There are women who are constitutionally exempt from dowdiness, but the average woman of moderate means and, above all, the woman who has to count every penny and make it the equivalent of a five-cent piece is in great danger of drifting into that most unattractive condition called dowdiness.
The dowdy woman may be born so, in which case I think she should never marry. All of us see women who never look well dressed, whose hair is always coming down, and whose faces even are “dowdy” looking, showing an utter disregard of the art of grooming, as well as a total lack of discrimination in the selection of apparel.
Frequently these women have money, for the dowd is not confined to any station in life, nor is she necessarily the product of poverty and ignorance.
When you see a woman with filthy skirts, a soiled stock and faded finery, no matter how bright and pretty her face or how perfect her complexion, she is dowdy.
Some women drift into dowdyism in a most extraordinary manner as soon as they are what they are pleased to term married and settled. A girl whom we all remember as dainty and trim during her youth in a year or two after her brilliant marriage become,a confirmed sloven, a slave to loose wrappers and down-at-the-heel slippers-in other words, a dowd.
The man who remembers her as she stood beside him in all her bridal beauty has cause to feel that he has been badly cheated, as indeed he has.
Wives who permit themselves to become dowdy well understand that sooner or later their husbands will regret ever having married them, and after that the end may be easily predicted. It is a grave mistake for a woman to neglect her looks, no matter what her age or condition in life. It is almost criminal in a married woman. Sometimes when I tell this to a woman who is on the road to dowdiness she replies that she lets herself go because she has so much to do and does not like to spend the money.
This is a penny-wise-and-pound-foolish view of the matter, and it is pregnant with real danger to the peace and happiness of two people, and sometimes of an entire family. The woman who has so much to do would never think of neglecting to scrub her floor, or polish her tin pans. She will sew yards of cheap lace upon a baby dress, or sit up nights making useless finery for a child who would be much more comfortable and attractive in a simple garment.
But she has not time to take a daily bath, to keep her hair lustrous and well dressed and to preserve her teeth even and white. Instead she allows herself to degenerato into a household drudge and dowd.
If I had the making of the laws I would require that every living woman should take one hot scrub and one cold sponge each day, brush her teeth twice at least and her hair night and morning.
I would make it a misdemeanor for a woman to appear in drabbly skirts, and a penitentiary offense to be found attired in a “Mother Hubbard” outside of her own room.
Further than this I don’t believe in plain-looking women.
There is a chance for every one of us to be attractive in appearance, and there is no such thing as a hopelessly ugly girl or woman.
To be sure, we may not be raving beauties, all of us, but every woman alive can make herself a pleasant picture for the eyes of man to fall upon.
First of all, whatever her age is, a woman must look scrupulously nice and clean. Untidy hands, a face that shows the need of a scrubbing brush, hair that is forever falling down or displays bits of strings and other devices for keeping it up, shoes that are dingy, without buttons and run off at the heel, a fringed dress skirt lifted to reveal a soiled petticoat and a wrinkled stocking.
There is nothing so fatal to a girl’s chances as untidiness.
But suppose, as a girl once wrote to me, that a woman is freckled, and has red hair and no figure to speak of. Suppose, with such natural disadvantages, she is poor and has to work hard and ruin her hands, and is always tired, and can never buy anything pretty.What then ? Well, all that is just what I will suppose.
Now, red hair of itself is beautiful. Usually it waves or curls, and that is an added beauty. Freckles are not pretty, and they are practically there to stay. The freckles of red-haired women are conspicuous during the day, but they do not show much, sometimes not at all, by gaslight.
A red-haired, freckled girl too often lacks sufficient contrast between eyebrows, eyelashes, and skin to give her a clean-cut look.
I think in such cases it is a woman’s duty to darken the eyebrows and lashes. This can be done with little trouble and is imperceptible. The complexion of the redhaired girl is her most serious drawback.
It lends itself to untidiness, so the victim must be especially careful to keep it looking clean and well cared for.
If the red-haired girl has an oily skin she must be careful of her diet, avoiding all greasy and stimulating food, and in addition she must use an astringent lotion and a very little fine powder.
If my little red-headed girl has not nice teeth, she should have them repaired and made pretty and wholesome.
A thousand times better go without a new winter hat and gown, if you are a poor girl, than let your teeth suffer.
And there is not only wisdom, but morality in all this, for it is virtuous to be just as lovely as one can, and as no depraved woman ever was truly lovely, there is no moral danger in being beautiful and remaining so. There is a good deal of work to be accomplished, but it is a work in the right direction.