The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Go to book overview

Chapter Nine
Larger Economic
Considerations

IT IS possible for a man to spend a good deal of money on his clothes. Some men do. Socks and underwear may be of silk; shoes made to measure; the most expensive tailors patronized; and all purchased in profusion and with continual variety. But item for item and change for change, the woman can out spend him, and add an endless list of articles he cannot parallel.

While it is still possible, with intelligent care, for a woman to dress on three to five hundred dollars a year, to say nothing of the millions who do it on fifty or less; the woman who is [in society] finds three to five thousand a moderate allowance, and many spend more. The influence of this down-reaching example spreads far and wide, to all classes of society; an insidious pressure upon all to spend and still to spend, on clothes.

Here we come nearer to that governing force called Fashion; but, postponing as long as possible; supposing, for the moment, that our costumes remained the same in style; we will consider merely their profusion and elaboration, as instances of economic waste.

If we had one unvarying kind of dress, as with the Chinese, it would be easily possible to have the necessary minimum, and then to allow a generous margin for personal variation in taste. The minimum in clothing rests on those basic principles mentioned in previous chap-

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