard the lover in the light of another son
added to his family, and spare no pains to promote his interests in
life, while the lady's mother should do everything in her power, by
those small attentions which a mother understands so well, to make the
protracted engagement agreeable to him, and as endurable as possible
to her daughter.
* * * * *
IV.--PRELIMINARY ETIQUETTE OF A WEDDING.
Whether the term of courtship may have been long or short--according
to the requirements of the case--the time will at last arrive for
_Fixing the Day_.
While it is the gentleman's province to press for the earliest
possible opportunity, it is the lady's privilege to name the happy
day; not but that the bridegroom-elect must, after all, issue the
fiat, for he has much to consider and prepare for beforehand: for
instance, to settle where it will be most convenient to spend the
honeymoon--a point which must depend on the season of the year, on
his own vocation, and other circumstances. At this advanced state of
affairs, we must not overlook the important question of
These are matters that must be attended to where there is property
on either side; and it behoves the intending bridegroom to take
care there is no unnecessary delay in completing them. An occasional
morning call in one of the Inns of Court at this period is often
found to be necessary to hasten the usually sluggish pace of the legal
fraternity. On the business part of this matter it is not the province
of our work to dilate; but we may be permitted to suggest that
two-thirds, or at least one-half, of the lady's property should be
settled on herself and offspring; and that where the bridegroom has
no property wherewith to endow his wife, and has solely to rely on
his professional prospects, it should be made a _sine qua non_ that he
should insure his life in her favour previously to marriage.
_How to be Married_.
By this time the gentleman will have made up his mind _in what form_
he will be married--a question, the solution of which, however, must
chiefly depend on his means and position in life. He has his choice
whether he will be married by BANNS, by LICENCE, by SPECIAL LICENCE,
or before the Registrar; but woe betide the unlucky wight who should
venture to suggest the last method to a young lady or her parents!
_Marriage by Banns_.
For this purpose, notice must be given to the clerk of the parish or
of the district church. The names of the two parties must be written
down in full, with their conditions, and the parishes in which they
reside--as, "Between A B, of the parish of St. George, bachelor (or
widower, as the case may be), and C D, of the parish of St. George,
spinster (or widow, as the case may be)." No mention of either the
lady's or gentleman's age is required. Where the lady and gentleman
are of different parishes, the banns must be published in each, and a
certificate of their publication in the one furnished to the clergyman
who may marry the parties in the church of the other parish.
It seems singular, albeit it is the fact, that no evidence of consent
by either party is necessary to this "putting up of the banns," as
is it denominated; indeed, the publication of the banns is not
unfrequently the first rural declaration of attachment, so that
the blushing village maiden sometimes finds herself announced as a
bride-elect before she has received any actual declaration. The clerk
receives his fee of two shillings and makes no further inquiries; nay,
more, is prepared, if required, to provide the necessary fathers on
each side, in the respectable persons of himself and the sexton--the
venerable pew-opener being also ready, on a pinch, to "perform" the
part of bridesmaid.
The banns must be publicly read on three successive Sundays in the
church, after the last of which, if they so choose, the happy pair
may, on the Monday following, be "made one." It is usual to give one
day's previous notice to the clerk; but this is not legally necessary,
it being the care of the Church, as well as the policy of the Law, to
throw as few impediments as possible in the way of marriage, of which
the one main fact of a consent to live together, declared publicly
before an assemblage of relatives, friends, and neighbours (and
afterwards, as it were by legal deduction, before witnesses), is the
essential and constituent element. Marriage by banns, except in the
country districts, is usually confined to the humbler classes of
society. This is to be regretted, inasmuch as it is a more deliberate
and solemn declaration, and leaves the ceremony more free from the
imputation of suddenness, contrivance, or fraud, than any other form.
A marriage by banns, it is understood, can never be set aside by the
after discovery of deception or concealment as respects residence, and
even names, on either side. The fees of a marriage by banns vary from
_11s. 6d._ to _13s. 6d._ and _15s. 6d._, according to the parish or
district wherein the marriage may take place.
_Hours in which Marriages may be Celebrated_.
All marriages at church must be celebrated within canonical
hours--that is, between the hours of eight and twelve, except in the
case of special licence, when the marriage may be celebrated at any
hour, or at any "meet and proper place."
_Marriage by Special Licence_.
By the Statute of 23rd Henry VIII., the Archbishop of Canterbury has
power to grant special licences; but in a certain sense these are
limited. His Grace restricts his authority to Peers and Peeresses in
their own right, to their sons and daughters, to Dowager Peeresses, to
Privy Councillors, to Judges of the Courts at Westminster, to Baronets
and Knights, and to Members of Parliament; and, by an order of a
former Prelate, to no other person is a special licence to be
given, unless they allege very strong and weighty reasons for such
indulgence, arising from particular circumstances of the case, the
truth of which must be proved to the satisfaction of the Archbishop.
The application for a special licence is to be made to his Grace
through the proctor of the parties, who, having first ascertained
names and particulars, will wait upon his Grace for his fiat.
The expense of a special licence is about twenty-eight or thirty
guineas, whereas that of an ordinary licence is but two guineas and
a half; or three guineas where the gentleman or lady, or both, are
_Marriage by Licence_.
An ordinary marriage licence is to be obtained at the Faculty
Registry, or Vicar-General's Office, or Diocesan Registry Office of
the Archbishops or Bishops, either in the country, or at Doctors'
Commons, or by applying to a proctor. A licence from Doctors' Commons,
unlike others, however, is available throughout the whole of England.
The gentleman or lady (for either may attend), before applying for an
ordinary marriage licence, should ascertain in what parish or district
they are both residing--the church of such parish or district being
the church in which the marriage should be celebrated; and either the
gentleman or lady must have had his or her usual abode therein fifteen
days before application is made for the licence, as the following
form, to be made on oath, sets forth:--
... _Proctor_. LICENCE, Dated 187_.
"VICAR-GENERAL'S OFFICE." 187_.
APPEARED PERSONALLY, _A B_, of the parish or district
of ----, in the county of ----, a bachelor,
of the age of 21 years and upwards, and prayed a
Licence for the solemnisation of matrimony in the parish
or district church of ----, between him and _C D_,
of the district of ----, in the county of ----, a
spinster, of the age of 21 years or upwards, and made
oath, that he believeth that there is no impediment of
kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful cause, nor
any suit commenced in any Ecclesiastical Court, to bar
or hinder the proceeding of the said matrimony, according
to the tenor of such Licence. And he further made
oath, that he, the said _A B_ or _C D_, hath had his [or her]
usual place of abode within the said parish or district of
----, for the space of fifteen days last past.
SWORN before me,
[_Here the document must be signed by the Vicar-General,
or a Surrogate appointed by him_.]
This affidavit having been completed, the licence is then made out. It
ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL, by Divine Providence Archbishop of
Canterbury, Primate of all England, and Metropolitan, To our
well beloved in Christ, _A B_, of ____, and _C D_, of ____, Grace
and Health.--WHEREAS ye are, as it is alleged, resolved to
proceed to the solemnisation of true and lawful matrimony,
and that you greatly desire that the same may be solemnised
in the face of the Church: We, being willing that these your
honest desires may the more speedily obtain a due effect, and
to the end therefore that this marriage may be publicly and
lawfully solemnised in the church of ____, by the Rector,
Vicar, or Curate thereof, without the publication or proclamation
of the banns of matrimony, provided there shall appear
no impediment of kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful
cause, nor any suit commenced in any Ecclesiastical Court, to
bar or hinder the proceeding of the said matrimony, according
to the tenor of this Licence; And likewise, That the celebration
of this marriage be had and done publicly in the
aforesaid ____ church, between the hours of eight and
twelve in the forenoon; We, for lawful causes, graciously grant
this our LICENCE AND FACULTY as well to you the parties
contracting, as to the Rector, Vicar, Curate, or Minister of
____, the aforesaid ____, who is designed to solemnise the marriage
between you, in the manner and form above specified,
according to the rites of the Book of Common Prayer, set forth
for that purpose by the authority of Parliament.
Given under the seal of our VICAR-GENERAL, this day of
____, in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and ____, and in the ____ year of our translation.
The licence remains in force for three months only; and the copy
received by the person applying for it is left in the hands of the
clergyman who marries the parties, it being his authority for so
doing. In case either party is a minor, the age must be stated,
and the consent of the parents or guardians authorised to give such
consent must be sworn to by the gentleman or lady applying for the
licence. The following are the persons having legal authority to give
their consent in case of minority:--1st, the father; if dead--2nd, the
guardians, if any appointed by his will; if none--3rd, the mother,
if unmarried; if dead or married--4th, the guardians appointed by
Chancery. If none of the foregoing persons exist, then the marriage
may be legally solemnised without any consent whatever. The following
are the official forms for this purpose:--
CONSENTS REQUIRED IN CASE OF MINORS.
_Consent of Father_.
By and with the consent of _A B_, the natural and lawful father of _B
B_, the minor aforesaid.
By and with the consent of _A B_, the guardian of the person of the
said _C D_, the minor aforesaid, lawfully appointed in and by the last
will and testament of _D D_, deceased, his [or her] natural and lawful
By and with the consent of _A B_, the natural and lawful mother of _B
B_, the minor aforesaid, his [or her] father being dead, and he [or
she] having no guardian of his [or her] person lawfully appointed, and
his [or her] said mother being unmarried.
_Guardian appointed by the Court of Chancery_.
By and with the consent of _A B_, the guardian of the person of
the said _C D_, appointed by the High Court of Chancery, and having
authority to consent to his [or her] marriage, his [or her] father
being dead, and he [or she] having no guardian of his [or her] person
otherwise lawfully appointed, or mother living and unmarried.
_When no Father, Testamentary Guardian, Mother, or Guardian appointed
by the Court of Chancery_.
That he [or she] the said _A B_, hath no father living, or guardian
of his [or her] person lawfully appointed, or mother living and
unmarried, or guardian of his [or her] person appointed by the High
Court of Chancery, and having authority to consent to the aforesaid
The previous remarks have reference only to licences for marriages
about to be solemnised according to the laws of the Church of England.
