|It is very interesting to observe the manner in which history records throughout the ages the alternating succession of diverse sartorial ideals.|
Periods during which fashionable people sought to express in their raiment the beauty, dignity and perhaps simplicity of the highest artistic conceptions of their time are succeeded by other periods illustrating in the main the excesses of those whose ideal was merely towards eccentric exaggeration or arresting incongruity — a rage for "smartness," divorced from any real inspiration of essential beauty. Once more, for a while, loveliness of line, the beauty of the human figure untrammelled by multiplicity of wrappings and distortion of outline, wins its grim battle with fumbling dulness or ill-judged dexterity intent on "going one better" than the mode of the day: and anon, beauty is overwhelmed by the Philistines, and the World's Wife disports herself in horrors of garb, coiffure, or complexion.
Whatever the future may hold, we are concerned for the moment with the present and the immediate past; and one conclusion will force itself irresistibly upon all who have peeped with us in these pages at "the signs of the times."
It is to Charles Frederick Worth, and his successors in the business he built, and to the other well-known houses founded and carried on according to the methods he established, and following the traditions he set up, that women to-day owe their triumphant emancipation from the ugly, cumbrous and dull — from the strict adherence to prescribed banality which characterized the dress of their grandmothers.
Far beyond the immediate circle of his own clientele, the influence of that inspired and fearless artist has spread. Copied, and multiplied prodigioushly, by the large stores and the countless retailers of ready-made clothing, his creations, debased and cheapened in the process as inevitably they have been, nevertheless have improved the standard of dress among "the masses" to an incalculable degree. Never before have the streets of our great cities displayed a higher general appreciation of trim neatness, or a greater striving after the expression of beauty.
Yet, although each success has thus made the next effort more difficult to achieve, the House of Worth has been ever equal to the demands made upon its artistry. The same principle of regarding each client as an individual problem, with potentialities to be studied, and beauty to be enhanced or maybe discovered and exploited, is still the guiding impulse of the House, as it was in the days of the founder. Others have arisen since his time, and achieved success by adopting the ideals and methods he originated; but the business he established has been carried on consistently with invariable devotion to the highest possible standards of artistic creation, perfection of materials and workmanship, and subservience of everything to the personality of the client.