I have, ere these words appear in print, obtained possession of some of the innermost secrets of 'La mode' and I can emphatically state that Dress this year will be most charming. To criticize beautiful models, created with much thought by great artistes, is somewhat of a presumption. Yet the value of criticism in frocks is great, because among other faults and dangers of model-makers is sometimes a desire for change, at the expense of the beautiful. Still, as in all else in life, freaks of fashions appear and disappear, with strange rapidity each successive season; and only the really good modes remain as landmarks of contemporary skill.
We must always realise that there are frocks and hats created only for certain types of women, whether they be English or foreign. Where our country-women often err, is in wearing garments obviously intended for a 'type' exactly the antithesis of their own. But in the choice of models we cannot ignore the question of cost on which, after all, the successful choice of our clothes depends.
Every woman requires an amazing wardrobe today, for home use, for hotels, for abroad and for a thousand other occasions. Swiss sports with the latest shades in woollen coats and tweeds are giving way to the wonderland of Riviera Modes. Then but a little later, and the smart world returns to Paris, after Easter to London, with its attendant week-end parties, with its balls and social functions, country houses, races, trips to the Continent, Ascot, Goodwood, Cowes, trips by sea and motor, Homburg cures, Scotland, field and moor and last but not least, English countrylife with its hunting and other field sports.
So the social year goes round, Sports, amusements and entertainments for every week, and so, suitable clothing for each and every occasion becomes a necessity and in connection with each, we must think of such trifles as furs, laces and jewels, which are, in the life of the smart woman of Fashion, almost a cult as important as the substantial train of the clothes themselves.
Fashions this coming season will assuredly revert to those of the second Empire, a curious change from the ultra-bizarre revolutionary tendencies of Napoleonic models of which we grew somewhat tired. Hard and violent alike in colour and design as were these models, it is good news to contemplate a softer element in dress. Not that the advent of drapery is in any way likely to affect the simple silhouette which one has grown to admire. Classical gowns, like their famous prototypes, must be full of drapery as well as line. The combination in the hands of the modern manufacturer and couturiè should prove indeed successful, as indeed some of the earliest Court gowns and Riviera models have already shown.
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As I say, the art of the manufacturer and the dyer must all play a very important part in the general scheme. At the same time we must not imagine that gorgeous brocades and charmeuses will be entirely supplanted by the lovely new materials known as Crêè and Crê It simply means, we can have brocade effects on a dull crê, and thick charmeuse with the crê finish. But for Court trains, heavy brocades and velours, often edged with fur, will be as much used as ever, and further magnificences are added by the Revival of Lace. This 'freak' of fashion is welcome, for it adds to the general becomingness and softens any model, provided of course, it is skilfully used.
We all know how family heir-looms and lace flounces can be placed on a rotund figure, round and round a cheap satin skirt, and the remaining "bit of flouncing" forming a skimpy "berthe" to an ill-cut bodice. But lace, as used by the modem couturiè is another matter. In their hands it can be miraculously draped on a soft foundation of chiffon. In this way its pattern and beauty is shown to the best advantage.
Many wedding-veils mounted on chiffon and lined with gold or silver tissue are used for Court trains this Season. Then there are embroidered ninon trains, which have one side trimmed with lace flounces, or inserted with pieces of the same, the rest of the gown being composed of a quaint patterned Brochè crê, soft and clinging. The skirt is often slit up to the knee to show an under petticoat of embroidery.
JET AND DIAMOND TRIMMING
Jet and diamond trimming are lovely on a Court gown of white chiffon with a train of silver brocade. Black and white combinations are still popular and likely to remain so. In contrast to these magpie combinations, many gorgeous evening effects are attained by an adroit mixture of various colours. A fancy that can be so admirably carried out with an unlimited supply of drapery and ephemeral fabrics. Accordion pleating is used once again for underskirts.
A wonderful model emanating from a well-known "Maison" which I saw the other day illustrated the possibilities of accordion pleating and lace, when used for evening dress. Over a finely accordion pleated palest yellow chiffon came an overdress of pale pink tulle, on which was embroidered a bold design in purple iris. This design of purple iris outlined in green and gold was brought up on to the bodice in points, just above a waistband of orange velvet. A soft Brussels Lace fichu and palest blush-rose pink tulle formed the rest of the bodice, while the long transparent tulle sleeves were finished with lace frills.
