Dress and Look Slender
The desire to be attractive, to feel the assurance that one is correctly if not beautifully dressed is inherent in every woman. With the advent of the “slim silhouette” the full proportioned woman or girl has had a problem. It is unfashionable to appear over large—and one cannot help feeling conspicuous when out of Fashion’s range. But, fortunately, there is a plan by which the proper selection of dress can actually aid you in overcoming the handicap of weight.
There is magic in the principles of “optical illusion” and rightly applied it is a kind of magic that one can make a permanent reality. But magic is subtle. It requires skill, watchfulness, and a close abiding to the rules if every “trick” is to be a success.
In reading this book you will find many things that you are advised not to do, but always you will find substantial instructions as to what to do. And always principles are provided which you can use and adapt to a great variety of personal needs.
ivOne of the first essentials of teaching is to start a definite line of thinking, and if the rules in this book will arouse in you the desire to compare the points made with illustrations you see of line and color, both in pictures and on people, and to test their correctness or incorrectness for yourself, it will indeed be worth while.
You, who have started diets and failed with them, who have tried exercises and become discouraged, hold to this—read every page of this book, find the reason back of every rule and apply the principles laid down. I guarantee that it will be interesting and that the results will bring you a renewed assurance, confidence and satisfaction with your personal appearance and with yourself. Is that not enough to commend the book in its entirety?
DRESS AND LOOK
WHY WOMEN WANT TO LOOK SLENDER
If there is any one thing in the world that is not wanted it is too much fat on a woman. In my whole lifetime I have heard only one overweight woman say she would not be thin if she could. I have always regretted that I did not ask her why.
Before I tipped the scales so definitely myself, I paid little attention to the problems of the big woman, for of course I was not vitally interested in weight reduction or size concealment. But when I found my own clothes not meeting and the children in the family saying I was getting fat, I began to take notice. I must have read fifty-odd advertisements on “How To Get Thin,” and I was hopeful of some of the methods. We almost had to move from a duplex house because I did exercises to music and the neighbors could not sleep. I 2ate “woe-be-gone” bread. I even tried to melt away in reducing corsets but almost took the skin with them when I tried to get them off. I read every book I could find on “What To Eat” and “What Not To Eat,” and I lost three good cooks in my efforts to reduce the menu to a get-thin basis.
A prominent actress gave me a prescription for reducing. Her husband, on finding it out, came rushing to see me to tell me that the prescription was for a drug and that his wife in her eagerness to keep within bounds demanded by the stage had indulged only to become a hopeless addict.
Then I went to my physician and told him I was tired of bruising myself with rolling, my fear would not allow me to take drugs and I would have to leave home if I persisted in the diet. I begged him to give me something to remove the excess of thirty pounds and he promptly refused, pointing out to me the illnesses and other bad effects that could come from abnormal or unnatural reduction. He explained that he could give me something that would take off the fat but that it would age the tissues of the body ten to fifteen years. And youth is something that 3every woman wants to keep, no matter what her weight.
He explained the thyroid theory but refused to give me an ounce of the preparation for my relief and very frankly told me to forget my weight and enjoy the good health that I evidenced. I left his office crestfallen and disappointed, thinking that if he only knew how much the heavy woman wants to appear thin enough to wear smart clothes, if he could only know how she actually longs for the lovely things that fashion creates for the slender types, he would be more sympathetic. But he is a very sane and sensible man and all my appeals had no effect.
However, when my friends continued to say, “My, I believe you’re getting fat” instead of “How stunning you look,” I realized how necessary it was for me to persist in my determination to dispose of the thirty extra pounds and at the same time indulge my appreciation for pretty things which is the right of every woman, fat or thin.
I found my clothes problem daily growing more serious. Several times I purchased a new dress and after one wearing I would discard it because I looked heavier and older 4than I wanted to look. The problem was becoming increasingly difficult because each time I stepped upon the scales, I would invariably see recorded two or three pounds more than last time. I am sure that many of you have meekly slipped off the scales, as I have, scarcely waiting long enough to see what weight was actually registered, praying meanwhile that no one saw where the arrow pointed. I simply could not believe the scales were right, because before each weighing I was certain within myself that I had climbed enough stairs, done without enough candy, and touched my hands to the floor often enough to be at least three pounds lighter.
About this time an inspiration came to me. I would “get even” with my slender friends. If I could not safely reduce, I would at least give the appearance of having reduced. If I could not actually take off thirty pounds, I would make myself look thirty pounds lighter in the eyes of others.
And, after all, is that not what we are most concerned about? Plumpness is more often a sign of good health than bad. We could be supremely happy with our extra weight if 5only we could look slender. I recalled the advice of my physician to “go home and enjoy my good health.”
So I started on my campaign to lose thirty pounds in appearance. I did it and so quickly that my friends were amazed at the sudden change. I was congratulated on my success in reducing. I was told I had never looked so well. Friends persistently asked me what method of reducing I had followed. In fact the success of my plans has been so remarkable that I do want every overweight woman to know about them. And so into this book I am putting the whole story.
WHEN FASHION DEMANDS SLENDERNESS AND YOUTHFULNESS
We are all slaves to fashion. For many, many years it was the fashion to be plump. Venus herself was not slender, but well rounded and full of figure. Our mothers wore bustles, and bust ruffles if they needed them, but as for us, well, it is the fashion to look slender, and since it is, we must strive to keep within the dictates of the mode.
My own work is fashion work. I meet hundreds of fashion folks. The slender silhouette 6has been promoted, applauded, appreciated for years, and as the days and months went by and the youthful outline grew more important, more prominent, I began to realize what a handicap the stout woman was under in trying to find attractive clothes. I felt like an Eskimo on a summer’s day on Fifth Avenue. To go into a smart shop to buy a new dress only to be looked over and directed to the matron’s department or that of the stylish stouts was too much for my pride. I wasn’t willing to put myself in the out-of-fashion class and appear heavy and elderly wearing fronts and vests that had written all over them, “built especially for a stout.”
Frequently fashion magazines show suggestions for “length lines”—but they seem to assume that all overweight women must look matronly. Two, in particular, that I remember showed the effect of incorrect crosswise lines and of correct lengthwise lines. I studied them carefully for information and decided that I would prefer to look round and thirty, than straight up and down and sixty. Every one of the models, though satisfactory in design, added 20 to 30 years to the apparent 7age of the wearer, doing nothing to overcome one of the most dangerous things with which the stout has to contend. For although no dignified woman wants to look like a sixteen-year-old overgrown Susie, still she does want to look young, modish, and correctly dressed, and no woman is rightly dressed who by her clothes adds even one year to her age.
However, I now know that it is possible for every woman, whether she is only slightly too plump in certain places, or decidedly overweight, to make herself look smart, slender, and many years younger by studying certain vital rules of dress and adhering to them in planning her wardrobe.
BUSINESS AND SOCIAL LIFE MAKE SLENDERNESS AND YOUTHFULNESS A NECESSITY
Women, young, mature, or elderly, at home or in business, must always try to look their best. They must be so pleasingly and so correctly dressed as always to evidence good taste, for good taste, after all, is the only real authority in dress. Without it, dress loses all its power of charm or influence. Especially is this true for women in public life. 8The solo singer in the church, the leader of the club or mothers’ meeting, the social worker or politician, all must give evidence of good taste and be modestly and correctly attired if they are to gain favorable criticism. No woman who sings should ever allow it to be said of her, “I adored the song, but the singer’s hat annoyed me so that I could not listen.”
A woman’s clothes should be beautifully alluring and complimentary. This is woman’s heritage, and any woman who allows her lack of knowledge to make her unhappy or unpleasing to see has only herself to blame, for it doesn’t take money. It does take information, ingenuity, and a little energy. But oh, how worth while the result will be!
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR GOOD POINTS
Sometimes we women of over 36 bust become discouraged. There is really no reason for this because most of us have a great many good points that we simply do not use to the best of our advantage. We worry so unnecessarily about our bad points that we forget about the good ones, but there is much that we can do with little or no effort and the improvement 9in our appearance is its own reward. For instance, most big people have nice hair, and they should keep it. Any big woman who bobs her hair and leaves it that way hasn’t eyed herself sufficiently in her mirror. From her neck up she may look ten years younger, but from the neck down she probably looks ridiculous. For one of the chief rules for good looks is right balance, poise, and dignity. So why do anything to hinder these? You have one handicap—too many pounds. You must do everything you can, therefore, to retain every possible attraction, and your hair is one of them for it suggests womanliness.
We don’t want our friends to say that we have a great “mother lap” or a shoulder of Gibraltar to weep on, but we must set out to be substantial in thought, act, and deed to be attractive. A little slim girl can giggle and be silly if she wants to—she can even wear mussed up dresses—but a big girl must be modest, and always immaculate in every particular. And why not? It’s an effort, yes, to be always striving for perfection, but it can be made a real hobby. Study the attractive slender girl who looks well and dresses well. 10Adapt what you can of her attire. Oftentimes, you can learn more of the “trick” from the slim looking girl than from the stout.
As you go through fashion books, don’t discredit all the styles and say they are planned only for the slim. Study them carefully, find a collar from one and waist line from another, fabric suggestions from another. Dress to be fashionable, but learn to discriminate so that you can find the best for you in the new.
Sometimes I have thought what fun it would be if we big folks could dress up and reach a point of perfection—so much so that the artist would have to get a more flexible pencil to express the varying grace of line that would be manifest. And why not? Isn’t it our own fault if fashion forgets us? We deserve to be dowdy if we haven’t enough pride, ingenuity, and perseverance to conceal intelligently and comfortably a few extra pounds.
If you are tall and large but not fat, consider yourself a full well-proportioned figure and dress correctly but in plain good quality fabrics so that neither height nor width will be accentuated.
Don’t try to fool yourself by wearing 11clothes that are too small for you. It is said that fat men need the best tailors, and surely all large women should strive to have perfect fitting clothes.
When I was fourteen I wore on a special Sunday a long skirt and a bustle, thinking that it was better to look eighteen and “ladylike” than fourteen and overgrown. Don’t look overgrown in your clothes, but don’t ever make yourself any older than you are.
If your ankles are large, have your dresses a wee bit longer than fashion calls for. If your ankles are small and the legs large above the ankle, have your dress slightly long for the same reason. If the legs and ankles are correctly proportioned for the rest of the body, remember that even you need to have the skirt just a little bit longer because when you sit down you take up some of the skirt length. A fat woman sitting down with a dress that is too short is not pleasing to see—and we big women do love to sit down.
And in speaking of sitting down, a sanitary apron is a real protection to the backs of big folks’ dresses as it prevents wrinkling. Buy one, try it, and you will realize that the back of your dress looks much better after you get 12up from a two-hour sitting. And, besides, you can console yourself with the fact that if perspiration really reduces, your apron is serving you twofold—melting the fat and preventing skirt wrinkles all at the same time.
Don’t ever be tempted to wear frills, ruffles, tassels, or ornaments that go forward or wave about as you walk. They double your size every time and must be avoided.
A good plan for those of us who like ruffles, frills, and bright colors is to put them on our night clothes where no one but our very own selves can see.
The house, too, lends opportunity for our color appetites and there we may use color freely and safely. But because we love red, orange, or King’s blue is no sign we must wear it on our backs for all to see. Buy a little piece of fabric with just the colors you revel in; put it in the dresser drawer, or let it ornament a chair back, look at it every day, and thus satisfy your longing for color. Then wear those very simple things that you know will be becoming.
One woman whom I know and who looks like a fashion plate in the day time and like a dream lady at night, always gets everything 13together on the bed before she starts to dress. She insists that it takes only a little longer to do this, that it saves time when she does get ready to dress, and that she is always better satisfied with the results. She says, “I know then that I have the right slip, the right stockings, that my gloves are suitable, and that there are no holes that need attention. In putting them on the bed, I always make all the little repairs that are necessary and do all the brushing or freshening that is needed; then when I am ready to dress I feel a sense of satisfaction that I can find in no other way.”
And so, why don’t you, who are striving to express yourself more beautifully, to dress with more satisfaction and peace of mind, try this simple little plan of thinking about what you are going to wear and getting it ready before you start to dress? Then, watching always what you see in your mirror, your fashion books, on the streets, and in the shops, you will find that which is appropriate, becoming, and wholly lovely for you.
And to these material fundamentals, add your own wholesome pride. Don’t cheat yourself or those who must see you. Don’t 14be dowdy. Life is too short and too real for that. Learn to be proud of yourself and dress so that even you will feel a sense of security and assurance. After all, we can be rather selfish about just looking right. Other folks are glad to see us in pretty clothes—looking our best. A right hat, a right dress, correctly worn, can really do wonders as a tonic. Try it. It really is a good prescription.
THE REAL SECRET OF DRESSING TO LOOK SLENDER
“Reducing”—by no matter what method—is too often a snare and a delusion; for even if, after all your efforts, you do lose some weight, a little indiscretion in your clothes will make you look as stout as ever.
How to select clothes that are certain to make you look slender is the most important knowledge a modern woman can have. Surely it is the most important art in the whole field of fashion. And yet, many designers of clothes for stout women do not understand its very cardinal principles. Of course, they do design so-called “slenderizing stouts”—but you know, perhaps all too well, what they look like. Their long surplice effects and drab colors say as plainly as words, “I am designed for a stout” and nine times out of ten they simply call attention to your stoutness. Besides they are for matronly women—not for those who want to look young and smart. It seems practically impossible to get youthful 16and appropriate clothes for women who wear sizes over 38. Yet it may be only necessary to change a neckline or remove an ornament or alter the line of a sleeve in order to transform a “dumpy fat woman’s dress” into a model of slender grace and youthful charm.
The whole art rests upon a certain scientific principle known to artists and a few expert designers. It is called the Principle of Optical Illusion, by which things appear to the eye to be different than they really are. By understanding and properly using this principle, objects may be made to appear larger or smaller, taller or shorter. And by employing this principle in dress any woman can be made to look older or younger, shorter or taller, stouter or slenderer than she actually is.
For example, just as white shoes make large feet look much larger, so do certain lines and colors make a large figure look a great deal larger, while correct lines and colors and subtle touches give the effect of slenderness, youth and grace.
Every stout woman has, some time in her experience, come by chance upon a dress which seemed to make her look more slender 17and younger, and she has worn and worn that dress almost to shreds, hating to part with it because there was no telling when she would find another one to give that same effect.
But there is no reason why you should trust to chance in selecting becoming clothes. For if you know this simple yet all important principle of optical illusion, you can plan or make or select every item of your wardrobe with the certain knowledge that it will have a slenderizing effect on your appearance.
You can know beforehand that every dress, every coat, every hat, every garment you wear will be designed to give you height instead of width, youth instead of matronliness, slenderness and grace instead of heaviness. It doesn’t matter whether you buy your clothes ready made, have them made by a dressmaker, or make them yourself—you can always know just what to select to make your particular type of figure look as slim and well proportioned as possible.
The two vertical lines are exactly the same length—measure them and see. Short lines turned back at either end make one seem short; extended lines make the other seem longer.
These two illusions are almost duplicated in the dresses above. As a result one woman looks shorter and heavier, the other taller and slenderer than she really is.
