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Old Time Customs
Memories and Traditions and Other Essays
Fashions


FASHION, as regards matters of dress and personal adornment of any particular age, is a difficult thing to handle, incoherent as a sick man's dream. A woman's hat is as short lived as Jonah's gourd. A fashion breaks in upon us suddenly, and we know not from what source it comes nor how long it will last. However good it may be, it seldom remains long enough to corrupt the world, and for this the world should be thankful.

Some of us remember the swallow-tail coats of blue broadcloth with gilt buttons which our fathers wore on special occasions. We remember also the camulet waterproof coats they wore on rainy days, with their broad flowing cape which displayed such wondrous dimensions when the wearer on horse-back faced the wind. This was before the rubber waterproof came into use. We have, too, a fairly distinct mental picture of the "hoop-skirt"—a petticoat expanded over hoops of whale-bone, rattan or other flexible material—ambitious of wide domain, but yet collapsible under pressure more exacting. Who could forget the hoop-skirt, if he had seen it even once, or after reading the following: "The hoop-skirts now in vogue typify the swelling conceit, the empty pride and vanity which, beginning with the upper circles, is mimicked and caricatured by all orders of society, from the family of the millionaire down to that of the humble grocer and fruit dealer." Then there was the "arm-pillow," in like manner aggressive, encircling the fore-arm, which we in our younger days supposed the Jewish prophet Ezekiel was denouncing in his scathing woes. And, yet again, we recall the tight-lacing corsets or stays, suggestive of that little insect the ant, though not too small to be pointed out as a teacher of wisdom.

Time and space fail to describe how the perverse jade called Fashion compelled men to dress their hair with pomatum and powder and to wear it braided and tied with ribbon, forming a pendant pig-tail or queue over their shoulders. Other features that might be spoken of were the padded trousers, the scarlet waistcoat, the leather breeches, pieced out below the knee with silk stockings, and the shoes with their long narrow toes and their silver buckles.


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