"In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old.
Be not the first by whom the new is tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."
IN the course of my reading I found, the other day, the above lines, and they struck me as being such an excellent rule by which to guide our dress affairs, that I at once transcribed them for the use of my girls. They very nearly express my object in writing these hints on dress, which is not so much to introduce the fashions to our girls, but to help them to make the best of their appearance and their means, so that they may attain to all the usefulness possible to them. We leave the fashions, pure and simple, to be considered by the many journals devoted to them.
Cottons of all descriptions were never so much in vogue as at the present time, and they seem to divide themselves into cotton prints (unglazed) for morning wear, sateens for the afternoon, and sateens and muslins for fetes and house wear in the evening. "Zephyrs" are the most popular in the first division, as they were last year, and all of them, instead of being plain and uni-coloured, are plaided in soft hues, and in broken, undecided checks; gauging is greatly employed in making them up, and much increases their girlish prettiness. Batiste is also used, and a new colour has been brought out in them - a grey blue - which is very becoming and pretty when trimmed with lace. The large-flowered sateens are very much worn, and we have got over the feeling with which we first greeted them, and no longer think them garish and extreme. If well chosen, gracefully made up, and trimmed with lace, they are most elegant gowns, and should be carefully worn by their owners, for, if not too soiled, they will answer for evening dress during the winter, when it will be well to wear them entirely out, as we shall doubtless have a complete change next year.
Gauged bodices are worn, as I have said, in zephyr and batiste. They are gathered, as they were last year, round the shoulders and up to the throat in circles, and button at the back. A new way of making is to have a square yoke of gauging, the fulness from it being laid into pleats and carried on into the fulness of the back and panier overskirt. This bodice must also be worn with a belt.
For seaside wear nun's cloth or veiling, in a great variety of neutral tints, is worn, and alpaca has reappeared on the horizon, and will be the popular travelling dress, and though, I must confess, I grew tired of it once, it has every advantage in its favour as a seaside and travelling dress. It is most economical and cool, wears wonderfully well, and does not fade nor lose its colour, as many of the ordinary black fabrics do. Singular to say, it is being trimmed with black lace by
some of our best dressmakers, an idea which seems most unsuitable, especially for the hard wear of travelling and for the damp disfigurement of the seashore. The other way of trimming it is far prettier; that is, satin ribbon run on in rows, all of the same width or else graduated, the deepest being of about two inches and the narrowest only a fraction wide.
The real blue serges are again much used, and are hailed by many girls as quite a "godsend," so long do they last and so well do they look. They are braided with silk and wool braid, corded, and also have handsome Hussar trimmings on the front; and the same treatment is given to cashmere, alpaca, and the soft thin tweeds. The plain skirt is sometimes a mass of braiding, finished at the edge by a kilting, or the overskirt hangs long and plain, covered with thickly-laid braid. One of the newest trimmings of which I hear from Paris is chamois leather, decorated with coloured braid, and used for revers, plastrons, and cuffs, as well as skirt bands on cloth dresses. Some preparations are being made for the autumn, of which the braiding and blue serges will form a conspicuous part.
Very light and pretty cloth jackets, something like a man's "cut-away" coat, are being sold in good shops for cold days and chill winds by sea and land. They are of heather tweed generally, but some are both striped and checked. They fasten on the front with one button, and show the coat bodice beneath. As they are moderate in price, our girls should provide themselves with them, and so avoid the colds and chills so usual at the seaside.
Dust cloaks are sold in great variety, and now that they can be had in waterproofed alpaca they are a very great acquisition, and a valuable shelter to our dresses. The newest are like the "Mother Hubbard" in shape, with sleeves tied round with ribbon or frilled with linen-lace. Chilly people should select dust cloaks made of thin tweed or serge, but the alpaca and silk ones are equally impervious to rain, as all can be made waterproof. The novel idea just introduced of having a case made to hold these cloaks, just like a muff, is a very good one. Its use avoids the ungraceful habit of carrying a cloak over the arm, or of the tiring cloak-strap. The cloak-muff is merely a muff open at one side, with no lining, drawn in with elastic or ribbon, in which the rolled-up cloak is tied. It is then secured round the waist, muff-like, or hangs suspended from the arm by strings of ribbon. All kinds of materials may be used for the "cloak-muff "-silk, satin, and plush, as well as velvet; serge, if the dress be serge, or alpaca and tweed. In case of the dress being of zephyr or sateen, I have seen the cloak-muff made of that, and trimmed, as the silk and satin ones should be, with lace and ribbon.
