Whenever I need a good shot of righteous indignation, I like to search through Google Books on keywords like 'ridiculous dress' or 'ludicrous gown', because I'm never disappointed. I can always find some man who has decided that the only thing wrong with the world is women's dress, and that of course he, being far above the vagaries of fashion (and who is, of course, wearing that completely rational item of dress, the necktie) is ideally suited to pass criticism upon it.
This example is wonderful — it's not that the streets of London are filthy, or that men should perhaps not throw their cigar butts in the gutter — no, women's dresses are too long. (Why can't both things be true, I wonder?)
Q. WHAT is the dirtiest creature you know?
A. The English fine lady.
Q. What are your reasons for saying this ?
A. Her habits.
Q. Explain yourself more fully.
A. When she walks she drags behind her a receptacle for dust and dirt of every kind.
Q. What is this called?
A. A long dress, or train.
Q. What is its action?
A. It sweeps the ground, collects mud, dust, cigar-stumps, straws, leaves, and every other impurity.
Q. What happens next?
A. This accumulation rubs off to a certain extent upon other portions of her dress, or upon the legs of any person who may walk beside her, and when she gets into her carriage, the objectionable matter spoils the lining ; besides that, the dust is most offensive.
Q. Why does she wear such a ridiculous dress?
A. For one of two reasons. Either because she aims at a servile imitation of certain great folks, or because she owes money to her milliner, and dares not order any kind of dress except that which this tyrant sends home to her.
Q. Why does she not raise, or loop up her dress to keep it from the ground?
A. Because, being a lazy person, she has thick ancles [sic], or being a scraggy person, she has skinny ones, which her vanity forbids her to exhibit.
Q. Is there any other reason?
A. Yes; she has probably ugly feet, disfigured by corns or bunions caused by wearing tight boots.
Q. Is there any cure for such habits?
There is none, until her husband has been nearly ruined by her extravagance, when she is compelled by economical reasons to dress like a rational being, and at once becomes clean and charming as the British female was intended to be.
Q. What sensation is caused to man by the sight of these dresses ?
A. Contemptuous pity for the woman, and pity, without contempt, for her unfortunate husband.
Q. Does she know this ?
A. Yes, but as she dresses less to please men than to vex women, the knowledge has no effect upon her dirty habits.
Q. Where can the animal be seen?
A. At the Zoological Gardens on Sunday afternoons, in the Park and Kensington Gardens, and in most places where fine clothes can be successfully exhibited.
Q. What lesson should you deduce from this ?
A. That of thankfulness to Providence that, (if married at all) you are married to a sensible woman and not to a fine lady.
Q. What will you take to drink ?
A. Anything you like to put a name to.