This is an article from the Manchester Guardian (as it was then) archives for 1926. I hope you find it as interesting and amusing as I do. The pic is from a different source.



THE TUNIC OF DIANA

Murial Harris
Friday July 16, 1926
guardian.co.uk


It is often alleged that the new freedom of women - games, sport, enterprise of all kinds - is responsible for modern dress. No doubt this is true in theory, though very many women would be put to it to be very active in some of the dresses worn. Games have done away with imprisoning features such as the armour-plating of stays, high, choking collars, long dresses which absorbed one whole hand to keep them out of the dirt. The natural figure, when it is think is freely permitted, and when it is stout, dieting and exercise instead of compression is resorted to.
The theory of dress is that it is loose, straight, and nowhere constricting. It hangs from the shoulders; it is open to the air; and such assets as shoes and gloves are equally loose and comfortable, instead of being an impossible shape and exceedingly tight. There are no more unnatural waists, no more deformed feet - two advantages which may be set greatly to the credit of modern clothes.

On the other hand, from the hygienic and comfortable point of view, modern dresses are often far too narrow to permit of real freedom in walking and, when they are really fashionable, they are too tight to permit of real comfort in anything but standing. From the aesthetic point of view and as far as one can judge from among the shifting sands of standards, they should be either shorter or several inches longer. The kilt is a good length whether it is seen on the Highlander or upon various statues of Diana; a length slightly above the ankle is similarly becoming to the majority. The length that cuts up the calf is apt to give people a top-heavy appearance without the suggestion of poise which accompanies a good male figure tapering from the shoulders downwards. Moreover, there should be more differentiation with regard to age - not because age matters in itself, but because certain shapes and gestures demand different clothing, and these shapes and gesture differ naturally in youth and age.

Apart from these criticisms, modern dress probably strikers a higher average of suitability and aestheticism than any since the Greeks. All dresses are not exaggerated as to narrowness and shortness, and in any case they are not exaggerated to anything like the same extent as were the Punchinello front of the beginning of this century, the egg-boiler constriction which preceded it, the bustle, the crinoline, the train.

While modern movement and sport have demanded a certain type of dress in which woman can move freely - the Lenglen tennis dress is probably the most suitable of its kind, - and while it has become fashionable to pack one's whole wardrobe in a single suitcase, not even sport and hygiene have been the sole determining influences in women's clothes. Their plainness and straightness are, for one thing, not alone. They can be seen in architecture, in painting, in the crafts, in decoration generally. They can even be seen in a greater simplicity of living. Compare the average new shop building with the older methods, as seen in some of the modern Elizabethan revivals. In the latter there are no straight lines and there are a thousand details. In the former the straight line rules and ornament is used sparingly.

The reason is not far to seek. It is the general penury. A hundred or so years ago fashions were not dissimilar from those of to-day, and, likewise, after a long period of war.

The Georgian hoops were cut down to give way to Empire plainness and straightness, just as the crinoline and the dress that used to boast of being five yards round the bottom have been cut down to one yard. It is true that the exiguous dress costs more than did the ample dress. But the ample dress to-day would cost a fortune, even were there enough stuff to go round. The age is nevertheless accused of being luxurious. It will have silk stockings for one thing, and silk stockings stand for luxury rather as playing-cards stand for vice. In point of fact, it is woollen stockings that are really extravagant because nobody has yet prevented them from wearing out very rapidly. But that is by the way. The question of the beauty or not of modern dress still remains. There are many people who look ridiculous in a dress which is merely a short tunic. But would they not look ridiculous in most forms of dress? There are many exaggerations, such as that of very high or very low heels, which affect the "mode maigre" very adversely, but they are not necessary.

Englishwomen have enormous feet, and they show more now than formerly, but after all they were always there, and their exposure has made for very much better footgear. The cigarette figure is monotonous, it is true, and very largely because it approximates that of men, instead of lending variety by being as different as possible. But men and women also have, both of them, two eyes and one nose and nobody complains. Apart from its exaggerations, the chief fault of the modern dress is this monotony. It makes little allowance for sex, none for age. Otherwise it is comfortable, easy to make, economical, hygienic, and, at its best, more aesthetic as to line and colour than has been dress for many generations.

[previously posted on the Lady Killers blog]

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