The selection of proper clothes is a challenge to any woman's artistic ability—a challenge to her sense of what is appropriate under her immediate environment. This is particularly true of the Bible instructor and the minister's wife. Simplicity and good taste are synonymous terms to be used in the selection of any wardrobe. They are the very nucleus of all that it takes to be well dressed.
There are scores of simply styled garments on the market. But it is not so much what is on the market as what one chooses to buy from the market. For instance, one finds a simple, unobtrusive hat. Very good. It is bought Down the street is a lovely, modest dress. It is bought ! Shoes are purchased at another place. A coat is still good from last year's buying. The new selections are put together—and they just do not harmonize ! The modest hat becomes conspicuous because of poor color or material. The dress seems out of harmony with the hat. The style chosen, though a simple one, has the wrong lines for the wearer. Instead of a simple, harmonious unit, the result is an overdone, conspicuous combination.
How can one know just what goes with which, and vice versa? There are many factors to be considered. Some of these factors are individual age, size, and complexion, as well as the color, design, and texture of the material, the design of the dress, the hat, the shoes, etc. All details of a costume should be related in idea as well as in color and texture.
For example, let us consider texture. Stiff fabrics should be worn with tailored accessories.
Soft fabrics should be worn with the dressier type of hat and shoes. A stout woman would find a hard, shiny surface unbecoming, as it catches light and makes the figure appear larger. This type of material also accentuates hard lines, sharp angles, and irregular features of the body and face. Therefore a softer fabric would give the opposite effect, and is more becoming to the older woman. It is true that textures can be combined, such as using a wool, sergelike material with taffeta or satin as a trim. There are no special rules for such combinations. An understanding of harmony is the best guide.
Materials with conspicuous patterns soon become tiresome to look at. It is more desirable to select designs in which the figures are not so noticeable. All colors should be becoming to the wearer. The choice depends on the person's age, size, coloring, personality, etc. Any good authority on color will give color scales and harmony charts for various types of individuals. (See "Art in Every Day Life," by Harriett and Vetta Goldstein, pp. 289-308, Macmillan, New York City, 1940.)
The matter of the selection of a design for a dress seems to be a difficult thing for most people. Older women prefer something simple and dignified, and yet because of cheap trimmings or perhaps exaggerated trimmings, the dignity and the simplicity of material or design are lost. Self trimmings (tucks, cording, bands of the same material) usually add more dignity to a garment than a quantity of cheap lace or much beading.
Again, one must consider her age, size, and build when selecting any design. A dress should bear resemblance to the figure, as shape harmony is very important in considering a beautiful design. If some part of the figure is exaggerated by the style of the dress, then a comical or even slovenly appearance may be the result. The waist length should be so proportioned as to make a harmonious unit. Such a length should not cut the figure in two. Too short dresses are likely to throw the spacing of length of skirt and waist out of harmony. The figure should appear to be balanced whether standing, sitting, or walking. The authors of the aforesaid "Art in Every Day Life," summarize'these thoughts, as follows :
"The well-dressed woman wears simple clothes, having an individual note which expresses her personality, and distinguishes her from all those around her ; her shoes, hose, gloves, bag, are fitting accessories, and while not calling undue attention to themselves, they serve to make the wearer and the costume a perfect unit."—Page 275.
Relation of Dress to Influence
Some say it is wrong to spend much time talking about clothes. That is true ! It is a waste of time to spend too much time on clothes—but since custom, modesty, and climate demand clothes, and since they play such an important part in how we look, and our influence upon others, then surely enough time should be used to choose that which is correct. "A refined taste, a cultivated mind, will be revealed in the choice of a simple, appropriate attire."—"Messages to Young People," p. 353. Does it not take forethought to get this result? Ideals and standards underlying all true modesty and godliness are revealed in the choice of what we wear, as well as in our conduct. Should not enough study and thought be applied to clothes to bring about the right revelation of what we really are?
The Scriptures tell us we are spectacles to the "world, and to angels, and to men." i Cor. 4:9. If our clothes, because of being ill-chosen, attract so much attention that the world cannot see Christian character in the individual, then we help to defeat a purpose God has for us. It is the Christian's duty to avoid extremes and to keep balanced in judgment and thinking. Christian ideals should shine forth in every costume that is worn. If at any time the fashions of the world so swing to the extreme that the Christian woman cannot find clothes in keeping with such ideals and standards as she may have, then, regardless of how she may ,appear to others, she "should humbly pursue a straightforward course, irrespective of applause or of censure, and should cling to the right because of its own merits."—M., p. 350.