Thursday, June 6, 2013

1696 London - Directions for Young Gentlewomen's Apparel

Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era painter, 1674-1729) Frances Moore Bayard.

The Accomplished Ladies Rich Closet OF Rarities
John Shirley [J. S. (John Shirley), fl. 1680-1702.]
LONDON Printed by W Wilde for n. Bodington in Duck Lane; and J. Blare on London-Bridge. 1696.

Directions for a Young Gentlewoman she ought to be seen in her Habit or Apparel; and what Garb is most commendable, and otherwise, according to the Quality of the Wearer.

IT matters not, of what Stuffs or Silks your Clothings are made, so they be decent and civil; neither by their ridiculousness discovering the Wearer foolish and slovenly; nor by their gaudy and careless putting on, to render her suspected of loose or light behaviour, or at leastwise subject her to the censure of the Ignorant.

Apparel may be rich, and yet decent, and indeed whether, it be rich or not, if decent, the matter is not great; though, in this case, I leave it to the discretion of young Gentlewomen or those that provide them Apparel, to let it be suitable to their Quality or Fortune, and will not be of the Morose and Cynical temper of some, who either believe, or spitefully give it as their opinion, that gorgeous or glittering Apparel is the Attire of Sin, and suits with the Pride of the Wearers heart; but I am persuaded that the Quality of the Person extenuates the Quality thereof, and renders that opinion vain and frivolous.

I must confess, there is a kind of Privilege in youth to go gay; which, should I too severely reprove I might justly merit your displeasure; yet that Gaity may as well be in Decency as otherwise, the use of Apparel being to dignifie the Wearer:

Nor does a vertuous Demeanour more lively appear than in Look, Speech, Gesture and Habit, within the compass of Modesty, though Diamonds, Gold, and other precious things, were made for use; and without being imployed, would be ineffectual: Therefore to wear them in my Opinion, is one of the chiefest Ends for which Nature produced them, or Art brought them to a fuller perfection.

The Pride in this case being only centered in the Mind, and not in the External Ornaments; which is rather known by the Carriage and Deportment of the Wearer, than by the Garments. And though to affect Novelty, and run into every Fashion, be not commendable, yet Moderation is not amiss; for two Reasons: As first, should you always keep in a Fashion, though decent, it would be looked upon as a conceited singularity; or to continue in any strange Garb, after the Fashion is altered, would appear ridiculous, and cause Laughter, especially amongst the ruder sort; as much as a Woman of Fourscore to be habited in the Garb of a Gentlewoman of Sixteen; or to see a Dairy Maid in her Ladies attire: Therefore whatever you wear, let it be proportionable to your Body, and suitable to your degree.