_Marriage of Roman Catholics or Dissenters by Licence_.
By the Statute 6th and 7th William IV., 17th August, 1836, Roman
Catholics and Dissenters who may wish to be married in a church or
chapel belonging to their own denomination, can obtain a licence for
that purpose from the Superintendent Registrar of the district in
which one of the parties resides, after giving notice thereof a week
previous to the same officer. The expense of the licence is L3 12s.
_Marriage before the Registrar_.
Should the parties wish to avoid the expense of a licence, they can
do so by giving three weeks' notice to the Superintendent Registrar;
which notice is affixed in his office, and read before the proper
officers when assembled; at the expiration of that time the marriage
may be solemnised in any place which is licensed within their
district. The Registrar of Marriages of such district must have notice
of and attend every such marriage. The fee due to the Registrar of
Marriages for attending the ceremony and registering the marriage (by
licence) is 10s., and for certificate 2s. 6d; and without a licence
5s., and certificate 2s. 6d.
Marriages also by the above-mentioned Act of Parliament may, upon due
notice, be celebrated in the office of the Superintendent Registrar,
with or without licence, or with or without any religious ceremony;
but the following declarations, which are prescribed by the Act,
must be made at all marriages, in some part of the ceremony, either
religious or otherwise, in the presence of the Registrar and two
witnesses--viz., "I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful
impediment why I, _A B_, may not be joined in matrimony to _C D_;" and
each of the parties shall also say to each other--"I call upon these
persons here present to witness that I, _A B_, do take thee, _C D_, to
be my lawful wedded wife" (or husband).
It is highly to the credit of the people of this country, and an
eminent proof of their deep religious feeling, that all classes of
the community have virtually repudiated these "Marriages by Act of
Parliament;" nor would we advise any fair maiden who has a regard to
the comfort and respect of her after connubial life, to consent to be
married in the Registrar's back parlour, after due proclamation by the
Overseers and Poor-Law Guardians.
_The Bridal Trousseau, and the Wedding Presents_.
The day being fixed for the wedding, the bride's father now presents
her with a sum of money for her _trousseau_, according to her rank in
life. A few days previously to the wedding, presents are also made
to the bride by relations and intimate friends, varying in amount and
value according to their degrees of relationship and friendship--such
as plate, furniture, jewellery, and articles of ornament, as well as
of utility, to the newly-married lady in her future station. These,
together with her wedding dresses, &c., it is customary to exhibit to
the intimate friends of the bride a day or two before her marriage.
_Duty of a Bridegroom-Elect_.
The bridegroom elect has on the eve of matrimony no little business
to transact. His first care is to look after a house suitable for his
future home, and then, assisted by the taste of his chosen helpmate,
to take steps to furnish it in a becoming style. He must also, if
engaged in business, make arrangements for a month's absence; in
fact, bring together all matters into a focus, so as to be readily
manageable when after the honeymoon he shall take the reins himself.
He will do well also to burn most of his bachelor letters, and part
with, it may be, some few of his bachelor connections; and he should
communicate, in an easy informal way, to his acquaintances generally,
the close approach of so important a change in his condition. Not
to do this might hereafter lead to inconvenience and cause no little
We must now speak of
_Buying the Ring_.
It is the gentleman's business to buy the ring; _and let him take
especial care not to forget it_; for such an awkward mistake has
frequently happened. The ring should be, we need scarcely say, of the
very purest gold, but substantial. There are three reasons for this:
first, that it may not break--a source of great trouble to the young
wife; secondly, that it may not slip off the finger without being
missed--few husbands being pleased to hear that their wives have lost
their wedding rings; and, thirdly, that it may last out the lifetime
of the loving recipient, even should that life be protracted to the
extreme extent. To get at the right size required is not one of the
least interesting of the delicate mysteries of love. A not unusual
method is to get a sister of the fair one to lend one of the lady's
rings, to enable the jeweller to select the proper size. Care must
be taken, however, that it be not too large. Some audacious suitors,
rendered bold by their favoured position, have been even known
presumptuously to try the ring on the patient finger of the
bride-elect; and it has rarely happened in such cases that the ring
has been refused, or sent back to be changed.
Having bought the ring, the bridegroom should now put it into his
waistcoat-pocket, there to remain until he puts on his wedding vest on
the morning of the marriage; to the left-hand pocket of which he must
then carefully transfer it, and not part with it until he takes it out
in the church during the wedding ceremony.
In ancient days, it appears by the "Salisbury Manual," there was a
form of "Blessing the Wedding Ring" before the wedding day; and in
those times the priest, previously to the ring being put on, always
made careful inquiry whether it had been duly blessed. It would seem
to be the wish of certain clergymen, who have of late brought back
into use many ceremonial observances that had fallen into desuetude,
to revive this ancient custom.
_Who should be Asked to the Wedding_.
The wedding should take place at the house of the bride's parents or
guardians. The parties who ought to be asked are the father and mother
of the gentleman, the brothers and sisters (their wives and husbands
also, if married), and indeed the immediate relations and favoured
friends of both parties. Old family friends on the bride's side should
also receive invitations--the _rationale_ or original intention of
this wedding assemblage being to give publicity to the fact that the
bride is leaving her paternal home with the consent and approbation of
On this occasion the bridegroom has the privilege of asking any
friends he may choose to the wedding; but no friend has a right to
feel affronted at not being invited, since, were all the friends
on either side assembled, the wedding breakfast would be an
inconveniently crowded reception, rather than an impressive
ceremonial. It is, however, considered a matter of friendly attention
on the part of those who cannot be invited, to be present at the
ceremony in the church.
_Who should be Bridesmaids_.
The bridesmaids should include the unmarried sisters of the bride;
but it is considered an anomaly for an elder sister to perform this
function. The pleasing novelty for several years past, of an addition
to the number of bridesmaids varying from two to eight, and sometimes
more, has added greatly to the interest of weddings, the bride being
thus enabled to diffuse a portion of her own happiness among the
most intimate of her younger friends. One lady is always appointed
principal bridesmaid, and has the bride in her charge; it is also her
duty to take care that the other bridesmaids have the wedding favours
in readiness. On the second bridesmaid devolves, with her principal,
the duty of sending out the cards; and on the third bridesmaid, in
conjunction with the remaining beauties of her choir, the onerous
office of attending to certain ministrations and mysteries connected
with the wedding cake.
_Of the Bridegroomsmen_.
It behoves a bridegroom to be exceedingly particular in the selection
of the friends who, as groomsmen, are to be his companions and
assistants on the occasion of his wedding. Their number is limited to
that of the bridesmaids: one for each. It is unnecessary to add that
very much of the social pleasure of the day will depend on their
proper mating. Young and unmarried they must be, handsome they should
be, good-humoured they cannot fail to be, well dressed they will of
course take good care to be. Let the bridegroom diligently con over
his circle of friends, and select the comeliest and the pleasantest
fellows for his own train. The principal bridegroomsman, styled his
"best man" has, for the day, the special charge of the bridegroom;
and the last warning we would give him is, to take care that, when the
bridegroom puts on his wedding waistcoat, he does not omit to put the
wedding ring into the corner of the left-hand pocket. The dress of
a groomsman should be light and elegant; a dress coat, formerly
considered indispensable, is no longer adopted.
_Duties to be Attended to the Day before the Wedding_.
The bride now sends white gloves, wrapped in white paper and tied with
white ribbon, to each of the bridesmaids.
The bridegroom does the same to each of the bridegroomsmen.
One portion of the wedding cake is cut into small oblong pieces, and
passed by the bridesmaids through the wedding ring, which is delivered
into their charge for this purpose. The pieces of cake are afterwards
put up in ornamental paper, generally pink or white, enamelled,
and tied with bows of silvered paper. This pleasant old custom is,
however, much on the wane.
The bridegroom's "best man" on this day must take care that due notice
be sent to the clerk of the parish where the ceremony is to take
place, so that the church may be got ready, and the clergyman be in
It is usual too for the bridegroom's "best man" to make arrangements
for the church bells being rung after the ceremony: the _rationale_ of
this being to imply that it is the province of the husband to call on
all the neighbours to rejoice with him on his receiving his wife, and
not that of the lady's father on her going from his house.
The bridegroom furnishes to the bridesmaids his list for the "Cards"
to be sent to his friends; of which hereafter.
On the evening of this day the wedding breakfast should be ornamented
and spread out, as far as possible, in the apartment appropriated to
The bridesmaids on this evening also prepare the wedding favours,
which should be put up in a box ready to be conveyed to the church on
the morning of the marriage. A picturesque custom is observed in many
country weddings, where the bride's friends strew her path to the
church door with flowers.
* * * * *
V.--ETIQUETTE OF A WEDDING.
The parties being assembled on the wedding morning in the drawing-room
of the residence of the bride's father (unless, as sometimes happens,
the breakfast is spread in that room), the happy _cortege_ should
proceed to the church in the following order:--
In the first carriage, the bride's mother and the parents of the
In the second and third carriages, bridesmaids.
Other carriages with the bride's friends.
In the last carriage, the bride and her father.
_Costume of the Bride_.
A bride's costume should be white, or some hue as close as possible to
it. Fawn colour, grey, and lavender are entirely out of fashion. It is
considered more stylish for a very young bride to go without a bonnet,
but for her head to be covered with only a wreath of orange blossoms
and a Chantilly or some other lace veil. This, however, is entirely a
matter of taste; but, whether wearing a bonnet or not, the bride must
always wear a veil. If a widow, she may wear not only a bonnet, but a
coloured silk dress.
_Costume of the Bridegroom_.
Formerly it was not considered to be in good taste for a gentleman
to be married in a black coat. More latitude is now allowed in the
costume of a bridegroom, the style now adopted being what is termed
morning dress: a frock coat, light trousers, white satin or silk
waistcoat, ornamental tie, and white or grey gloves.
_How the Bridesmaids should be Dressed_.
