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The Dress of Girls

chest, weight, movements, clothing, body, cavity, lower, ribs, lungs and stays

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THE DRESS OF GIRLS.

Conditions of Healthy Dress.—Strictly speaking there is only one purpose of dress, and that is to maintain the whole body at an appropriate and equal degree of heat. That main purpose being fulfilled, there are various secondary conditions to be kept in view. The dress ought to be light, so that the bodily energy is not taxed to carry about an unnecessary weight, and it ought to be so adapted to the body as to leave unhampered all the natural movements of the body. This second condition implies not only that the movements of the limbs shall not be restrained, but also that such movements as those of breathing shall in no way be impeded, and that, as another ex ample, no part of the clothing shall so constrict a part as to interfere with the natural flow of blood in it. The main purpose of clothing being fulfilled in accordance with these condi tions, it is time enough to consider how the dress can be made graceful or becoming.

Common Errors in Girls' is easy to point out how the ordinary dress of women and girls breaks the above rules. It is not arranged so as to keep the whole body equally warm. There is more clothing over the hips than on any other part of the body. All the underclothing leaves the neck and shoulders practically bare, and when they are covered it is only by the bodice of the dress. Unless the sleeves are tight-fitting, the arm is really exposed np to the elbows, while, owing to the looseness of the skirts, the legs from the knee downwards are insufficiently protected.

If the clothing is improperly distributed as regards warmth, it is as apparently improperly distributed for purposes of easy carriage. The heaviest portion of it hangs from the waist, and the weight itself necessitates the drawing of the garments tight that they may he pro perly supported, so that the one evil leads to another. On the other hand, garments depend ent from the shoulders are easily borne, and entail no undesirable constriction round the waist. A third point in which female dress is strikingly at variance with the conditions of healthy dress is in its undue weight. It will be admitted that the total weight of the cloth ing is out of all proportion to the degree of warmth that it is-required to maintain, and that if only warmth and protection are to be taken into account, much of it is superfluous. Thus the weight is not only badly arranged for easy carriage, but it is excessive in amount. This becomes a very important question in relation to exercise. The addition of one or two pounds weight of needless clothing may seem a trifling affair, but when one considers the bodily energy expended in carrying these few pounds a distance of a few miles, it is easily seen that that slight extra weight may be indeed a serious burden, even in the ordinary movements of locomotion, and becomes an un conscious hindrance to free and vigorous exer cise. Custom prevents this being fully appre ciated, but women themselves know well how weighed down they feel when walking with clothing wet with rain. The increase in weight is not much, hut it is felt as a load, just because it is more than they are accustomed to. Per. haps female dress does not err, from a healthy standard, more grievously than by the undue restriction of movement which it enforces. It is needless to say that the movements of the legs are very limited, and that running or jumping would be accomplished with difficulty. Tight sleeves seriously press on parts, espe cially at the arm-pits, and impede the circula tion in the arm ; garters, by their pressure below the knee, offer a very considerable obstacle to the return of blood in the veins from the parts below, and directly encourage the production of dilated veins with all their attendant evils.

The Evils Stays, and the deformities they mistakes are as nothing to that of tight-lacing, and the evils they pro duce are small in comparison with those that attend this larger and greatest of all evils of feminine dress. The real effects of tight-lacing ought to be thoroughly considered. First of all, it undoubtedly impedes the full expansion of the lungs. In the section on Respiration it is explained (p. 346) that the act of breathing consists of an expansion of the chest in every direction; the cavity of the chest enlarges and air rushes in to fill up the lungs, and so occupy the increased space ; thereafter the chest re turns to its usual size, and air is thus expelled to permit of a diminution in the expansion of the lungs to fit the diminished space. The chief way in which the chest cavity enlarges is by the descent of the diaphragm, which is at once the floor of that cavity and the roof of the cavity of the abdomen or belly. When the diaphragm descends it does so at the expense of the belly cavity, on wh Dm space it encroaches, and to make additional room the front and side walls of the abdomen bulge outwards. Now if the waist and part of the chest are encircled by a tightly drawn and, by the Agency of steel, practically unyielding structure like stays, this movement of the abdominal walls cannot be developed, the descent of the diaphragm is arrested, and expansion of the chest in this direction becomes difficult. To compensate for this, enlargement must take place by exag gerated raising and widening of the upper part of the chest through movements of the ribs. The lower part of the chest is restricted in movement, and in the upper part the move ment is overdone. The lungs are thus insuffi ciently and improperly inflated, in their upper portions having to bear an unnecessary strain, and their lower portions being seldom properly distended at all. Moreover, the constant pres sure exerted by the stays forces inwards the lower ribs, and specially the last two on each side, the floating ribs, which have no attach ment in front, and forces in to some extent also the lower ribs next to them, so that the shape of the chest becomes actually altered, and instead of being broad and expanded low down, it is narrowed and drawn in. All this means diminished breathing-space, enfeebled breathing-power, and its indirect consequences it is difficult to estimate. But more than this: the pressure exerted by tight stays seriously alters the proper positions of the various or gans in the abdomen. It is difficult to state with any accuracy how many different kinds of disturbance of a good state of health may arise in this way. The normal circumference of the waist ought to be from 25 to 27 inches. Under the influence of lacing this may be reduced to 20 or 22 inches, and even less, 16 inches being considered by some fashionable dressmakers the goal to be reached. Now all this constriction takes place at the expense of the space within the abdomen, and partly within the chest; for, as has been stated, the lower ribs are easily compressed from the slight nature of their attachments iu front.

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