OPTICAL ILLUSIONS—SEEING IS BELIEVING
You yourself are familiar with many optical illusions, although you may never have thought of them as such. When you look down the railroad tracks the rails appear to come together in the distance. No matter how much you tell yourself that the rails do not actually come together, the fact remains that they appear to do so. If you put the end of a stick in water it appears broken, although you know that in fact it is not broken.
The eyes in a certain portrait seem to follow you, no matter where you may go in the room in which it is hung. This illusion persists, no matter how much you may tell yourself that the eyes do not actually move. When you are on a moving train it is only by the constant succession of passing trees, posts, and landscape that you realize you are going forward. When these objects are shut off from your view by a train going in the opposite direction, you seem to be going backward. Or if you look at a moving picture taken from the front of a rapidly moving train or motor launch, it is difficult not to get the impression that you are rushing forward.
All of these are optical illusions, yet we do not think of them as illusions. They represent the natural and the normal and we make allowances for them.
The laws of illusion are more easily understood, 21perhaps, by means of simple lines than any other way. You will grasp them quickly by studying the various figures which illustrate this chapter.
Let us take a simple example to begin with having directly to do with the use of straight lines in dress. You have probably read a thousand times and heard a hundred times more that stout people must work for straight line effects and the straight line silhouette. But it is one thing to know this fact and another actually to accomplish it in your clothes. You can’t just hang a straight line down from the shoulder like a carpenter’s plumb on a door sill. You must know just where and just how to apply the straight line. You must learn to use straight lines so that they blend in with your costume—so that they give the desired effect without calling attention to the means by which it is achieved.
These unbroken parallel vertical lines give the definite impression of height. This principle, used in the design of the dress above, lends it a pleasing slender appearance because no other lines interfere with the straight line effect.
Here, also, are two vertical parallel lines. They are straight—test them—but the other lines radiating from the center, make them appear “bowed.” In the dress above a similar design makes the wearer appear stouter and heavier than she really is.
LINES THAT SLENDERIZE AND LINES THAT DON’T
It is a popular theory among folks who would dress to look slender that stripes running up-and-down are the thing to wear, while stripes running across are to be avoided. This belief, like many another old-fashioned one, is only half true. For instance, it is true that if the up-and-down stripes in your material are very fine and unobtrusive they will have the effect of making you look taller and slimmer. This, however, is not at all true of broad stripes or of stripes in a definitely contrasting color—quite the contrary, in fact. Pronounced stripes merely call attention to themselves and do not create the illusion of slenderness which is desired.
But this is only one of many points to be taken into consideration when you plan a dress with stripes or with straight up-and-down lines of any kind. For instance, the illustrations on pages 18 and 19 show two up-and-down lines of exactly the same length. Take your ruler and measure them to convince yourself. Now note the effect on these lines of the shorter lines added to each end. The inverted arrows added to the line at the left make it appear shorter than it really is. The extended lines added to the one at the right make it appear longer than it really is. Now note the two costumes on these same pages in which these principles have been applied. In the one shown on the left 25the figure looks shorter and stouter than it really is, while in designing the dress on the right the correct use of the optical illusion has been observed and the result is a slender, graceful appearance. You can readily see from these pictures how a straight line effect can be either accentuated or shortened by the lines that run out from it.
There are many ways in which a stout woman who does not know this principle can easily ruin the effect of a costume. For instance, a woman who wears a perfectly straight up-and-down dress of quite correct lines may put a large mushroom shape hat on her head and perhaps a band of fur around the bottom of her skirt. This has precisely the same effect as the arrows which are turned the wrong way and therefore shorten and widen the straight line.
“I cannot understand why I look so short and dumpy,” she wails despairingly. “My dress is made on perfectly straight up-and-down lines and yet I look fatter than ever.” Of course she does, because instead of extending the straight up-and-down line by a small upturned hat of some sort and an unobtrusive skirt hem, she has broken the line at the top and bottom and thereby shortened and widened her appearance.
These two diamond-shaped figures are exactly the same size. The crosswise line makes one seem wider, the vertical line makes the other seem narrower.
Now note how these same principles used in the dresses above effect the apparent size and weight of those wearing them, making one seem much stouter than the other.
A SIMPLE TRICK THAT TAKES OFF TWENTY POUNDS
Another point to be very careful about is the matter of uninterrupted straight lines. For instance, the small diagrams on pages 22 and 23 show two pairs of perfectly straight up-and-down parallel lines. This is probably hard for you to believe, since the lines in the right-hand figure seem to definitely bulge outwards. However, careful measurement with your ruler or a pencil will prove to you that the lines actually are as straight as those in the figure on the left. These latter, however, appear straight because they are uninterrupted and unbroken. Those at the right appear to bulge outwards merely because there are so many radiating lines running through them.
Applying this principle to clothes, you can easily see that the tall, slender effect you hoped to gain by the straight up-and-down lines of your costume may be entirely ruined if you apply trimmings of any kind which radiate outwards toward these lines. The 29dresses shown on pages 22 and 23 will prove this to you. The woman at the left with her uninterrupted, harmonious, gracefully flowing up-and-down lines looks taller, slenderer, more dignified and in every way more pleasing than the woman at the right, the radiating lines of whose gown make her figure seem to bulge outwards in a most discouraging manner.
Another striking example of optical illusion showing one reason why some look stouter than they really are is shown in the illustrations on pages 26 and 27. As in the previous examples, the two figures (diamond shape figures in this case) are, by actual measurement, exactly the same size. The horizontal line across the one at the left, however, makes it appear much wider than the one at the right with the vertical line through the center.
Now study the clothes of the two women which illustrate these illusions. Both women are holding their arms so as to give their figures a sort of diamond shape. The one at the left, however, by her broad, drooping hat, her large, bulky fur stole, the large-figured material of her tunic, and especially by the horizontal, or nearly horizontal lines of her neck, her girdle, and the band of fur on her skirt, gives herself the appearance of conspicuous stoutness.
The middle lines in the two small diagrams are the same length. But on the left, shorter accompanying lines seem to shorten the one between. On the right longer accompanying lines seem to lengthen the one between.
Now see how the woman at the left has unknowingly emphasized her stoutness while the one at the right has properly gained a slender effect by using trimming in accordance with the principles of these optical illusions.
32On the other hand, the woman at the right has designed her costume entirely on the principles of vertical lines. The tall hat with its appropriate trimming, the long, simple lines of her collar, her neck-piece, the row of tiny buttons down the front of her dress, and indeed the lines of the dress itself all conspire to give her the appearance of height, smartness, and slenderness.
MAKING YOURSELF TALLER THAN YOU ARE
By the illustrations on pages 30 and 31 you may learn the value of emphasizing a long line by the trick of placing it between two longer lines rather than between two shorter ones. As in the previous examples, the middle line in each figure is identically the same length. The one at the left, however, appears much shorter than the one at the right, because of a suggestion contained in the parallel lines which surround it.
In the dresses illustrated here, this principle is strikingly applied. The short vertical 33bands of trimming in the figure at the left make the center band seem shorter than it really is, whereas, the long vertical bands in the figure at the right make the center band seem longer than it really is. Thus, by the application of this seemingly unimportant trifle, the woman at the right seems slenderer, taller, and smarter than the one at the left.
LINES THAT SLENDERIZE TUNICS
Just one more example. The figures on pages 34 and 35 show how a longer, slimmer effect may be created by parallel lines emphasizing an oblique or slanting line. In the figure on the left the plain oblique line seems much more horizontal and wider than it does in the figure on the right where the same line, actually on the same slant, seems much longer and more graceful because of the parallel lines which break it and thereby emphasize its length.
This effect is gained by using the simple principle of optical illusion shown in the small diagram on page 35. The line running down from upper left to lower right is actually straight—test it and see. But the two perpendicular lines which break it cause it to seem to drop faster than it really does. This gives the effect of greater height and less width to the entire figure.
Note the diagonal line in the opposite diagram. It is actually straight, but the vertical lines which break it give it a “going-down-steps” appearance. This principle is used in the dress at the right—the two vertical panels of trimming break the line of the tunic and give the whole figure a more slender appearance than in the figure above.
36Dresses planned with this principle in mind will surely be more successful in their slenderizing effect, as you will see by these contrasting illustrations. The oblique line at the bottom of the tunic in the dress at the left seems almost horizontal and much wider than the same line in the figure at the right which is made to seem longer and more graceful by the parallel vertical lines of embroidery which intersect it and so emphasize its appearance of length and grace.
APPLY THESE RULES TO EVERY ITEM OF YOUR ATTIRE
There are dozens of other tricks which our eyes play on us which must be taken into account by women who want to look slender. A very careful study, therefore, of the optical illusions in this chapter will repay you many times in the matter of line, cut and pattern of every dress, wrap, hat, and pair of shoes that you buy. You must see that the facts of illusion may either work to produce an appearance of bigness or one of smallness. 37Every suggestion in this book is written with the idea of applying these essential principles of optical illusion to your dress—of producing in every case the slenderest possible effects.
SECRETS EVEN THE SLENDER WOMAN MUST KNOW
Not only very stout women, but moderately stout women, and even slender women should also bear these principles in mind, for even the slender woman can lose all the advantage of her slender silhouette and may actually appear stout by failing to dress in accordance with these optical illusions. An ill-chosen or badly-designed gown or wrap may easily give her the appearance of being many pounds heavier than she really is.
When you yourself begin planning your clothes according to these simple, though magically effective rules, you will very soon begin to find real artistic pleasure in your clothes, to say nothing of the improvement in your appearance. I am certain that you will feel about it as I did, that here at last is the only real and permanent way to look slender. For even though by strenuous efforts you are 38able actually to reduce your weight, it is not pounds, but appearance, that counts. You may know what the scales say, but other people will weigh you with the eye. Dress so you look slender and you can stop worrying about your size and weight and be as healthy, happy, and attractive as any of your slender friends.
THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE THE BIG DIFFERENCES
As I told you in Chapter I, the stout woman has a great many good points which she sometimes neglects in worrying about her main problem. This is a great mistake because after all the little things do make the big differences and there are so many little things that you can do with scarcely any effort at all which help so tremendously in gaining the effect that you want.
WATCH YOUR STEP
For instance, there is the matter of walking. I am not going to give you any definite exercises, but it is a very easy and splendid practice to try to walk with a “slipping up” step, that is, practice walking easily so that you won’t appear to weigh a thousand pounds. If you are light on your feet people will forget to guess your weight. Don’t let your body slump down, if you have this tendency. Find some exercises that you can do happily 40and comfortably, not to reduce, but to cultivate grace and ease of motion. When you are all alone in the house and nobody is looking, trip around lightly and exaggerate a light, easy step. Turn on the victrola and do your dusting to music. It will help you wonderfully in gaining that ease of motion which is attractive and pleasing and encourages youth. Always endeavor to overcome heaviness in step and movement, for it adds years both to your appearance and to your feelings. Remember that your attitude has so much to do with your good looks.
Don’t ever stand with your feet apart or your hands limp at your sides. One foot a little in front of the other gives an easier appearance and makes you seem less weighty. Make a practice of keeping your hands comfortably in front of you, never rest them on your hips wash woman fashion. Such positions broaden the silhouette and give a “set” look that is most unbecoming. A large woman with her feet spread apart and arms hanging like burdens always at her sides makes a very heavy and unattractive picture.
Don’t cross your arms. Two fat arms can look like four, if you are not careful.
41Stretch and keep yourself limber. Bend so that you are continually used to it, then your face won’t get red every time you drop your handkerchief. And right here it may be well to say that most women use up more energy than they need to and look much more undignified than they need to when they stoop to pick things up. It is neither necessary nor graceful to bend so that your back almost breaks in the middle. It is a much easier and pleasanter gesture to bend at the knees and go straight down until you can reach the object you want to pick up. In doing this you can keep your head straight up all the while and need not get red in the face at all.
WHAT YOUR POSTURE CAN DO FOR YOU
Learn to stand up straight like a soldier. Most fat women seem to have the idea that they ought to “scrooch” down and disguise their size in that way. But in this campaign to dress and be thin the back-bone must be definitely straight. Don’t hunch yourself up and look like a pillow tied in the middle. Sit straight on your chair and stand straight when you are up. Hold your head high. A constant practice of chin up makes you appear 42taller and erases in the easiest possible way any tendency towards a double chin.
Dressing up to your weight is good psychology for it keeps you alert. You hold your head a little higher and grow naturally to observe that essential rule of standing always just as tall as you possibly can. Also, your mental alertness is a safeguard against additional fat. I never knew it to fail—a definite interest in clothes, in looking one’s best, keeps the fat away. It has a sort of a rabbit-foot charm about it that really does work.
Remember continually that it isn’t the dress alone that you need watch, but every detail, for the little things can destroy the big, you know, and the principles of optical illusion must be adhered to as strictly in the little things as in the big. For instance, eyeglasses can accentuate a round face or slenderize it, depending upon their prominence and shape. Buttons can stick out and look bulky; shirtwaists when worn with different color skirts can cut you in two; and belts of different color than skirt or blouse can prove even more treacherous. Gloves or shoes that are too small give your size away. Lacy stockings 43emphasize where they shouldn’t and are as faulty as they are expensive. Before we get through with this book I hope that I can restore your pride and self-assurance and that by making the most of these little pointers you will find your back-bone right where it ought to be. You will then be able to meet the world with a smile, knowing that at last you not only feel but look better than you ever have before.
SHOES AND STOCKINGS MUST BE SELECTED WITH CARE
What kind of shoes and stockings do you wear? Not pumps, I hope, because your
Above—Neatly shod feet.
Left—Low cut pumps and single strap emphasize fat. Heavy shoes have too much decoration.
Stockings must always be on straight and well held up, and shoes must fit. Straps that hold firmly are more effective than those that are narrow and less restraining. Heavy shoes should be plain in design. Skirts should always be long enough to cover the largest part of the leg below the knee.
44weight is too great to be comfortable in them, and besides if you have studied the principles of optical illusion as carefully as you should have, you will realize that pumps will not give you the harmonious effect that you want to achieve in your costume. A bulge is sure to show at the top which is not only uncomfortable for you but shows in itself that you are fat. Wear a strap or laced slipper—any kind that is in good taste, big enough, and not too heavy. Heavy shoes on a stout woman interfere with lightness of movement which is something for which you must continually strive.
Unless you have very attractive, well-proportioned feet, do not attempt to decorate the bottom of your dress, for it will not only shorten you but will call attention to your feet. If they are very small they make the body appear larger and if the ankles are large they give an undesirable heaviness, so that the very best way, in any event, is not to call attention to them.
Many authorities say that a black sheer stocking is the very best that a stout woman can wear, that a heavy black or dark colored stocking is conspicuous, and a light stocking 45is “taboo” because it breaks the height and interferes with the straight line effect. So choose sheer stockings, but don’t hesitate to buy “out” sizes if you need them. If they are big enough over the knees they will fit better around the ankles. I know some big women who refuse to buy “out” size stockings because they are ashamed to go in and ask for them, and I know some medium slender women who buy them because they think they last longer. So pretend that you are medium slender and buy them if they are more comfortable.
Round necklines emphasize width. Even though tempting, they are taboo for those who would slenderize. Long necklines are always pleasing and are of many variations. A close study of current fashion books will give ideas that can always be accentuated in length without outstepping Fashion dictation.
