What Dress Makes of Us Part 6

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[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 79]

We all sub-consciously acknowledge our dependence upon b.u.t.tons, but not many of us, evidently, have observed that even b.u.t.tons have a certain possibility of caricature in them; and that they may add to, or detract from, the appearance of manly forms. The consideration of properly placed b.u.t.tons may seem trivial to you, but if you will observe sketches Nos. 79 and 80, you may discern that a thin man may apparently increase his breadth and add a certain manly touch to his figure, by changing the b.u.t.tons at the waist-line of his coat. The b.u.t.tons placed so near together, in No. 79, really make his toothpick proportions too obvious.

His back is made to look broader by placing the b.u.t.tons wider apart, as shown in No. 80, and changing the cut of his coat-tail.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 80]

That the fat man may also present a more attractive back to his enemies by considering the placing of his b.u.t.tons, may be seen in drawings Nos.

81 and 82. The b.u.t.tons decorating No. 81 are placed so far apart that they increase in an ungainly way the breadth of the back at the waist-line. If they are placed nearer together, and the seams graduated to meet them, they give the illusion of better and more desirable proportions, as may be seen in No. 82.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 81]

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 82]

That the thin man may also present a more imposing and broader front to the world, is suggested in sketches Nos. 83 and 84. The contracted look of the coat in No. 83 is somewhat due to the b.u.t.tons of his double-breasted coat being placed too closely together. The slender man who wishes to give the impression of being broad-chested may have the b.u.t.tons on his coat placed a little farther apart than fashion may allow, as shown in sketch 84. The proportions may be easily preserved by a careful adjustment of the shoulder-seams and the seams under the arms.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 83]

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 84]

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 85]

The waist-line is not so much "a danger line" to man as to woman, yet man should not wholly ignore his equator. If he is long-waisted he can apparently balance his proportions by having his skirt shortened, as in No. 85, and his waist-line raised the merest bit. If he is too short-waisted he can lengthen his skirt and lower his waist-line, as shown in No. 86. In the one he escapes appearing too long and lanky in body, and in the other he obscures a lack of becoming inches that tends to give him a dumpy appearance.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 86]

If you study your fellow-men you will observe that few are really perfectly proportioned. One man will have the body of a viking on the legs of a dwarf, or one will have the legs of an Apollo supporting the short body of a pigmy. The man who has a kingly body, too broad in proportion to his legs, as shown in sketch No. 87, should endeavor to modify his physical defect by the careful selection of his coats. He should have his coats cut to give him as much length of leg as possible.

A skilful tailor will know just what subtle changes and adjustments to make. The improvement in appearance and gain in height is pictured in sketch 88. The coat being shorter and the waist of the trousers being raised a trifle, the man's limbs seem longer, which is an improvement.

Long lines tend to give elegance and grace in bearing. Another thing for the too robust type of man to consider is the style of his trousers. No.

87 hints what he must not choose. Such brazen plaids only make him appear offensively aggressive in size. Long, fine lines, such as shown in No. 88, give an impression of length and apparently lessen the width.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 87]

Too long lines, however, are almost as undesirable as too short ones.

Over-tall, thin men sometimes make themselves look like telegraph poles or flagstaffs by wearing short coats that expose in a graceless way the whole length of their limbs. They suggest cranes and other fowl that give the impression of being "all legs."

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 88]

When the legs are proportioned more like a stick of macaroni or a lead pencil than the shapely limbs of an Adonis, they appear exceedingly funny when surmounted by a short coat, such as pictured in No. 89. A famous general in the Civil War did not despise cotton as a fortification to protect him from the onslaught of the enemy. The over-tall, thin man, who is not unsuggestive of a picket, should not be ashamed to fortify himself with cotton or any other sort of padding that intelligent tailors keep in stock. He should build his shoulders up a bit and be generally, but most carefully and artistically, enlarged. His coat should be lengthened, as in sketch go, to cut off just as much of the longness of limb as can possibly be allowed without destroying artistic proportions. The very tall, thin man who unthinkingly wears a very short coat should be brave and never turn his back to his enemy.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 89]

