Some Do’s and Don’t of Fashions for Ladies Living in 1886

Today's column is directed to my lady readers, but here's hoping the gentlemen will get a chuckle out of it as well.

An 1886 newspaper offered fashion advise to the fair damsels of that era. The title of it was “Do Not Wear,” and provided 19 suggestions for “the better half” to improve their appearances. Not being familiar with some of the items mentioned, I added a few words of explanations in parenthesis where I deemed appropriate. These items were in the newspaper 129 years ago: 

“1. Do not wear a sailor hat unless you are sure it is becoming; if not suited to your style, it will give you a bold look.

“2. Do not wear your hair in a careless way during the warm weather, as it will make you look very untidy. 

“3. Do not wear soiled gloves, even though the salesmen in the glove shops say they are allowable. 

“4. Do not wear stockings of a particularly remarkable  color or design because they are more desirable for the corps de ballet (a group of lowest rank dancers who are not soloists but instead work as a unit as a permanent part of the ballet company for the principal solo dancers).  

“5. Do not wear so much bustle (a frame or pad to support and expand the fullness of the back of a woman's skirt) that your figure will suggest an hour glass.

“6. Do not wear either too tight or too loose shoes. The first will ruin your temper while the other will affect the shape of your feet.

“7. Do not wear a very heavy perfume because it is vulgarizing. 

Jennie June Sewing Machine / Electric Light Soap

“8. Do not wear rose color on the street unless it be on your bonnet.  

“9. Do not wear many-colored flowers on your bonnet for somebody will surely compare you to a cockatoo.

“10. Do not wear ruching (pronounced “roo-shing,” a French sewing term, meaning to gather in a labor-intensive and time-consuming repeating pattern to form ruffles, scallops, or petals). 

“11. Do not wear upon the street lingerie suited only to the house.

“12. Do not wear a bustle over your white skirt, as it will cause the latter to show below the summer skirt.

“13. Do not wear a corset, since it not only causes discomfort but detracts from the artistic outline of the figure.

“14. Do not wear a very loose collar because it is an evidence of lack of taste.

“15. Do not wear the deep yellow shade unless you are very sure of its becomingness. When it is not “your color,” it is most undesirable in effect.

“16. Do not wear a silk dress when a cotton one would be better. Simplicity is seldom inappropriate during the summer, whereas magnificence usually is.

“17. Do not wear a chemisette (an article of women's clothing worn to fill in the front and neckline of any garment) and knotted scarf unless your bodice is arranged for it. When this is lacking, the desired smart look is also not there. 

“18. Do not wear a small veil. Instead, have one that  drapes the entire chapeau (a French term signifying a hat or other covering for the head) and keeps in place its garniture (decoration or embellishment) and your short bangs.

“19. Do not wear an expression of utter indifference to the world – the sunshine, the flowers, the colors, the people, the gowns and all the etcetera that help make up life. Even if you are absolutely outside of it all by some overwhelming consideration of self, at least do not look so, for it is as unbecoming as it is unwomanly and as well calculated to bring wrinkles on your face and lines your eyes as any of the forms of extreme self-consideration.”