The Forceful, Energetic Woman

by Erin on November 24, 2005

from Color and Line in Dress,by Laurene Hempstead, 1939.

The young woman who belongs to the more vigorous type should wear costumes that express her own forceful personality. A basic rule of costume design is that colors should never be more forceful than the physical personality of the wearer. This permits the woman of forceful, energetic character to wear definite, decided colors that are denied many women. Weak, pale colors may make her own coloring appear coarse, while forceful colors further vitalize her appearance. Distinctive and characterful, even bold, color contrasts are frequently advisable.
The quick, active, energetic movements of the forceful woman are at variance with costumes designed with many soft floating ends, fluttering details that appear untidy and bedraggled on the woman of quick, brisk movements. They give her an appearance of being agitated, of poor poise. Simple tailored lines shoudl characterize her costume, with details manipulated so that the entire costume moves with the wearer rather than fluttering out away from the figure. Freedom of movement, so essential to the grace of the woman of brisk, energetic action, should always be permitted by the costume.
Round lines, giving softer, more feminine contours, are hardly consistent with the personality of the woman of strength and vigor. Short, broken lines, destroying the harmony of her vigorous, clear-cut outlines, should never be recommended for the active, aggressive type of woman. Straight, unbroken lines, both in perpendicular and diagonal arrangement are usually becoming to the vigorous personality, emphasizing dignity and poise.
The person of vigorous, aggressive character may sometimes wish to appear more daintily feminine than her natural personality. She may, if she so wishes, wear costumes with softer details, slightly more feminine in aspect than her own personality. She shoudl not, however, make the mistake of wearing extremely dainty garments, which, by their contrast with her more vigorous personality, will give her a suggestion of masculinity.
The severely tailored costume should not have masculine details or accessories, but rather those with a youthful, boyish note. Only the young, fresh-looking woman can afford to strive for a masculine effect, either boyish or mannish. Usually the severely tailored costume is most pleasing when relieved by simple accessories that show feminine thought and imagination.
Designs of striking character, those employing definite, clear-cut outlines, decided contrasts in vivid colors, can be worn by the woman of forceful personality. Opaque materials that assume simple, clear-cut lines or sturdy fabrics that have a strong vigorous character readily lend themselves to costumes that enhance the personality of the vigorous, active woman.

I eviscerated the "fashion advice" section of the U. of Chicago library. I found it hilarious that none of the books available there were published after about 1940, which is when I guess was the last time that there was any pressure at all on U of C undergrads to look fashionable. Or perhaps about the time they discontinued their Home Economics degree (remind me to talk about that degree sometime, which was, in effect, a degree in management, intended for women who expected to run a household staff of at least five and often many more, spread across several locations). Anyway. I have a whole lot of books with advice of this sort, so look forward to more in the near-ish future. I do have them until at least January, unless they are recalled.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sdn November 25, 2005 at 9:04 am

i’ve sent this to my friends who are chicago alums. i’m sure they’ll be laughing and laughing.i do agree with the advice, though.

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Almost Girl November 25, 2005 at 12:51 pm

The advice still stands! Ohh U of C and the fashionable! Have we always been so conflicted?Almost Girlhttp://almostgirl.coffeespoons.org

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Maija November 25, 2005 at 3:48 pm

I found it hilarious that none of the books available there were published after about 1940, which is when I guess was the last time that there was any pressure at all on U of C undergrads to look fashionable.Ca. 1940 was the height of Robert M. Hutchins’s reign at U of C. He de-emphasized or ended a lot of social traditions at the university around this time, including varsity football (U of C used to be a Big 10 school). One of my co-workers put it, “He’s basically responsible for the student body you see today.” He also heartily disapproved of “vocational” degree programs, so Home Ec was probably high on his hit list. The Home Economics department did limp along into the 1950s, I believe.I do like this fashion advice. It’s a refreshing change from the usual “Tone it down! Be more average!” school of thought.

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shana November 27, 2005 at 5:44 pm

I would love to hear more about the Home Ec program for managing the help and the many households…ah, what a different life! But someday, when I win the lottery….

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Jonquil November 27, 2005 at 7:17 pm

I think that I may be the “vigorous woman”, but the sad truth is that I like trailing sleeves, even though I do sometimes drag them in the butter.

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