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dent woman will avoid as much as possible. But let the license of the age be what it will, I must needs think that, according to every rule of duty and decorum, there ought ever to be a manifest difference between the attire of a Virtuous Woman, and that of one who has renounced every title to the honourable name. It were indelicate, it is unnecessary, to explain this difference. In some respects, it is sufficiently discerned by the eye of the public ; though I am sorry to say, not sufficiently attended to by the generality of women themselves. If, in other respects, it be not seen, or do not strike; the cause, I apprehend, must be that declension from the strictness of morals, which was hinted at a moment before ; a declension that would have shocked pagans themselves, in the purest state of ancient manners, when prostitutes were compelled to wear a particular garb, by which they were distinguished from women of virtue.
But to enter more particularly into this first point of Modest Apparel, as opposed to that which a christian woman should hold Indecent.
Image to yourselves a circle composed only of a people who are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, nor in any circumstance afraid to act on that great maxim of our apostle, “ Be not conformed to this world ; but be ye transformed by the renewing your
minds.” At the same time, let them have all the candour and charity, which the most charitable religion that was ever known can inspire. And now, suppose a young lady dressed up to the heighth of the present fashion, but a stranger to most of them, drops into their company. In what light, do ye conceive, the manner of her dress would probably appear? The laws of christian candour would naturally prevent them from seeing
her character in a bad light on that account, and would unquestionably incline them to hope the best. But can ye believe that they would apprové, or justify, the extremné gaiety and looseness of her attire? Suppose however, that her conversation discovered a good understanding, and that her behaviour had not the least tincture of that levity with which she seemed decked out; that, on the contrary, every part of both was wholly unlike it; (a conjunction by no means impossible ;) could they forbear, in that case, to lament the tyranny of the mode, or to regret that a daughter of Wisdom should, notwithstanding her superior descent and noble pretensions, be decorated like the daughters of Folly? But whose judgment, I beseech you, would a young woman, ambitious of regulating her appearance, as well as her dispositions and deportment, on the purest standard, prefer; that of such persons as I have just described; or that of those who either never regarded the precepts and spirit of christianity at all, or who, professing some faint respect for them, yet scruple not to sink them in the spirit and maxims of the world?
Let us put another case, and suppose a young lady educated by a mother, who to the best sense and truest breeding joined the utmost reverence for religion, and the tenderést concern for the soul of her child; qualities which, for the honour of your sex, I hope you will not pronounce incompatible. Let this accomplished parent bestow upon her daughter a culture worthy of herself; instructing her in every thing that can become the Female and the Christian character; among the rest, recommending a lovely Modesty, and graceful simplicity of Apparel, and enforcing all by. an example
equally unexceptionable and pleasing. Suppose the daughter to improve these uncommon advantages (for uncommon, I fear, they are) with the strictest care and attention. In what light do ye conceive the very free mode of dress, so generally affected by the sex at present, would appear to her? I am far from thinking she would assume the airs of sanctimonious prudery, or indulge the style of supercilious censure ; things totally different from the form of education we have figured her to receive. But would she admire that mode in others? Would she copy
it herself? or would she wish her companions to copy it? Would she choose to be intimate with those young ladies that seize every opportunity of exhibiting their charms to the public, and vie with one another who shall most liberally display what her honoured mother taught her more decently to veil ?
Is the mode then in question to be considered as inconsistent with the character of a Virtuous Woman ?
By no means. May not dispositions the inost unchaste often hide under the mask of an attire the most modest? Who can doubt it? But what follows? That such attire is not the properest covering of virtue, or what, if left to pursue undisturbed the dictates of delicacy and prudence, she would not readily fly to in a state of civilized socie
Will any, one say, that they who decline it, best consult either their safety, or their reputation among the wise ; that they, who run into all the latitudes allowed by the wantonness of fashion, are sufficiently watchful against temptation themselves, or sufficiently careful not to throw it in the way
of others ; that beauty may be as secure when most exposed, as when least so; or finally, that instead of “ abstaining from all appearance of evil,” accord
ing to the doctrine of a religion which requires the severest vigilance, every appearance of evil may be admitted, in compliance with the practice of a world, where vice steals upon unwary mortals by persuading them to part with their out-guards?
Thus far have we argued for Modesty of Apparel, in opposition to its contrary, upon the general principles of propriety and reputation, of morality and religion. She to whom these principles are familiar, and in whom the feelings that arise out of them are not blunted by too frequent intercourse with the fashionable and the gay, will on this article carry about with her a kind of living standard, which she will be enabled to apply to particular occasions, with a degree of discretion that no rules of ours can teach; and such a one will perceive in our apostle's precept a justness and solidity, of which we do not expect that any speculation of ours should thoroughly convince you, without the concurrence of a virtuous sensibility on your part.
To what has been said in favour of Modest Apparel under this head, I must not forget to adil, that it is a powerful attractive, to honourable love. The male heart is a study, in which your sex are supposed to be a good deal conversant. Yet in this study, you must give me leave to say, many of them seem
to me, but indifferent proficients. To gain men's affections, women in general arė naturally desirous. They need not deny, they cannot conceal it. The sexes were made for each other. We wish for a place in your hearts : why should you not wish for one in our's ? But how much are you deceived, my fair friends, if you dream of taking that fort by storm! When you show a sweet solicitude to please by every decent, gentle, unaffected attraction, we are soothed, we' are sub
dued, we yield ourselves your willing captives. But if at any time by a forward appearance you betray a confidence in your charms, and by throwing them out upon us all at once, you seem resolved, as it were, to force our admiration ; that moment we are on our guard, and your assaults are vain, provided at least we have any spirit or sentiment. In reality, they who have very little of either, I might have said they who have none, even the silliest, even the loosest men, shall in a sober mood
be taken with the bashful air, and reserved dress, > of an
amiable young woman, infinitely more than they ever were with all the open blaze of laboured beauty, and arrogant claims of undisguised allurement ; the human heart, in its better sensations, being still formed to the love of virtue.
Let me add, that the human imagination hates to be confined. We are never highly delighted, where something is not left us to fancy. This last observa. tion holds true throughout all nature, and all art. But when I speak of these, I must subjoin, thať Art being agreeable no further than as it is conformed to Nature, the one will not be wanted in tlie case before us, if the other be allowed its full influence. What I mean is this ; that supposing a young lady to be deeply possessed with a regard for “ whatsoever things are pure, venerable, and “ of good report," it will lead to decorum spontaneously, and flow with unstudied propriety through every part of her attire and demeanour. Let it be likewise added, that Simplicity, the inseparable companion both of genuine grace, and of real modesty, if it do not always strike at first, (of which it seldom fails,) is sure however, when it does striķe, to produce the deepest and most perma