The bridesmaids dress generally in pairs, each two alike, but
sometimes all wear a similar costume. Pink and light blue, with white
pardessus or mantelets, or white with pink or blue, are admissible
colours. The bonnets, if worn, must be white, with marabout feathers;
but, of late, bonnets have usually been discarded, the bridesmaids
wearing veils instead. The whole costume of a bridesmaid should have a
very light but brilliant effect, and the _tout ensemble_ of this fair
bevy should be so constituted in style and colour as to look well by
the side of and about the bride. It should be as the warm colouring
in the background of a sun-lit picture, helping to throw into the
foreground the dress of the bride, and make her prominent, as the
principal person in the tableau.
_Arrival at the Church_.
The bridegroom meets the bride at the altar, where he must take
especial care to arrive in good time before the hour appointed.
_Order of Procession to the Altar_.
The father of the bride generally advances with her from the church
door to the altar, followed immediately by the bridesmaids. The father
of the bridegroom, if present, gives his arm to the bride's mother if
she be present, as is now usual at fashionable weddings, and goes next
to the bridesmaids. The friends who have come with the wedding party
proceed next in succession.
The bridegroom with his groomsmen must be in readiness to meet the
bride at the altar, the bridegroom standing at the left hand of the
clergyman, in the centre before the altar rails.
We have seen on some occasions the bridegroom offer the bride his left
arm to lead her to the altar, but this should be avoided; for by
so doing, the whole order of the procession to the altar becomes
inverted, and must then be arranged as follows:--
The father, or some male relative or friend, and the mother of the
bride, or, if she be not present, the mother of the gentleman, or one
of the oldest female relations or friends of the bride's family, are
to lead the way towards the altar from the vestry.
The friends who have come with the wedding party follow next in
Then come the bridesmaids and bridegroomsmen in pairs.
The bridegroom, having offered his left arm to the bride, now conducts
her up the centre aisle of the church to the altar. The parties in
advance file to the right and left of the altar, leaving the bride and
bridegroom in the centre.
_The Marriage Ceremony_.
The bridegroom stands at the right hand of the bride. The father
stands just behind her, so as to be in readiness to give her hand at
the proper moment to the bridegroom. The principal bridesmaid stands
on the left of the bride, ready to take off the bride's glove, which
she keeps as a perquisite and prize of her office.
It was ordered by the old Rubrics that the woman, if a widow, should
have her hand covered when presented by father or friend to the priest
for marriage; one of the many points by which the Church distinguished
second marriages. A piece of silver and a piece of gold were also laid
with the wedding ring upon the priest's book (where the cross would be
on the cover), in token of dower to the wife.
_The words "I Will"_
are to be pronounced distinctly and audibly by both parties, such
being the all-important part of the ceremony as respects themselves:
the public delivery, before the priest, by the father of his daughter
to the bridegroom, being an evidence of his assent; the silence which
follows the inquiry for "cause or just impediment" testifying that
of society in general; and the "I will" being the declaration of the
bride and bridegroom that they are voluntary parties to their holy
union in marriage.
_The words "Honour and Obey"_
must also be distinctly spoken by the bride. They constitute an
essential part of the obligation and contract of matrimony on her
part. It may not be amiss here to inform our fair readers that on the
marriage of our gracious Sovereign Queen Victoria to H.R.H. the late
lamented Prince Albert, her Majesty carefully and most judiciously
emphasised these words, thereby manifesting that though a Queen in
station, yet in her wedded and private life she sought no exemption
from this obligation, and in this respect placed herself on the same
level with the humblest village matron in her dominions.
This obedience on the part of the wife, concerning which there is
oftentimes much serious questioning among ladies old and young, while
yet unmarried, is thus finely defined by Jeremy Taylor:--"It is a
voluntary cession that is required; such a cession as must be without
coercion and violence on his part, but upon fair inducements and
reasonableness in the thing, and out of love and honour on her part.
When God commands us to love Him, He means we shall obey Him. 'This
is love, that ye keep my commandments; and if ye love me,' says the
Lord, 'keep my commandments.' Now as Christ is to the Church, so is
man to the wife; and therefore obedience is the best instance of her
love; for it proclaims her submission, her humility, her opinion
of his wisdom, his pre-eminence in the family, the right of his
privilege, and the injunction imposed by God upon her sex, that
although in sorrow she bring forth children, yet with love and choice
she should obey. The man's authority is love, and the woman's love is
obedience. It is modesty to advance and highly to honour them who have
honoured us by making us the companions of their dearest excellencies;
for the woman that went before the man in the way of death, is
commanded to follow him in the way of love; and that makes the society
to be perfect, and the union profitable, and the harmony complete."
The Rubric tells us "the man shall give unto the woman a ring, laying
the same upon the book with the accustomed duty to the priest and
clerk." This latter rule is, however, not now observed, it being usual
to pay the fees in the vestry; but to ensure the presence of the ring,
a caution by no means unnecessary, and in some measure to sanctify
that emblem of an eternal union, it is asked for by the clerk
previously to the commencement of the ceremony, who advises that it be
placed upon the book.
We pity the unfortunate bridegroom who at this moment cannot, by at
once inserting his hand into the corner (the one most ready to his
finger and thumb) of his left-hand waistcoat-pocket, pull out the
wedding ring. Imagine his dismay at not finding it there!--the first
surprise, the growing anxiety, as the right-hand pocket is next
rummaged--the blank look, as he follows this by the discovery that
his neither garments have no pockets whatsoever, not even a watch-fob,
where it may lie _perdue_ in a corner! Amid the suppressed giggle of
the bridesmaids, the disconcerted look of the bride herself, at such
a palpable instance of carelessness on the part of the bridegroom
thus publicly displayed before all her friends, and the half-repressed
disapprobation of the numerous circle around, he fumbles in the
coat-pockets, and turns them inside-out. A further but useless search
causes increased confusion and general annoyance; at length it becomes
evident that the unfortunate ring has been forgotten! We may observe,
however, that in default of the ring, the wedding ring of the
mother may be used. The application of the key of the church door is
traditionary in this absurd dilemma; and in country churches a straw
twisted into a circle has been known to supply the place of the
orthodox hoop of gold!
_After the Ceremony_.
the clergyman usually shakes hands with the bride and bridegroom, and
the bride's father and mother, and a general congratulation ensues.
_The Clergyman and Assistant Clergymen_.
The clergyman of the church is invariably invited to attend, although
the ceremony may be performed by some clerical friend of the bride or
bridegroom. This is called "assisting;" other clergymen who may attend
in addition, as is sometimes the case, are said also to "assist." But
as much ridicule has fallen upon the adoption of this custom, and as
the expression of "assisting" is considered an affectation, it is much
less in vogue than it was; and it is no longer usual to mention the
names of any other clergymen than that of the one who performs the
ceremony, and of the clergyman of the church, who should be present
whether invited or not. It is, indeed, his duty to attend, and he
should insist on so doing, inasmuch as the entry of the marriage in
the parish register is supposed to be made under his sanction
and authority. It should not be forgotten that the presence of an
"assisting clergyman" entails the doubling of the fees. The payment
of the fees is generally entrusted to the bridegroom's "best man," or
some other intimate friend of his.
_Difference of Religion_.
Where the bride and bridegroom are of different religions, the
marriage is usually first celebrated in the church of that communion
to which the husband belongs; the second celebration should
immediately follow, and upon the same day. Some, however, regard it
as duly deferential to the bride's feelings that the first ceremony
should be performed in her own communion. There is a notion
prevalent, that in the case of a marriage between Roman Catholics and
Protestants, the ceremony must necessarily be first performed in
a Protestant church. This is erroneous--the order of the twofold
marriage is, in a legal point of view, of no moment, so long as it
takes place on the same day.
_The Return to the Vestry_.
On the completion of the ceremony the bride is led to the vestry
by the bridegroom. The bridesmaids and bridegroomsmen follow, the
principals of each taking the lead; then the father of the bride,
followed by the father and mother of the bridegroom, and the rest of
_The Registry of the Marriage_.
The husband signs first; then the bride-wife, for the last time in her
maiden name; next the father of the bride, and the mother, if present;
then the father and mother of the bridegroom, if present; next the
bridesmaids and the bridegroomsmen; then such of the rest of the
company as may desire to be on the record as witnesses. All the names
must be signed in full. The certificate of the marriage is then handed
to the bride, and should be carefully preserved in her own possession.
_The Wedding Favours_.
Meanwhile, outside the church, as soon as the ceremony is
completed--and not before, for it is regarded as unfortunate--a box of
the wedding favours is opened, and every servant in waiting takes
care to pin one on the right side of his hat, while the coachmen, too,
ornament therewith the ears of their horses. Inside the church the
wedding favours are also distributed, and a gay, gallant, and
animated scene ensues, as each bridesmaid pins on to the coat of each
bridegroomsman a wedding favour, which he returns by pinning one also
on her shoulder. Every "favour" is carefully furnished with two pins
for this purpose; and it is amazing to see the flutter, the coquettish
smiling, and the frequent pricking of fingers, which the performance
of this _piquant_ and pleasant duty of the wedding bachelors and
ladies "in waiting" does occasion!
_The Return Home_.
The bridegroom now leads the bride out of the church, and the happy
pair return homeward in the first carriage. The father and mother
follow in the next. The rest "stand not on the order of their going,"
but start off in such wise as they can best contrive.
_The Wedding Breakfast_.
The bride and bridegroom sit together at the centre of the table, in
front of the wedding cake, the clergyman who performed the ceremony
taking his place opposite to them. The top and bottom of the table
are occupied by the father and mother of the bride. The principal
bridesmaid sits to the left of the bride, and the principal
bridegroomsman on the left of the bridegroom. It may not be
unnecessary to say that it is customary for the ladies to wear their
bonnets just as they came from the church. The bridesmaids cut the
cake into small pieces, which are not eaten until the health of the
bride is proposed. This is usually done by the officiating clergyman,
or by an old and cherished friend of the family of the bridegroom. The
bridegroom returns thanks for the bride and for himself. The health of
the bride's parents is then proposed, and is followed by those of
the principal personages present, the toast of the bridesmaids being
generally one of the pleasantest features of the festal ceremony.
