THE subject of healthful clothing should receive the careful attention of every woman who regards health as the greatest blessing bestowed upon mankind. To clothe the body properly, so as not to interfere with the functions of vital organs, and at the same time to protect the outside of the body from external influences, is not an easy problem, and yet it can be done without making a "guy" of the woman, or violating any of the severe mandates of fashion. Many of the health reformers have from time to time instigated a crusade against existing fashions, but their demands have been so radical that few have had the moral courage to adopt them, and these few have soon returned to their first love. There is no probability that woman will materially change her present style of dress for many years to come, nor is there any valid reason why she should. For hundreds of years civilized women have dressed practically as they do to-day. Fashions change in minor details, but the general style of dress for women remains unchanged.
Great advancements have been made in many features of clothing during the past fifty years, and the intelligent woman of to-day is dressed far better than her grandmother and great-grandmother.
The principal object of clothing is to preserve an even temperature of the body to protect it against changes in the temperature of the external air. One of the most common causes of illness we have in this country is a cold resulting from suddenly checking the perspiration of the body. A cold is often regarded as of slight consequence, but it is the forerunner of many serious diseases; catarrh, bronchitis, sore throat, tonsilitis, consumption, asthma, rheumatism, and many other diseases that might be mentioned are often precipitated by a common cold. No one thing can help more to prevent colds than proper clothing. The skin is one of the great eliminating organs of the body. Nearly one half of all the fluids we take into the body pass off through the skin. If it becomes chilled or deranged in any manner, the whole body is affected, and the weakest part is attacked by the disease. It is important, then, that the skin be kept as near a uniform temperature as possible. Nothing will do this so well as clothing made of pure wool worn next to the skin. Wool is porous and filled with cells containing air which help to preserve an even temperature of the body, and in this way prevent the skin from becoming suddenly chilled when going from a heated to a cold room, or when exposed to draughts of air. Persons who are young and vigorous and have a surplus of vitality may endure these sudden changes without great risk, but all persons who have any weak organ or are deficient in vitality should wear flannel or woollen next to the skin summer and winter. The underclothing is of far more importance to the health than the outer clothing. If the skin be properly clothed and protected, the wearer's own fancy and taste can be indulged in the selection of outer garments.
One great objection to woollen undergarments is the tendency to shrink and "full up" when washed. We can but admit that this is a serious obstacle, but this can be obviated to a large extent by careful washing. The following rules for washing, furnished by a celebrated cloth manufacturer, have been thoroughly tested, and after long experience have been found to be excellent.
First. Put the garments in clean, warm suds (taking care that the water is not too hot), and to about four gallons of water add two tablespoonfuls of the best liquid ammonia, which will at once remove all grease and perspiration. Second. Avoid rubbing. Third. Wash out quickly, drawing the garment through the hand, and after lightly wringing, pass them through two separate quantities of lukewarm water. Fourth. Dry immediately, and, if possible, in the open air. Washing out quickly is particularly advised, as it prevents shrinking.
Silk has often been recommended as equal to flannel for underwear, but long experience has proved the fallacy of the belief. Next to wool, silk is without doubt the best material. Cotton has the third place, and the last in the line is linen, which is least desirable of all.
For one whose skin is very sensitive, a compromise can be made by wearing garments made of a mixture of silk and wool, but the more wool the better. Very excellent underwear may also be made by mixing twenty or thirty per cent. of cotton with the wool ; it shrinks less and answers nearly every purpose of all wool, but the greater cheapness of cotton is a temptation to the unprincipled manufacturer. The only guarantee the public can have is to buy goods of well-established brands. Much of the underwear in the market claiming to be wool is nine tenths cotton, and the little wool it does contain is of a short staple and inferior quality. A garment made of long staple wool, like the Australian, is less liable to shrinkage than the short staple, which must be carded with that of better quality to be used. But such garments are much more expensive and a luxury. It is hoped that the time will soon come when the masses will be given better garments at a reasonable price, and that cheap, shoddy goods will be a thing of the past.
Without doubt the best constructed undergarment for a woman to wear, whether made of silk or wool, is the union or "combination" underwear where vest and drawers are made in one piece, covering the body from the extremities to the neck with a single garment. No one who has not worn this article of underwear can know the comfort derived from it.
No clothing should be left on at night which has been worn during the daytime; and the day clothing should be thoroughly aired by night, and the night clothing by day. Many women will find the soft woollen garments at night very valuable; they ward off colds, and enable one to sleep in a well-ventilated room with less danger of exposure.