Some of the most charming of the new autumn dresses will be trimmed with crochet lace, which will form a delightful bit of work for our girls wherever they go for their holidays. We have already given two very elegant patterns on which they can begin at once, to be ready to decorate their autumn dresses. They will be found at page 683, vol. ii., and 269, vol. iii., each accompanied by full directions. But I must now say a word about the thread of which the lace is made. The fashion has been brought in by the large use which has been made of string, or ficelle, lace this season. This was of a flaxen hue; so our crochet lace follows in the same lines, and the thread used is not white, but yellowish brown, or twine colour, the hue that the flax would be before any bleaching process had been applied to it. Some young ladies are, in fact, using the yellow linen thread, to be bought in skeins at every draper's, and they find it answer well, and if it can be procured of a smooth texture, nothing can be better; otherwise it must be bought at a good fancy shop.
Another new trimming, which will be used a great deal this autumn, is pompons or woollen balls, which are to be hung round tunics as a trimming, or fastened on to broad bands of woollen embroidery for the same purpose. These tiny balls are of every hue, and are made in the same way as childrens soft toy balls are made, which we have already described at page 736, vol. ii. For winter dresses of serge and cloth we cannot imagine a prettier trimming.
Light silks are perhaps more worn this year than they have been for some years past. Tussore, Cora, and other Indian silks are worn for both morning and afternoon gowns, and are trimmed with quantities of lace and ribbons; they are far more economical dresses for those girls who are compelled to study that difficult art than any other summer dresses. They wear so well and answer so many purposes, and one is never disappointed in their washing, for both the first-named wash "like a rag," as the washes-women say, and are got up with little trouble and no starch.
I must not forget to mention the velvet stay Bodices which have been lately introduced in imitation of the old Venetian ones of long ago. I have already illustrated something of the kind at page 334, vol. ii., in the corner of the page. In the new ones, however, the sleeves are the same as the under bodice, and the velvet bodice is worn over any dress One of the first was of red velvet over a dress of red moire silk. The new way of raising the sleeves at the top of the shoulder with a tiny gathering or padding of cotton wool adds very considerably to the good style of a gown. This is even done with cotton and batiste dresses and lace sleeves for evening dresses are made quite full and held up by stiff net. A narrow ribbon is sometimes passed round the armhole and tied on the shoulder, and gives a pretty appearance to the morning dross, and for young girls ribbons are largely used, and are placed in many parts of the dress in knots and bows.
The two figures standing by the trellis work in our lawn tennis party give an excellent idea of two of the most stylish ways of making our summer costumes. The sitting figure has a plain skirt and a full ruche, the bodice being pointed in front and behind, and the overskirt gathered in a straight line down the front, and finishing in a pointed end on each side. The standing figure wears a sateen dress, plain sateen under-petticoat kilted in long pleats the length of the skirt, and finished by a thick ruche.
The over-dress has a pointed bodice and full paniers, and the hat is made of the same, gathered on wires in a Mairie Stuart shape. The figures on the tennis ground show the ordinary way of making the everyday cotton costumes with three flounces and a long plain polonaise.
The three girls who are comfortably luxuriating in a shady nook in the fields are intended to show the various styles of little collars and capes, and the way of trmming a dress with Swiss embroidery or lace; The puffed sleeves worn by the sitting figure are very becoming with the lace round collar which she wears, and they both give an old-world air to the appearance
While remembering the various novelties that I have heard of or seen, I must not forget the little invention for the use of travellers which has just emanated from some German brain-that is, a little book of soap-leaves, each leaf being enough to wash the hands with when torn out - a great convenience to the traveller, who sometimes has no time to get to her soap-box at the railway station. The German name is Seifenblatter, and I daresay we shall soon see them in England.