NECKLINES ARE SLENDERIZED BY CORRECT JEWELRY AND COLLARS
We big women usually have some one who loves us enough to give us jewelry and we in turn love them enough to want to wear it on every occasion. If it doesn’t express slenderness—if it’s a big cameo or a heavy pair of earrings or a string of round marble beads, especially in dog collar arrangement—put it away and forget where you put it. Wear such jewelry some morning when no one is looking; have your own little “revelry” and have it over with, for such jewelry puts on more pounds than entire boxes of candy and makes us look like jeweled couch cushions, which we can never afford to do.
A necklace that is slender, well made, and with a tendency to plainness is a real asset to a stout woman as it helps the collar line, slenderizes the face, and gives the appearance of length over the front that is pleasing, but avoid by all means heavy crystals and don’t ever wear beads unless they give a definitely desirable lengthening effect.
Watch your collars closely. Work for slenderness and becomingness. Avoid all 47neck lines that go around or that are conspicuously colored. A cream collar is always better than a snow white one and a soft piqué or linen collar is better than a starched one. Remember that long string ribbon ties can be real friends if you will let them. Tailor your collars or use soft lace that is not baby looking. We big folks must always keep away from babyishness, must learn to stand on our own two feet and look straight ahead toward the goal of slenderness.
Gloves, purses and necklaces need to be chosen with infinite care to aid in slenderizing. Link chains, cords, fine pearls or small oblong beads are best as necklaces. Slender flat purses are desirable and neat, well-fitting gloves necessary.
PURSES, FANS AND OTHER ACCESSORIES
Pocketbooks and purse bags must be slender, never round or bulky looking, and must 48always harmonize with the dress and never be conspicuously colored. Remember too, not to let your bag dangle awkwardly from your hand or add to your width by the way you carry it. Let it be a part of the line of your costume just as it is in harmony with the color.
Graceful fans of subdued colors often aid in a pleasing gracefulness, but little fans allow of an uncomplimentary comparison, just as do small, gay parasols.
Fat fingers are shortened and made more fat by heavy rings.
Earrings widen the face. Sometimes a slender face accompanies a broad body. In such a case, earrings are an advantage if they are appropriate and graceful.
Jeweled belts, conspicuous in ornamentation, must all be given away to willowy friends, because they could prove helpful to them and a menace to you.
NEATNESS AND CLEANLINESS ARE ESSENTIAL
Once when I was writing a book on dress, a fashion authority and personal friend insisted that I should not put in a chapter on cleanliness, which I wanted very much to 49use, saying that it “put an ugly frame on an otherwise beautiful picture.” But personal cleanliness and careful grooming to my mind are so necessary that no book on dress would be complete without them.
We may not have beautiful clothes, and may grieve that we are not willowy enough to wear the smart extremes in dress, but our grieving is totally unnecessary. We can learn truly to be as attractive, as admirable as our slender sisters if we set out with the will and determination to express perfection so far as our ability and intelligence will allow. A fresh bath, some bath talcum, clean, well-fitting underthings, neat, good-looking shoes, and modest stockings can give an enhancing foundation for the dress we have so carefully planned. And when we are spic and span from the inside out we are sure to dress with more dignity, more poise, than we possibly could otherwise.
COSMETICS EITHER ADD OR DETRACT
Thick lips should never wear rouge, and black eyebrows should never be blackened; neither should a pale, grayed face be surrounded by a dull gray or black hat. This 50is all out of key and attracts unnecessary attention. We must express some color tone, just as we do personality, but it must be subtle or vivacious, discreet or bold, and in both cases must be individually becoming.
If the eyes are dull in color, do not wear bright colors on your hats for the eyes lose in comparison, and eyes can always express friendly happiness and individuality if we surround them properly.
Avoid a shiny nose as you would the Plague.
Beware of oily creams. Remember an astringent reduces and controls and that 99 cases out of a hundred need oilless creams rather than oily ones. Beware of rouge. Your face usually will have color enough. If it hasn’t, use it, oh, so wisely.
Study your face carefully, experiment with color in front of an honest mirror that is placed in full day light. Rouge and powder rightly applied can narrow the face and prove very advantageous, so experiment and put the color just where you need it, but don’t put on any until you have picked up a couple of things from the floor and walked around the room quickly at least twice. Work to look 51immaculate. It is so much more becoming. Baby faces and full proportioned bodies don’t go well together, and harmony we must have throughout this program.
If your forehead is low, powder the forehead generously and comb the hair back as much as becomingness will allow. This will tend to add height to the body and length to the face.
It is said that a large woman is usually very dainty in her habits just as a large man invariably has a very tiny, neat signature, so let it be an asset, and be dainty about your use of cosmetics. It is so much more pleasing than an extravagant use could ever be.
THINK OF THESE LITTLE THINGS BEFOREHAND
Buy a few things and have everything right. Think of all of your wardrobe at one time. Be sure that everything goes together agreeably. Take care to keep every part of your clothing in good repair and immaculately clean. Every woman can gain a reputation for being well dressed if she remembers not to be haphazard in buying, wearing, and caring for her clothes. If you have any of these habits, come, let us talk them over confidentially, 52because I, too, have had to learn by sheer necessity to overcome, one by one, these very expensive, annoying tendencies, and the only way I succeeded was to learn, as a matter of habit, to hang things up carefully when I took them off, to make sure that dress shields were in place, and to take special care to have everything in right shape when it was time to dress.
Take very special pains to have all supporters securely fastened, stockings on straight, and each garment rightly in place, for neatness in dress is more essential for us than almost any other thing. In fact, fastidious care of person and clothes is one feature which requires constant vigilance.
Avoid every tendency toward over dress. Don’t trim yourself too much. Modesty, simplicity—intricate simplicity perhaps, but a beautiful simplicity—is a definite part of our program and must be followed out religiously to conceal at all times an extra 30 or 40 pounds.
Be sure that the brassiere and corset overlap at their joining. The brassiere should come over the corset a good 2 inches to insure its holding. If the abdomen is full or stomach 53high, supporters fastened to the brassiere at the front are an advantage.
Never allow your shoes to squeak or your gloves to pinch in their tightness. Never allow a spot to show on any garment. Be immaculate, work at it, keep at it, for you, you know, have a definite purpose that must be achieved.
FOUNDATIONS THAT SLENDERIZE
Although this is termed the corsetless era, the best dressed women are still wearing corsets and will continue to wear them because they realize the necessity of retaining lovely curves and lines. When the slender woman is careful about her corset, what must the responsibility be of the large woman? It is just this—that she must wear a corset—that she must select it with such care and have it fitted with such perfection that even she can forget it once it is on. No evidence of a corset is ever seen on a correctly dressed woman.
THE ART OF SELECTING YOUR CORSET
Wear corsets for comfort and perfection in dress, not with the thought that they will reduce. Remember that you always need your wits and all the alacrity of thought you can master and a too tight corset paralyzes both.
Read with me through this section because here you will get some real help and be able 56to apparently reduce your hip measure two inches and your bust possibly six.
Do you know that when your corset is a 28 waist or over you are counted by the corset manufacturers in the stout class? That seems absurd. One would think they would wait at least until the measurement was 30 or 32 before calling one stout, but since this is so, no one need be sensitive about ordering a size that is right. That means large enough usually, for you have a long range—26 to 46 waist measurement—so buy a corset that is big enough, that allows the flesh to rest comfortably yet be properly controlled. Tight corsets are a menace as are tight brassieres, and by packing the flesh in a fixed position, grace of movement is destroyed and you are made to appear actually larger than you are.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOUR CORSET FITS EXACTLY
Don’t ever let your modesty or your pride keep you from being fitted properly. All merchants and corsetieres expect to fit the corsets they sell. They know their stock better than you do, and realize that a proper corset 57can definitely and permanently help in correcting line, moulding it easily and gracefully, making a satisfied customer for them. A full proportioned figure is ugly only when it runs over. Graceful, even curves are pleasing to see, and we big folk can make our own curves graceful if we will.
Your corset should be long enough to hold the flesh securely and evenly. But the front stays must be short enough to allow you to sit and bend comfortably.
Always sit down in your corset when it is being fitted to make sure that the stays in the front are not too long. They may be shortened easily and are much better, because you cannot comfortably sit rared back as you must when the stays are too long.
“A” illustrates a corset long over the hips and with elastic inserts at the waistline, suitable for a medium figure.
“B” shows a heavier type suitable for short figures that require considerable support.
“C” shows a very comfortable and practical corset suitable to medium large figures.
“D” shows the front and back of a girdle corset with elastic inserts. This gives a youthful line, particularly suited to the athletic type.
Rubber, or silk and rubber corsets or combination corsets and brassieres give a smooth outline and often are graceful and becoming. When new they reduce the hips two to three inches. Be sure to have them fitted properly. If too small, they are very uncomfortable; if too large, useless.
Corsets that lace or fasten in the front give a smoother back and are more easy to adjust than are back lace corsets. Their height, length, elasticity and weight must be considered in buying and fitting, so that your corset when on is in nowise evident to you in feeling or to the eye. A corset does not fit correctly if the line of either top or bottom is visible when the dress is on. Corsets should be kept in perfect repair and discarded when their line is lost.
WHICH IS YOUR TYPE OF CORSET?
Some corset folks say there are eleven types of women to fit, others nine, others six. But, in general, these are the usual types:
Mrs. Brown is big in the hips and small in the bust. For her type of figure a corset low above the waist, long in the hips—front laced, is best. Supple corsets, long in the back, are a preventative against a large back and help to slenderize. They should, therefore, be worn as long as grace and comfort will allow. If they are too short, a roll of fat will form around where they terminate and cause you to lose the easy curve that even big folks can be proud of. Mrs. Brown should also have a slip to wear over the corset in preference to a brassiere. The slip should be semifitted, shaped over the hips so that not a wrinkle or line will show.
Mrs. Jones—another stout type—is normal size but large in the abdomen. She should have a corset fitted close over the hips, but not tight in the waist, allowing the fat to drop down in the top of the corset and find a comfortable resting place. A brassiere that is long in the front should be worn.
61A square shoulder, broad hip type of figure needs a deep girdle—an elastic one is best—one that is low in the waist, snug and straight over the hips with an easy fitting boyish form brassiere.
THE BEST KIND OF BRASSIERE FOR YOU
“And what is a boyish form brassiere?” you ask. A straight piece of material with the darts coming down from the top in the front. You can make one for yourself in a few minutes. For a fashionable line across the bust don’t ever dart from the waistline up, as we have been doing in the past. For when you do, the fullness is pushed up under the chin, as it were, and actually will add six inches to the bust measure. If you are small in the waist and large in the hips, you can, by right corseting and “brassiering” cause some of the fat of the hips and abdomen to come up slightly, thus acquiring a more slender and better balanced effect. But as a general rule, let your watchword be: Distribute the fat comfortably and correctly. Don’t crowd it or push it here and there. Your face, your disposition, and your figure as well will show it if you do. You can’t be uncomfortable and be well poised.
Brassieres are as necessary as corsets. They should never be so tight as to bind, but always close enough to give a smooth outer line. They must always be high enough to confine the bust perfectly and long enough to come down well over the corset so that an unbroken waistline is attained.
Darts at the tops of brassieres give good bust control and hold the garment in correct position on the figure.
63Hunt for the “large above the waist” figure. If the bust is very low, be sure to wear a brassiere that lifts up slightly and confines comfortably. Youth in its greatest perfection can have unconfined busts; older women, especially large women, should take care that no shaping of the bust is discernible. If V necks are becoming and the bust is full, provide a band of ribbon or a double fold of Georgette and wear it over the brassiere, pinning it tight and high around the figure. This will conceal the crease between the busts.
Finally, don’t fail, when you are being fitted in your corset, to stand up in front of a mirror, walk right up and “shoulder arms” and survey yourself. The corsetiere is sure to be stout. Who ever saw a thin one? She will sympathize with you and be patient. Try on her best models—not her silkiest ones, but her best designed ones. Sit down, stand up, bend over. Buy the one that shows the least red in your face when you bend. Be sure it has plenty of supporters.
Left—Corselettes may be worn by large women having firm flesh, the “athletic type,” but exercise must go with them to prevent an accumulation of flesh that is sure to occur when the body is unconfined.
Right—Brassieres for evening wear may have a firm band of ribbon sewed tight to the top and this brought around and pinned securely at the center back. Drawing this close will insure the garments staying up properly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SMOOTH, PERFECT FITTING UNDERTHINGS
Put your corset under your arm, stop and buy 2½ yards of 40–inch nainsook or crêpe de Chine, go home and make yourself a combination slip. This is to be worn over your corset and brassiere and will give a perfectly smooth foundation for your dresses. Remember that your corset, brassiere, and slip must be so well fitted that no bumps or hangovers will be evident.
We fat women—and I don’t know why—have a natural hankering for lacy underwear, and that hankering is just as uncontrollable as our appetite for luscious bonbons. I do not intend to tell you that you can’t have lovely undergarments, but you must make sure that the lace or trimming is put where it cannot bulge out.
Knitted underwear fits best, but you needn’t wear just the most ordinary kind, because with a little ingenuity a plain, inexpensive piece can be bought and trimmed attractively with bands or strips of lace, straight line fashion, so that they will have a dainty, handmade look and yet be as smooth and straight on the body as can be. Combination suits similar to those illustrated are suggested for slenderness. If you have ruffles on any that you have in the dresser drawer, take them off. Press out the ruffles and stitch the bands on plain. Don’t indulge in ruffles!
A variety of slips are shown. The one at the left has a 2–inch band of fine net at top and bottom. This as a substitute for lace is quite as dainty and less bulky.
For a full bust, the diagonal darts at the right are advantageous, as they make possible a straight slim skirt.
For your slips remember that stripes partially concealed are effective yet unobtrusive, as for example, a striped slip under a plain voile or georgette dress. If you are broad through the shoulders, shape the slip to reduce the width. Deep hems make extra petticoats unnecessary. Fulness in a slip is essential, otherwise the garment will pull up when you sit down, making you seem stouter than you are. An inverted plait at the center back or at the sides is the best way to add fulness.
In selecting underwear, choose light-weight, smooth, close-fitting garments—fine knitted ones or those of softest muslin.
A shirt and bloomers are preferred by some—others, the straight combination. Select that which suits you best, but keep in mind the essentials of slenderness.
69Omit all draw ribbons at the top of lingerie. Use tiny lengthwise darts to fit the garments close and smooth.
For the same reasons, omit all gathers at the waistline. Fit the garment so smooth that not a wrinkle or line is visible when the dress is on.
By following these really simple rules in regard to your underthings you are ready to give your attention to the part of your costume which shows; namely, dress, wrap, and hat, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that these are the only things that show. For without smooth, perfectly fitting underwear, corset, brassiere and slip, your outer garments cannot possibly give you that appearance of sylph-like slenderness which is your goal.
CARDINAL RULES FOR DRESSES THAT CAMOUFLAGE SIZE
We will now assume that right corsets and slips have been acquired, that you see and realize the possibilities of optical illusions and that a keen desire is evident to avoid, overcome, and correct every fault that hinders a right expression of clothes. I use the word “right” in a broad sense, because in working to look slender in dress you will necessarily achieve a happy degree of perfection that will prove quite as much of an asset as the appearance of slenderness.
I know you are eager for the start to actual rules and formulas, but first we must acquire enough “feeling” for line, color, and fabric to use the three wisely. The most economical way to do this is to start with what you have on hand.
REMODELING YOUR PRESENT WARDROBE
To the closet now.
