28 Jan The Art of Dressing Well & Being Well-Dressed | Lifestyle Podcast
Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. If you have a friend or family member who will be graduating high school or college this year, our book Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons makes for an excellent gift. You can now purchase this beautiful hardcover book at a special 25% discount, with the coupon code: Give25. This coupon is good through January 28th. To learn more, please visit: InspirationalLifeLessons.com.
Now, on to today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from the book: “The Man Who Pleases, and the Woman Who Fascinates” by John Albert Cone, published in 1901.
There is an old Spanish proverb that says, ”No woman is ugly who is well dressed.” And, of course, Shakespeare has said that “the apparel oft proclaims the man.”
I believe in dress. I believe that God delights in beautiful things, and as nothing is more beautiful than the human form, I believe that that mode of dressing the form and face which best harmonizes with our personal beauty is that which pleases best the Divine.
As I am a man, this discourse on dress is, of course, written from a man’s point of view. I know very well that were I to attempt to write elaborately of woman’s clothes I would be lost. No one but a woman or fashion designer can do that. The ordinary man who tried it would soon find himself bewildered by a maze of terms and expressions which seem absolutely necessary to describe exactly what is meant.
Possibly, however, I can take a broad view of the subject apart from and above the finesse with which feminine writers would treat the subject. Clothes are the woman’s weapons, one of the resources of civilization with which woman marches forth to the conquest of the world, and I wish to estimate from a man’s standpoint just how much the fabrics, the accessories, and the designs have to do in influencing the masculine heart.
What one wears is accepted as an index of one’s character. Whether this is as it should be or not, it is true; and we all feel, more or less, that coarseness or refinement finds visible expression in apparel as in no other way.
“Surely,” says The Boston Journal, “nothing so intensifies the personality as the clothes one wears; through association they become a part of us, help to identify us, even in some peculiar, reactionary way, serve to control our mental states.”
Many women will tell you that their most infallible cure for weariness and the blues is to go and dress up in one of their most attractive outfits. Many men will tell you that a clean shave, clean linen, and a fresh suit of clothes are most reviving and soothing in their effect upon the psychical, as well as the physical, man.
The old-fashioned statement, once often made, that women dress well only to please men, is only a fraction of the truth. They dress to please men; to please one another, and to please themselves. Which of these three motives is the strongest depends upon the individual, and it is absurd to make any attempt to analyze motives or to formulate principles which will apply to all women.
The men who dress well do it for women and for themselves. The effect that their apparel has upon others of their own sex, gives men but little concern. If all the women should be taken from the world, tailors would at once lose half their business, for the men would immediately begin to wear out their old clothes.
As a rule, few men care very much for fine clothes for their own sake. They do not notice the details of a woman’s dress. They accept the woman as a whole, and consider her, and what she has on, as one harmonious, homogeneous, unanalyzable completeness.
If you doubt this, ask a man to tell you how a certain lady was dressed at a party he attended the evening before. Perhaps he noticed her particularly while there, and told you at the time that she was attractively attired. He may be able to tell you that she wore a pink skirt, or that the prevailing color of her dress was blue, but there his knowledge of the subject ends.
While it is true that men give but little thought to the details of a woman’s dress, unless it is conspicuously bad, very many of them know whether she is becomingly attired or not. While they may have no clear idea as to whether a dress itself is quite in fashion, they know whether the owner carries it well, and whether the material, style, and color are becoming to her.
In general, it would be far better if women made a more comprehensive and sensible study of their individual needs in dress and did not blindly follow the decrees of fashion, if more women would realize that the garment suitable to a tall, slim figure, is utterly inappropriate to a stout, short one.
When Sara Bernhardt invented the glove which was to give size and form to her thin and poorly shaped arm, she recognized the highest aim of fashion. In other words, when furnishing a room, we understand that we should put in it only what makes the room look better — not what is simply pretty, or fashionable, in itself.
Men are attracted by a woman’s beauty itself, and whether she is wearing the latest fashion or not seldom interests him in the least. So the lady who would dress to please a man (or men in general), should, first of all, wear what will show off her natural attractiveness of face and figure to the best advantage; after that, then she may be as fashionable as possible.
Keep in mind that men will take in a woman’s whole appearance at a glance, and then pay but little further attention to the question of details and accessories. They want to be entertained and amused. Simplicity and exquisitely fresh neatness and femininity are to a man more attractive than any extravagance of fashion or costliness of material.
