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The Clothes Of Fiction
by [?]

The Drawer has never undervalued clothes. Whatever other heresies it may have had, however it may have insisted that the more a woman learns, the more she knows of books, the higher her education is carried in all the knowledges, the more interesting she will be, not only for an hour, but as a companion for life, it has never said that she is less attractive when dressed with taste and according to the season. Love itself could scarcely be expected to survive a winter hat worn after Easter. And the philosophy of this is not on the surface, nor applicable to women only. In this the highest of created things are under a law having a much wider application. Take as an item novels, the works of fiction, which have become an absolute necessity in the modern world, as necessary to divert the mind loaded with care and under actual strain as to fill the vacancy in otherwise idle brains. They have commonly a summer and a winter apparel. The publishers understand this. As certainly as the birds appear, comes the crop of summer novels, fluttering down upon the stalls, in procession through the railway trains, littering the drawing-room tables, in light paper, covers, ornamental, attractive in colors and fanciful designs, as welcome and grateful as the girls in muslin. When the thermometer is in the eighties, anything heavy and formidable is distasteful. The housekeeper knows we want few solid dishes, but salads and cooling drinks. The publisher knows that we want our literature (or what passes for that) in light array. In the winter we prefer the boards and the rich heavy binding, however light the tale may be; but in the summer, though the fiction be as grave and tragic as wandering love and bankruptcy, we would have it come to us lightly clad–out of stays, as it were.

It would hardly be worth while to refer to this taste in the apparel of our fiction did it not have deep and esoteric suggestions, and could not the novelists themselves get a hint from it. Is it realized how much depends upon the clothes that are worn by the characters in the novels –clothes put on not only to exhibit the inner life of the characters, but to please the readers who are to associate with them? It is true that there are novels that almost do away with the necessity of fashion magazines and fashion plates in the family, so faithful are they in the latest millinery details, and so fully do they satisfy the longing of all of us to know what is chic for the moment. It is pretty well understood, also, that women, and even men, are made to exhibit the deepest passions and the tenderest emotions in the crises of their lives by the clothes they put on. How the woman in such a crisis hesitates before her wardrobe, and at last chooses just what will express her innermost feeling! Does she dress for her lover as she dresses to receive her lawyer who has come to inform her that she is living beyond her income? Would not the lover be spared time and pain if he knew, as the novelist knows, whether the young lady is dressing for a rejection or an acceptance? Why does the lady intending suicide always throw on a waterproof when she steals out of the house to drown herself? The novelist knows the deep significance of every article of toilet, and nature teaches him to array his characters for the summer novel in the airy draperies suitable to the season. It is only good art that the cover of the novel and the covers of the characters shall be in harmony. He knows, also, that the characters in the winter novel must be adequately protected. We speak, of course, of the season stories. Novels that are to run through a year, or maybe many years, and are to set forth the passions and trials of changing age and varying circumstance, require different treatment and wider millinery knowledge. They are naturally more expensive. The wardrobe required in an all-round novel would bankrupt most of us.