DRESS AND THE ARTS.
W E wrote three weeks ago of the new demand for V V beauty of line and colour in household utensils and implements. There is one group of trades in which such a demand has always been felt, a group which it is therefore perhaps not uninteresting to consider, as in its development we may sees, forecast of the lines along which the evolution of things of domestic use will proceed. The response to the demands of an instructed public, a public almost of connoisseurs, has been the growth of a group of trades which have a considerably higher standard of aesthetics than have other manufacturers. The trades to which we allude are of course those which are concerned in dress designing and making, the Tanu- facture; printing, and dyeing of fabrics, and the preparation of-such articles as " fancy leather goods," artificial flowers, straw, and plumes. This high standard not only affects what we might call the aristocracy of the trade, the great Parisian dress ateliers, the princely furriers whose work is -associated with the haute couture, but. it is also reflected. in the middle-class shops which cater for women of small means. If the reader will take a walk along any of the principal streets of London where drapers' shops are to be found close to .those of retailers of other goods, he will find that for one pottery or-stationer's shop which has something in its windows which he can admire he will see three women's-shops which show seme trifle that is beautifuland has been carefully designed. Perhaps only in the trade in -women's dress has the demand for beautiful things never been quite interrupted. Even in the commercial dark ages—the last thirty years of the last century, that Gotterdammerung of architecture and the lesser applied arts—beauty still burnt visibly, in an eclipse that never became total, in the drapers' and milliners' shops.
Women's dress has lately excited a good deal of reproba- tion, but if we care to recall in our own minds the pageant of, historic fashion we shall probably be obliged to admit that never before has it so closely approximated to the formula of which we spoke in a former article —" Commodity, Firmness, and Delight." We must not, -of course, judge any epoch by its eccentrics, damn the instinct for gorgeousness that characterized the Middle 'Ages because some women wore excessively high head- dresses (and were duly satirized for it). We must not despise the Elizabethans because it grew proverbial that the worth of a manor could be embroidered upon a .stomacher and pair of cuffs. We should not disapprove of the Empire's revival of classic drapery, with its sensibility to beauty of line, because in Pasts .a few women wow wetted muslin. let as be equally just to our own generation and -consider the dress of women who have an ordinary sense of proportion.
How are the three necessaries, ." Commodity, Firmness, and Delight," catered for in modern dress ? At first we may fancy that "Delight" is not -as much considered as it used to be ; but a- moment's reflection will remind us that only -ceremonial dress- survives, and' that " Delight " has always been severely restricted in the everydaydressee worn by women on their everyday occasions. " Commodity " and Firmness " are more obviously considered to-clav if we take Commodity " as here representing the protective and -warmth-giving functions of dress--the fact that it must not hamper such movements as breathing and walking— and if we exemplify " Firmness " by the circumstance that the most brilliant designer could. not make a dress out of ,a cobweb. For years doctors fulminated against tight- lacing, long and heavy skirts, and high, tight collars. Now that the fashion has reformed all these abuses the prudes are aghast. The jumper is the most striking and universal among the new fashions which are followed both by the aristocracy and the proletariat of dress. It is generally agreeable. and often beautiful in colour, and graceful in line. Besides this, it is of course the garment which for twenty years the ,advocates of rational dress have been trying to force upon women. Long may it . remain the fashion ! In modern dress " Delight,"- the aesthetic quality, is perhaps predominantly shown first in colour. and secondly in beauty of textures. It must be remembered that variation in texture is one of the sources of aesthetic pleasure that is used most cunningly -by dress designers.
It is rather interesting to notice that, if we are to judge by the display given at the Grafton. Galleries a few days ago by many leading Parisian designers, such as Paquin, Beer, Dceuillet, Premet, or Callot Scours, colour seems at the moment to be more successfully used in England than in France. There was not, for example, in the Paris display a single instance of the pretty candy stripes " which are the fashion in. England just now. " Candy stripes," it should be explained, are stripes of about an inch wide, each stripe of some clear, cool colour. For instance, mauve, chalky blue, and apple-green stripes will be woven on a background of grey silk, or if the material is fluffy or woolly the background may be white. Nor were there any of the particularly charming smudged silks which are now being used for making parasols and lampshades. These silks, again, are generally to be seen in cool colours, but here there is no pattern. A method is employed in dyeing the silk which results in patches of, say, lemon yellow, which shade through green into blue, and through blue into pinks and magentas. Another beautiful fashion of which there were no examples at the Exhibition held by the Parisian experts was that of freely rendered conventional fruits and flowers, which are a great deal used in England both for furnishing and wearing apparel. They correspond to the fruit wreaths which are, of course, so characteristic a motif of classic and Renaissance architecture. Probably these things were used last season in Paris, and the great designers will not use them a second time unless forced to do so by the public taste. Fortunately in England the shops are full of them, indicating a revolt of the aesthetic chic against the merely chic. It is a curious fact that most intelligent people, and nearly all men, are a little ashamed to confess how much they care about dress, and how much pleasure it gives them to see the beautiful colours with which women are public- spirited enough to adorn public places. If they would imagine for a moment the state of things were all women suddenly to tske to wearing black, they would realize how important to the amenities of a real civilization is women's love of bright colours. Imagine the Bank Holiday crowds with which we have mingled for the last few days if instead of red, green, flame-coloured, blue, ikirple, and jade-green coats and hats and jerseys all the women had dressed in drab ! Imagine the river on a summer holiday afternoon if women carried black sunshades, and we shall see their place in civilization. Industrialism and the revolting poets of the industrial age induced the last generation to believe that Nature. is naturally always beautiful and that man is inevitably always vile. It was a gloomy belief, for nearly all men are obliged to live within sight of their fellows. Perhaps the moderns differ most from their forefathers in their change of outlook on this point. For the belief is changing. We now presume the innocence of the accused. We do not assunie the vileness of man. Instead, we call in the architect and the designer of clothes to make the inevitable presence of our neighbours a pleasure and not a pain.