Also worthy of note was an entire Demi-Toilette of Venetian lace veiled in palest green chiffon and finished with a Medici collar of orange velvet edged with black pearls. The chiffon drapery on the skirt was caught up with ropes and ornaments of black pearls. There is certainly no extraordinary freak or whim that has ever appeared in the world of fashion that will not be welcome in 1913. The Medici collar I mentioned is distinctly attractive and reminds us of a time when splendour in dress and jewellery were the necessary credentials for society.
This collar also is in keeping with the beautiful laces, both the real and imitation that are so popular. Chiffon is a fabric that never dies, but there is a strong vogue for tulle and silk-net of every description. The chemisette and half-collar of tulle is charming and will it, I wonder, lead to the return of the tulle bow, one of the most attractive modes we ever had in neck-gear. Tulle is much 'en evidence' on the Riviera, especially for Theatre Capotes and on the larger picture hats. Lace too, is here again used in their composition and the usual amount of feathers and aigrettes.
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Smaller hats are the mode for ordinary wear, yet our Casino and smart reception toilettes would lose much of their dignity and importance if our charming mondaines were to entirely eschew the bigger hat with its sweep of feathers or aigrettes. There is no special rule regarding the placing of these feathers or aigrettes, indeed as it is a season of continual changes in "angles" it would be difficult to define the rightful poise. It must vary according to the size of the hat and the wearer. I have seen many draped tulle hats with enormous aigrettes placed exactly in the front, or at the side, others, with the whole of the back, and half the crown smothered in aigrettes.
For morning wear, straws are mixed and simply trimmed with ribbon bows of fanciful design, or quills. Many straw brims have crowns of draped crê or crêé Flowers for the early spring are mostly made of wool or silk, not a seasonable suggestion, but no doubt as warmer days approach us, flowers will be revived in all their glory. Ribbons of every fanciful description are much used. Certainly the very small hats of narrow shapes, and dipping over the face will not survive more than one brief season, and a forerunner of softer and prettier headgear is already observable on Riveira and evening hats.
New sleeves are always a great sartorial test of novelty in Fashion. But curiously enough they do not denote, as in ancient days, any special period in dress. The 'Maghai' sleeves, a variety of the kimona, have by no means disappeared. The long fitting Empire sleeve is used and indiscriminately with any form of blouse or frock. Other types of transparent sleeves are fitted in four inches below the shoulder, cut right down to the wrist and finished with lace frills, which form cascades up to the elbow. Many fanciful types in half-length, sleeves show a picturesque turned-back cavalier cuff completed by lace ruffles.
Fanciful sleeves look well in the attractive little coatees of Matalassé printed fabrics, such as flowered crê and silk which are so much in favour. Some of these coatees are made with bolero fronts and swallow tails behind, others of a short jaunty loose shape.
Apart from these more fanciful types of coats or coatees, the "Costume-Tailleur" is mostly cut with a coat of practical length, neither short nor long, but inclined to show the cut-away piece in the front and an indication of a swallow-tail at the back, some are slit up at the side and are beautifully braided. Others are made very plainly, only relieved by a wonderful collar of embroidery or brocade.
The season's materials of course comprise a large range which may be divided into two classes. The essential, practical and hard-wearing fabrics or the more fanciful substances for abroad and summer wear.
Among the first mentioned we have the usual wide ranges of black, navy and white serges, flannels, tweeds, English homespuns; and sporting friezes, gabardines, covert coatings and Melton cloths.
For more fancy coats and skids we have new striped silk in various fabrics; new makes of shantung, heavy crê and double satins and charmeuses. Silk serges and striped oatmeal, or sponge cloths, with silky surfaces.
Fancy velours-de-laines and crê cloths and corduroy silk-cloth all come into the category of new fabrics.
In cloths, putty-colour, sage green, dull greys and a faded rose and blue shades form a contrast to the vivid colourings of last year, but gay tones can be introduced into the collar or waistcoat. Yet many women adhere to small white collars and revers on their plain 'CostumeTailleur', where if cut and stitching be sufficiently good, little else is required to achieve real success.
