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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex, an electronic edition

by Hannah Woolley [Woolley, Hannah, fl. 1670]

date: 1675
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Edward Thomas
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

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Of New Fashions.

Man at first was left at liberty to be his own Taylor, and had the whole World to furnish him with all sorts of Materials, both for Stuff and trimming, and so made his Clothes as he thought fit and convenient.

Hence it is apparent that he was the first fashion inventer; some of his posterity imitated him, and others them, and we others; since then fashions seem to be left at liberty, I think no wise man should reprehend them, unless inconvenient and ridiculous.

If Womens palats are not consinable to one sort of meat, why should their fancies to one particular mode? Nature is the Mistress of Variety; shall we then be so ingrateful to her various kindnesses as to rest in the enjoyment of one Individual? She made all things for strength use and ornament; and shall we be so slothful and negligent, as not to contemplate their worth, and applaud them in ourdue use?

It is true, we never heard any thing of Apparel till sin sent man in an errand to seek for it; at first it was chosen for a covering for our first Parents shame; but their progeny beside that, have since found a decency therein. And certainly good Clothes are not displeasing to Heaven; had they been so, God would never have commanded the Garments of his High- Priests to be glorious and beautiful; not only to be rich in the outward Materials, | | 63 but richly wrought with the best eye-pleasing colours, and refulgent with precious Stones and Jewels.

The Peacocks starry train we cannot look on, but we must incline to admiration; and that the glory thereof may not be useless, Nature hath given that Bird an excellent art to spread it to the best advantage.

I may be bold to say, you sin more in the fordidness of your Apparel, than in its splendour; and you will not lose in your reputations, by being cloth'd a little above your rank, rather than altogether beneath it. A Jeweller when he would enhance the price of his Commodity, sets his precious Stones to the best advantage; and the richer they are, the greater is his endeavour and care to grace them in the luster. Its true, a Diamond will sparkle in the dark, and glitter, though unpolisht or ill set; yet we think the excellency of the cut, or water, can never cast abroad its rays too much.

Let me ask the gravest and most prudent Matron living, Whether it be not only convenient, but necessary, that as occasion shall require young Gentlewomen should be finer than ordinary, as upon their adddresses and visitings of persons of Quality, on days of publick feasting and joy, and on sollemn and sacred meetings? Socrates, thought a serious and four Philosopher, being askt the question, Why one day he was so unusual fine and brave? answered, That he might appear handsome to the handsome. We ought in our Clothes to conform our selves to those with whom we do converse.

Besides, we commonly guess at the fatness and goodness | | 64 of the soil, by the grass which we see upon the ground. Since most then judg by outward apparencies, it is requisite to provide for a good estimation, even from externals.

I have heard of some profuse Gallants, who having spent all their money, yet prudently and for credit, have kept good Clothes to their back, otherwise they might have hoop'd for a Dinner, and look'd for a Lodging.

If there were not a due respect to be had, according to rank and quality, what use would there be of Scarlet, Velvet, Cloth of Tissue, Silk, Satten, Jewels, and precious Stones of all sorts? They would be accounted superstuous, and rather burdens than benefits to the world.

This is a maxim undeniable, That Nature doth nothing in vain. Certainly then she had never produced such multiplicity and quantity of excellent and inestimable things, but for our use and ornament: Yet withal remember the saying of Demonax, who feeing a Gallant brave it in the fashion, and insult with his Feather, whispered these words in his ear, The Silk and fine Clothes you boast of, were spun by a worm, and worn by a Beast, before they came on your back, and yet the Worm continues still a Worm, and a Beast a Beast; and the Bird in whose tayl was the Feather you wear, is a Fowl still, There are some persons whose Gallantry of Apparel can never hide the fool from them, whilst others do grace and are graced by every thing they wear. Yet still we must conclude, that comely Apparel is to be prefer'd before what is costly or conceited.

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