After about two hours, the principal bridesmaid leads the bride out
of the room as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb the party or
attract attention. Shortly after--it may be in about ten minutes--the
absence of the bride being noticed, the rest of the ladies retire.
Then it is that the bridegroom has a few _melancholy_ moments to bid
adieu to his bachelor friends, and he then generally receives some
hints on the subject in a short address from one of them, to which he
is of course expected to respond. He then withdraws for a few moments,
and returns after having made a slight addition to his toilet, in
readiness for travelling.
In some recent fashionable weddings we have noticed that the bride
and bridegroom do not attend the wedding breakfast, but after a slight
refreshment in a private apartment, take their departure immediately
on the wedding tour. But this defalcation, if we may so call it, of
the chief _dramatis personae_ of the day, though considered to be
in good taste, is by no means a popular innovation, but is rather
regarded as a prudish dereliction from the ancient forms of
hospitality, which are more prized than ever on so genial an occasion
as a marriage.
_Departure for the Honeymoon_.
The young bride, divested of her bridal attire, and quietly costumed
for the journey, now bids farewell to her bridesmaids and lady
friends. A few tears spring to her gentle eyes as she takes a last
look at the home she is now leaving. The servants venture to crowd
about her with their humble but heartfelt congratulations; finally,
she falls weeping on her mother's bosom. A short cough is heard, as of
some one summoning up resolution to hide emotion. It is her father.
He dares not trust his voice; but holds out his hand, gives her an
affectionate kiss, and then leads her, half turning back, down the
stairs and through the hall, to the door, where he delivers her as
a precious charge to her husband, who hands her quickly into the
carriage, springs in after her, waves his hand to the party who appear
crowding at the windows, half smiles at the throng about the door,
then, amidst a shower of old slippers--missiles of good-luck sent
flying after the happy pair--gives the word, and they are off, and
started on the long-hoped-for voyage!
* * * * *
VI.--ETIQUETTE AFTER THE WEDDING.
The dress of the bride during the honeymoon should be characterised
by modesty, an attractive simplicity, and scrupulous neatness. The
slightest approach to slatternliness in costume, when all should
be exquisitely trim from _chevelure_ to _chaussure_, would be an
abomination, and assuredly beget a most unpleasant impression on the
susceptible feelings of the husband. He will naturally regard any
carelessness or indifference in this respect, at such a time, as a bad
augury for the future.
_The Wedding Cards_.
The distribution of these has long been regarded as an important
social duty; it devolves, as we have already said, on the bridesmaids,
who meet for that purpose at the house of the bride's father on the
day after the wedding. The cards, which are always furnished by the
bridegroom, are two fold--the one having upon it the gentleman's
and the other the lady's name. They are placed in envelopes, those
containing the lady's card having her maiden name engraved or
lithographed inside the fold, and have all been addressed some time
before by the bridesmaids, to whom the gentleman has given a list of
such of his friends as he wishes to introduce to his home.
The lady generally sends cards to all whom she has been in the habit
of receiving or visiting while at her father's house. She too has
now an opportunity of dropping such acquaintances as she may not be
desirous of retaining in her wedded life.
This point of sending the cards has until recently been considered
as one requiring great care and circumspection, since an omission has
frequently been regarded as a serious affront. To those parties whose
visiting acquaintance is wished to be kept up, on the bride's card it
has been the custom until lately to add the words "At home" on such a
day. But this usage is going out of vogue.
To send cards without an address is an intimation that the parties
are not expected to call except in the case of friends who reside far
away, or when the marriage has taken place at a distance. In fact, the
address is understood to denote "At home," by those who adhere to the
custom; it is better, however, that those words should be put upon the
A practice has grown up of late, more particularly where the circle of
friends is extensive, to send invitations to such as are not called to
the wedding feast to attend the ceremony at church, instead of issuing
cards at all. When this rule is observed, it is usual in notifying the
marriage in the newspapers to add the words "No Cards."
_Reception of Visitors_.
On the return of the wedded pair from their honeymoon trip, about
a month or six weeks after the wedding, they were, until recently,
expected to be "At home;" but the formality of reception days is now
generally exploded. Intimate friends, whether "At home" cards have
been issued or not, will, however, be expected to pay them a visit.
But if reception days have been fixed, the bride, with her husband and
bridesmaids, will sit "at home" ready to receive those to whom cards
have been sent, the bride wearing her wedding dress, and the company
invited to partake of wedding cake and wine to drink the health of the
The bride and her husband, or, in case he may not be able to attend
her, the principal bridesmaid--the last of whose official duties this
is--usually return all the wedding visits paid to them. Those who may
have called on the bride without having received wedding cards should
not have their visits returned, unless special reason exists to the
contrary, such visit being deemed an impolite intrusion.
These return visits having been paid, the happy pair cease to be
spoken of as _bride_ and _bridegroom_, but are henceforward styled
the "newly-married couple;" and then all goes on as if they had been
married twenty years.
* * * * *
VII.--PRACTICAL ADVICE TO A NEWLY-MARRIED COUPLE.
Our advice to the husband will be brief. Let him have up concealments
from his wife, but remember that their interests are mutual; that,
as she must suffer the pains of every loss, as well as share the
advantages of every success, in his career in life, she has therefore
a right to know the risks she may be made to undergo. We do not say
that it is necessary, or advisable, or even fair, to harass a
wife's mind with the details of business; but where a change of
circumstances--not for the better--is anticipated or risked, let her
by all means be made acquainted with the fact in good time. Many
a kind husband almost breaks his young wife's fond heart by an
alteration in his manner, which she cannot but detect, but from
ignorance of the cause very probably attributes to a wrong motive;
while he, poor fellow, all the while out of pure tenderness, is
endeavouring to conceal from her tidings--which must come out at
last--of ruined hopes or failure in speculation; whereas, had she but
known the danger beforehand, she would have alleviated his fears on
her account, and by cheerful resignation have taken out half the sting
of his disappointment. Let no man think lightly of the opinion of his
wife in times of difficulty. Women have generally more acuteness of
perception than men; and in moments of peril, or in circumstances
that involve a crisis or turning-point in life, they have usually more
resolution and greater instinctive judgment.
We recommend that every husband from the first should make his wife an
allowance for ordinary household expenses--which he should pay weekly
or monthly--and for the expenditure of which he should not, unless
for some urgent reason, call her to account. A tolerably sure guide
in estimating the amount of this item, which does not include rent,
taxes, servants' wages, coals, or candles, &c., is to remember that in
a small middle-class family, not exceeding _four_, the expense of each
person for ordinary food amounts to fifteen shillings weekly; beyond
that number, to ten shillings weekly for each extra person, servant or
otherwise. This estimate does not, of course, provide for wine or food
of a luxurious kind. The largest establishment, indeed, may be safely
calculated on the same scale.
A wife should also receive a stated allowance for dress, within
which limit she ought always to restrict her expenses. Any excess of
expenditure under this head should be left to the considerate kindness
of her husband to concede. Nothing is more contemptible than for
a woman to have perpetually to ask her husband for small sums for
housekeeping expenses--nothing more annoying and humiliating than to
have to apply to him always for money for her own private use--nothing
more disgusting than to see a man "mollycoddling" about marketing, and
rummaging about for cheap articles of all kinds.
Let the husband beware, when things go wrong with him in business
affairs, of venting his bitter feelings of disappointment and despair
in the presence of his wife and family,--feelings which, while
abroad, he finds it practicable to restrain. It is as unjust as it is
impolitic to indulge in such a habit.
A wife having married the man she loves above all others, must be
expected in her turn to pay some court to him. Before marriage she
has, doubtless, been made his idol. Every moment he could spare, and
perhaps many more than he could properly so appropriate, have been
devoted to her. How anxiously has he not revolved in his mind his
worldly chances of making her happy! How often has he not had to
reflect, before he made the proposal of marriage, whether he should
be acting dishonourably towards her by incurring the risk, for the
selfish motive of his own gratification, of placing her in a worse
position than the one she occupied at home! And still more than this,
he must have had to consider with anxiety the probability of having to
provide for an increasing family, with all its concomitant expenses.
We say, then, that being married, and the honeymoon over, the husband
must necessarily return to his usual occupations, which will, in all
probability, engage the greater part of his thoughts, for he will
now be desirous to have it in his power to procure various little
indulgences for his wife's sake which he never would have dreamed of
for his own. He comes to his home weary and fatigued; his young wife
has had but her pleasures to gratify, or the quiet routine of her
domestic duties to attend to, while he has been toiling through the
day to enable her to gratify these pleasures and to fulfil these
duties. Let then, the dear, tired husband, at the close of his daily
labours, be made welcome by the endearments of his loving spouse--let
him be free from the care of having to satisfy the caprices of a
petted wife. Let her now take her turn in paying those many little
love-begotten attentions which married men look for to soothe
them--let her reciprocate that devotion to herself, which, from the
early hours of their love, he cherished for her, by her ever-ready
endeavours to make him happy and his home attractive.
In the presence of other persons, however, married people should
refrain from fulsome expressions of endearment to each other, the use
of which, although a common practice, is really a mark of bad
taste. It is desirable also to caution them against adopting the
too prevalent vulgarism of calling each other, or indeed any person
whatever, merely by the initial letter of their surname.
A married woman should always be very careful how she receives
personal compliments. She should never court them, nor ever feel
flattered by them, whether in her husband's presence or not. If in
his presence, they can hardly fail to be distasteful to him; if in
his absence, a lady, by a dignified demeanour, may always convince an
assiduous admirer that his attentions are not well received, and at
once and for ever stop all familiar advances. In case of insult, a
wife should immediately make her husband acquainted therewith; as the
only chance of safety to a villain lies in the concealment of such
things by a lady from dread of consequences to her husband. From
that moment he has her at advantage, and may very likely work on
deliberately to the undermining of her character. He is thus enabled
to play upon her fears, and taunt her with their mutual secret and
its concealment, until she may be involved, guilelessly, in a web of
apparent guilt, from which she can never extricate herself without
risking the happiness of her future life.