It is a fortunate thing for women that light flannel underskirts have taken the place of the heavy padded quilts once so generally, worn; they are not only much lighter and more comfortable, but are really warmer and a greater protection against changes of temperature. It is not weight of clothing that gives warmth and protection, but the nature of the material. In this climate, where the thermometer notes changes of forty degrees in twenty-four hours, a severe test is laid upon one's vitality, but if properly clothed we can protect ourselves so that the danger will be reduced to the minimum. Many who have the means and little else to do but spend the time migrating from one country to another and from place to place, in search of genial suns and healthful climes, might find health at their own door if clothed properly and allowed to breathe the pure air that they so carefully exclude from their own overheated and ill-ventilated houses. Clothe yourself properly, then you may safely breathe the air that you meet, whatever the elements or season.While the body nee
ds to be well guarded by suitable clothing, the head and neck need but slight protection. As far as health is concerned, if we all went bareheaded, we would be as well off, except that it is prudent to protect the head against the extreme cold in winter, and from the rays of the sun in summer.
A woman seldom takes cold except in bitterly cold weather by exposing the head, unless she be already delicate or feeble. The head should be kept cool and the feet warm. The custom with women of muffling the neck in thick furs and other warm material is injurious, and helps to produce colds rather than prevent them. The neck is thus given a Turkish bath, and when the muffling is removed the throat is chilled. Even persons who have a tendency to sore throat, quinsy, and tonsilitis would better let the pure air play around the neck, except in stinging cold weather, and then the wraps should be removed at once on entering a room. One of Brown-Sequard's favorite prescriptions for weak and debilitated throats was to force upon the neck and throat a stream of cold air by means of a bellows. Why not let nature do this, and do away with the bellows?
The habit of wearing fur garments over the outer clothing in railroad cars, theatres, halls, or any indoor place is extremely bad, as it overheats the body and places the wearer in a veritable sweatingbox. Such wraps should be worn only in driving in extremely cold weather, and should not be used habitually as outer garments. Woollen or silk is far preferable for ordinary use. Dressing too warmly may be as injurious as not to wear enough covering. No inflexible rule can be given, but a woman should adapt her dress to the weather of each day. It is not safe to travel without having underwear, as well as other clothing, of different weights to meet any condition. When the air is soft and mild, whatever the season of the year, a woman does not need to dress as she would for a winter blizzard. Good judgment and common sense will decide in the matter.
If there is any one command more than another that I should like the privilege of enjoining upon the people of the United States, young and old, male, and female, which would, I believe, contribute most to the health and happiness of mankind, it would be this --- "Wear woollens!" Light, thin, and soft in summer, warm and comfortable in winter. Begin right; protect the skin with proper clothing, then satisfy your own fancy and taste as to what you wear outside of this.
HOW SHALL WE CLOTH THE WAIST ?
How shall we clothe the waist? No part of the body has been the cause of more controversy than that to which this question refers. Reformers have sprung up all over the country periodically for the past sixty years, claiming that all the ills and difficulties that feminine flesh is heir to have arisen from the wearing of corsets. And yet, with all this agitation, the fact still remains that seventy-five per cent of the women of civilized countries wear corsets, and the rest usually wear corsets, only under other names. Will any dress reformer explain to me the difference between a corset that is called a corset and a waist that is theoretically made with cords, but which really contains steels in front, sides, and back that are quite as heavy and rigid as a properly constructed corset? The reformer appeases her conscience by having the so-called waist buttoned in front, but at the same time places a heavy steel in a casing just behind it.
The dress waist with its stiff whalebones and steels is in every respect the equivalent of a corset, except that it is not usually as soft and pliable and does not conform as accurately to the natural contour of the body. If a woman is determined to lace she can do it as effectively with a waist or with the bodice of a dress as with a corset; or she can do it without either by wearing her skirt bands fastened tightly around her waist, and thereby girding the body so as to interfere with the free circulation of the blood, and at the same time dragging down the natural organs out of their normal places. Is it not possible that what is needed is to reform the corset rather than to substitute for it other styles of "waist compressors" which are open to even greater objections? Sensible women (and to-day these are legion) do not lace tightly; and if a corset is properly constructed so as to fit every part of the body and not to press upon any one organ more than another, it is a source of comfort and not torture. The corset furnishes the foundation for proper dressing. No woman wishes to look like a shapeless dowdy. To obtain a smooth and artistic fitting dress waist she must have the proper foundation to build on, and nothing furnishes this better than a light, smoothly fitting corset that conforms to every line of the body. Every dressmaker understands this fact; and if her customer will not wear a corset she proceeds to convert the dress waist into a corset with bones, steels, and padding, until it gives the requisite support to prevent wrinkling. The time was when this was done with pieces of stiff hickory wood which encased the waist like an armor plate. At one time, also, corsets were made in the same manner; some even were stiffened with heavy steel or wooden "splints," as our grandmothers called them. These corsets had no opening in front, and required the assistance of an athlete to lace them up in the back, at the same time compressing the ribs, diaphragm, liver, and other organs so as to bring the figure to the required shape of the self-constituted artist. All this (happily for this generation and the next) is past history, and the women of to-day no longer practise such self-torture. And, yet, among a few the tirade against the corset goes on as though we were still living in the times of our foremothers.
