From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY
April 30th, 1864
Wherewithal Shall We be Clothed
I was much pleased with an article in the Rural (March 26th,) on hook skirts, but I should have been more so if so sensible a person, as a writer evidently is, had told us what (in her opinion) woman should wear. I can not think the former custom of wearing a half dozen skirts to make a figure to come up to the fashionable standard, less objectionable as regards health. Then what are we to wear? There is certainly a great need of a revolution in ladies’ clothing, especially farmer’s wives and daughters; and I think it would have been effected long since, but that ladies of wealth and fashion have not felt it so much an encombrance as they would if they were mechanically employed, and, as Faith Wayne says, but for its increasing their capacity to carry fantistic adornments; therefore the custom has become so prevalent and deeply rooted over most parts of the civilized world, that to dress in any thing but flowing robes is considered indelicate, unfeminine, bold, &c.
What a fuss was made over the Bloomer dress! How the dear press did deride and caricature it, and yet, (though not acquanted with all its details except the short skirt and pantalettes,) it was a health-giving device, and the originator should be honored among mankand [sic], and held in grateful remembrance by all posterity.
I confess I cannot do the subject the justice its magnitude merits; but I feel impelled to lift my voice in favor of a radical change. For years I have considered myself a slave of my dress, hoops or not; and if there is a farmer’s wife or daughter who have not felt the same inconvenience in the performance of their domestic duties, from their skirts, they must be more of a philosopher than I am.
How many times a day do we go up stairs and down cellar, each time carrying half of what we otherwise could if we had not to carry our dress in one hand; and even then one will step on the dress sometimes, and then the ugly rent must be mended. It may do for those who have nothing else to do to have the care and carry their swaddling clothes or hire others to do it, but for us, – the working bees of this world – away with it; it is nothing but slavery to fashion as ancient as the Heather Mythology, of more ancient still for what I know.
I recently saw in a Hamilton, Canada West, paper and editorial (!) commenting on the ladies’ style of dress, and enumerating the different articles of gentlemen’s apparel the ladies’ had apprpriated to themselves; and concluding with the fear that they next would be confiscating the pants, and calling on gentlemen to resist, to the death, any such effort. Now, I have no doubt but this is the sentiment of most men; and this forces me to the conclusion that the gentlemen are afraid of losing this last vestige of their sovereignty – hense they are enjoying a distinction of authority they have no right to, else why care? But, gentlemne, we don’t want your pants, we only want our own. We sould like to be as conveniently and comfortably clad as yourselves, and I bellieve there are many ways to do so and still make a wide distinction in the dress of the two sexes.
If I were to name a fitting dress for woman in all the varied walks of life, I should give them as great latitude, in regard to their upper garments, as their tastes should dictate or fashion demand; but I should insist on two point to be always observed in their general costume, namely: – long hair, confined or not, and warm, loose pants confinded at the ankle by a band. I hope to see this subject agitated until not a yard of cotton (to say nothing of silk or other costly fabrics,) shall sweep the universe except in the shape of mops.
Mrs. Smith. Saltfleet, C.W. 1864