Take out your big-figured dress. Every large woman owns a figured dress of some 72kind. There is something different about you if you haven’t one. I don’t know why, but evidently we all have felt that we might get lost in the expanse of the pattern and become less conspicuous.
Take time to put this figured dress on so that you won’t get red in the face doing it. Yes, you will find it is too short waisted; the sleeves are too short, the neck is too high, the skirt too full. You hated to admit that you needed a 44 pattern so used a 42 and allowed a little extra room across the hips. (I know just how you felt, for I have done the same thing myself).
Now survey yourself in front of the mirror.
You haven’t any goods like the dress, so you must add something to it. For a figured dress of Georgette or silk, plain color Georgette is suggested. See on page 73 how the sleeves are lengthened by a deep cuff, the collar effect lowered by a scarf, the waist let down and made looser by means of the excess material in the skirt.
Here is a large-figured dress remodeled to give it length lines and a more slender appearance. The neckline has been changed, the heavy prominent girdle removed and a narrow belt substituted, the waistline dropped, the sleeves lengthened and a scarf of plain material added.
74Next, try on that plain tailored dress that you have been planning to rip up or give away. If it has an out of style waistline or heavily braided revers, make up your mind to sacrifice them now—to rip apart and to take off the revers. Consider some black satin if the dress is dark blue, or some white piqué if white is becoming, and think of the improvement some long, slim revers and some dainty turn-back cuffs will make.
Take the belts or waistlines off the separate skirts that you own and visualize how some plain boyish form brassieres as camisole tops for these skirts will improve them, joined as shown on page 75 in either one of the ways suggested. Your blouses may be worn over these. By this method you may not be able to camouflage the size so readily but you can decrease the appearance of years by a considerable amount. Isn’t it easy to see that on page 77 the silhouette on the right is years younger than that on the left?
Try on all the dresses you have. Consider the tightness of the waist and the length of it. Look once again at the little figures in Chapter II that illustrate so well the laws of optical illusion. Remember that if you are fat in the back your dress must have some kind of a neckline trimming or scarf collar, long and slim as on page 79. This makes a lovely addition to any dress.
Camisole tops are advantageous and will allow a skirt to appear easy on the figure.
For wrap-around skirts always allow fulness by panels or concealed plaits so that your skirt will not stretch unshapely when you sit.
76After you have had this little seance with yourself in the fittings, get out your dress form, wrap it with cotton, cloth or soft tissue paper until it is as big as you are, put a straight line lining over it that fits you easily and yet perfectly, then put your dresses on it. Loosen them at the waist, ease the sleeves if necessary and work to add a little youth, a little smartness, a little trimness by means of additional materials used in a wholly intelligent way.
SELECTING NEW CLOTHES THAT WILL SLENDERIZE YOU
Now that we have improved the clothes on hand, let us think about the purchase or making of new ones.
If you make your own clothes you can work out the points for yourself as you adopt them. If you have a dressmaker, gain her cooperation. She may not understand the principles of “optical illusion,” but she will be delighted to have suggestions that tend to slenderize, and I am sure she will work with you happily in carrying out the ideas and instructions given.
A shirt waist dress, when all of one color, is often becoming, but the lines must all point downward and the waist line must be straight and easy.
In remodeling, as you see, a new collar has been provided, the shoulder shortened, fulness cut out at the shoulder, cuff narrowed to allow the sleeves to be lifted, the belt opened and lined to give ease and width.
The skirt was shortened at the top and attached to a camisole brassiere. The fulness of the skirt was brought around and tucked to give desired length line.
78Before buying a new dress, suit, or wrap, study fashion pictures, dozens of them, and try to determine how your type should express the “new” in fashions. Choose what you like best in the new mode, cut out the pictures from the magazines and fashion publications, go over them carefully again and again, and determine by study and elimination what dress and wrap will give the best result for the money spent.
As an aid in obtaining other valuable pointers, when you go into the shops to try on new dresses, observe the saleswoman very closely.
She may not understand either what you mean by “optical illusion,” but if you understand the principles you can get a great deal of help from her for she will let you know at once what is out of proportion in your figure, what there is about your shape that doesn’t correspond to their models. She will invariably say, “I am afraid your hips are too big for that dress,” or “We have only a few dresses that will fit you. You are too large in the bust for that,” etc. Now, keep your disposition and listen, then determine to go home and concentrate upon making less conspicuous the part that strikes her as being out of proportion. Remarkable improvements may be made in this way and the “hardened” saleswoman can truly be of service, for she, unlike your friends, is not inclined to flattery unless she has visions of a sale.
Even in a surplice waist, length can be attained, as the illustration shows. Sleeve trimmings should be avoided that come even with the waist line. As you see, they give width where length is needed. Heavy stiff trimmings are difficult and must be very smart to be attractive. The softer, more slender the trimming, the better usually. Skirts should be designed to be free of flare.
Current fashions are always whimsical but back of every dress or underneath it is a foundation that makes the skeleton of the dress. This you must observe in every pattern you use or dress you buy. The trimming you can vary to suit your needs in slenderness, but your foundation lines must be suitable if you use trimming.
A variety of dresses are given, shown on the opposite page—the waist line dress, the narrow panel front, the wide panel front, the draped side line, and the tunic line. These represent good foundations and are in themselves slenderizing, providing you adhere to the code of long lines and simplicity in decoration and ornament.
82Only careless persons can afford to buy clothes haphazardly. Even the slender woman thinks about them and plans about them. And just consider what a corps of helpers she has! A thousand hands to work to make modish clothes for the perfect 36, while only a dozen in proportion are working for us big folk! So it is easy to see why we must learn for ourselves what we can and cannot wear, what to emphasize and subdue. “We cannot eat our cake and have it too,” is a line familiar to us all. We can’t enjoy our pounds unless we work to dress them so that their number is not even surmised, let alone accurately guessed.
One clever woman I know, capable of making her own frocks and coats as well, visits the exclusive shops, buys the most becoming, simple dress that she finds, often paying as much as $200 for it. This she copies in other shades and materials, developing three or four distinctly becoming dresses at far less cost than the original gown. By averaging 83up she has modestly priced frocks, all smart, in good taste, and wearable.
I have always said that if I should ever go into the dress business, it would be to make slender dresses for big folks, and I would employ all big women to sell them, because, as I said about our jolly big friend, the corsetiere, she has an understanding heart, knows how difficult it is to find dresses that have enough youth, enough value in line, and are sufficiently becoming to us who tip the scales to any great degree. And she would lend aid to the discouraged soul that needs to seek and try, experiment and insist until she finds that which is becoming.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SURPLICE FRONTS
When the bust is full and the skirt length is short it is wise to use a panel effect in the front and let the belt or waistline finish extend around from side to side across the back, thus leaving an unbroken front line. As a rule, the large figure looks best in a very long waistline, but this does not apply to such proportions as these.
It is always wise for this type to beware of surplice front dresses. The mature figure, 84flat in front, can wear a surplice very well and often it serves to relieve an undesirable plainness. Many fashion artists, when they draw full bust figures, take special pains to put in surplice fronts, but experience will teach that it is very difficult to duplicate in fabric the easy, smooth curve indicated by the pencil.
A panel front is always more desirable than a surplice for figures full in the bust. The seams provide a good fitting line and make darts unnecessary.
Surplice fronts are as difficult for a very full bust as are plain backs on fat shoulders. If your back is full and round, remember to use tucks, bands, folds, plaits, or something that will definitely break the width. Panels 85also help, so don’t be afraid to use them. Big backs broken in width are far more pleasing than broad expanses that know no termination. Remember the panel can befriend you, so keep it close but only when it can compliment you. If your back is fat and wide looking after you finish with this book, it is your own fault, for on page 87 you can see six simple ways of creating an optical illusion by lines that make the back less wide in appearance.
SLEEVES FOR LARGE ARMS
If your arms are fat, don’t wear long shoulder dresses or kimono sleeves. They just aren’t meant for you. From point of style, becomingness, service, they will fail you all the way. On the other hand, don’t overdo narrow shoulders. Strike a happy medium.
Upper arms that are larger than the armhole are quite common, and the mistake is often made of fitting the armhole to the sleeve rather than the sleeve to the armhole. Have the armhole comfortable and smooth and set a gusset in the sleeves or increase the seams in cutting from the armhole to the elbow.
We can smile and aid our front, our back must always protect us by being at least inoffensive and pleasing.
Here are six ways to slenderize backs of dresses. Study them, find that which becomes you best. Once you have found your line, hold to it, but trim or effect it differently so that there is interest and variety. Observe Fashion illustrations carefully for backs with interesting length lines, and don’t allow yourself to forget that they are just as important as the front in achieving slenderness.
Remember that fulness at the hips is advisable, both as a protection to the dress and to insure more grace in sitting. A dress that draws up on the figure is always to be avoided.
88I know a woman who was wearing size 44 dresses that hung on her unattractively and heavily. She said that she couldn’t get her arms into the sleeves of size 40 or 42 models. A wise saleswoman ripped the sleeve seams, inserted gussets and moulded her beautifully into a tailored frock size 40. Since then she looks 20 pounds lighter, all because of this little adjustment.
A bias sleeve is sometimes a distinct advantage for a stout arm. Take flannel or the heavy crêpes. A “tight as the skin” sleeve may be fitted that has “give” enough for comfort, yet not a quarter of an inch surplus. This type of sleeve is not suitable to flimsy materials, but very good for the firmer fabrics and is sometimes economical for cutting, as often the sleeve pattern can be placed on a true bias grain to advantage.
There are many details in sleeves to consider when you want to appear smaller than you actually are. Your success is due largely to your knowledge and its right application. So watch, look, and listen for every hint that will aid you in expressing perfection. It is attainable, and every achievement will stimulate greater desire and effort.
Years ago, in fitting a well-to-do woman, who was very “heavy set” in mind as well as in 89body, I remember that she would insist upon drawing her arms up, crossing them over her ample bosom and saying that the armhole was too tight and that more and more must be trimmed out until her waist was unbalanced—narrower across the front than it should be, wholly deforming the dress. No dress can be beautiful if it is out of balance; it is contrary to every rule of right design.
(Left)—A gusset at the under arm (left) is advisable when the arm is larger than the armhole.
(Center)—Sleeves cut on the true bias, as shown, are often advantageous when very close-fitting sleeves are desired.
(Right)—Beware of dresses that are too narrow across the chest. They always make the bust appear larger.
I know one clever designer who makes for her larger customers a very firm net foundation waist with low square neck in front and back and close-fitting sleeves that extend almost to the elbow. In this she puts the dress shields. This net foundation, especially the sleeve part, protects the dress, makes it last a third longer, and has the advantage of confining the arms slightly.
Measure and find out if it is your arms or your body you “need to treat” in slenderizing. Sometimes very large arms accompany medium bust measurements and vice versa. Knowing this makes for a wiser use of line.
If your arms are small in proportion to the bust, as in “A,” use a normal shoulder line.
If they are large in proportion to your bust, as in “B,” cut the shoulder high.
If arms and bust are large, use a length line on the sleeves, as in “C.”
A foundation lining of net that holds the sleeve is often advisable for sheer dresses. Elastic should hold it at the waist. The bottom of the sleeves and the neck may be bound or picoted.
SLENDERIZING FLESHY SHOULDERS
Large shoulders are a problem because they can appear quite as full as the bust and by the roundness add years, which, of course, nobody wants. A collar that is just right in depth, not too deep or too short in the back, is the first essential. For your individual type, you must make experiments. Take a piece of muslin or paper and cut out modish collars that you think would be becoming to you. Then try them on with two mirrors and view the back, front, and sides, examining well down past the waistline, because the collar line and belt line must always agree. 92Turn under the collar edge, add to it, and after careful observation, do what your eye tells you is best. Never let your collar be so long as to look like a cape unless it is a cape; and don’t let it be of a length or size to lie up on your back like a doily on a table. Attach it—have it there for a purpose, that of giving a correct and becoming line.
Let your collar aid you. Beware of collars (like those at the left) that widen the shoulders or that cushion the back.
Fashion often allows of back collar trimmings that are both slenderizing and becoming, such as those at the right. Hunt for them, then use them wisely.
If you are full in the back, don’t wear shoulder capes or bertha collars. Never wear heavy collars or babyish lace or ribbon, and avoid collars of vivid color that contrast definitely in color with that of your dress.
DISGUISING WEIGHT FROM THE WAISTLINE DOWN
The first importance for a figure with most of the weight below the waist is the design 93and trimming of the sleeves. It is a weakness in which we must never indulge to plan for what should be graceful flowing sleeves, but which usually turn out to be a tragedy of adding pounds to pounds. In summer time and for evening wear, the sleeve may fit easily but without flare and reach to a point just above the elbow, provided there is no trimming feature or cuff. For all other types of dresses the long, close-fitting sleeve is wisest. By adding to or taking from the length of sleeves, emphasis may be given to any part of the body from the hip line up, as the bottom of a sleeve is naturally a line which will attract the eye, so that if this is in the wrong position it is easy to imagine the result. Experiment with this feature, and convince yourself of the truth of the statement.
Some big women have a full abdomen like a man, which causes their skirts to hike out at the bottom like ill-fitting maternity clothes. For this type, correct maternity line dresses are best. A bodice waist that is long in the front should be used. The skirt is attached to this quite low in front, then side panels are applied to give a correct balance and to widen the figure at the side.
94A variation of this figure has the full diaphragm but a flat appearance just at the front of the hip bones. This type is recognized as difficult to fit, although it is easily possible to conceal both points satisfactorily.
First, the full front figure must mask its size by long collars, panels, plaits, or some flat trimming, bringing these down so that, if possible, they may aid the hollow sides. Here again a thorough knowledge of the laws of optical illusion will stand you in good stead. If your skirt still pokes out at the hem in the center front, follow the suggestion given previously and provide a corset that laces in front and that laces up so that the abdomen is held in, also one that is loose enough at the waist line to allow the flesh to rest up in it. A few suggestions are illustrated that may be applied in making a new dress or in correcting one that you have—or in perfecting a plain dress that you might purchase.
Oftentimes, a full abdomen has as an accomplice a sway back. For this, a panel in the back that hangs from the shoulder and that is caught at or below the belt line in the back is advantageous. A slightly low belt line is also desirable.
When the bust is large and the hips are small, lines as shown at the left are becoming. A V-line in the vest may also be used if the bust is not too high.
If the figure is large and evenly proportioned, a definite centered lengthwise line, as shown in the second design, will break the width.
If the waist is short and the skirt long, length lines, as at the right, carried down on the skirt will balance better and detract from the short waist. The neck line of this dress allows for a small brooch or bar pin.
96Frequently, large figures—though this is also common to slender folk—find that the back skirt length measure is shorter than the front. Elderly folk, especially, find this trouble where the bust has shrunken or is small in proportion to the hips. For such types straight line dresses with a belt line across the back, or a narrow sash belt that ties at the side, are advisable. Long collars are also efficacious, and scarf collars particularly so.
NECKLINES MAKE A TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE
In order to counteract the roundness of the face, and provide some contrast for its fullness, it is usually best to decide upon a neckline emphasizing angles, not curves. Always have the dress cut well up at the back but dropping down with straight lines to a deep V or square. It is wise to have the neckline cut low and fill in the opening with sheer Georgette, batiste or lace in an inconspicuous color, such as delicate flesh or deep cream.