Before moving on to men’s attire, let me say one last thing about women’s dress. Just as there are some persons who are said to be born magnetic, so some women are supposed to have a peculiarly attractive way of wearing clothes which defies imitation. An old fashion critic once wrote, “There is a subtle something which refuses to be reduced to percentages, which baffles description, and that is the manner in which some women wear their clothes. Two girls with faces of equal value and garments of identical texture will fail to produce equivalent effects, because one has this indefinable quality, and the other has not.”
That there is a marked difference in the way different women wear their clothes, no one will deny, but because some girls look and appear to better advantage than others in the same material, is it necessary to regard it as beyond comprehension, or to declare that it “baffles description”? The fashion writer did not go far enough in his description of the two girls. While their faces were of equal value, and their clothing was of the same material, there might be other differences which would account for the “indefinable quality.”
Possibly one was pleasing in manner and the other not. One was awkward in person and in speech, while the other was tactful and graceful. One was dull; the other interesting. The difference was one of physical and mental characteristics taken in unison, and not a quality that (quote) “baffles description.”
Now, let us move on to the gents. No man, whatever his position in the world may be, can afford to be careless about his personal appearance. Dress may not make the man, but we all form in our minds a very clear idea of what a man is by his dress. We gain our first impression of persons by what they have on; our second judgment is formed from their conversation and manner. The well-dressed man is more attractive to others, and he feels much better himself than he would if carelessly attired. Have you noticed the wonderful transformation which takes place in a man when he doffs his everyday clothes and dons a fine suit?
During the day, he may have an untidy and even a slovenly appearance, but as soon as he puts on a well laundered shirt, a fresh tie, and a suit, he seems completely changed. He looks from five to ten years younger, and from his manner you know that he feels younger. He is on better terms with himself and with the world. Every woman likes a man better for being well dressed. She may excuse, or overlook, carelessness or even slovenliness in his personal appearance, if she is very fond of him, but she would like him much more if he were neat and tidy and tasteful.
She may forgive his green and yellow necktie, she may overlook his soiled linen, she may make no reference to his coat with its collar covered with dust and dandruff; she may not let him know that she has even noticed any of these things, but she has. She thinks of them whenever he is with her (and sometimes when she is away from him), and she wishes he were different.
She may, of course, like him in spite of these defects. Women usually like a man in spite of things. But, anyways, leaving out of the question the fact that women like to have men neat and even elegant in their dress, no man who is seeking to make his way in business or in a profession, can afford to be careless about his clothes.
Now, it is true that are a few men “clothed in the serenity of soul that approaches the insanity of genius” who can afford to go about ill-clothed. For example, President Lincoln was given free license to wear frock coats unbecomingly, and Albert Einstein could wear a rumpled tweed jacket with grace and equanimity. But they were unique. They could make fashion look insignificant, but you and I cannot, if we care to move amid the throng of busy people seeking passage on the car of progress.
No better advice has been given to men on the subject of dress than in an article which appeared in Success magazine. The author wrote the following: “Clothes are one of the accepted standards by which men are judged the world over. They form the chief standard of first impression; so, for that reason alone, it would be difficult to overestimate their importance. They show at a glance whether a man is neat or untidy; careful or careless; methodical or shiftless, and what sort of taste he has. Nothing else about him reflects so much of his personal characteristics.
So it is not surprising to be told by those who yearly give employment to thousands of men, that more applicants are turned away on account of their personal appearance than for all other reasons put together. But it would surprise some people very much if they knew how widely this rule is applied.
The well-dressed man is one whose clothes do not make him the object of comment, either because they are showy or shabby. He never goes to the extremes of fashion, thereby courting notoriety; he never goes to the other extreme by paying no attention at all to what he wears or how he wears it.
He is always modest in his attire. He conforms to the established customs of changing his attire as the occasion demands, without making himself a slave to reform. He does not always wear expensive clothes, nor is it at all necessary that he should. But he is always clean and neat, or, as the present day has it, he is “well groomed.”
The Inspirational Living podcast is a production of The Living Hour. For free transcripts, please visit LivingHour.org. To get 25% off our book Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons, please use the coupon code GIVE25 until January 28th. To learn more, please visit InspirationalLifeLessons.com. Thanks for listening. I look forward to being with you again next time.
Subscribe to the Inspirational Living Podcast at iTunes & Stitcher
All transcripts from our lifestyle podcasts are edited adaptations of the original work and copyrighted by LivingHour.org.