Clothes of a Lady

In an old house in Cape Breton, built in 1910, there is an old etiquette book which was originally written in New York in 1922 and this version was ‘revised’ in 1945, giving advise on women’s clothing.
It starts off saying that clothes are our appearance, and where first impressions are made. Manners and speech come next, with character being one of the last things people notice about a new acquaintance.

The following are some insights into the ‘classic’ style:

  • “A frumpy party is nothing more or less than a collection of badly dressed persons”
  • “Following Fashion has little in common with beauty”
  • “The woman who is chic is always a little different, and chic is a combination of sophistication combined with fastidious taste. Chi-chi (pronounced she-she) is not a synonym for chic, but a flashy imitation of it.”
  • “In best society, women wear their rings at breakfast, lunch or dinner without the least discrimination in their size or value. A ‘dinner ring’ is an article unheard of and unknown. What is meant is probably a large ring”
  • “She who must wear one dress whenever she goes out would better choose black or very dark blue or possibly grey, with fresh white blouses or with accessories of one sort or another that go together so that they can be made to do double service.”
  • “To buy things at sales is very much like buying things at an auction. If you really know what you want and something about values, you can often do marvellously well: but if you are easily bewildered and know little of values, you are likely to spend your money on trash.”


  • “Day clothes – tailored suit or dress – with hat and gloves are the proper dress for lunch in the smartest restaurants – also to matinees. Hatless heads and toe-less shoes are still worn by the lagging sheep, but their number is said to be diminishing.”
  • “When in doubt wear the plainer dress. Wool is a better choice than velvet and the dinner dress usually trumps the ball dress when in doubt.


  • Hats should always be worn, exceptions would be at breakfast and in an evening gown. A hat should be worn when going to lunch in a restaurant. Always wear gloves in the street.
  • Summer evening clothes- the simpler the prettier.
  • Wedding: Day dresses should be worn up to six o’clock – morning street length – nooron or afternoon hours, they may be long if the wedding is to be very long.
  • Men should be wearing grey striped trousers with a plain black sack goat and waistcoat in the daytime

With light & love,