Not the least useful piece of advice--homely though it be--that we
can offer to newly-married ladies, is to remind them that husbands
are men, and that men must eat. We can tell them, moreover, that men
attach no small importance to this very essential operation, and that
a very effectual way to keep them in good-humour, as well as good
condition, is for wives to study their husband's peculiar likes and
dislikes in this matter. Let the wife try, therefore, if she have not
already done so, to get up a little knowledge of the art of _ordering_
dinner, to say the least of it. This task, if she be disposed to learn
it, will in time be easy enough; moreover, if in addition she should
acquire some practical knowledge of cookery, she will find ample
reward in the gratification it will be the means of affording her
Servants are difficult subjects for a young wife to handle: she
generally either spoils them by indulgence, or ruins them by finding
fault unfairly. At last they either get the better of her, or she is
voted too bad for them. The art lies in steady command and management
of yourself as well as them. The well-known Dr. Clark, who was always
well served, used to say, "It is so extremely difficult to get good
servants, that we should not lightly give them up when even tolerable.
My advice is, bear a little with them, and do not be too sharp; pass
by little things with gentle reprehension: now and then a little
serious advice does far more good than sudden fault-finding when the
offence justly occurs. If my wife had not acted in this way, we must
have been continually changing, and nothing can be more disagreeable
in a family, and, indeed, it is generally disgraceful."
An observance of the few following rules will in all probability
ensure a life of domestic harmony, peace, and comfort:--
To hear as little as possible whatever is to the prejudice of others;
to believe nothing of the kind until you are compelled to admit the
truth of it; never to take part in the circulation of evil report and
idle gossip; always to moderate, as far as possible, harsh and unkind
expressions reflecting upon others; always to believe that if the
other side were heard, a very different account might be given of the
In conclusion, we say emphatically to the newly-wedded wife, that
attention to these practical hints will prolong her honeymoon
throughout the whole period of wedded life, and cause her husband, as
each year adds to the sum of his happiness, to bless the day when he
first chose her as the nucleus round which he might consolidate the
inestimable blessings of HOME.
"How fair is home, in fancy's pictured theme,
In wedded life, in love's romantic dream!
Thence springs each hope, there every spring returns,
Pure as the flame that upward heavenward burns;
There sits the wife, whose radiant smile is given--
The daily sun of the domestic heaven;
And when calm evening sheds a secret power,
Her looks of love imparadise the hour;
While children round, a beauteous train, appear,
Attendant stars, revolving in her sphere."
HOLLAND'S _Hopes of Matrimony_.
How to Dress Well
* * * * *
No one disputes the fact that, when our first parents were placed in
the garden of Eden, they wore no clothes. It was not until after they
had acquired the knowledge of good and evil that they turned their
attention to the subject of dress, which is now the engrossing thought
and care of the majority.
There are still to be found amongst the uncivilized races those who
are contented with as small an amount of clothing as satisfied the
first inhabitants of Eden. Yet many of these show that they study
personal appearance quite as much as the most fashionable of Parisian
belles; for they bestow much labour, time, and thought, and endure
much actual suffering in the elaborate patterns with which they
tattoo, and, as they vainly suppose, embellish their faces and
persons. The ancient Britons, who painted themselves in various
devices, also bore witness to the natural craving after personal
adornment, which seems to be inherent in the whole human race.
The particular modes in which this craving exhibits itself seem to
depend upon climate and civilization. Climate prescribes what is
absolutely necessary; civilization, what is decent and becoming. In
some countries it is necessary to protect the body, and especially
the head, from the power of the sun; in others, to guard it against
extreme cold; while many of the savage tribes, inured to the scorching
rays of the sun, almost entirely dispense with clothing, and yet have
certain conceits and vanities which show that personal appearance is
not disregarded. The most hostile intentions have been averted,
and imminent peril escaped, by the timely present of a few rows of
bright-coloured beads, or a small piece of looking-glass; and the
most trumpery European gewgaws have elicited more admiration, afforded
greater pleasure, and effected more goodwill, than the most costly
treasures could purchase among civilized nations. A love of finery
seems to belong to human nature. There is an attraction in bright
and showy colours which the uncivilized cannot resist, and which is
equally powerful among those who are civilized, though education and
other causes may qualify it.
When we hear persons loudly declaiming against dress as a needless
waste of time and money--when we hear them sighing for the return of
the good old times when it was not so much considered, we are tempted
to inquire at what period in the history of the world those times
occurred; for we cannot learn that it was, at any time, considered
to be an unimportant item of expenditure or thought. We do not by any
means affirm that it may not occupy too much care; that there may
not be instances in which it is suffered to engross the mind to the
detriment of other things more worthy of consideration; that it may
not lead to frivolity and extravagance. All this may be, and no doubt
often is, true. It is quite possible, and more than probable. But we
also maintain that it is a great mistake to come down upon it with
a sweeping denunciation, and, in Quaker fashion, avow it to be all
vanity, and assert that it must be trodden out of thought and eye.
Even the Quakers themselves, who affect such supercilious contempt for
dress, are very particular about the cut of their headgear, about the
shade of their greys and their drabs and their browns, and, in their
scrupulous neatness, show that they think as much of a grease-spot or
a stain as many a damsel does of the ribbon in her cap or the set of
her collar and cuffs. So that, after all, whatever professions people
may make, human nature and human wants are always the same.
It by no means follows that a person who is well dressed thinks a
great deal about it, or devotes much time to it. To some persons it
comes quite naturally. They look well in whatever they wear; and the
probability is that it occupies less of their time and thoughts
than many who arrive, with infinite more labour and pains, at a less
In submitting this manual to the public, we do not presume to do more
than offer such suggestions as may promote a better style of dress,
consistent with a due regard to economy. No doubt many of our
suggestions will have occurred to some of our readers, and it may seem
almost needless to have made them, but we know by experience in other
things that maxims are often forgotten and laid aside till something
occurs to revive them.
It is easy enough for the rich to be in harmony with the prevailing
fashion. They have but to open their purse-strings, and pay for any
of those freaks of fancy which are called fashion. To combine a good
style with economy requires judgment and contrivance, or, what is
generally called, management.
There are certain points which may be considered as fundamental,
without which the most rigid attention to matters of dress will go
for nothing. For instance, cleanliness, which according to the old
proverb, is rated so high as to be placed next to godliness, is one
of these, and of primary importance. The most costly attire, if
unaccompanied by it, is not only valueless, but may become a positive
disfigurement, while the simplest dress, combined with cleanliness,
may be absolutely refreshing. There is no reason whatever why the
most menial occupation should be admitted as any excuse for want
of personal cleanliness. It is always easy to distinguish between
accidental dirt which cannot always be avoided, and that which is
When it is considered that the object of nine-tenths of womankind is
that they may marry and settle in life, as their fathers and mothers
have done before them, it is very natural that they should endeavour
to make themselves as captivating as they can; only let them all bear
this in mind,--let their rank and station be what it may,--that no man
is caught by the mere display of fine clothes. A pretty face, or good
figure, may captivate; but fine clothes, never. Though it is said
that fine feathers make fine birds, yet no mail will be caught by a
trimming or a flounce.
To what end then should attention be given to dress? Why should it be
made of so much consequence as to write a manual upon it? Because
it is one of beauty's accessories; because as dress of some kind is
absolutely necessary and indispensable, it is better that people of
all classes should dress well rather than ill, and that, when it is
done, it should be done sensibly and reasonably; without carelessness
on the one hand, and without extravagance on the other. When we may,
why should we not choose the best and most becoming? Why are we to
mortify ourselves and annoy our friends by choosing something because
it is especially hideous? No law, human or divine, enjoins us to
* * * * *
II.--TASTE IN DRESS.
In dress, as in most other things, there are two kinds of taste; good
taste and bad taste. We use the word "taste" in a sense quite distinct
from "style." It is a disputed point whether really good taste can
ever be acquired, or whether it is only inherent. We are disposed
to think that, in its most perfect form, it is inborn; but that
education, association, familiarity with it may, and often does,
arrive at the same result. For instance, a person who has always lived
on close and intimate terms with those who are conspicuous for their
good taste, becomes so familiarized with certain expressions of
thoughts and ideas, habits of mind, and standard of life, that he
unconsciously adopts them, views things from the same point, and walks
in the same groove, quite irrespective of the natural tendencies of
his own mind. Persons who have no natural gift or talent for painting,
may acquire a knowledge of the art so as to pronounce with tolerable
correctness of judgment upon the works of the old masters, from merely
associating with those who are conversant with the subject, living
amongst the pictures themselves, or from hearing discussions upon
their respective merits. In fact, man is an imitative animal, and
can adapt himself very readily to the circumstances by which he is
surrounded, as well as acquire from others the results of their deeper
research and greater experience. Living in an atmosphere where good
taste prevails, it is not wonderful that he should acquire that power
of discrimination by which the selection of what is becoming and
harmonious is made easy.
There is no doubt that dress is a very fair index of the mind of the
wearer. Who but a Widow Barnaby would wear a bright emerald green
satin dress in the morning, and a bonnet profusely ornamented with
large and brilliant scarlet flowers? Yet we have ourselves seen a
lady, of ample dimensions and advanced years, similarly attired, and
could think of nothing but one of those large gaudy macaws which are
to be met with in every zoological garden. Who that had any regard for
his own liberty would marry such a strong-minded, pretentious dame?
Who could endure for life the vulgarity of mind that suggested such
a costume for a fete in the country on a hot summer's day? There are
some persons who think to overpower their neighbours by the splendour
of their attire.
It is much easier to point out what offends against good taste than to
say in so many words in what it consists.