The short stout figure with a short neck and medium small head is one type of stout that can wear a U neck or a slightly rounding neck line becomingly. Such a neck makes the head and neck appear larger and gives a good balance.
For sway backs or figures that curve in definitely at the back waistline, a broken panel, as at left, is often advisable. It is especially desirable if the figure is tall or very large.
An interesting lengthwise trimming is shown in the central figure. Such a line can be attained in contrasting or harmonizing fabric or with embroidery tucking or plain stitching, and is adaptable to tailored or sports clothes. Full front figures will find this line especially advantageous.
Very wide or large figures will see merit in side panels that divide the front in three, as shown at the right. Such a design allows for a close-fitting foundation dress and is especially suited to older women.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE SLENDERIZING TRIMMINGS
Think long and carefully about trimmings because a misuse of decoration can mar the lines of an otherwise becoming gown.
Trimming, judiciously placed, will add to the appearance of smartness and may by its position break a wide plain surface into two or perhaps three spaces, adding with each line another point to our illusion of slenderness.
It is essential that trimming be placed so as to emphasize length, but do not make the mistake of applying it indiscriminately, but rather, to draw attention to a closing, or to finish the edge of a panel or for some similar useful purpose.
Never use a large figured trimming or a bright colored banding. Plaids, big polka dots, pronounced stripes, heavily embroidered fabrics or “gew gaws” are not for the big woman. Strive for distinctive line which is, in itself, simple. Wear as good quality fabric as your purse can buy, but be modest about 99your size and any decoration you employ. Quantities of string beads are to be avoided, too, as should anything which will make the wearer conspicuous.
Self fabrics, that is, the material of which the dress is made, is always good. It may be tucked or plaited and inserted between cut edges, applied as a band, or it may be used to form a cord, which in turn forms ornament of various sizes and shapes.
Small patterned laces in the wider widths are appropriate too, and add richness and dignity to clothes intended for dress up occasions. Lace should never be shirred because, as I have already told you, the stout woman can never afford to be frivolous in her dress, and ruffled lace would certainly make her so.
Plaited panels are good, but these should always be held close to the dress by the use of a French tuck from two to three inches long.
The groups of vertical lines are always an effective means of increasing height while the long tab will help to keep the panel from flying out as one walks.
Ribbon banding is effective both when stretched flat and when used to form sash ends 100or ties. Such finishes must be generous in length, otherwise they will add to, rather than detract from width.
If foundation linings are used, plan them as carefully as the dress itself. They must be easy yet fitted to perfection. They must also be designed especially for the dress so that they will support but not hinder the outer line at any point.
HELPFUL HINTS FROM A LEADING NEW YORK DESIGNER
A designer in one of the big New York houses when asked as to her success in designing becoming dresses for large women gave these few valuable rules:
“I never use sheer flimsy material. If I 101must use lace, I weight it so that it is as heavy as any fabric.
“I never use coarse stiff material—the softer and weightier the better.
“I rarely use fabrics with luster or with big design.
“I never use pure colors. I use shades chiefly, very seldom a tint, unless it is a cream tint. I avoid all white for my large customers. We see enough big men dressed up in white to know how much it increases size.
“I always make a foundation slip, smooth, sleek and close fitting. In this I sew the sleeves. My dress is made separate and hangs easier and straighter than it possibly could if it had the sleeves to hamper it. Then, too, the dress lasts longer, which is a distinct advantage.
“I give special attention to my customer’s hats, shoes and corsets. All must be right for her or my dress cannot be a success.
“Often if I find a model that is definitely becoming, I vary it in different materials and colors, often making madam a half dozen beautiful gowns from the one block. Why not, if it is most becoming to her?”
ESSENTIAL POINTS IN CUTTING AND FITTING
There are many skilful tricks in dressmaking that are advantageous to the overweight figure. For instance, the shoulder dart allows ease over the bust, makes a more comfortable shoulder, and permits of a close fitting sleeve. It also prevents sagging of the dress at the underarm, giving a neat good fitting effect. Don’t avoid or “detest” darts; learn to use them so that you get the greatest possible advantage from them. Watch an adept dressmaker smooth the material around and slip out the dart in a line over the bust that fits smoothly and easily. Only carelessly fitted and stitched darts are unattractive.
THE HELPFULNESS OF DARTS IN CERTAIN PLACES
The crosswise armhole dart, too, has its advantages but is not good for a broad shouldered or short figure as it widens the shoulder and cuts the height, unless it is wisely made on a bias grain to slant down so that a crosswise line is avoided.
Darts are necessary for round figures, especially the underarm dart as shown at the right center above. They are often advantageous for flat figures, as at the left. They can, when wisely used, add much to the attractiveness of a garment. Don’t use them, however, unless for a specific purpose and slant them so that they give length rather than breadth.
Diagonal or bias lines such as shown at the right often are employed for smart effect. They can slenderize, are distinctive and youthful, especially if subdued stripes or twilled fabric is used.
Rounding shoulders often need a few gathers at the neck line in the back, as shown in the lower figure. Such gathers eased in insure a better fitting, more comfortable collar line.
105The underarm dart is often used with a shoulder dart, especially for very full busts. This helps to shape the material over the bust easily and to give a smooth, straight underarm seam. Sometimes a dart is used on the back seam as well as the front in cases where the back is fat and round. In any event, fit your dress so that the underarm seam does not drag, and so that the crosswise grain of the material is parallel with the belt line.
The hip dart helps to fit the skirt by providing a means of lifting the fabric at the sides. If the hips are straight and not curving to any extent, only a slight dart, if any, is necessary. But for large figures a hip dart is desirable, especially for one-piece dresses. It should be brought up so that the skirt hangs evenly all the way at the bottom. Arrange the dart so that it comes directly over the hip or under the narrow belt or waistline trimming. Remember that the larger the hip, the longer the dart, and the greater the necessity for accurate fitting.
Plaits rightly employed can give length and are often quite necessary in Fashion’s catalog. But make them a part of the dress, surround them, make them give length where length is needed.
For instance, in A you find three forms of decoration, each with a purpose. The plaits for length, the embroidery for interest, the tie for color.
In B plaits for length, buttons for finish, necklace for interest.
In C the tucks must suffice for length, trimming and interest. Often embroidery is desired and it can serve to give length if rightly used. For instance D, a simple dress, is made pleasing with embroidery that helps rather than hinders.
Draped skirts, as in E, need not be taboo entirely, if the draping is used for line emphasis and is soft enough to cling rather than extend.
Large figures often find a dress broken in line advantageous, as in F. If the bust is large and hips small, the skirt should be favored with the trimming. The upper waist line should be omitted if the figure is in the least short.
HOW TO HOLD THE DRESS UP ON THE SHOULDERS
If the back is fat and rounding and the neck fairly small, it is advisable, in order to hold the dress well up on the shoulders, to run a gathering thread across the back neck line. The fullness thus retained may be eased in and shrunken out, if wool is used, so that no gathers are visible but a comfortable neck is secured. Such fullness is not at all objectionable in silk or cotton fabrics.
WHAT THE LONG UNDERARM DOES
In our quest for becoming clothes, we are fascinated by the long underarm line and feel sure that if we could evidence such a constructive detail, we could look 20 pounds lighter right away.
To achieve this, consider again what I have said about the corset, its size and fit. Be sure that your corset has enough supporters to hold it securely down. A corset that “rides up” or a brassiere that is too short will definitely prevent a long, easy underarm.
Be sure when your dresses are fitted that the crosswise grain of the cloth is parallel with the waist line. Be sure that your waistline 109trim or belt is placed as low as your dress length will allow—not low enough to make you look top heavy, but low enough for your own height, size and type. To find what this is, parade up and down in front of your mirror with belts, bands, and sashes strung around your waist, one at a time, of course, until you know which one is placed best for you. Don’t be faddish, don’t be extreme, but be modish. There is a difference. Work for becomingness so that the line you finally decide upon will surely be right.
THE BIAS CENTER FRONT
Cutting the center front on the bias may give a “silent” or a pronounced line, depending on whether plain or striped material is used. It takes a third more material to cut a dress on the bias, but since it is possible to develop a very smart dress this way it is often worth considering. It should be worn only by the type that can wear extreme things well, however, because a dress cut on the bias is in no wise conservative.
When styles call for plaits, plaits may be used, but not in widening flares as shown above, rather in slenderizing length lines as shown on the opposite page.
Hats and shoes in these two pictures also illustrate incorrect and correct choice. The wide hat and prominent straps opposite emphasize width and weight; the neat hat and cross-strap slippers above help to slenderize.
HOW TO ADD FULLNESS WITHOUT FLARE
To allow fullness in walking, two plaits may be placed in the skirt at the left side seam, one directly over the other, the right side of the skirt being finished plain. This does not interfere with the slim line effect, yet gives the desired freedom. Plaitings or panels of self color that are 5 inches or less in width soften the line of a dress and, if effectively used, can improve the garment both in line and attractiveness, especially for the figure that is large above the waist. An effective use of skirt plaiting can aid greatly in balancing the proportion.
If the waist measure is large, keep the skirt as straight and narrow as fashion will allow, and watch your sleeves to fit them close and plain. Short, full sleeves and a full skirt must have a small, short waist line to be effective; they are totally “out of the picture” where the waist and hips are large.
Plaits aid in line and are youthful, but if fashion decrees straight skirts we must stitch or press them down straight and slim, for flared-out plaits are treacherous for us who would be slender. For the same reason, we must avoid panels that flirt out as we walk.
A corded girdle, sash, or string sash that is long and limp is becoming.
Tunics, if not too full, and if not definitely 113trimmed at the bottom edge, are advantageous. They slenderize by making it possible to draw the skirt in at the bottom, thus giving an appearance of height. This, of course, is lost if the tunic or the lower skirt is too full. Large figures should always have tunics and foundations of the same color and material so as not to break the height.
FABRICS THAT SLENDERIZE
First of all, buy your clothes with deliberation so that they will look as though they belonged to you, not as though they were bought in a hurry. Deliberate buying is the economical way. Emergency buying in clothes is like food from the delicatessen—it’s a “make shift” and an expensive one.
Buy for suitability, for smartness, and think of all the uses you can make of a garment before you buy. If it’s a dress, what wrap or hat will you wear with it? Does it mean new shoes, new hat, and gloves? If so, then consider the advisability of purchasing another style which would look well with the accessories you have and are wearing with another costume. Buy few clothes if you must, but buy the best quality fabrics your purse will allow. And buy carefully. Being well-dressed is not so much a matter of money as it is information, for the well-dressed woman gives evidence of discriminate deliberation, of knowledge applied to selection, and of a 116wise choice of accessories as well as essentials. So take heed and take your time about every purchase so that everything harmonizes perfectly with what you have and so that every article, from shoes to hat, has its part in aiding slenderness rather than in emphasizing stoutness.
FACTS TO KNOW ABOUT MATERIALS
Acquaint yourself with materials, their wearing qualities, their clinging proclivities, and their color quality. By this latter, I mean their ability to “take the dye” and be soft and rich in their shades, because certain shades we must wear, and we don’t want to have them dull and lifeless, like brownish black or grayish drab. We want them to be deep and soft like those of beautiful old fabrics that have been ripened to an inimitable softness by age.
The most becoming colors for us come in good fabrics, so for the average woman there must be economy in the number of dresses rather than in their quality. A garment made in good style and of good material is more of a credit to you when half worn out than a cheap new garment could possibly be.
117It is necessary to remember, too, that materials with a glossy, brilliant surface or finish, no matter what the color of the fabric may be, are difficult to wear and are not generally becoming, because the sheen and, in some instances, the stiffness tend to make the figure appear larger. Materials of soft finish or dull colors, on the other hand, will make the figure appear smaller and will attract less attention.
Every fat woman loves pastry and taffeta. We know that before we start. Pastry you can eat if you study hard to dress correctly, but taffeta you cannot wear because it sticks out where it shouldn’t and does not cling as it should. The surest way to have you avoid it is for me to tell you that it adds 20 pounds, and it truly does. The luster of satin eliminates it from our list while the conspicuousness of large-figured fabrics makes them equally inappropriate. When you see lengths of large figured fabrics in the shops, you may be tempted, but do not buy. They will thwart your whole purpose of putting into the clothes you wear the lines that make for slenderness and grace.
These two pictures illustrate improper and proper choice of fabrics for a stout figure. Above, the large-figured material adds size, the fur trim shortens, the round beads shorten the neck. All conspire to emphasize weight.
Here a small all-over pattern minimizes size, the plaits and tassels lengthen, the necklace adds a slenderizing touch. The appearance as a whole is graceful and youthful.
WHY AVERAGE “BARGAINS” ARE NOT AN ECONOMY FOR YOU
Shun bargains of miscellaneous materials. Unless you are offered a type of material that will slenderize, don’t buy it. And never stint your dresses by using remnants. Your dresses should never have an extra inch visible but likewise they should never in the least appear as though they were stinted in cutting. And that means that you must always have plenty of hems and facings and bias sleeves or bands if you want them. Stingy, scrimpy hems on big folks’ skirts are a “give away.” Always buy enough material for at least a 3½–inch hem, and more if fashion allows.
It is pitiable to see a big man humiliated and equally so to see a large woman in cheap flimsy fabric. Save up your pennies and look out for remnants if you must, but don’t buy cheap materials. The better materials, too, are an incentive for more careful planning, and as a result you have a more likeable, wearable dress.
CHOOSE THESE SLENDERIZING FABRICS
What can you wear to create the illusion of slenderness? In woolens, everything except 121firm hard finished weaves, or those in big or definite designs or colors. If silk is to be purchased, consider the closely woven heavy ones. They may cost a little more, yes, but they wear longer, and when you give thought and time to making a perfect dress you are happy to have it last as long as it will. Some big women delight in chiffon and Georgette and lace dresses, but these fabrics must not be used unless a substantial foundation dress is worn under them.
No one needs to use so much care about the foundation of her dress as a stout woman. It must be wholly non-transparent. It must fit perfectly, and any dress of lace or sheer material fitted over it must follow the slip silhouette easily but perfectly. Some designers use two and three thicknesses as though they were one. They say this softens the line, weights the fabric, and proves altogether advantageous where grace and line are desired.
Materials like faille or bengaline, with a definite crosswise grain, are smart and becoming and are best when cut and made crosswise. They hang more limply and, therefore, are more graceful and entirely desirable for slenderizing.
122Often the mistake is made of choosing a material with wide stripes, due to the prevalent belief that stripes tend to make a person look slender. This is generally untrue. The stout woman can wear striped material, but the stripes, as a rule, must be fine and without definite color or line when viewed from a short distance. In other words, stripes should be felt, not seen, except at very close range. Stout women, and, in fact, most women look better in materials of plain or indistinct design in harmonizing colors than in those of bold design and of decided color combinations.
The heavy silks, striped by means of the weave, and in self color, are the best for tailored dresses. The heavy crêpe weaves are more appropriate for draped dresses planned for occasional wear. And the best quality means the best wear, appearance and general satisfaction. It is better to have one very good, smart dress and take care of it than two cheap dresses that you are never quite satisfied with.
In selecting material for skirts, stout women should choose either plain fabric or fabric with a narrow or indistinct stripe or small 123figure and of a texture that is as soft and pliable as Dame Fashion permits.
