Female Dress

The following was found in a book written in 1858:

“Female dress: It is well known that a loose and easy dress contributes much to give the sex the fine proportions of body that are observable in the Grecian statues, and which serve as models to our present artists, nature being too much disfigured among us to afford any such. The Greeks knew nothing of those Gothic shackles, that multiplicity of ligatures and bandages with which our bodies are compressed. Their women were ignorant of the use of whalebone-stays, by which ours distort their shape instead of displaying it. This practice, carried to so great an excess as it is in America, must in time degenerate the species, and is an instance of bad taste. Can it be a pleasant sight to behold a woman cut in two in the middle, as it were like a wasp? On the contrary, it is as shocking to the eye as it is painful to the imagination. A fine shape, like the limb, hath its due size and proportion, a diminution of which is certainly a defect. Such a deformity also would be shocking in a naked figure; wherefore, then, should it be esteemed a beauty in one that is dressed? Everything that confines and lays nature under a restraint is an instance of bad taste. This is as true in regard to the ornaments of the body as to the embellishments of the mind. Life, health, reason, and convenience, ought of be taken first into consideration. Gracefulness cannot subsist without ease; delicacy is not debility; nor must a woman be sick in order to please.”

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