Gentleman's Magazine on Dress (1731)

Cave, Edward
Top half of Volume One, Issue One, published January 1731.


"As Dress has a strong Influence on  the Mind,  so it shews the Temper and Disposition of the Person wearing it..."

"Of Dress and Modesty"

The Drift of this Paper, is to expose the Vanity of Dress, that is, when it exceeds the Bounds of Decency and good OEconomy , and submits it to the Consideration of the Legislature, whether some Laws with Reſpect hereto might not be useful, since it is observed , that in most Ages and Places of the World , that Richness and Finery of Apparel have been introduc'd with Luxury , Debauchery, and Excess. In Alexander's War against Darius , the Persian Soldiers were bedeck'd with Gold and Jewels , Silk and Embroidery ; while the Greeks in their coarse and home-spun Dress possess’d an unconquerable and manly Spirit. The Romans , at their utmost Grandeur, were habited in the plainest manner, till they lost their Virtue , and sunk by Degrees into Luxury and Destruction.

As Dress has a strong Influence on  the Mind,  so it shews the Temper and Disposition of the Person wearing it ; those who appear fondest of a shewy and glittering Outside, are commonly of weak Minds , vain, empty, and effeminate. When People imagine they shall be respected the more for the Cut of a Sleeve, the Tuck of a Sword, the Tail of a Wig, the Trimming of a Coat, or the Clock of a Stocking, it is evident their sole  Merit is derived from the Taylor, Milliner, Barber, or some other inferior Mechanick .
But not designing to treat particularly of Mens Dress , he proceeds to remind the fair Sex, that however they may shine in Brocade and Diamonds, Modesty is their brightest and most valuable Ornament. Hence takes occasion to animadvert on the present Mode among the Ladies, of exposing their naked Breasts and Shoulders. Does not wonder that those who have already resign'd their Honour should use this Artifice to recommend themselves; but is surpriz’d that Ladies of distinguish'd Virtue as well as Beauty, should come into this Fashion ; they would do well to consider , that the addition this makes to their personal Charms, is inferior to that which a greater Reſerve would give them. 
This Indecency of Dress often occasions Attempts on their Virtue; at best it exposes them to the impertinent Glances of every saucy Coxcomb, and raises Inclinations , which are troublesome either to suffer or subdue. 


Text taken from [Anon.], ‘Of Dress and Modesty‘, in The Gentleman's Magazine, 25 September 1731, no. 155, pp. 388-89. Full text of vol. 1 (1731) and of all volumes by HATHI TRUST.