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Billie Burke: Spend more thought than money (1912)

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Billie Burke writes on taste in dress

by Miss Billie Burke

Always dress as well as you can

This does not mean to be in any way extravagant, but it does mean to be dressed properly for your station and vocation in life.

Social reformers try to tell us that the dress of girls today has a great deal to do with their delinquency. This may be so, but I think that some of the reformers have a wrong idea of the function of dress. Sir Herbert Spencer tells us that “dress was not first used to cover our nakedness, but as an ornament.” This does away with the idea that it was modesty that made our ancestors pluck the leaves from the fig tree.

Personally, I am very fond of the narrow gowns that women wear nowadays. They are light and unless worn to extreme, very comfortable to walk in, and their first beauty is beauty of line. I find no objection in showing the lines of the human figure, as I think that when we learn the dignity as well as beauty of our bodies, we shall become a much more virtuous nation. One must remember, however, that line does not mean a high or low waist, large or small sleeves or plain skirts or panniers, but a thoughtful and artistic composition of materials by which a graceful appearance can be made.Clothes are the commonest and most easily recognized marks of social distinction, and all women desire that their dress shall not only adorn themselves but their station.

The appropriateness of dress is perhaps the thing that is most abused in this country by the girls who have little money to spend. Naturally they want pretty clothes and consequently they will wear things that look ridiculous because they are inappropriate to their circumstances or the place in which they must wear them. I have lately been noticing this more than ever in seeing the young girls who wear boudoir caps on the street and in automobiles. A boudoir cap is as much out of place worn thus as would be your nightgown.

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Just one last word: Spend more thought than money upon your wardrobe.

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