Harmony of colour is essential to being well dressed. There are
colours which "swear" so awfully, that no one with any pretension to
good taste would wear them; yet we not unfrequently find instances of
them. A yellow gown has been worn with a bright green bonnet; red and
green, like our friend a-la-macaw; salmon colour and blue; yellow and
red; green and blue. Two ill-assorted shades of the same colour, such
as a dark and light blue; or a red lilac and a blue lilac; or a
rose pink and a blue pink; or drab and yellow. Instances might
be multiplied without end of incongruous inharmonious blending of
colours, the mere sight of which is enough to give any one a bilious
fever. There are colours which, in themselves, may be inoffensive, but
of which only particular shades assort well together. Blue and pink
was a very favourite combination at one time; but in order to be both
pleasing and effective, it must be one particular shade of each, and
these softened and blended by the addition of white. Again, shades of
scarlet and blue harmonize well together. Black has a wonderful power
in softening down any intrusive brilliancy. It tones down scarlet
and pink, blue and yellow, and gives them an indescribable charm,
suggesting all kinds of pleasant things--the Cachuca and castanets,
and the mantilla worn with such inimitable grace and coquetry by the
Spanish ladies. Black and white is also a pleasing combination. White
has generally the opposite effect of black. It adds to the brilliancy
of the colours, and smartens rather than subdues. Many of those who
aim at being well dressed, rarely give sufficient attention to this
harmony of colour. One little thing will upset the whole. The choice
of jewels or the head dress may destroy all the effect which has
been admirably conceived by an experienced dressmaker. It is on this
account that some milliners prefer to supply all that is requisite
for a particular costume. The man-milliner at Paris is said to be very
dictatorial on this subject, and to decide very peremptorily as to
what shall or shall not be worn. In morning costumes, a pair of gloves
badly chosen will mar the effect of the whole. Imagine a lady dressed
in mauve silk, with a mauve bonnet, and _emerald green kid gloves_! or
vice versa, in green silk, with a bonnet to match, and _mauve-coloured
gloves_! Dark green, dark mauve, or plum coloured, dark salmon, or
dark yellow gloves, are enough to spoil the most faultless costume;
because they interrupt the harmony of colour; like the one string of
a musical instrument, which, being out of tune, creates a discord
throughout all the rest.
Variety in colour is another great defect in dress, quite apart from
the question of their harmony. A multiplicity of colours, though not
in themselves inharmonious, is never pleasing. It fatigues the eye,
which cannot find any repose where it is disturbed by so many colours.
A bonnet of one colour, a gown of another, with trimmings of a third,
a mantle of a fourth, and a parasol of a fifth colour, can never
form a costume that will please the eye. It is laid to the charge of
English people, that they are especially fond of this kind of dress,
whereas a French woman will dress much more quietly, though, by no
means, less expensively; but in her choice of colours she will use
very few, and those well assorted. For instance, a grey gown and
a white bonnet, relieved by a black lace shawl or velvet mantle,
indicate a refinement which may be looked in vain where the colours of
the rainbow prevail. Among well-dressed persons it will be found that
quiet colours are always preferred. Whatever is gaudy is offensive,
and the use of many colours constitutes gaudiness. Birds of gay
plumage are sometimes brought forward to sanction the use of many
bright colours. They are indeed worthy of all admiration; so also are
flowers, in which we find the most beautiful assortment of colours;
but nature has shaded and blended them together with such exquisite
skill and delicacy, that they are placed far beyond the reach of all
human art; and we think they are, to use the mildest terms, both bold
and unwise who attempt to reproduce in their own persons, with the aid
of silks or satins, the marvellous effect of colours with which nature
abounds. And yet it may be observed in nature, how gay colours are
neutralized by their accessories; how the greens vary in tone and tint
according to the blossoms which they surround. The infinite shades and
depths of colour with which nature is filled render it impossible
for anyone to attempt to imitate it beyond a certain point of general
harmony. This is now more generally understood than it used to be; but
still we often stumble across some glaring instance in which a gaudy
eye and taste have been allowed to run riot, and the result has been
the reproduction of something not very unlike a bed of tulips.
It is in a host of little things such as these that good taste
lies, and shows itself. We remember an instance of a lady, who was
conspicuous among her fellows for her exquisitely good taste in dress,
being severely commented upon by two showily-dressed women, who were
the wives of wealthy merchants in one of our great seaport-towns.
This lady appeared in church quietly dressed in black, with a handsome
Indian shawl, of which the colours were subdued and wonderfully
blended. The two representatives of the "nouveaux riches" looked
at the lady and then at each other; they turned up their noses, and
shrugged their shoulders, and gave vent to their feelings, as they
came away from church, in loud exclamations of disdain: "Well! did you
ever? No! I never did; and she a lady too! For their part they would
be ashamed to wear such a shabby old shawl." The shawl was worth about
its weight in gold; but because it was not showy, it found no favour
in their eyes.
As it is so intricate a matter, and one of which a very slight thing
can turn the scales, it is not easy to lay down rules by which good
taste may be acquired. But there are instances of bad taste which can
be avoided, and among them there is one which is self-evident, and
does not relate either to harmony or to variety of colours. We allude
to the good taste of dressing according to our means and station.
There is an impression in the minds of some persons, that fine
feathers make fine birds, and that the world in general thinks more
or less of them according to the dress they wear. Therefore, in
order that they may impose upon their neighbours by their outward
appearance, and, as children say, make-believe that they are richer
than they really are, they dress beyond their means, and, at the cost
of much privation of even the necessaries of life, make a display
which they are not warranted in making. We have known those who have
pinched themselves till they have brought on actual illness, or have
laid the foundation of a fatal disease, in order that they might dress
themselves in a style beyond their position in life. In France this is
often the case. A lady who, in her ordinary attire, is as slovenly
and as shabbily dressed as almost the very beggar in the street, will
appear at some evening party most exquisitely dressed, and will carry
on her back the savings acquired by months and years of penurious
We respect those who struggle hard to maintain their hereditary
position, and reverence within certain limits the spirit of endurance
which bears in privacy the changes of fortune in order to keep up a
becoming appearance in the eyes of the world. But we have no sympathy
for those who, having no such excuse, having no high lineage, and to
whom fortune has not been unkind, stint and screw that they may impose
upon their neighbours with the notion that they are better off than
they really are,--better off in money, and better off in position.
Imposture of this kind we confess we have no patience for. We are very
intolerant of it. It is a vulgarity which, wherever it may be found,
is most offensive. We go even further still, and are disposed to blame
all who, whatever their circumstances or condition may have been or
may be, dress beyond their means. It is possible that some relics of
past grandeur may yet remain to be worn on state occasions. With
that no one can quarrel; but it is a mistake to make great and
unwarrantable sacrifices in order to replenish the exhausted wardrobe
on its former scale of magnificence. It is better far to accept fate,
to comply with the inevitable, and not waste time and strength in
fighting against the iron gates of destiny. No one, whose esteem is
worth having, will respect us less because we dress according to our
means, even if those means should have dwindled into insignificance.
But if we toil unduly to make ourselves appear to be something that
we are not, we shall earn contempt and reap disappointment. It is far
more noble-minded to bid farewell to all our greatness, than to catch
greedily at any of the outlying tinsel that may remain here and there.
This indicates good taste more than anything. To be what we are,
really and simply, and without pretension, is one of the greatest
proofs of good feeling which, in matters of dress, resolves itself
into good taste.
There is nothing more hateful than pretension. The fable of the "Frog
and the Bull" illustrates the absurdity of it. Yet it is of every-day
occurrence, and we continually meet with instances of it. Persons
in humble class of life will often ape their betters, dressing after
them, and absolutely going without necessary food in order to get
some piece of finery. Fine gowns of inconvenient length, expanded
over large crinolines--silk mantles richly trimmed,--often conceal the
coarsest, scantiest, and most ragged underclothing. We have seen the
most diminutive bonnets, not bigger than saucers, ornamented with
beads and flowers and lace, and backed up by ready-made "chignons,"
on the heads of girls who are only one degree removed from the
poor-house. Servant-girls who can scarcely read, much less write,--who
do not know how to spell their names,--who have low wages,--and, as
little children, had scarcely shoes to their feet,--who perhaps never
saw fresh meat in their homes, except at Christmas, when it was given
them by some rich neighbour,--spend all their earnings on their dress,
appear on Sundays in hats and feathers, or bonnets and flowers, and
veils and parasols, and long trailing skirts, which they do not care
to hold up out of the dirt, but with which they sweep the pavement.
Can it be said that this is good taste? Assuredly not. It could not
well be worse.
The question of station and of means does not seem to rule the world
in general. Everything is considered to be suited to every body; and
the maid-of-all-work does not hesitate to copy, to the utmost extent
of her power, the dress of the greatest lady in the land. She does not
see why she should not dress as she likes, and is not restrained
in her wish by good taste. We do not wish to argue in favour of any
monopoly, but we confess that we should like to see people of all
classes regulated by good taste in matters of dress.
On the Continent we find the evils we complain of partially remedied
by national costumes; but these are fast diminishing, and are only
to be found in all their perfection in those parts into which the
railways have not yet penetrated. Yet, who does not look with pleasure
upon the clean white cap of the French servant, or bonne, who goes
to market and to church without a bonnet, and with only her thick
snow-white cap? Who does not delight in the simplicity of dress which
the French, Norman, and Breton peasants still preserve? Contrast it
with the dress of our servant-girls, with their crinoline and absurd
little bonnets, and say which is the best taste.
After all that can be said there is no doubt that one of the objects
of dress should be to enable people to do what they have to do in the
best, the most convenient, and the most respectable manner. At all
events it should not interfere with their occupation. Did our readers
ever see a London housemaid cleaning the doorsteps of a London house?
It is a most unedifying sight. As the poor girl kneels and stoops
forward to whiten and clean the steps her crinoline goes up as her
head goes down, and her person is exposed to the gaze of policemen and
errand-boys, who are not slow to chaff her upon the size and shape of
her legs. Can this be called dressing in good taste? Would it not be
wiser to discard the crinoline altogether till the day's work is done,
and the servants make themselves tidy for their tea and their evening
recreation. In some families this is insisted on. But, on the other
hand, it is complained against as an infringement upon the liberty of
the subject, which is an unreasonable complaint, as the subject may go
elsewhere if she dislikes to have her liberty so interfered with.