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As regards these the individual woman can please herself, and the wide choice of soft and fancy fabrics is most attractive. Day frocks are picturesque, bodices are mostly of a blouseé order, pouching slightly over a quaint waistband, and often showing a small basque. These bodices are full of dainty detail and nearly all show a hand worked guimpe of tulle or lace, finished with a half-Medici-or turnback collar of white silk.
Skirts, though draped, are still cut very narrow, and the only way to get sufficient room to move, is by having these weird slits up the side. They should, of course, reveal the daintiest of "dessous" and footgear.
Footgear, by the way, is eccentric enough to do for fancy dress. But, that this be the case, it must be in keeping with the frock itself, harmonising, completing, or forming a vivid contrast.
No doubt the leading "elegantes" of Paris and London only, will wear such quiet shades in boots or shoes as greys, tan, and black, or black and white or grey and black. Shoes are mostly of a Louis shape with very high heels, adorned with beautiful buckles. A novelty in boots is the striped piqué tops applied to patent vamps. White and grey suede tops make a charming combination with black glacé or patent for the smart walking shoe.
Hosiery varies but little. Finest silk to match our frocks is the safest vogue, whereas the real sportswoman indulges in delightfully 'gay' wollen hosiery coarse-knitted, to vie with the men! Very chic are the silk hose in stripes of light and dark shades alternating. The best of everything, quite plain, is the nearest approach the Englishwoman can get to the inimitable quality of chic. Take for instance, such accessories as en-tout-cas, umbrellas, pocket handkerchiefs and veils, bizarre effects in such trifles can never be good style!
All sorts of delightful colourings to form a contrast or carry out a special note in the toilette, can be achieved by means of the self-coloured en-tout-cas with long handle of the same shade and very plain but exquisite in detail. In fact apart from the 'lacey' and 'chiffony' confections for special functions, only coloured umbrellas are used. A practical fashion for a variable climate.
The real umbrella of utility is also plain, mostly made with a crooked handle, like a man's.
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Coloured Handkerchiefs, like hosiery, are only permissible to the sportswoman. She wears gay silk ones to accompany her tweeds or riding habit. Otherwise only the finest lawn and cambric are the vogue. A narrow lace edge sometimes for evening wear and a hem stitched coloured border for peeping out of the pocket of a serge coat.
Handbags, and travelling impedimenta to be in really good style, must be of fine workmanship and severely plain. All such things are a specialité of which we English can be justly proud.
The wearing of a button-hole, whether real or artificial has been ever an important feature among the details of dress and some celebrities still keep up the "pretty conceit".
Clusters of real and artificial flowers mixed are very charming with reception frocks, whilst a single flower such as a gardenia or a carnation looks smart with the Tailor-made.
Veils are a very important accessory that must not be ignored, and prove of greater assistance to the complexion and to the hat than almost anything else. Some wise women always wear clear veils, the mesh varies according to fashion, and the coloured ones offer us a wide choice. The practical and delightful lace or chiffon veils are never out of fashion.
Scarves, ruffles, feather boas and all items of neck-gear vary from month to month; the great secret of their success, is freshness. Nothing looks worse than "tumbled" tulle or "tired" looking feathers or flowers.
Many Englishwomen adopt a "genre" of uncompromising stiffness regarding all details of dress. At any rate it is infinitely preferable to the tawdry dress. Still daintiness and beauty is offered us freely. We should adapt the best of every freak of fashion.
Furs can be bought cheapest in summer time and there is every reason to believe that the gorgeous chinchilla, and its successful substitute Chinchilla-squirrel will be still a leading fur next winter. It is a lovely fur for evening wraps, and like ermine it seems equally suitable to summer or winter. Ermine or Chinchilla mounted on chiffon and lined with lace is the most gorgeous cloak we can possess.
Long plain lines are the vogue in fur, though a little drapery has crept in of late, the skill of the modern furrier is surely to be commended for the way he can "drape" fur. In reality the best skins are so wonderfully dressed today. They are as soft and pliable a texture as a chiffon velvet. Sable gets more and more scarce and prohibitive in price, still it is wonderful what the leading furrier can do for us today. Even the cheapest fur is so marvellously 'cut' and 'fashioned' that the poorest of us can be smart and warm in furs at a moderate expenditure! Moreover good fur, like good pearls or diamonds are an asset that does not depreciate in value.
