The Importance of Dress March 1919
Dress has much to do with a first impression. That is why it is safe to say that the Patronesses of this magazine will be interested to read a little about the fashions that are de rigueur at the moment, and of the many new phases of dress that may be expected soon to follow.
Of course, at the beginning of a season, it's the silhouette that interests a woman most. One of America’s foremost style creators has recently said: "It's straight and slim with just one deviation, and that's at the hip-line. Shoulders are narrow, the waist natural; a sudden widening of the line at the hips and below it, and then a 'pulled in' look toward the feet."
We can't truthfully say that this new silhouette defines a line of grace and beauty, but we can truthfully say that it is the height of fashion at present here in New York.
The slim and youthful will look with interest on the prevailing silhouette, but to the stout it brings a sense of despair and a search for the genius who can adapt the new silhouette attractively.
Strange as it may seem, to look modish in Paris this particular season is not to look modish in New York. Paris is favoring the scant skirt, but it is the short skirt. And Paris at the moment has little use for the long sleeve. She advocates a short one.
Here in New York the most fashionably dressed women are wearing ankle-length skirts, in many instances so tight at the bottom that they are almost impossible to walk in. These skirts, however, are slashed either at the sides or back, or an inverted pleat gives the necessary fullness.
These long, tight skirts are seen, not only in tailored suits and coat dresses, but in afternoon and evening frocks. The former, however, are somewhat severe—the latter are much-draped creations.
Fashionable jackets are in three styles: the semi-fitted, the loose box coat, worn with the gayest of waistcoats, and the near-eastern blouse. Paris, however, is not at variance with New York in regard to the waistcoat or gilet.
Some of the French waistcoats are made of a heavy coarse linen, sometimes brilliant in color, fashioned in a number of ways, all of which add charm to the frock. Others are of silk jersey or the most novel of silk brocades.
The chemisette or tucker, so closely related to the waistcoat, is much worn in Paris. It generally shows a high collar.
Another whim sponsored by Paris is the use of a bit of fabric in the hand-bag that you use for the waistcoat. The tailored suits in which we so splendidly lead have never been so exquisitely tailored or fashioned of more fascinating materials.
They are somewhat plain, but it is this tendency to plainness that helps to give the smart effect. Some are of satin; others are of moire or trico silk.
Then there is the tailored suit made of glove-skin duvetyn, which is so wonderfully soft, while others are made of the knitted fabrics, and, of course, there are the tailored suits of Poiret twill, wool jersey, gabardine and trico serge.
The darker the color of the suit, the gayer the waistcoat and the hat. Much braid is used as trimming, both in very wide and very narrow widths. Another trimming, fashionable right now, is the lattice work, sometimes of suede, satin or braid, showing a glint of gay color beneath.
Ribbons, too, are among the most alluring of the spring trimmings. They show stripes, gay plaids, scatterings of big blossoms and also tiny bouquets and then there are the gold and silver brocaded ribbons, which give a touch of richness to any frock.
For instance, an informal dinner frock of black charmeuse veiled with black Chantilly, will show at the corsage just a suggestion of a Nattier blue satin ribbon, traced in a silver design.
This one touch of color is quite the smart note in all black frocks. It may, however, be a very gay color note, such as emerald green, eminence purple, orange, flame or pink.
The flowered georgettes and chiffons are much talked of for afternoon and in formal dinner dresses, notably for the demands of the warmer season; usually exploiting some variation of the year-in-and-year-out popular tunic. It is rather interesting to see how the tunic is adapting itself to the new silhouette.
The Directoire influence is very strong in Paris at present, especially in afternoon gowns. It is interpreted of course in the clinging skirts and higher waistlines.
Evening gowns are most artistic, with the Greek influence finding some favor. A new fad just now, both in Paris and New York is to fashion the evening gown with a cape or scarf to match, inspired in fact by the Grecian influence. These scarfs are of gauze and tulle and are embroidered, beaded or feather-trimmed.
Much silver braid and narrow silver fringe is used as a trimming for tulle and georgette evening frocks. The fringe is often repeated on the scarf which completes the gown. The majority of the evening gowns have pointed and fish-tail trains. These are caught in very close at the feet with the drapery.
Soft brocades and cloth of gold combined with tulle are smart for these evening frocks, which are invariably sleeveless.
Today the fashionable woman is most particular to keep the straight, unbroken line in her frocks. With the tailored suit which is so popular this year she likes the over-blouse—generally the hip length blouse which, if it does not match in color, must harmonize with the shade of her suit. These blouses are made of georgette, voile or fancy crepe.
By the way, lace is being much used this Spring. Georgette frocks are trimmed with little frills of Valenciennes lace and motifs of Venise lace. Lace, especially Chantilly, forms the transparent crown of many of the picture hats of leghorn, and narrow lace scarfs are also seen on big hats in place of ribbon streamers.
The well-dressed woman who starts to plan her clothes at the beginning of a season, always remembers that individuality in dress and consistency in dress go together, the one suiting the dress to the woman, the other suiting the frock to the occasion.
No detail is too small to be considered in planning a costume, for it is the out-of-place detail that often mars the finished effect of the dress. So many women who do not make a study of their clothes wear the wrong accessory at the wrong time.
For instance, this season there is so much that is alluring about the fancy, gay-colored neck chains that a woman is often tempted to wear one when she shouldn't.
It is the same way with the coquettish Directoire poke, or the picturesque hat of georgette and leghorn. They do not belong with the sport's costume, no matter how exquisite in sheen and gay in color is its fabric.
The woman who is striving to be well dressed should think of her clothes as a part of herself. If she does this, they are sure to partake of her individuality and charm with her charm.
“The Importance of Dress,” in The Lotus Magazine, New York: The Lotus Magazine Foundation, Inc., Vol. X, No. 3, March 1919, p. 154-158, 161.