Good taste in dress is a question which is, by no means, above the
consideration of old and elderly women. There are some who never can
imagine themselves old. Whether it is owing to the eternal youth of
their mind and spirits, or to their vanity, we do not pretend to say;
but one thing is certain that again and again have we been both amused
and disgusted by the way in which old women dress themselves. A lady
with whom we were acquainted used to dress in blue or white gauze or
tarlatan, or any light material she could lay her hands on, when she
was past _eighty_, and she vainly imagined that, with an affectation
of youth in her gait, and with the aid of the rouge-pot, she could
conceal her age. She would trip into the room like a young girl, with
her light gossamer dress floating around her as if she were some sylph
in a ballet. She was a wonderful woman for her age, and, no doubt, had
been so accustomed to the remarks that were continually made upon her
agility and appearance, that she had at last grown to think herself
almost as young as she was _sixty years_ ago. It was but the other day
that we saw an old woman with grey hair wearing a little hat placed
coquettishly upon her head, with a large chignon of grey hair filling
up the back! Sometimes we have seen old women spurning the sober tints
which accord with their years, and coming out dressed like Queens of
the May in garlands and flowers; and wearing bonnets that would be
trying even to a belle of eighteen. But when people resolutely refuse
to accept the fact that they are no longer young, it is not surprising
that they should run into some extremes, and offend against good taste
by dressing in a style utterly unsuited to their years. And yet
there is no more pleasing sight than a good-looking old woman, who is
neither afraid or ashamed to recognize the fact of her age, and wears
the quiet and sober colours which belong to her years, modifying the
fashion of the day to suit herself, that she may neither ape the young
nor affect to revive in her own person the fashions of by-gone days.
Affectation of all kinds is detestable.
So also there are rules for the young, which, if attended to, will
prevent their offending against good taste. The young are, of all
people, without excuse. The freshness of youth has a beauty of its own
which needs but little outward adornment. The ravages of time have not
to be repaired. Youth has charms of its own, and the more simply it
is attired the better. Everything is in favour of the young. When
they adopt elaborate or rich toilets, when they make flower-gardens of
their heads, or wear strong and glaring colours, the chances are that
they disfigure themselves. A young girl should never make herself
conspicuous by her dress. Let it be as good as she pleases, as costly
as she can afford, still let it be simple and unobtrusive. Let the
general effect be pleasing and grateful to the eye; but at the same
time let it be impossible to say in what it consists, or to remember
her on account of any peculiarity in it. If she is beautiful, let her
dress aid her beauty by not drawing away the attention from it. If
she is plain, let her not attract all eyes to her plainness. Let
not people say of her, "Did you see that ugly girl with that scarlet
feather in her hat?" or, "with that bonnet covered with pearl beads,
contrasting with her dark and sallow complexion?" or, "with that
bright green gown, which made her look so bilious?"
It is in small things, as well as in great, that good taste shows
itself. Well-fitting gloves and boots, things of small moment in
themselves, tell of a neat and refined taste. Quiet colours, well
assorted; an absence of glare and display, nothing in extremes,
betoken a correct eye and good taste.
It is, then, in the harmony of colour; in the use of a few colours at
one and the same time; in dressing according to their means, according
to their station, as well as according to their age, that people may
be said to show their good taste in dress. There are, doubtless, other
points of detail which will suggest themselves to the minds of our
readers; but we are confident that, if attention is given to the
points which it has been our wish to place prominently before
them, there will be fewer of those startling peculiarities and
eccentricities which offend against good taste.
* * * * *
III.--FASHION IN DRESS
It is very difficult to say what constitutes Fashion. We allow our
French neighbours to prescribe what we shall wear, and at certain
seasons of the year, English milliners of any pretension flock to
Paris to learn their lesson, and on their return to London, announce
to the public and to their customers that they are prepared to exhibit
the greatest novelties in style, form, and colour, which they have
been able to procure. The variety that is presented, as having been
just imported from Paris, convinces us that there exists everywhere,
even in the great French capital itself, the greatest possible
diversity of taste; and, if we may judge from the extraordinary
specimens which are introduced to our notice, we should infer that the
Parisian taste is by no means faultless.
We do not mean to insinuate that a really well-dressed Frenchwoman is
not better dressed than most English women, or that the French
have not a peculiar knack of putting on their clothes to the best
advantage; for there is no doubt upon the matter. But, if we maybe
allowed to judge from the examples brought over to us in the shape of
bonnets and head-dresses, and other articles of a lady's toilette,
we should say that there must be a considerable inclination among our
foreign neighbours to what is both gaudy and vulgar.
When anyone complains to a milliner of the style of any of the
articles she has on sale, she replies that she is obliged to provide
for all kinds of taste; that it would not answer her purpose to limit
her supply to those who have a faultless eye; that, in order to make
her business succeed, she must be prepared to accommodate all persons,
and cater for them all alike, studying to please each individual in
whatever way she may be disposed to be pleased, and never presuming to
do more than merely suggest some slight improvement or modification.
Ladies are apt to take offence at their taste being too severely
criticized, and dressmakers do not always find it the easiest
possible task to steer clear between securing their own reputation as
"artistes" of fashion and good taste, and avoiding giving offence to
their patronesses. It is the public who are to blame. When some one
remonstrated with Braham for his florid and vulgar style of singing,
he replied, it was the people and not he who was at fault. It was
alike his duty and interest to please the public, and not to instruct
it. He sang to be listened to and encored, not to be hissed and
snubbed. It does not answer for any tradesman not to be able to supply
what his customers demand.
It is the public who are to blame. If they insist upon being supplied
with certain articles of consumption or of dress, the shopkeepers have
no alternative but to supply them. If ladies prefer what is ugly and
misbecoming, the dressmakers have to make it. It is the old story over
again of the demand creating the supply.
There will always be persons who do not know how to dress well;
who have ideas of their own to which they are determined to give
expression. When they think they are doing their best, and are
bent upon astonishing the world, they somehow appear to the worst
advantage. They endeavour to rival their neighbours in strength and
variety of colours; and, if they see a beautiful woman becomingly
dressed, they at once copy that woman, quite regardless of their
personal appearance, which may be the least fitted to the style which
has taken their fancy. It reminds us of the story of a fashionable
shoemaker, who, having made a pair of shoes for a lady who was
remarkable for the beautiful shape of her foot, was applied to by
another lady to make her a pair exactly similar to Lady So and So's.
The shoemaker looked with dismay at his new customer's foot, which
bore no resemblance whatever to that of her friend. At last he looked
up at the lady, shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and said:
"Madam, it is impossible; you must bring me a foot like her ladyship's
before I can make a shoe like hers." The rebuke was well deserved: but
his honesty lost him a good customer.
The assortment and choice of colours, though chiefly a matter of
taste, is yet under the direction of fashion. At one time one colour
predominates, at another time another; while two colours may be used
together at one time, which at another are almost interdicted.
There is nothing more capricious, more inexplicable, more wayward,
than fashion. It is true that, taken as a whole, there is a certain
conformity in the rules it prescribes. For instance, as the crinoline
diminishes in size and the area which petticoats cover in their
circumference is lessened, so also bonnets have grown smaller, and the
enormous plait of hair which has taken the place of the chignon, keeps
in countenance the extraordinary length of ladies' trains.
If any one cares to be amused she might investigate the fashions of
by-gone days. The transitions are wonderful, and do not appear to be
guided by any rule. Those of the gentlemen are simply absurd. Since
the days of Vandyck, there has been nothing attractive in their dress;
nothing picturesque. It has been as ugly as possible, and continues
to be so. The nearest approximation to anything less hideous than the
present fashion is in the "knicker-bockers," which are generally worn
by sporting men and pedestrians--men who shoot, or who are addicted
to walking tours. There was an attempt on the part of one or two
individuals to introduce them, by means of velvet and silk hose, for
evening wear; but the example was not followed, and the swallow-tailed
coat still prevails.
In order to dress strictly according to fashion, and to comply
with the ever-changing caprice, it is necessary to have a large and
well-filled purse, and a wardrobe that is not too extensive; because,
as the fashion varies with almost every season, a large number of
dresses involves either a great and needless waste of money, or the
necessity of always being a little behind the fashion of the day.
Besides which, as this capricious goddess has prescribed what shall
be worn for driving, for walking, for morning, noon, and night;
and demi-toilettes and full-dress toilettes have each their own
peculiarities, it really becomes a very serious item of expenditure
for such ladies as make it the business of their lives to follow the
fashions of the day.
Fashion prescribes rules for all. All classes of society bow, more or
less, to her decrees. The fine lady who frequents the Court, as well
as the servant-girl who sweeps out the area of a London lodging-house,
and all the intermediate classes, are guided by Fashion. Crinolines
and bonnets prove this, as well as the length of the skirts which
are suffered to trail along in all the dirt and dust of pavement and
crossings. It always takes some time before a fashion which has been
adopted by the higher orders prevails among the lower; but, if it is a
fashion which survives beyond the moment, it invariably finds its way
downward in the course of time. Fashion prescribes the size and shape
of bonnets, the make of gowns, their length and their size--the number
of breadths and gores--the trimmings, the petticoats, which have
become like a second gown, and all the other paraphernalia of a
lady's toilette. There is no part of a lady's dress too minute for her
inspection and care and legislation. The colour of gloves, the dye of
hair, the application of false hair, the make of boots and shoes, the
choice of ornaments, are all ordered and arranged. Fashion is a sort
of "act of uniformity," which would bring all flights of fancy within
certain prescribed limits. It defines the boundaries within which
ladies may safely indulge their own conceits.
The best-dressed persons are not always those who are led blindfold by
the prevailing fashion, nor by any means those who are strong-minded
enough to defy it, and set it at nought. Any one who defies the
fashion of the day, and, when long skirts and small saucer-like
bonnets prevail, dares to walk abroad with very short petticoats,
which she holds up unnecessarily high; displaying a foot and ankle
that had better be hidden out of sight; who spurns a crinoline, and
therefore looks like a whipping post; who wears a many-coloured shawl
because cloaks and mantles are the rage; who adorns her head with
a bonnet that is of the coal-scuttle cut, over which she fastens a
large, coloured gauze veil, because she desires to protest, as far
as she can, against the innovations of fashion; such a one will never
attract, nor influence the public mind. She will provoke a smile, but
will never recommend her own peculiar and independent style of dress.
