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The Ladies' Home Journal
"Just Among Ourselves"
Author: Mrs. Lyman Abbott
This was a column similar to what is currently known as "Letters to the Editors". One letter is presented from this column because it discusses how an Egyptian lady would like fashion in present day (1895).
Iam especially glad to print on this page a contribution from one whose name, where I am at liberty to give it, would add force to her writing. A long life, in close association with physicians, with an ardent interest in everything which promises human advancement, has given her the ability and right to speak with authority:
There came out some years ago in a well-known paper, a curious fancy. The writer had been in Egypt studying the wonders of Egypt, and there had discovered (and appropriated) in some cave or recess a mummy in a remarkable state of preservation. Indeed the appearance of life was so remarkable as to attract the attention of the owner (or thief) of the relic. (After all, some one would have taken it, and why not he as well as another?) There was not the blackness, the change of original structure, the rigidity of the usual mummy. The much reasoning ended in an experiment. They were days of mesmerism, when there was a strong and almost universal belief in the reality of the thing. What if this being should be in a trance or mesmeric sleep? And that point once settled, time was as nothing. Years or ages, it was all the same under that invisible power. So the fancy ran on, till it came to pass that rigidity disappeared, the color gave way, and in process of time the dormant soul waked in its tenement, and life and motion were restored. With eyes of wonder the new old woman gazed around upon objects evidently unfamiliar, but to which she gradually became accustomed, while she could express herself at least by motions and gestures where language failed.
It was proof to what extent what we call arts and civilization had made progress, that very few things struck her by their novelty, and our dress, our means of locomotion, our cooking, our progress in what we are apt to call "Fine Arts" did not seem to strike her as wonderful.
Wishing to civilize her more still, the Egyptian was clothed no more in loose robes, but in what we call modern garments.
But at this point she rebelled; when she saw the modern pictures and their imitators in real life, she manifested her disapproval.
The form was natural and not unlike the Venus, which is supposed to be the standard of perfection. Not having the power to express herself, she could only by gestures mark her disapproval. Shaking her head and holding her sides, she puffed and panted at the compression, to her the torture, of not being able to breathe freely and move about unrestricted.
The story went on to describe the struggles to make this child of Nature conform to the modern standard of beauty and proportion!
Indeed the doctor, who was one of her chief advocates, and who had studied the whole problem with scientific interest as well as professional intelligence, calmly said, "Let her alone, the woman is right. If you want to produce a Chinese woman's foot, you must take it in season and not let it grow. This deformity is wrong and the cause of infinite mischief. It is worse than the 'flat heads' systems which only compresses the skull; this attacks the citadel of life."
Did you ever see what they call the "corset liver"? For good reasons the whole frame is not like that description in the Book of Truth, "Thou hast fenced me with bones and sinews."
Hence the suffering, the "nervous prostration" now so fashionable and ladylike; the interruption of the natural currents of life. The ribs pressed into the liver-- something must give way-- and the liver, which has its own duties to perform, is hindered in its work, crowded out of shape--for the weak must always yield to the stronger--and the healthful action of all the parts mercilessly interfered with.
Yet our standards are so perverted that even sensible women will own that a small and slender waist-- not as the Lord made it-- is really more pleasing to the eye!
But we are growing better. One may now find good tailors who fit a gown well without bone or corset. This means that there is a demand for such gowns from women who patronize tailors.
Abbott, Mrs. Lyman "Just Among Ourselves", Ladies' Home Journal, Vol. XII, No. 7, June 1895, pp. 20.
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