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September 1893

"The Woman of Forty"

I generally end my talks about clothes with a tiny sermon, this time I am going to begin with one. The American woman who has passed her youth seems to have an idea that it is no longer her duty to look well, or to dress well. This idea is particularly prevalent in small places, and I cannot think of one that I consider more absolutely wrong. The woman over forty should look her best-- if she has a husband and children, for their sakes; if she has none, then it becomes her duty to look as well as possible for the sake of all the rest of the world. She has the advantage over the younger woman of being matured in mind and body, and it is her privilege, and should by her delight to bring out all the graces she possesses to the best advantage.

Rich materials are at her command, and as experience has taught her when she should use them, there is seldom much danger of being overdressed. The received best dress for the woman past forty was, for a number of years, a very severe black silk one, made without any decoration unless it should be a flat jet trimming. Such a gown as this was calculated to bring out every angle of the thin woman's figure, and every extra pound of flesh that belonged to the stout woman. The trouble was not in the black silk, but in its method of making. Every graceful device of folds and drapery; every soft trimming in the way of velvet or lace belongs to the woman of middle age, and yet, curiously enough, too, often she does not seem to value that which is her right and which will make her look younger and more elegant.

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Click on this article's sections to view:

Article Intro

 About the Styles

 Suggestions for the Thin Women

  About Her Waist

 Dress for the Slender Woman

 About Her Bonnets

 Gown for a Stout Woman

 A Few Last Words

 In Choosing Materials

Bibliographical Information:
Mallon, Isabel A. "The Woman of Forty",
The Ladies' Home Journal, Vol. X, No. 10, September 1893, p. 19.


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