And she who follows fashion like a slave, wears what is prescribed
without regard to her own personal appearance; who considers neither
her age, nor her figure, nor her station, nor her means; who simply
allows herself to be an advertisement for the milliner she employs,
will often appear eccentric, and generally ill-dressed.
It is never sufficiently considered that every one has her "points,"
and that nothing so much offends as discrepancies. We remember a
discussion upon female beauty, when instances were brought forward of
persons who were conspicuous for their good looks, but who could not
boast of one really perfect feature. The effect of the "tout ensemble"
was good, and most attractive, but when the faces were pulled to
pieces, it was impossible to say in what the beauty consisted. One
of the critics wisely said, that it was to be found in the perfect
harmony of feature and expression. All the features were on the same
scale; no one feature overpowered the other, and the expression called
into activity all features alike, so that there was perfect unity and
harmony throughout. To compare small things with great, we should say
that this supplies a good rule for dressing well. There should be
no discrepancies. It should be harmonious, not only in itself, but
harmonious with the person whom it is intended to adorn. It should
be in keeping with face and figure. No two persons are exactly alike.
Every one has her "points," which constitute her beauty and her charm;
and these "points" have to be attended to carefully. A woman who does
this, with due regard to the rules of fashion, will always be well
dressed. She will not buy or wear a thing simply because it has "just
come from Paris," nor be influenced by milliners and shopmen who
assure her that the ugly article they exhibit is original in shape and
style. Though fashion dictates, and she follows, yet she follows in a
way of her own. She is never behind fashion, and never in advance of
it. Perhaps her most admired "toilette" has been made at home,
under her own eye, which has directed how far a compliance with the
prevailing fashion suits her. She does not startle the world with
a combination of strange colours, nor entertain her friends with a
peculiarity of style and make. What she wears is prettily arranged,
well made and well put on, and the effect is both pleasing and
refreshing, and people inquire what house in Paris she patronizes.
She is prudent; and, keeping her own secret, does not offend the
fastidiousness of her fashionable friends by letting the truth eke
out, that her much-admired Parisian "toilette" is, in every sense, of
home-produce, but smiles at their approval, and follows her own plan,
which is so successful in its results. Her costume is not expensive,
and she contrives that, whatever she wears shall not offend against
the laws of Fashion, while she declines to be its slave. She is not
addicted to sham jewellery; she has no weakness for tinsel. What she
wears is good of its kind, even when it is not costly. Wherever
she goes, she impresses everyone with the fact that she is a true
gentlewoman. She knows what is suited to her station and age, and,
without conceit, understands what are her "points." She is well aware
that no woman can afford to be indifferent to her personal appearance,
and that no law, human or divine, requires her to disfigure herself.
A married woman has to bear in mind that she must dress not only to
please her husband, but also to reflect credit upon his choice. The
unmarried to impart to herself as prepossessing an appearance as
will be likely to attract the opposite sex. Neither before or after
marriage can any woman neglect her person with impunity. Nor can she
set her face entirely against the fashions of the day. She may modify
them to suit herself, and to bring out her "points;" but she cannot
safely disregard or defy them.
Fashion gives, as it were, the key-note--supplies the hint, which is
taken and followed as people can. It is absurd to suppose that its
laws are stringent, and not elastic, or that all persons must conform
exactly to its "dicta." Who shall say that all must dress alike? Tall
and short, fat and lean, stout and scraggy, cannot be made equally
subject to the same rule. In such a matter as dress there must be some
margin allowed for individual peculiarities. Nature has not made us
all in the same mould; and we must be careful not to affront nature,
but must accept her gifts and make the best of them.
There is one point connected with the following of fashion which
requires some attention, and which, if attended to, will preserve us
from incongruities. We allude to the disposition of some persons to
use various fashions together. They are inclined to be "_eclectic_."
They select from by-gone fashions, and endeavour to blend them with
those which prevail. The result is a painful incongruity. Who would
dream of placing a Grecian portico to an Elizabethan building? Why
then endeavour to combine old fashions with new? Why attempt to wear a
bonnet of almost primitive form with dresses of modern dimensions and
style? or why wear flounces when they are out of fashion, and full
skirts when everything is _"gored"_ into plainness? It is necessary to
pay some attention to the present style of dress, if ladies desire to
avoid peculiarities and wish to please. But it, of course, requires a
certain sense of propriety and of fitness. A bonnet of diminutive
form which suits to perfection a young girl with a small oval face
and slender throat, is quite misapplied when adopted by a woman of
a certain age, whose figure has escaped beyond the limits of even
"embonpoint," whose throat is not perceptible, and whose face and head
are large. She requires something of more ample dimensions, that
bears some affinity in size with the head and face it is intended
to ornament; something which will modify, if not conceal, the
imperfections which time has developed. A dress of a light and airy
kind does not become a matron; nor can that which suits a slight
and elastic figure be worn with impunity by what is called a "comely
Fashion prescribes all sorts of rules about breadths, gores, flounces,
and such like, and these are the hints which she gives, and which
ladies must take and apply to themselves to the best advantage. There
is ample margin allowed for each one to adopt what is best suited to
her own particular style of beauty. Perhaps there never was a time
when so much liberty was allowed to ladies to dress according to their
own fancy. Of course we mean within certain limits. If any one will
consent to keep within those limits, and not do actual violence to the
decrees of fashion, she may, to a considerable degree, follow her own
fancy. If the general idea which fashion has submitted to society as
the sine qua non of being well dressed is borne in mind, she is very
tolerant of the various modifications which ladies, for the most part,
wisely adopt, that they may not make "guys" of themselves. Nothing
illustrates this more than the hats and bonnets which are worn. Their
variety is so great that their names might be termed "legion;" and a
pretty woman may adopt all kinds of conceits, providing she neither
offends the eye nor defies the prevailing fashion. One may come out as
a shepherdess, another like a Spanish cavalier in the time of Charles
the Second, another with a three-cornered hat such as state-coachmen
wear on "drawing-room days," only of course a very small edition
of it; another with a little coquettish hat that suggests one of
Watteau's most successful pictures; but no one may wear one of those
large mushroom bonnets which were worn some five-and-thirty years ago,
and which were ornamented by large bows of ribbon stiffened with wire,
and by great nosegays of flowers which resembled a garden flower-pot.
It is only on condition that no violence is done to the decrees of
fashion or to the ideas she would suggest, that so much liberty is
allowed. We think that the result is most satisfactory, as there is
an infinite variety to please the eye, and there are abundant
opportunities for every one to attend to her own comfort and ease.
Of course there have been, and still are, certain fashions which are
quite "dirigueur" among the really fashionable world, and which are
annoying to the public generally, such as large crinolines and long
skirts, and more especially the long trains which are now in vogue.
Crinolines, though reduced in size, are not discarded, except in some
instances which, as our eyes are not yet accustomed to their absence,
present a scarcely decent appearance.
One word more before we close this division of our subject. If
persons are inclined to rail against Fashion and denounce it, let
them remember that there is a fashion in everything. In thought, in
politics, in physic, in art, in architecture, in science, in speech,
in language, and even in religion we find fashion to have a guiding
and governing power. How can we otherwise account for the change which
has taken place in language, which is not the same that it was fifty
years ago? There are phrases which have become obsolete; there are
words which have been almost lost out of our vocabulary, which have
changed their meaning, or which fashion has tabooed. And in other
matters we find alterations which can only be accounted for by the
fact that fashions change. They are not the result of development
simply, which may and must frequently occur in sciences; but they are
the result of those variations in custom and usage for which it is
impossible to find any more expressive word than that of Fashion. Why
then should not dress have its fashions also, and why should not those
fashions change as time advances, and why should not fashion rule in
this as in other things?
* * * * *
IV.--EXPENSE OF DRESS.
This is a portion of our subject which awakens the liveliest interest
in persons of both sexes. It is the complaint of many men of our times
that the dress of women is a very costly affair. The complaint is
often made apparently under a sense of wrong, as if they had been made
to suffer from it. Some time ago considerable attention was directed
to the subject by some letters which appeared in one of the leading
journals of the day, in which grave reflections were made upon the
exceeding costliness of dress at the present time. It was said to
exceed that of any former age, and to be the reason why so many young
men flinch from the idea of matrimony. Among these requirements dress
occupies a prominent place. The style and variety of dress which is
affirmed to be necessary for young ladies in the highest grade of
society renders it no easy matter for them to find men both qualified
and willing to afford them sufficient funds to procure what custom had
created into a necessity. It may be owing to the quantity of material
which the dressmakers require in order to make a dress, as well as to
the variety which fashion has prescribed. At all events, let people
say what they may, we believe that there is no doubt whatever that the
expense of dress has become very much greater than it was thirty years
ago. A dressmaker could then make a very first-rate gown, suited to
any function at Court or elsewhere, for ten or twelve pounds,
whereas now the most ordinary gown, suitable to wear only at a family
dinner-party, cannot be made for less than fourteen or fifteen pounds.
A ball gown will cost eighteen or twenty pounds; and in Paris a
thousand francs, (forty pounds,) is considered nothing out of the way;
and evening and ball dresses often cost two thousand francs each.
It is not surprising then that, if this is the ordinary expense of a
lady's dress, men should hesitate before they embark in matrimony, and
add so large an item to their expenditure. We remember to have heard
it said that five hundred a year pin-money was a very small allowance
for a young married woman; that it would require the most wonderful
management to enable her to dress well and keep within her income.
Of course every one knows that there are many women who dress upon
infinitely less; but we are speaking of those who profess to dress
well, and whose position in society requires them to be well dressed.
What then is the reason why dress has become so expensive? Is it
because the materials which are in use are costly, or is it because
the needlewomen are better paid, and, wages being higher, dressmakers'
charges are also higher in proportion? We do not believe that either
of these are the cause; but simply that a larger quantity is required,
and that variety has become a "sine-qua-non." Some years ago the cost
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