Women will wear corsets; they always have, and they always will. We may as well consider this a settled fact. There are good and sufficient reasons why they are a necessity to the women who dress as civilized women have for the past two hundred years. If you were to change the dress of woman radically, they might be dispensed with; but this is not our province. Fashion. dictates what a woman shall wear, and her demands will be complied with; it is our duty to adapt garments to the wants of women.
Here is our maxim: A perfectly fitting corset is the foundation for artistic dressing. This does not imply that the corset should be worn so tight as to contract the waist to an abnormally small size. True beauty combines symmetry with proportion. Broad shoulders and prominent hips, combined with an abnormally small, wasp-like waist, present a figure that is a monstrosity. If such a waist is natural the woman should take the necessary means to develop and correct it, and bring it to the proper proportions of the rest of the body. An abnormally small foot on a large body is no mark of beauty, but, rather, otherwise. The same rule holds true regarding the waist.
The French women are admitted to be the best dressed in the world, even the middle classes. It is not the richness and costliness of the materials that attract one, but perfect harmony in coloring and symmetry of form. Hence, among fashionable women French corsets have been in great demand, but do you know that not a single French corset ever finds its way to the counter of an American merchant? The French corsets sold in America are made especially for the American market, and to please the taste of American buyers. If you buy a corset at a shop in France, you get the French shape. The French women would not wear those that are sold here. They are not their ideal. I have visited their factories in France, and they show you the American room where nothing but corsets for the American trade is made.
The French woman has learned that a dress can be long waisted without the corset itself being of undue length, a fact the American woman has not yet learned. The French woman has learned that the best and most desirable material for a corset is fine soft coutil, while the American woman prefers the more showy but less durable satteen. The real French corsets are short both above and below the waist line, but no sacrifice is made to the long, trim waist effect, which so many ladies desire. These are facts which many American women have yet to learn, but they are learning them slowly.
Another advantage the French makers have had until recent years is that their corsets are mostly made to order, and thus are fitted to living models, instead of being fitted to rigid figures of wood or plaster of Paris. The makers fit them to the women who are to wear them, and in so doing have corrected many defects. Americans are quick-witted and apt, and to-day the same methods are adopted in America, and no corset is placed upon the market until it has been several times tested upon the living model of the exact figure it is designed to fit. The advance ment in corset-making which has been made in this country during the past eight years is something marvellous, and we do not hesitate to declare that corsets of equal workmanship and as good fitting as the best "French make" are made in this country by several manufacturers and put upon the market at a less price than the foreign. This statement could not have been made fifteen years ago; but many of the improvements in corset-making are carried from this country to others, and are rapidly adopted by them.
Many misfits in corsets arise from the ignorance of the women who buy. Either from a lack of knowledge or a desire to look like some figure they admire, but do not possess, they buy corsets that were never made for them and will never fit them. If a woman who is short and stout buys a corset made for a tall, slim figure, it cannot possibly fit her, but it will fit the woman for whom it was made. This is a point women must study carefully in selecting their corsets. The maker who studies to fit his customers carefully and properly makes a variety of shapes and patterns to fit every variety of figure, differing not only in the length of waist, but in hip and bust measurements. For instance: A short, stout, matronly woman buys a long-waisted corset, made for a tall figure with large hips and bust measurements. She attempts to get into this corset; in doing so she crowds down the liver and intestines; they must go somewhere, and so they are forced below the long waist line of the corset, giving an unnatural and undue prominence to the stomach. Add to this the natural settling down of the whole body, with the shoulders thrown abnormally back to maintain the center of gravity, and we have a figure that to the average observer is anything but artistic, and yet one that is met with every day in fashionable society. All this can be avoided by a properly constructed corset, made short in the waist line, but long in front, going well over the hips and stomach, so as to confine the figure and give support and symmetry to the whole body.
This is but a single illustration of what really fitting a corset to the figure means. The desirable figure so longed for and sought after can be obtained without destroying or deforming any part of the body.
Another common fault is that women often buy a corset one or two numbers smaller than will fit them properly. You can readily see that if a corset is left open five or six inches in the back the whole design is spoiled and it cannot fit properly. The natural fulness designed to go over the hips is thrown in front of them, where fulness is not needed; the fulness back of the hips is on the side; the shoulder blade is not properly supported, and the entire plan of the maker is thwarted. It does not fit; if she wears it, it will not give her ease and comfort, neither will it wear as long as it should, for a corset must fit to wear properly. She condemns the corset and the maker. As well might a man try to wear a coat made for a person two or three sizes smaller.
A corset when first tried on should be left open from one to one and one half inches in the back; after wearing a few days it should not stretch more than one half inch; then it will be open from one to two inches in the back.