For summer wear, good quality voiles are better than linens, and the crêpe de Chines are better than the tub silks, because they cling, and that, after all is a vital consideration. Swiss, organdie, and ratiné, like taffeta, are too stiff or bulgy to give slenderness, so these fabrics must be admired always from a safe distance. Allover lace is permissible if of small design and heavy enough to hang rather than bulge.
For quick and easy reference I have made a complete list of fabrics that are certain to create a line of slenderness—materials that you can safely wear with the assurance that if properly used they will do much toward giving you the slender, fashionable lines for which you are striving. When all is said and done there is really quite a varied range of fabrics for you after all.
MATERIALS YOU CAN WEAR
Wool for Dresses
Charmeen (if not too lustrous)
Wool velour (light weight)
124Wool for Coats
Wool Velour (heavy)
Also fabrics listed for dresses which are suitable for light weight wraps
Bengaline, Poplin or Faille
Canton satin (dull side)
Crêpe de Chine (heavy)
Crêpe Roshanara (plain and self-striped)
Gingham (soft quality)
Handkerchief and plain non-crushable linen, provided the latter is not stiff
HOW TO LOOK SMART AT ALL TIMES
Never hesitate about navy blue in fine wool or heavy silk. When beautifully made, either of these may be irresistibly youthful, and if care is used in selecting rightly balanced designs, such dresses can be so interestingly varied as never to be monotonous. For instance, a change of collars is allowable. One day smart turn cuffs may be worn, and the next day omitted, all giving variety without deviating from the path of good taste and slender emphasis. And navy blue is always smart, no matter what the prevailing fashion may be.
125Watch for values. Know the kind of wool you want; avoid stiff satins and taffetas. Remember when buying or planning dresses that wools that fuzz up and satins that have a stiffness back of their shininess, taffetas that stick out, and voiles and Georgettes that are over-sheer are to be avoided. Fortunately, the better grades of these fabrics eliminate these tendencies by the very quality of the fabric, and to say that shiny satin is not possible for the large woman is unnecessary, although there are some qualities of satins soft enough to be wearable, provided the sheen is not too decided. But the heavy crêpes are always more desirable because of their weight and lack of luster.
IF YOU MUST PRACTICE ECONOMY
If I could have but one dress, I should choose soft, brown Canton crêpe with a satin side to use as trimming. If I could have just two dresses, one would be blue cloth and the other brown crêpe because both are becoming. I say they are becoming despite the fact that a prominent color specialist says that black, blue, and brown are heavy colors and not the best for large figures. But the use of such a 126simple accessory as a scarf of lace or chiffon can lift out of the ordinary a brown crêpe dress and can in the quality of its beautiful, smart lines, prove doubly effective. And fine white linen or piqué collars and cuffs can do wonders to a simple, correct-fitting one-piece dress of blue cloth.
I know of a certain manufacturer of a very excellent line of dresses for stouts. Expensive? Certainly, but worth the price, for following the rules of optical illusion is practically a religion with him. He uses only navy blue—the darkest navy—in heavy faille, crêpe silks, Poiret twill, and charmeen. Some are trimmed in white linen or piqué, a few with net, but the majority are untrimmed, tailored, and pressed “to a turn,” even when made of silk. Dresses of this type are of a quality which will permit of one remodeling at least, so that the maximum of wear may be had from them. When this is possible the material can be really “worn out” because it was conservative in the first place and did not lose its style value too rapidly.
The feeling of satisfaction you get from such a costume, even when you discard the outfit, is much to be preferred to an attempt 127to wring the last drop of usefulness from your clothes by wearing them in the home. Never do this. Rip up, renovate, and make over, but don’t be shabby at home. There is too much to lose if you do. The stout woman just must get into the habit of looking smart at all times. Once acquired, it is a habit that brings with it a sense of pride, pleasure, and self-reliance very much worth cultivating.
COLORS THAT SLENDERIZE
In Chapter II we found that certain uses of lines cause objects to appear larger or smaller than they really are. This same principle of optical illusion applies to colors. Whether you realize it or not, the color of an object always seems to affect its size.
In general, dark colors make objects appear to be smaller; light colors make them seem larger. This is often demonstrated by a woman with large feet. If she dresses those feet in a pair of white shoes they appear to be much larger than they really are, whereas shod in a pair of well-made dull black or dark brown pumps or oxfords, they appear much smaller than they really are.
Take equal amounts of black crêpe and yellow satin as examples. The black recedes, while the yellow stands out, fills the eye more completely, and as a result seems larger.
Look at blue cornflowers and orange poppies in a field. It takes twice as many of the blue flowers to attract your attention as it does 130of the orange, because the latter make a more definite impression on the eye.
If you intend to take your rightful place among well-dressed women you must watch carefully the color of your dress and hold, in the main, to the quiet colors or shades, such as seal brown, midnight blue, bottle green, dull black, blackberry purple, the grays, and the deep tans. These make outline less definite, help your observers to lose sight of bulk and thereby make your size inconspicuous. Besides, they are always smarter than the more conspicuous colors. And this isn’t such a sacrifice, after all, when you realize how few women there are who are vivacious, alert, agile enough or clear enough of skin to compete with active color. Bright colors are suitable chiefly to the great outdoors, for gala decoration, or for trimming—and the latter you may use if you do it wisely and discreetly.
WHAT COLORS NOT TO WEAR
King’s blue and scarlet, and any colors of their quality, must be “off your list” completely, for they definitely create the illusion of huge bulk. Refuse acquaintance with them right now and whatever you do, don’t 131yield to their entreaties. You have heard, no doubt, the famous story about the lecturer, who, when asked by a big woman dressed in red what color she should wear, said, “Gray, Madam, gray. Nature makes humming birds red and elephants gray. Follow Nature, Madam.”
Don’t force people to see you bigger than you are by wearing gaudy designs or colors.
Brilliant, hard, cold colors, or what might be fittingly termed unrelenting or non-retiring colors should be avoided once a woman is past her first youth; in fact, not every young woman or young girl can afford to wear such tones, especially when she is a bit too stout, for the purer the color the more definite it is to the eye and, therefore, the larger it makes the wearer seem. Many of the colors that are launched forth each season as the latest thing are so strong that they add a third to one’s size and rob the wearer of all the natural color of skin, hair, and eyes, making even a young, vigorous girl appear devoid of animation and charm. The use of such colors even as trimming is a mistake commonly made by women lacking in the fresh, natural color of skin, hair, and eyes.
STUDY COLOR “FAMILIES”
It is well to consider that gray eyes reflect blue or green, and sometimes brown tints, and that the right shade of blue—usually old blue—will emphasize the color and brilliancy of blue eyes. It is said that a girl with hazel eyes and chestnut hair can wear any color becomingly. Yet one must realize that some colors would naturally be much more emphatic or subduing than others; therefore, more becoming or less complimentary. The best rule is to keep to one family of color shades, as brown, blue, gray, or black. You will find this scheme more becoming and more economical. Of course, if you wish, you may choose to use one or two shades lighter of the same color shade, as dark brown and tan, or perhaps the pleasing combination of midnight blue and gray. Gray or tan is good with black; white with black only in the very smallest quantity and then discreetly placed.
But gray, used for an entire costume, is good only for the very young or the old. Once the hair is white, gray is much better than black for it will not emphasize face 133lines; but a woman of forty, big or little, unless she has white hair and clear skin should choose navy blue or black in preference to gray. However, we need not wear either monotonously.
Many designers insist that “color tone” evidenced somewhere is essential for every well-dressed woman, maintaining that if the individual does not have it herself it must be provided by means of her dress or complexion, assuming, of course, that it will always be discreetly and smartly done. If the hair or eyes are colorless, avoid brown and wear blue, and use definite color—a bit of braid, an ornamental buckle, a strap on a purse, a hat trimming—something that has a smart color note.
We look smallest in dull black, but we can look almost as slender in black that has brightness either in the fabric or the dye, and at the same time not look so old as with the dull black. For example, observe the next dear elderly lady you see in dull black. See how it makes every wrinkle show and gives her a shriveled, meek appearance that is in every way depressing. We must look young, as well as slender, and, of course, fashionable 134too, so we must keep away from any colors that will hamper us.
CHOOSE THESE SUBTLE SHADES
It has always seemed to me that we women who have the opportunity of making either a pleasing, indifferent, or offending picture of ourselves in our dress should realize our opportunity, sense fully that we are in competition with real artists and work to achieve a degree of perfection that at least would be pleasing to our very own selves and that could not offend any who might see us.
Those valuable laws of optical illusion teach us always to select colors that have a tendency to recede, that is, those that are indefinite and difficult to classify. For instance, the moment rose is added to gray, or yellow to tan, it takes on light and tends to intensify size rather than to reduce it, while we can add white to gray, or brown to tan with the opposite result. So often we see someone who has achieved a beautiful color plan, change it to satisfy her own desire for variety and in the changing lose all that she has worked to gain. And so I insist that once you find the color or combination of colors that is becoming, that is 135flattering, as to size and complexion, hair and eyes, hold to it as a valued possession and have your color variety in other things rather than your dress.
I have not yet considered white, or rather cream, or old blue, or pastel green in discussing shades. These many of us can wear. The wearing of white is a luxurious habit once acquired. The charm of immaculateness may balance in some minds its tendency to increase size, but if you wish to look as small as possible, avoid it. Of old blue this is not true. It can be worn by old and young, is becoming generally, and is almost as effective as gray in its size reducing propensities. It blends well and is soft enough not to be distinguished at long range, always a point of consideration when we are working to look slender. However, neither gray nor old blue must be worn if the skin is definitely sallow. Pastel green that has a gray, rather than a yellow cast is often becoming, especially for summer wear, for in addition to its advantages regarding size, it is cool looking.
A COLOR GUIDE TO AID YOU IN ATTAINING A SLENDERIZING APPEARANCE
Type of Woman Black Brown Blue Green Gray Purple Pink
Fair hair; blue, gray, or brown eyes; white skin, moderate color. Very good in dull surfaced fabrics. Bronze and warm tans, very good. Dark tones permissible. Excellent. Greenish and navy blue very good; also medium tones to repeat color of blue eyes. Gray-green good; also soft blue-green both medium and dark. Dark, blue-gray very good. Orchid fair; also, blue-violet in sheer soft fabrics. Red purple may be used in small quantities. Flesh and dull old rose permissible.
Fair hair; blue, gray, or brown eyes; white skin with little or no color. May be worn with white or cream collar. Dark red-brown permissible. Excellent in dark shades and old blue. Very pale green good. Dark, blue-gray good. Orchid good; fuchsia, good for trimming. Flesh, good; also dull old rose.
Fair hair, bordering on red; blue, brown, or gray eyes; fair skin, moderate color. Excellent. Dark tones and bronze good if eyes are brown. Dark tones excellent; or medium blue if eyes are blue. Almond and reseda good; avoid bright tones. Stone-gray and taupe good. Blue-gray good. Very dull orchid good. Pastel tones in sheer material, good.
Light brown hair; blue, brown, or gray eyes; medium complexion. Best relieved by cream color. Bronze and medium tan good. Very good in dark and medium tones. Dark green and reseda good. Silver-gray permissible. Moderately good for trimming if skin is clear. Flesh and peach may be worn.
Light brown hair; brown, blue, or gray eyes; skin inclined to sallowness. Good, if used with contrasting color. Very dark tones may be worn. Dark tones excellent. Bottle-green good. Very dark taupe good. Pinkish tones in sheer material permissible. Creamy flesh and peach color fair.
Dark or medium brown hair; dark blue, gray, or brown eyes; fair, clear skin, with some color. Excellent, especially with white. Very good for brown-eyed type; tan good. Dark tones good with bright trimming. Medium blue fair. Dark green good. Blue-green for blue-eyed type; bronze-green for brown eyes. Permissible for a dress that is smartly designed and trimmed. Orchid good; fuchsia may be used in small quantities. Rose permissible as trimming.
Medium, dark brown or black hair; brown, gray, or dark blue eyes; pale skin. Do not use except with bright color for trimming. Excellent with brown eyes; warm tan good. Dark tones very good; green-blues good. Dark green excellent. Blue-green for blue eyes and bronze-green for brown eyes. Warm taupe permissible. Dull orchid; also, pink tones of violet. Flesh, dull rose and peach good.
Medium brown or dark hair; blue, brown, or gray eyes; medium skin, high color. Very good. Most browns excellent for brown-eyed type. Dark blue excellent; green-blue good. Very good in dark tones. Bronze-green excellent with brown eyes. Blue-gray and taupe good. Avoid all except bluish hues.
Brown hair, tinged with red; brown, blue or gray eyes; medium skin. Transparent black good. All pure browns that blend with hair and eyes good. Navy blue and green-blues very good. Bronze-green excellent; also, medium reseda. Good, if skin is clear. Plum color and palest lavender permissible. Flesh and pale pink good.
Dark brown or black hair; brown or black eyes; olive skin, some color. Permissible if worn with cream collar. Mahogany and deepest browns moderately good. Good in darkest tones. Bronze-green permissible. Taupe may be worn in rare cases. Pink lavender in sheer fabric or dahlia in small quantities fair. Dull pink and apricot tones good.
Gray and Gray
Gray hair; brown, gray, or blue eyes; medium skin. Permissible if worn with cream collar. Good in dark and medium tones. Delft blue good for blue eyes. Permissible in darkest tones. Silver-gray good. Soft pink lavender good; also dark tones. Flesh and old rose very good.
Brown and Gray
Grayish, brown hair; brown, blue, or gray eyes; medium skin. Permissible with cream collar. Seal and chestnut good. Avoid all tans. Dull blue, very good; brighter blues good for trimming. Dark tones moderately good. Avoid gray-green. Dark grays brightened by trimming, permissible. Avoid unless skin is very clear and hair almost white. Creamy-flesh good. Avoid rose hues.
138All rules may be individually varied and should be for distinctive effects, so to know the rule of color is to respect it and adeptly apply it to express yourself beautifully and harmoniously. Play with colors as you would with a fan. Remember that usually every woman can look better than she does. It is the age of good-looking women and the right shade or tone of color has a very great deal to do with the right emphasis of individual attractiveness.
Color has so much to do with the final appearance of any costume, that you must find your particular color pace. Remember that if you are stout you cannot stray from the less colorful byways to the brilliant main road trodden by your slim sisters. Never lose sight of the fact that true artistry may be expressed in the subtle shades to a much greater degree than by the use of brilliant colors. As civilization advances, it is gradually drawing away from pure color. You will find that practically all of the fabrics shown in the shops are variations of the foundation or primary colors. Why not carry this to its farthest point, emphasizing your appreciation of the subtlety of the “between” shades which can do so much toward making you look smart and slender?
In the selection of shades for becomingness, 139your size is the first consideration; your skin the second. Consider carefully both the color and the texture of your skin, and work to have the shades of your dresses enhance, harmonize, or subdue, according to the need or opportunity. The color of your hair and eyes comes third in color consideration, while your age comes fourth.
In making use of the table I have given you, locate your type in the first column. If you are a blonde read descriptions of all the blonde types and decide to which you belong. If you are a brunette, classify yourself under this heading. Do not feel hampered by the colors allowable for your particular type, because it very often happens that a variation of a shade you like will make it becoming to you even though it would be unsuited to another individual whose description would correspond with yours.
RULES TO REMEMBER
Large figures require subdued colors.
