The Costume Gallery


Ladies Indispensable Assistant

Author: E. Hutchinson

A Book Copyrighted in 1852


A few plain directions, fashioned not after an imaginary model, but upon the world as it is.



The Person

Cleanliness, absolute purity of person, is the first requisite in the appearance of a gentleman or lady. Not only should the face and hands be kept clean, but the whole skin should be subjected to frequent ablutions. Better ware course clothes with a clean skin, than silk stockings drawn over dirty feet. Let the whole skin be kept pure and sweet, the teeth and nails and hair, clean; and the last two of medium length, and naturally cut. Nothing deforms a man bore than bad hair-cutting, and unnatural deformity in wearing it. Abstain from all eccentricities. Take a medium between nature and fashion, which is perhaps the best rule in regard to dress and appearance that can be given.



The importance of dress can scarcely be overrated, but by comparison. It is with the world the outward sign of both character and condition.

It is a general rule, applicable to both sexes, that persons are the best dresses, when you cannot remember how they were dressed. Avoid everything out of the way uncommon or grotesque.


A well bred man may be ever so reduced in his wardrobe--his clothes may be coarse and threadbare, but he seldom wears a coarse, and never a dirty shirt.

The boots should always be clean, and invariably well blacked and polished.

Make a point of buying a good hat. One proper fur hat whether four or five dollars, when a year old, looks more respectable, than a silk one bought yesterday.

Be as particular as you like about the cup of your pantaloons. Buy strong cloth that will not be tearing at every turn, and if you consult economy and taste at the same time, let them be either black or very dark grey, when they will answer upon all occasions.

The vest allows of some fancy, but beware of being too fanciful. A black satin is proper for any person or any occasion. Nothing is more elegant than pure white. Some colors may be worn for variety, but beware of everything glaring, in materials or trimmings.

If you have but one coat, it will be a black dress-coat, as there are occasions where no other will answer. Frock-coats are worn in the morning, riding or walking, but never at evening visits, at weddings, or parties. Overcoats are worn for comfort; they need not be fine, and should not be fanciful. Most gentlemen wear a simple, plain, black silk cravat, neatly tied in a bow-knot before. Parties require white or light kid-gloves. Black, or very dark ones, if kid, silk, or linen, are worn upon all other occasions, except in driving, when buff leather-gloves are preferable.

The best dressed men wear the least jewelry. Of all things avoid showy chains, large rings and gewgaw pins and broaches, All these things should be left to negroes, Indians, and South Sea islanders.

The most proper pocket-handkerchiefs are of white linen. If figured or embroidered, they should be very delicately done.

Gloves are worn in the street, at church, and places of amusement. It is not enough to carry them--they are to be worn.


LADIES are allowed to consult fancy, variety, and ornament, more than men, yet nearly the same rules apply. It is the mark of a lady to be always well shod. If your feet are small, don't spoil then by pinching--if large, squeezing them makes them worse.

As yon regard health, comfort, and beauty, do not lace too tightly. A waist too small for the natural proportion of the figure, is the worset possible deformity, and produces many others. No woman who laces tight can have good shoulders, a straight spine, good lungs, sweet breath, or is fit to be a wife and mother.

The most elegant dresses are black or white. Common modesty will prevent indecent exposure of the shoulders and bosom. A vulgar girl wears bright and glaring colors, fantastically made; a large, flaring, red, yellow or sky-blue hat, covered with a rainbow or ribbons, and all the rings and trinkets she can load upon her. Of course, a modest well bred young lady chooses the reverse of all this. In any assemblage, the most plainly dressed woman is sure to be the most lady-like and attractive. Neatness is better than richness, and plainness better than display. Single ladies dress less in fashionable society than married ones, and all more plainly and substantially for walking or traveling, than on other occasions.

In my opinion, nothing beyond a simple, natural flower, ever adds to the beauty of a lady's head-dress.


This presentation of the Ladies Indispensable Assistant has been made possible by loan from Making Time costume design.

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 Ladies Toilette Table

 The Work-box

 Directions for Coloring Garments



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