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Dress, Or Who Makes The Fashions
by [?]

The door of my study being open, I heard in the distant parlor a sort of flutter of silken wings, and chatter of bird-like voices, which told me that a covey of Jenny’s pretty young street birds had just alighted there. I could not forbear a peep at the rosy faces that glanced out under pheasants’ tails, doves’ wings, and nodding humming-birds, and made one or two errands in that direction only that I might gratify my eyes with a look at them.

Your nice young girl, of good family and good breeding, is always a pretty object, and, for my part, I regularly lose my heart (in a sort of figurative way) to every fresh, charming creature that trips across my path. All their mysterious rattletraps and whirligigs,–their curls and networks and crimples and rimples and crisping-pins,–their little absurdities, if you will,–have to me a sort of charm, like the tricks and stammerings of a curly-headed child. I should have made a very poor censor if I had been put in Cato’s place: the witches would have thrown all my wisdom into some private chip-basket of their own, and walked off with it in triumph. Never a girl bows to me that I do not see in her eye a twinkle of confidence that she could, if she chose, make an old fool of me. I surrender at discretion on first sight.

Jenny’s friends are nice girls,–the flowers of good, staid, sensible families,–not heathen blossoms nursed in the hot-bed heat of wild, high-flying, fashionable society. They have been duly and truly taught and brought up, by good mothers and painstaking aunties, to understand in their infancy that handsome is that handsome does; that little girls must not be vain of their pretty red shoes and nice curls, and must remember that it is better to be good than to be handsome; with all other wholesome truisms of the kind. They have been to school, and had their minds improved in all modern ways,–have calculated eclipses, and read Virgil, Schiller, and La Fontaine, and understand all about the geological strata, and the different systems of metaphysics,–so that a person reading the list of their acquirements might be a little appalled at the prospect of entering into conversation with them. For all these reasons I listened quite indulgently to the animated conversation that was going on about–Well!

What do girls generally talk about, when a knot of them get together? Not, I believe, about the sources of the Nile, or the precession of the equinoxes, or the nature of the human understanding, or Dante, or Shakespeare, or Milton, although they have learned all about them in school; but upon a theme much nearer and dearer,–the one all-pervading feminine topic ever since Eve started the first toilet of fig-leaves; and as I caught now and then a phrase of their chatter, I jotted it down in pure amusement, giving to each charming speaker the name of the bird under whose colors she was sailing.

“For my part,” said little Humming-Bird, “I’m quite worn out with sewing; the fashions are all so different from what they were last year, that everything has to be made over.”

“Isn’t it dreadful!” said Pheasant. “There’s my new mauve silk dress! it was a very expensive silk, and I haven’t worn it more than three or four times, and it really looks quite dowdy; and I can’t get Patterson to do it over for me for this party. Well, really, I shall have to give up company because I have nothing to wear.”

“Who does set the fashions, I wonder,” said Humming-Bird; “they seem nowadays to whirl faster and faster, till really they don’t leave one time for anything.”

“Yes,” said Dove, “I haven’t a moment for reading, or drawing, or keeping up my music. The fact is, nowadays, to keep one’s self properly dressed is all one can do. If I were grande dame now, and had only to send an order to my milliner and dressmaker, I might be beautifully dressed all the time without giving much thought to it myself; and that is what I should like. But this constant planning about one’s toilet, changing your buttons and your fringes and your bonnet-trimmings and your hats every other day, and then being behindhand! It is really too fatiguing.”