The dominant color in your costume must harmonize with the color and the texture of your skin.
A contrasting or emphasizing color may 140be used to enhance the coloring of your eyes and hair.
Because it is not entirely necessary or desirable to exclude the lighter, brighter shades from the wardrobe, a few of these have been listed in the accompanying table. As a general thing, you will look best in dark colors; but in the warm weather, and for home wear, light colors are permissible and suitable, too. If the type requires the use of such shades in the evening, gowns made from them may be worn becomingly, provided they are properly chosen as to material, design, and trimming.
With the advent of each season’s new colors, search carefully for your colors, the ones that you know are becoming, bearing in mind all the while that tones, hues, or tints (light colors) emphasize, and that shades (dark colors) alone subdue, and then remember that both fabric and design definitely affect the color; so decide on all three simultaneously and thereby be wholly safe.
The extent of your attractiveness rests with you and don’t forget ever how very much a right color can help you. Haunt the shops for the beautiful, the flattering, the becoming 141thing. Don’t be satisfied to buy green, blue, or gray simply because it’s the season’s color—find the tone or shade of that color that is lovely for you—then you can be fashionably dressed and becomingly so.
THE LINE OF YOUTH AND GRACE
There is a distinct difference between the appropriate clothes for the young stout girl and those for the elderly stout woman. The first must work to emphasize trim smartness; the second simplicity and becomingness. Not so much difference in the two, you will say, but think carefully about it and you will realize that there is a difference. The whole idea of dress is different at 20, let us say, than it is at 50. If you are 20, you may wear 20–year clothes, but if you are 50, you may wear 40–year clothes. And you can truly look 40 if you learn to blend the lines suited to youth and maturity and to do it skilfully.
WHEN TAILORED CLOTHES ARE SMART
Work to achieve one of two types—tailored smartness or supple dignity. Neither need emphasize age and both can reduce the appearance of size. If you are best as a tailored girl, be one morning and evening. Remember that the soft wools, charmeen and 144poiret, are best, and often smart in stripe effect. One-piece wool frocks are a boon to slenderness and every season brings smart, simple straight lines especially adaptable to soft, clinging materials. Watch the length of your suit coat if you are young. Long Eton effects are often good, and don’t forget the beauty and long line possibilities in the very long suit coat.
Tend a little to the vampish black in the evenings, if you wish, but tailor the lines so that they are severely smart. Of course, if you are 18 you may not want to use black and look vampish, but you can, as far as size goes, wear cream, sky or old blue, or watery green effectively. In fact, any of these colors are wearable if you choose supple fabrics and wear them unadorned. If you choose boat necks, be sure to wear a scarf or necklace to break the line.
But here we are going to talk about the girl who is young, good-looking, and stout. You needn’t say that you are not good-looking. It’s your own fault if you aren’t, that’s certain. Read the women’s magazines. Every month they carry excellent articles on the care of the face, hands, hair and body, and if you are delightfully clean and follow even the simplest rules, you can be good to look at even if you weigh more than you would like to.
Straight lines can be artistically used in lingerie or negligee, and such garments need not be monotonous or unattractive. Beautiful simplicity or distinctive smartness should be your aim with such garments.
At the left is a night dress with pleasing length lines.
Ribbon trimmings or contrasting bands are desirable in finishing dressing gowns, such as shown in the center above, especially if the color harmonizes with the predominating color of the fabric.
Soft crêpe, as at the right, in subdued color, is becoming and inexpensive. Effective length line trimmings can be added by decorative stitches or bindings.
146Fortunately, the flesh on a young stout girl is usually evenly distributed, thus making the chief consideration in dress one of choosing line and fabric that are becoming to youth. It is very easy for a young stout to be well corseted and that is an important essential, for correct corseting will go a long way toward avoiding additional fat.
YOUTHFUL STYLES YOU CAN WEAR
If you are young, don’t be indifferent about any phase of your dress, and don’t ever show any humiliation because of it. Women who are continually conscious of their size seem to look fatter than those who plan to make the least of it and to enjoy it. Emerson says, “Never go to a man to tell him that you can’t pay a debt when you haven’t any money. Your whole attitude will cause him to lose confidence in you.”
So it is with stout women. If you yourself tell about it, pity yourself, evidence it by word as well as by your appearance, then you 147deserve to be classed as “that fat Brown girl” instead of “the good-looking Brown girl.”
If you prefer short dresses, and short skirts are the vogue, be extremely careful about your feet. Have them perfectly shod. Wear hose of a neutral or dress-matching shade so that the height will not be broken. Severe lines for modish, clear-skinned girls with neat coiffures are often very effective and they have the additional advantage of youthfulness which older women must strive for.
Try to learn about your dress from study and observation rather than from experience. The latter is discouraging and expensive. Visit shops that specialize in tailored things. Study fashion pictures for line, not color or trimming, for you know you can vary these to suit your special slenderizing emphasis. Ice cream, like candy, is tempting to young folks, as are bright colors and new fads. So eat sparingly, but of the best, choose the choicest of the fads, the smartest of the new colors. Invariably they will be in good taste and created of a color and material or design that you can with discretion adopt.
Youthfulness is entirely possible with slenderizing lines. These illustrations, for instance, are simple to the extreme, yet allow of individuality and becomingness. The plaited frill held in place by a definite length band is allowable.
The Tuxedo panels of the black dress are designed as part of the collar, in scarf effect, thus giving a youthful line rather than a heavy, collar trim and one that can be worn by all but full bust figures.
YOUTHFUL STYLES TO AVOID
Don’t be tempted to buy a bright colored cheviot suit when a navy charmeen or a smart black and white stripe would be much more distinctive and slenderizing.
Don’t let any one make you look old. Avoid bulk in your clothes, such as heavy skirts, bulging ornaments, ruffles, frills and flounces. Learn to delight in slenderizing. Enjoy it. It can become as much a hobby as can art in pictures or music. Remember you have the responsibility of your own loveliness. If you are not pleasing to see morning, noon and night, you can blame nary a soul but yourself. Wholesomeness is beautiful anywhere, any time, so work to achieve perfection by way of simplicity. Your responsibility will be less and the result more sure.
Wear trim, one-piece dresses with narrow belts and long, smart collars. Work yourself into the new fads wisely. Enjoy the new in dress but do it discreetly so that it blends perfectly with size, type and inclinations.
Youthfulness demands simplicity. Short coats overcome the appearance of heaviness over the hips and are at the same time youthful. In the suit above the long revers, the vertical pockets, the broken cuff line, and the lap-front skirt, all aid in the “magic” of slenderness.
Simplicity and smartness in evening frocks is as essential as those for day-time wear.
The first dress is Georgette with wee pin tucks, the bodice of brocade, thus giving length in line and concealed brilliancy desirable for evening wear.
At the right is metallic cloth in inconspicuous design, aided in line by the long velvet ribbon trim. The long, link necklace also gives length and serves to break the line of the square neck which might otherwise be unbecoming.
151Don’t wear feathers; they are old and “filling.” Don’t over dress. Remember the fewer clothes the better—just enough to be respectable! Never bundle yourself up in clothes—wear them for comfort, beauty, and becomingness.
Put a double front in your slips and don’t wear petticoats. They pull you in at the wrong place. Let your slip also suffice for a corset cover. Use perspiration preventatives rather than dress shields, and don’t put linings in your dresses. Eliminate even seams that are bulky.
Avoid buttons. They are allowable for little folks and older folks, but are too matter of fact for smart simplicity. If you wear knickers be sure that they fit correctly; don’t let them extend too high at the waist or in wide-cuff effect below the knee. A band just below the knee is less heavy looking.
TRIMNESS IS YOUR GOAL
Watch out if you wear sweaters. A football type, never! Get soft, trim coat sweaters and button the last two buttons, or choose Tuxedos, which are best of all. White heavy skirts and bright red heavy sports sweaters can be your “Waterloo” if you are not careful. You can, however, wear a neat, white skirt 152that is soft, not too full, and just right in length, with a dull, soft blue-green or tan light-weight sweater and look very, very smart, especially if your shoes and stockings are all white—not cut up with black and white or sandal-like in shape. And then a perky felt or milan hat, trimmed at one side, can look a lot better for sports wear than a drooping wide brim which seems so “comfy” for big folk. Remember, trimness is your goal—“perfection in simplicity”—so don’t stop short of it in any detail.
In choosing clothes for young girls who are large for their age, the same rules of optical illusion apply as for adults. For instance, in the above picture the length lines are deftly used to emphasize the line of youth.
Even in negligee and in night clothes consider every article, because habit is as big a factor 153as fat and quite as difficult to reckon with. In making your night dresses, you can panel them by means of tucks and make V yokes instead of round, or broad square ones. You may also have them sleeveless and tailored, all of which will help in making for slenderness. Soft crêpe night dresses with a woven stripe in self color are attractive. Stiff materials will never do. Materials that are too sheer show the body outline too much, and if your material is “bumpy” of course it, too, is taboo.
Use short shoulders in your negligees and have definite length lines. If you must have pockets, point them down so that they won’t square the figure across the hips. And choose soft, easy colors that are becoming. Changeable taffetas are to be shunned like the measles. Soft crêpes and small figured silks and stripes are all suitable. In this campaign, even the bedroom slippers should be of inconspicuous color so as not to take from the height.
Work for trimness, neatness, preciseness at all times. They all go with a tailored effect and must be observed to the letter if you wish to achieve the illusion of slenderness in dress.
THE SMART LINE OF DIGNITY
There comes a time with all of us when we have to admit that we are no longer youthful, but we never need admit nor should we ever feel that we are no longer young. Young hearts, young eyes, and young interests can always keep within us the fountain of youth, and that is our right in life—to enjoy to the last day our heritage, which means interest in living, expressing beauty, tenderness, and true womanliness.
When you have reached this stage of development you should be just as proud and happy about it as when you made your debut thirty years ago. Your vision can behold much more now than it could then, for you can now look both forward and backward, and then you could only look forward.
A wise educator says that every woman should have three careers: The first, of youth and education; the second, of marriage and motherhood; the third, of activity in business, or in advanced motherhood, or in social 156or civic life. So it is for the third career that I want to write these pages—to you who have a real incentive to be attractive yet have a definite problem of too much weight.
DRESS SMARTLY, NO MATTER HOW OLD YOU ARE
There is nothing more discouraging than to see a woman become careless of her appearance as she grows older. Indeed, nowadays no woman with proper self-respect would be guilty of such a crime, for although dignity and womanliness are much to be admired in the mature woman, there is certainly no excuse for a woman to allow herself to look old or dowdy, no matter what her age may be. On the contrary, the older you grow, the more urgent is your need for clothes that will make you look smart and attractive, especially if you are even one pound overweight. Let your watchword be to dress more smartly each year and to pay more attention with each succeeding season to the demands of fashion. Dress to suit your circumstances and needs, of course, but never forget to dress appropriately to the occasion as well as to your figure and always with a keen appreciation of youth.
When dignity is the aim, rich lace is often desirable. The dress above has a circular flare apron in the front only, and a lengthwise panel in the back, the lace band giving the desired length line in the front. Some older women prefer a short sleeve. A lace sleeve cap is shown for evening wear. Full length, close-fitting sleeves are required for this model for day-time wear.
In considering these designs, take up a current fashion book, study closely the effective length lines, remembering that obtrusive breaks in the line are to be avoided. The neckline of the above dress is a good example of correctness, also the waistline decoration.
The side line of the suit coat connecting, as it does, with the pocket, is another example of subtle harmonious line giving the desired length.
158Don’t allow salespeople and the family to squelch your desire to look attractive. I remember a dear mother woman of 55, round and happy looking, who made her husband’s heart go “pit-pat” as much as it had 30 or 40 years before. She went into a millinery shop one day and was shown to the case of bonnets for old ladies. Tears came—sincere, tragic tears. She turned to her daughter and said with a definiteness never to be forgotten, “If you ever let anybody put one of those hats on me I will leave home.” And the daughter knew that she meant what she said.
Such a woman is a delight to dress. She is interested, has a responsibility, and wants to look 45 instead of 55, and so every available aid should be at hand to help in so worthy a cause.
For her, soft silk dresses are best. They are more nearly in harmony with kindly good humor than stiff firm fabrics. Blue that is cool and soft is better for such a type than purple or lavender. Lovely grays are better than black. Navy blue is best of all.
Every woman should study her temperament and mood along with her type of figure and work to dress both as perfectly as possible, remembering that a little frosting is 159good on any cake, and even the plainest bread is improved with butter and jam. Don’t be afraid of the smart hat, the new trimming, or a trim new collar that is fashionable. It may help somebody to fall in love with you all over again. Keep on the alert for whatever will add youthful charm, womanly dignity, and lovely smartness, as well as slenderness.
All the precautions, suggestions, and instructions throughout this book are even more important for you than they are for younger women. Here are a few, however, that apply especially to you.
IF YOU ARE SHORT AND STOUT
If you are short and stout, select lines definitely lengthwise to aid height. Lines that extend the full length of the figure are best. Neck lines, panels, etc., will improve the general effect if they are made to terminate in a point. Crosswise lines and trimmings on skirts are not for the short woman, as they emphasize breadth and tend to shorten the figure. It is particularly important that you give careful study to those optical illusions which seem to add height and detract width. You cannot be too particular about applying these rules to every garment that you either make or buy.
House or home dresses are as important as those for dress up wear.
Plain foundation patterns lend themselves to development of good taste dresses such as are shown here.
A—Fine stripes of smart coloring are often effective, especially when definitely tailored.
B—Broken yoke and belt lines are frequently used in sports clothes, are youthful, and if right in proportions can be as effective as definitely straight lines.
C—A shirtwaist dress often achieves the slender line by the continuance of the double line panel in both blouse and skirt. Note that the sleeve is slashed to break the width.
D—Small figured all-over design materials are allowable if both design and coloring are inconspicuous. Note here that the sleeve is short, an appropriate length with an untrimmed skirt.
FOR THE TALL STOUT FIGURE
The tall mature stout figure should watch her lines so that they will not overemphasize height. Draped, as well as tunic skirts may be used to advantage. The possibilities of applying trimming features to garments for the tall woman are more allowable than for the short woman, but great care must be used to avoid an upholstered effect that detracts from her essential dignity.
If the length of the waist is short in proportion to the skirt length, design and color combinations that do not tend to accentuate this irregularity should be selected. A very common mistake in such cases is to wear a skirt with a high waist line or a dark belt with a white or a light-colored blouse. A short-waisted woman should choose skirts with regulation waist lines or long-waisted blouse effects.
SKIRTS FOR DIGNITY
Skirts, whether full or narrow, that are cut as long as possible without attracting undue 162attention to their length or causing discomfort, long tunic skirts, and plain, straight-plaited skirts are desirable for the stout woman. She should consistently avoid tiered skirts or skirts with ruffles, shirring, and excessive or crosswise trimming.
Straight lines in skirts are always advantageous, especially so if the figure is short below the waist. These suggestions are given as aids to variety.
The older you are, the more generous you can be in skirt length and fullness, though in no case should your skirts be noticeably far from fashion’s dictates.
