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(caption title) Economy in Clothing
Martha H. French
Greenville, N. C.
East Carolina Teachers Training School
Call number C370.5 T76 v4 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Appears in Training school quarterly. Vol. 4, no. 4 (Jan., Feb., Mar. 1918)
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MARTHA H. FRENCH, Assistant Professor of Textiles and Sewing,
State Normal College, Ypsilanti, Mich.
No loyal American woman can fail to recognize that in the present world crisis her efforts must be quite as whole-hearted as are those of her brother in arms if this war is to be won for democracy. She must realize that not alone her own countrymen must be clothed and fed, but that the men of the allied countries also must have food and clothing to keep them in condition to fight. She has been told just how much flour she must save, and how many pounds of sugar her household consumption must be cut. She has had "meatless" and "wheatless" days brought to her attention. She has been guided through a maze of wheat and meat substitutes by literature unlimited, and by recipes from many sources. And it is well that she should be. But what of the restrictions and substitutions necessary in other commodities--in fuel, in clothing, in fabrics for the home? That man does not live by food alone was never truer than now; and an effective program of conservation does not apply to food alone, though we are apt to lose sight of its other requirements.
Women's Wear, a paper published for the trade world, gives in a recent issue plans that have been adopted by the makers of women's garments, by which they hope partially to overcome the difficult situation. No garment is to contain more than from three to four and a half yards of material, the amount depending upon the width of the goods. It is stated in the same issue that women show no signs of upholding the wishes of the Government, but rush to get the very fabrics which it has asked them to conserve.
Streightoff, in his Standards of Living, says that clothing should be the corollary of food. It should act as an insulator to conserve bodily heat. Persons poorly clad need more food than those warmly dressed. Where it is possible, both food and fuel may be conserved by wearing warm clothing. To be well clad adds to a person's prestige and self-respect; but only in making clothing serve its real purpose can one be well clad.
The Government tells us that in wool fabrics especially we need to economize, and the reasons are not hard to find. The use of the animals for meat and the reduction of flocks because of the high cost of feed have lessened the amount of wool produced. The severity of last winter killed many animals and injured both the quality and quantity of wool on those that survived. Then, too, our British importations, usually large, have ceased. Yet in the face of all these conditions the demands for equipping army and navy have greatly increased our total needs for wool.
The practical problem arises, then, How are we to meet this condition? How can we economize in clothing, thereby conserving materials needed for the army and navy--our protectors?
1. We must have fewer changes.
2. We must remodel where possible; I do not mean "where convenient," but where possible.
3. We must avoid extremes in style, as these necessitate frequent change.
4. We must buy durable stuffs, and wear them "to a finish."
5. We must set worthy standards, and live up to them fearlessly.
Many times it is difficult to economize in clothing because of the fear of public opinion. Prevailing high school fashions, which overdress the students and detract from the youthful charm of the wearers, are a glaring example of the "follow-the-leader" type of dressing. In the United States we have not learned to select clothing from any standpoint except a whimsical fancy. In France, to which country we always look for charm in dress, woman wears a costume to enhance her own attractiveness, not to take honors from it. In the introduction to a history of French fashions, a French woman is quoted as saying: "It is perhaps allowable to be sentimental in a sky-blue bonnet, but one must not cry in a pink one."
A few years ago the Society for the Promotion of Child Welfare in New York City in one of its exhibits distributed a small pamphlet entitled, "What was the Matter with Mary's Last Dress?" In this the following questions were asked: "Did it fade? Did it shrink badly? Did it go to pieces when rubbed on the washing board? Did it look like linen--smooth and glossy at first, and then, after washing, look coarse, and open, and dull, Did it spot when Mary was caught in the rain? Was it more cotton than wool, in spite of the salesman's assurance that it was all wool? Do you really want to know about all these things before buying Mary's next dress or coat or underwear?"
The shopper can examine the fabric by holding it to the light and looking through it for imperfections in weave and in threads. Of course, if a good, high-power microscope or a chemical laboratory were available, many fairly definite tests might be made; but as a rule the consumer is not in a position to use either of these means.
To sum up, then, the wise shopper may ask herself questions something like these when making her purchases:
1. Is this material what it is represented to be? If adulterated, how? Does this interfere with its usefulness to me,
2. If colored, Are the colors suitable to the purpose, and fast to light and washing, Are the decorations lasting,
3. Is the appearance enhanced by filling or by deceptive finishing,
The intelligent shopper will know how much she has to spend, and never spend more. She will know the quantity of material necessary,
instead of depending upon the judgment of the saleswoman. She will know which stores specialize in certain things. She will know that one good garment is better than two poor ones, and that simple clothes, though not always the cheapest at first cost, wear longer and look attractive always. She will avoid bargains, except where training and experience guarantee good judgment. Good, standard fabrics must command a fair price.
By thus bringing definite knowledge, a trained judgment, and simple taste to bear upon the problem of providing the fabrics of the household, the mistress of the average home may give very material aid in our national program of conservation and still keep her family well clad.--The American Schoolmaster.