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Hence certain prejudices. Curves.

      If there were not considerations of climate, we could not be sure how far whimsicality might venture. Because decorative fashion is by no means confined to raiment, there would be a kind of logic in regarding clothing as incidental. The women of Tonga are per-[87]mitted to leave off clothes if they are tattooed. A Carib woman may go without her clothes, but not without her paint. Of late our fashionable women have frequently seemed to be on the verge of giving recognition to an identical principle. Fashion must have a corporeal basis. Hence the fashions in walking, in posture, and in figure. In Frans Hal’s time fashion called for curves. To-day fashion’s idea figure has no more curves than the “Nude Descending a Staircase.” I heard one woman say that when she was young, plump legs were fashionable, and hers were thin. Now that spindles were fashionable hers had become plump. But meanwhile we have obliterated age classifications. Grandma does not wear a cap. She tangoes. Hence certain prejudices. Curves suggest maturity, and maturity is as unpopular as ever it was. Maturity has money to spend, and it must be placated. All mannequins are lean, and fashion designs are still leaner. The dream of a woman who undulates is of an emaciated thinness, and the fashion plate hastens to show not merely the chest of a boy, but the chest of a consumptive boy. “The Song of Songs” was written a long time ago. “We have a little sister, and she hath no breats: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?” To be flat, to circumvent the circular — this is the ideal [88] now held up before little sister. For themselves, men have been puttering with clothes that would obliterate social differences; women have been inventing means of obliterating curve differences. To favor the heavy, the slight are receiving the supreme flattery — I refuse to erase the accidental pun. In certain other countries the fat are fashionable. On this well-fed continent reducing is discussed more frequently and with more emotion than any of the commandments or any of the statutes. The lily to be painted should, if possible, be a thin lily.

— Alexander Black (1859-1940), “Painting the Lily” in American Husbands and Other Alternatives : (1925) : 79-95 (88) : link (U Michigan copy)
same (University of California copy, via hathitrust) : link

7 April 2023