SLEEVES FOR GRACE
The sleeves for the mature stout should be plain and soft in appearance and have a tendency to cling to the arm. If the forearm is large and heavy, a sleeve that comes just below the elbow or to a point 3 or 4 inches 163above the wrist is suitable. Long, bulky sleeves, however, should never be worn on a heavy forearm. If long sleeves are worn, they should be made to fit very close below the elbow, and should be finished at the lower edge with a fold of net or lace or fabric or with a moderately small, light-weight, flaring cuff. Such finishes will make the hand appear smaller when a glove is not worn.
The mature stout woman should never expose her shoulders and upper arms when in evening attire; rather, she should cover the flesh with filmy lace or chiffon, or she should wear a scarf of tulle, preferably of black or a silent tone, across the shoulders and the arms. White will make the arms appear larger than they really are, and black will give the opposite effect.
When dignity is the aim, one must always seek to give interest in line. Youth can manage severity in line and can wear satisfactorily garments that are untrimmed, but with advancing years, there comes a greater necessity for variety in detail.
A coat, for instance, might be boyishly plain for a 20–year-old girl weighing 160, but for the same weight at 50 one needs to slip in a friendly line or cozy bit of fur to modify the severely tailored.
The examples shown on the opposite page are worthy of close study, and a smart Fashion Book at your right hand will allow you a modish use of these correct lines in any current fashion.
TRIMMINGS TO AVOID
In choosing the trimmings for your garments, remember that buttons or trimmings placed in flat patch effect, as in squares, triangles, or diamonds, will tend to add thickness and destroy dignity, while if they are arranged in single rows or broken lines they will add dignity and at the same time give the appearance of length. Harmonizing, rather than contrasting colors should be selected for trimmings, so that they will not stand out boldly from the garment. Never should the collar, the belt, or the finish at the bottom of the skirt be permitted to attract the eye before the garment itself does, but they should be arranged so as to be as inconspicuous as possible. Tucks, plaits, and seams should be made to extend up and down the garment instead of around it. Nowhere else can the laws of optical illusion be so effectively applied, with such noticeable results, as in the matter of trimmings. A single ornament, wrongly placed, can mar an entire costume for the woman who wants to achieve slenderness.
HOW THE MATURE WOMAN CAN APPEAR SMART, ATTRACTIVE, AND CHARMING
The mature woman—the woman past her first youth—owes it to herself, her family, and the world at large to be as becomingly and appropriately dressed as intelligent effort, skill, and available money will permit. On her rests the responsibility, example, standard of right living, and the function of 167leadership. Also it is her duty not only to attract and please, but to hold the admiration of those who believe in her, and by her charming appearance, poise, and dignity to make her particular sphere, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant it may be, radiate joy, peace, and progress.
Nearly everybody agrees with the adage that “a woman is as old as she looks and a man as old as he feels;” at least, there is no doubt that the mature woman has a big advantage over the mature man. By her dress, the woman of today can prolong her youth and at the same time she can take on that poise and dignity which the accumulation of years and experience generously bestows upon her, provided, of course, she accepts these years and experiences in the right spirit. Deep down in every normal woman lies the girl nature, and becoming, appropriate clothes make possible the return of the girl spirit in a dignified way that imparts real charm.
Would you believe that the pattern of these two dresses is exactly the same? This illustrates how you can vary a dress once you find the foundation lines that are becoming to you. One pattern can suffice for both a tailored and an afternoon dress, as you see both effects are pleasing in their slenderness.
169There is no definite or set period when certain styles of clothes are to be worn by women of different ages. The age limit for certain styles is within the control of every woman herself, and, naturally, the woman who has the most intelligent knowledge and appreciation of herself and her clothes will generally be the best dressed and will convey that undeniable pleasure to observers—a well-dressed and dignified appearance.
Frequently, a woman does not become noticeably stout until she has reached the neighborhood of 45 or 46 years. This time of life is usually the most trying for any woman, for when youth has taken flight it makes necessary three things if a woman wishes to continue to appear attractive and pleasing: dignity, careful grooming, and correct selection of color, lines, and fabric. Correct corseting is, of course, absolutely essential in order that the entire costume may be in perfect harmony with her individuality and that she may have the appearance of absolute comfort and ease.
But there is no reason why a woman of fifty cannot look smartly dressed, and so she should. It is not only desirable but necessary for her to keep active and progressive both in mind and in body, and as women’s clubs and good reading matter help to develop her intelligence in other respects, so 170they are aiming also to help her in selecting the best materials, colors, and styles for her clothes.
Fashion folks need money from all of us to keep their lovely shops going, so hunt around, find the shop that has things becoming to you, then buy or copy them as your purse dictates, and study fashion magazines and shop windows as you would a speller at a “spelling bee.” Dress up—be gracious and charming! Everybody will love you for doing it and you will look ten years younger as a result.
HATS AND WRAPS THAT SLENDERIZE
Don’t wear your hats too small. No big woman should look like a pyramid. On the other hand, don’t ever allow your hat brims, when you want to look alluring, to extend beyond your shoulders. Just inside is wide enough and more becoming. Medium sized hats are best at all times. Pokes are taboo if your head sets close to your shoulders. Let the facings of your hats be of a becoming color. This is an ideal way of emphasizing the color of your eyes. But don’t let the facing show prominently, for if you do your height will seem to terminate with the bottom of your hat and you will lose in appearance in consequence.
The evolution in woman’s habits of living has made the enormous hat perched on top of a high pompadour an utter impossibility, and no woman needs to move farther away from such a fad than the big woman. Her hat must fit her perfectly, in head size and in width and height, and at the same time must 172be comfortable, smart, and becoming. It is essential that the hat be worn correctly, “rightly set,” for it is easy to lose dignity if the hat appears to be hung on a corner of the head instead of being placed so as to become, apparently, a part of the head.
HAT SHAPES TO WEAR AND NOT TO WEAR
In the category of shapes we have the flat sailor, with brim from 1 inch to 5 inches wide; the drooping or mushroom brim; the even roll brim; the irregular roll; the coronet brim; and the toque. The round plump face should never be framed with an even rolling brim which suggests the moon with a ring around it, but should have its roundness lengthened by an angular curve or broken line that will give height at the side, or a diadem coronet effect, giving height in the direct front. The crown should be at least as broad as the cheeks and continue that width, or spread a little wider at the top, but never assume a cone shape.
The plump woman lives through a period when a sailor line is most becoming of all. Then comes a time, and she, herself, cannot tell why, when the sailor proves a disappointment. 173It is then that she turns to a larger hat or to a turban type, either of which can prove just as unflattering as the sailor if it is too large or too small. You need to watch both size and shape for the big hat can make you look top heavy, the little hat old.
These two examples show how even a hat with drooping brim, if not too wide, can be worn by the stout person if trimming is adeptly used to direct the vision upward and lend an illusion of height.
A short, stout woman should avoid a squatty mushroom hat, because it exaggerates her lack of height, and adds years in appearance. She should choose a narrow brim and high crown, calculated to add length of line and absorb some of the rotundity of her features. The woman who is proportionately larger than the average will find the drooping 174mushroom with rather broad sides and a medium size crown that conforms to the shape of the head, trimmed in an even compact arrangement, decidedly becoming.
The stout woman of medium height can wear this same type of hat with slight alteration on the brim line; that is, instead of the sides drooping down midway from the head-size on both sides, the brim assumes a slight upward curve which continues around the back while the crown may be from one to two inches taller than ordinarily. This depends upon the prevailing fashion.
If the chin recedes, never wear a hat that flares up and forward from the brow, for it would emphasize the line of the chin. A hat with a tiny brim and a high, straight crown seems the best style. Accordingly, the large woman with a protruding chin requires a counteracting forward effect in the brim; therefore, she will find a small hat, with an abrupt upward turning brim, in the style generally known as the Russian effect, smart and becoming.
Here trimming is used on two entirely different types of hats to give in each case added height to the figure and help in attaining a slenderizing appearance.
Left—Hats with medium brims and high trimming are often becoming, especially if wide enough to avoid the pyramid effect.
Right—High built trimming and delicate veils are advantageous where a double chin is the handicap.
The double chin is another problem that the large woman has found difficult to solve. For this type, the rather high hat, or a top-heavy turban, if it conforms to the vogue and is in good taste, is desirable. A scarf or veil craftily arranged around the neck will do much to hide this unbecoming roll of flesh. Nowhere is a thorough knowledge of the laws of optical illusion more necessary than in your selection of hats. Cheap hats are a false economy, especially for the large woman. Do not, therefore, spend your good money on 176any hat unless you are sure it will add the desired lines to your appearance. This, as you must realize by this time, is really quite easy to do.
HAT COLORS TO WEAR AND NOT TO WEAR
To avoid harsh and trying colors in hats should be the principal aim of the big woman, for they tend to emphasize the bigness we are trying to make less conspicuous. The staples, dark navy and black, are always equally suitable for blondes and brunettes, and carry smartness for street wear. Grays, too, provided the skin permits them, are in good taste. Silver-gray, platinum or zinc are good choices for the large woman. While you need not be overwhelmingly conventional, you must appreciate your limitations about the extremes in shapes, color, and trimming arrangement.
Trimmings for our hats should never be heavy nor “bunchy,” but at an angle and more perky than anything else. Avoid small ornaments, too. A bow or ornament on a hat can make a great deal of difference in its height-giving advantages.
WRAPS THAT SLENDERIZE AND THOSE THAT DO NOT
First, beware of fur coats. Even though rich and luxurious, they are bulky and heavy in appearance. Trim, tailored coats are more flattering and less expensive, so think twice before you buy a fur coat. Buy lovely soft fabrics that are rich in quality and soft enough to “cling.” Remember that word and think of it every time you buy anything but hats. Let your coat be unbroken in line and untrimmed. A big button set on the stomach can destroy more art than you can plan out in a month. Oblong buttons at the side or string ties of the material of the coat are best.
Have your coat long or hip length. Watch the line carefully. There is a point that is becoming in length; make sure you find it.
As shown here, fasteners for coats should be placed at the side and be as inconspicuous as possible.
178If you are square shouldered you may find capes very becoming, but generally they add size rather than reduce it.
Long fur or fabric scarfs are desirable. Ostrich or ruffly scarfs, of course, are to be looked at with admiration for their softness and color, but rarely worn by anyone desiring a slenderizing effect.
LOOKING SLENDER IS AN ART, A NECESSITY, AND A PLEASURE
We cannot all be beautiful but we can give pleasure to ourselves and others by being correctly and pleasingly attired at all times. And it is necessary, too, this keeping always alert, in this day of competition and progressive freedom of women. Your responsibility to look well is greater than ever before. So work, watch, study and persevere and be happy about it. Good health is the greatest essential. And no matter what you weigh, you can, by following the rules given you in this book, look at least 20 to 40 pounds lighter than you are. You can have real fun and keep off any additional weight by your alertness, interest and enthusiasm for looking your “slenderest best” all the time.
Of course, women who are decidedly overweight need to know these rules of slenderizing dress more than those who are only a few pounds above the normal. But in this imperfect world of ours there are few women 180indeed, no matter how much or how little they may weigh, whose proportions are perfect and satisfactory. Where indeed is the woman or girl who would not like to be a little slimmer here, a little taller there, a little more gracefully proportioned one place or another?
HARMONIOUS PROPORTIONS—THE AIM OF EVERY WOMAN
I cannot be too emphatic in my assertion that the wrong clothes, or even a wrong detail in a costume may mar an entire effect and may indeed create the illusion of ungainliness and dumpiness even in a girl who may be underweight, as far as actual pounds go. Perfect proportions then are the aim of every woman who wants to make the best of herself and I am certain that a careful study of these rules of optical illusion and an intelligent application of them will improve the appearance of every woman.
Nor is it the moneyed woman who is always the best dressed. Far from it indeed. Sometimes it is the shop girl whose few dollars have been wisely and intelligently spent for smartness and becomingness who looks 181most charming and most distinguished, for since these girls rarely have rich furs and jewels they can more simply and more tellingly emphasize beauty of line and color.
The stout woman improves her position by omission rather than addition. “Every little bit added to what you have makes just a little bit more” is all right for Scotch pennies, but not for one who is working to look 30 or 40 pounds lighter. Be slim by being trim; be attractive by being immaculate; and strive with all your might for grace, ease, and personal charm. Never yield to a misuse of color, line, or fabric. Never give up in your determination to dress for slenderness. You must admit right now that it is far more interesting than diet and much more effective.
And now that you know the rules, study and practice them. Apply them to perfection so that when dressed you will make a picture of loveliness such as all may envy and admire.
Whistler says, “A picture is finished when all trace of the means used to bring about the end has disappeared.
“To say of a picture, as is often said in its praise, that it shows great and earnest labor, 182is to say that it is incomplete and unfit to view.
“The work of the master reeks not of the sweat of the brow—it suggests no effort.”
So hide the means, let it not be visible to any one that you have deliberately and with intent worked to achieve slenderness in your dress. Only in that way will you really achieve it.
SIMPLICITY IS THE FIRST ESSENTIAL
As you have read and studied this book you have been told many times what not to do. This advice has been repeated so frequently because I have wanted to impress you with the fact that simplicity in dress is the first essential of Youth, Dignity and Slenderness. So to leave out of your costume the offensive coloring, line or trimming is of prime importance.
Here are a few points always to be remembered in planning and designing or in buying clothes for yourself:
Choose fabrics that cling, that are of smooth, soft surface, that are lusterless.
Choose colors that recede—none that “light up” and “advance” in the eye.
183Avoid clothes that are too small.
Avoid a tight, short waist line.
Avoid skirts that are too full, too short, or too long.
Use set-in sleeves rather than kimono sleeves unless the arm is very attractive. Then the sleeve must be very short or the dress sleeveless.
And here, finally, are ten chief rules that will help you profit to the utmost by what you have learned from this book and aid you speedily in attaining that slenderized appearance which is your aim:
HERE ARE THE TEN CHIEF RULES IN A NUTSHELL
1. Whenever you make over an old garment or design, have made, or purchase a new one always apply to it the rules of optical illusion as regards line, color, and fabric.
2. When you know what is becoming, try to achieve becomingness in an attractive way, emphasizing as much smartness and youthful charm in your dress as age, circumstances and occasion will allow.
3. Consider what is best for you as an individual. Study your type until you are 184sure what you can and what you cannot wear—do not try fantastic experiments unless you have unlimited means.
4. Make it a definite rule to assemble your attire and decide on every detail before you begin to dress.
5. Aim always to be refreshing, clean, neat, and carefully groomed.
6. Wear neat, good-looking, perfect fitting shoes appropriate to the size of your feet, and choose trim, sheer stockings that do not contrast too strikingly, if at all, with the color of your costume.
7. Be sure your corsets are right for you and that they surround you comfortably, but do not mold or hold your flesh too tightly. Let your brassiere fit perfectly.
8. Let your slip be of fine, smooth silk or batiste. Have it of the same color as your dress or of a harmonizing shade. Let the bottom edge come a trifle shorter than that of the dress, and be sure it fits you without a wrinkle.
9. When you are dressed, look yourself over carefully in front of your mirror and improve every detail as much as possible. Before the last look or the last dab of powder, 185consider carefully whether you are overdressed and whether all accessories go together, and especially make certain that you are not overtrimmed with jewelry, necklaces, or knickknacks.
10. Then, when all is done, put on a smile that expresses the finest that is in you, that compliments you for doing your best. And if, to this smile, you add all the kindliness that you can command, all the happiness that you can summon, your friends and your very own folks will declare you charming.
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