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The wise woman retains some individuality of her own in the matter of hair dressing. The 'Greek' style with filet of ribbon, jewels, or tortoise shell is ever becoming. Curls, twists, and knots of false hair, are all worn. The fringe has never really become popular. The present shape of the head is classical and small. Still from month to month one never can foresee the lengths to which the coiffure will go. At the same time real eccentricities should be avoided.
The early Victorian ringlets were bad enough, but rosettes of flat plaits at either side of the ears is a vogue that can mar the prettiest of our sex. Yet it has to be chronicled among the vagaries of the coiffure! Let's also hope that the ears will be left free to perform the functions for which they were intended. For there is a very decided tendency to cover them up completely.
After all, now that our own hair can be trained so as to look naturally wavy and delightful, why not adopt the simple styles that emphasize the beauty of the hair and add height and dignity to the stature by placing the bulk of our hair at exactly the right angle to attain this end. Years can be put on, or taken off a person's age, by the arrangement of the hair!
Grey or white hair has become quite a 'cult' amongst the smartest French and American women, and instead of trying to hide the first white lock, some of them often add powder to give the extra softness. The idea that real powdered hair would return to favour died a speedy death; although it was broached in exclusive Parisian circles.
This very necessary article of apparel has passed through many vicissitudes, but has at last developed into a dainty and most comfortable garment. The 'ideal' line is still one of supple grace; and to attain this height of perfection, the corsetié and couturié must work in unison. The new, and high waisted skirts require that the figure be first moulded into that straight simple line beneath. The only part of the figure that is nowadays held in place at all is below the waist, where an ingenious device of soft bones, suspenders, and a silk stay-lace seem to do all that is required. Tight-lacing is a thing of the past and the lungs are left entirely free.
There are always a certain set of grumblers who are antagonistic to everything graceful and dainty, but it is far fetched to abuse the ideal corset of to-day, that seems to have become a mere network of silken brocade on to which to hang our clothes. But the initiated understand that skill is required to render that apparently trifling garment the right foundation for all our sartorial success!
Lingerie, we hear will have a fresh vogue this summer, and cambric and lawn will probably be again employed for dainty undergarments. Still, our new skirts cannot permit of much 'fantasie' in the way of frills and furbelows. It therefore must be that the petticoat, chemise and knicker shall be cut as carefully as the corset itself.
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The vogue for ribbon and wool-work as hat trimming is a very charming one. A band of coloured wools round a country hat cannot be harmed by wind or weather, and is therefore a practical decoration. Wool flowers are apt to be heavy, but the new glacé roses and those made of satin or brocade are delightful on our spring millinery. Ribbons too of quaintest design are twisted into all sorts of bows and choux and mounts of a fanciful order.
Crewel-work embroidery will embellish our shantung and tussore frocks; in white or self-coloured silks. In fact any kind of hand stitchery will be employed on our garments this season, and should offer a new field of work for the clever amateur.
Opera cloaks or evening wraps are ever among the gorgeous garments of the wardrobe. They are still cut narrow and show the figure to the best advantage. The newest idea is to have the lining of the Cloak of the same fabric as the gown beneath. For instance, a brocade frock is accompanied by a gorgeous cloak of velvet of the same shade lined with the brocade itself. This is a 'chic' but costly fancy. For warmer days the lace cloaks lined with coloured chiffons will be very lovely - an ermine collar is ever permissible.
The Sash is ever a delightful adjunct to the toilette, especially useful to girls, as often a desirable renovation can be effected by the aid of such, especially one composed of fanciful ribbon and of a brilliant colouring. These sashes today are worn with a high waist, and mostly finished at one side of the back drapery with a heavy fringe or tassel. Some of the daintiest have Pompadour patterns in many colours on a glacé foundation. Pretty effects are also attained by sashes of crêpe-de-chine or chiffon with embroidered ends. With these sashes, often corsage bouquets and bandeaux of ribbons in the hair fashioned à la Pompadour are worn and form a dainty completion to a fichu of lace or muslin.
The Fichu, ever associated with the memory of Marie Antoinette, is also revived, and is always a welcome addition to our summer frocks of muslin or lace. All these time-honoured and dainty fashions carry out that prophecy so often made i.e. that more femininity will be expressed in the modes of 1913.
Let us hope we shall also see the return of a more feminine woman, bringing in her train the daintiness and elegance that should ever be associated with her work and pleasure.
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Christopher Marlowe - 1604