If he wears black and white check trousers and a short blue coat, he should travel with a screen. A man in just such a rig attracted no end of comment in a fashionable hotel. The caricaturing effect of his trousers and coat were unspeakably comical. The wearer had a face as grave as an undertaker's and the air of a serious-minded college professor; but he had the nondescript look of a scarecrow composed of whatever available garments could be obtained from the cast-off wardrobe of summer boarders in a farmhouse.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 90]

Coats a.s.suredly have the power of making cartoons--living, jocular cartoons--of their wearers. It would hardly seem necessary to call attention to the fact that a man of huge dimensions should not wear a short coat, such as shown in sketch No. 91, yet his type is too frequently seen attired in this style. A man so dressed certainly seems the living exemplification of the definition of a jug, namely, "a vessel usually with a swelling belly, narrow mouth, and a handle, for holding liquors." It cannot be reiterated too often that a large, stout man should aim to acquire the distinction and dignity given by long lines.

If his body is proportioned so he really has neither length of torso nor of limb he must pay more attention to the cut of his clothes and attain length in whatever artistic way he can. The long coat, as may be seen in sketch No. 92, not only apparently adds length but it conceals too protuberant curves.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NOS. 91 and 92]

Of course, character counts far more than clothes, we will all agree to that, but at first glance it is a man's clothes that impress people.

Clothes affect our behavior somewhat. For instance, "When the young European emigrant, after a summer's labor puts on for the first time a new coat, he puts on much more. His good and becoming clothes put him on thinking that he must behave like people who are so dressed; and silently and steadily his behavior mends." Of course, there is an uplifting truth in George Herbert's maxim, "This coat with my discretion will be brave," yet, I am inclined to think that the majority of men who will stop to consider will agree with Emerson, who says, "If a man has not firm nerves and has keen sensibility, it is perhaps a wise economy to go to a good shop and dress himself irreproachably. He can then dismiss all care from his mind, and may easily find that performance an addition of confidence, a fortification that turns the scale in social encounters, and allows him to go gayly into conversations where else he had been dry and embarra.s.sed. I am not ignorant,--I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared 'that the sense of being perfectly well dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquillity which religion is powerless to bestow.'"

A popular clothier in New York, understanding this trait of his fellow-men, voices this same sentiment in his advertis.e.m.e.nt in this succinct way: "Seriously now. Have you ever stopped to think that if you wear good clothing it adds much to that independent, easy feeling you should have when you come in contact with other men?"

I think it was Lord Chesterfield who said: "A man is received according to his appearance, and dismissed according to his merits." There is a bit of truth in this we would all admit, I have no doubt, if we studied the question. Clothes affect our own poise, ease, and att.i.tude toward others and the expression of others toward us, but, after all, we rely upon the man or woman instead of upon the impression we receive from the clothes. The garments, after we have noticed them in a superficial way, are chiefly interesting to us, because they are arch-betrayers of the physical and mental poise of the man. No matter what the cut of the cloth, no matter what _cachet_ of a fashionable tailor a suit may have, or what its richness of material, the att.i.tude "a la decadence" of No.

93 would make the best clothes in Christendom look shabby and unattractive.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 93]

This too familiar carriage of the American man makes one wish to have the power to reverse the faces--as Dante did those of the false prophets, so those who stand "a la decadence" might see what ridiculous figures they cut in drawing-room and street. The curved backs and rounded-out shoulders would make fair-looking chests, and the flat chests would represent respectable-looking backs.

A man owes it to the spirit within him not to stand or walk in such an att.i.tude. He should brace up and keep bracing up persistently, unremittently, until he attains a more manly bearing.

[Ill.u.s.tration: NO. 94]

The wholly alive fellow pictured in sketch No. 94 would make homespun look elegant. His chest is forward. He does not sag in front at the waist, protruding his abdomen in not only an inartistic, but an unhealthy manner; but he strides masterfully forward with an air of inspiriting "aliveness." The perfect poise of his att.i.tude is not unsuggestive of the Apollo Belvedere--the model for all men--a picture of which every college boy should have to place beside the prettiest girl in his collection of pretty girls, to constantly remind him to carry himself like a young G.o.d.

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What Dress Makes of Us Part 6 summary

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