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

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve
Hope and Comfort

IN LATER years, when the human mind is free and active, it will seem strange indeed that any appeal was needed to induce people to make such an easy change for the better as a change in dress.

Some steps in social progress are long, slow and difficult, such as the breaking down of race-hatreds and class prejudices; others are quite beyond the reach of this generation and only to be worked toward, without looking for immediate accomplishment, such as the complete rearrangement of the economic position of women. The comfort we may feel in facing this question of dress for women, is that, in one sense, their very weakness is their strength. They have no prejudice whatever against any kind of fabric, color, or shape. They are too thoroughly [broken] by long submission to enforced changes to have any opposing force against another change. So we have no definite antagonism to overcome, only the will-less waste of unused minds to enter and develop.

Moreover, there is another comfort, a large one. The adoption of wiser and more beautiful clothes hurts no one but the tradesmen who now profit by our foolishness; and only hurts them in two ways; in the matter of limiting their excessive production, which will, of course, be cut down when we apply intelligence to costume, and in the special work of designing an unnecessary flood of [novelties] to

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