Few women know how to lace a corset properly. When first tried on it is better to have the help of an intelligent assistant. Many ladies are in the habit of beginning the lacing from the bottom, leaving the corset well open at the top. This practice is wrong, and is not necessary if the corset is of the proper proportions.
In preparing to try on a new corset, first lace the corset loosely from top to bottom. In inserting the lacings at the waist line, pass them through two consecutive eyelets on the same side, thus making a loop in the lacing. Then put on the corset and draw it up first at the waist line to the required tightness by means of these loops. In this way the smallest part of the corset will find the smallest part of the waist, and it will settle into its natural position. Then tighten the lacing from the waist to the bottom, and lastly from the waist to the top, until the whole corset conforms properly to the contour of the body. Corsets that become crooked are often made so by improper lacing. Too great pains cannot be observed in properly lacing and fitting the corset when it is new. Never tie the lacing around the body; it is sure to ruin the best corset and is also the worst form of tight lacing.
A perfectly fitting corset should not hurt at any one point, but should fit smoothly and easily upon the whole figure. The front and side steels can be, bent as the wearer wishes until they conform to the lines of the body and are easy. The upper part of the corset should never press upon the bosom, but rather hold it up and give support. Many a woman has destroyed the swell of the bosom by the pressure of an ill-constructed and badly fitting corset. This is one of the great advantages of the Coraline Health Corset and accounts for the very large sale of it in this country; the bosom pads prevent pressure, give a perfect figure, and at the same time promote development. For stout and fleshy women they are an additional support, giving a long waist effect and trim figure.
What material is best for corsets? The French woman answered this question long ago. The material they use more than all others is fine, soft coutil, which is light and more durable than any other. The American woman has preferred satteen, simply because it looks better, but the very process of making it smooth and glossy has destroyed some of the wearing qualities. A good cotton jean will outwear any satteen, and make a better corset, but, because it does not look as well in the shop window, the buyer, ignorant of this fact, selects the satteen. Another great advantage of coutil is that its peculiarly woven web renders it more elastic, allowing it to conform to the lines of the body.
The best corset can be ruined if not properly fitted and properly cared for. Many a woman injures a good one by wearing it loose and her waist bands tight. This will effectively girdle the best corset and destroy it in a very short time. She then condemns it, but she is the one to be condemned for not knowing how to wear it. If the important garment is worn very loose, the bands must be worn loose. It is a good practice on taking it off at night to carefully roll it up and leave it thus until morning. Women who perspire freely will find it better to have two corsets, wearing them on alternate days.
A woman handles carefully, her new bonnet, and straightens out the creases and folds of her evening dress, and hangs her wrap away on a stretcher, but allows her corset to shift for itself, and yet the corset deserves more care than any other garment.
The best stiffener for corsets are coraline and whalebone. Coraline has the advantage of whalebone in being lighter, though not quite as stiff. It is made by binding together with strong thread a species of Mexican fibre which resembles a heavy, long bristle. This is then made flat and tempered, and is absolutely unbreakable and indestructible.
The next best material is the black horn of the buffalo from India, which has long been used as a substitute for whalebone, and is supposed by many women to be real whalebone. When new and fresh it has good wearing qualities, but when a year or two old, whether used or not, it becomes brittle and breaks like a dry bone, which it really is. This is the real cause of so many broken bones in corsets.
Never buy a corset boned with steel or reed. The steel is sure to rust and break, and is liable to curl up on the end when it does break, and it may make an ugly wound. Reed is nothing more than a woody strip that gives an appearance to a corset, but really has no value.
Never buy a corset that has been blocked or molded over a steam form and all the stretch taken out of it. As well might a woman have her gloves stretched on some other hand than her own. The natural elasticity in the corset is just what is needed to make it conform nicely to her own figure.
If you are easy on corsets always buy the lightest you can get. It will be the most comfortable. It may net wear as long as a heavy corset, neither will a light, thin kid glove wear as long as a buckskin, yet you buy the kid. The woman who is hard on corsets must be contented to buy those containing more bones and steels, and consequently heavier, but she has no alternative.
A good whalebone corset made of fine, light coutil cannot be made and sold for less than five dollars per pair. Coraline, while costing more than horn, is much less expensive than whalebone. A good corset in coraline can be sold at from one to four dollars, according to the materials used in construction.
It has seemed to me that a few facts like these will aid ladies materially in buying and selecting this necessary but much abused article of dress.
THE proper clothing for the feet demands more attention than it generally receives. The health and comfort of the whole body are intimately connected with the condition of the feet. The blood should be allowed to circulate without restriction in these extremities, which are farthest from the heart, and for this reason are more likely to suffer from tardy circulation than any other portion of the body. Headache, lassitude, and nervousness often have their origin in cold feet. If they are folded and ......