Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/53

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41
DEVELOPMENT IN DRESS.

animals; there are many such inventions, and many such variations; those that are not really beneficial die away, and those that are really good become incorporated by "natural selection," as a new item in our system. I may illustrate this by pointing out how macintosh-coats and crush-hats have become somewhat important items in our dress.

Then, again, the degree of advancement in the scale of dress may be pretty accurately estimated by the extent to which various "organs" are specialized. For example, about sixty years ago, our present evening-dress was the ordinary dress for gentlemen; top-boots, always worn by old-fashioned "John Bull" in Punch's cartoons, are now reserved for the hunting field; and that the red coat was formerly only a best coat, appears from the following observations of a "Lawyer of the Middle Temple," in No. 129 of the Spectator: "Here (in Cornwall) we fancied ourselves in Charles II.'s reign—the people having made little variations in their dress since that time. The smartest of the country squires appear still in the Monmouth cock; and when they go a-wooing (whether they have any post in the militia or not) they put on a red coat.[1]

But besides the general adaptation of dress above referred to, there is another influence which has perhaps a still more important bearing on the development of dress, and that is fashion. The love of novelty, and the extraordinary tendency which men have to exaggerate any peculiarity, for the time being considered a mark of good station in life, or handsome in itself, give rise, I suppose, to fashion. This influence bears no distant analogy to the "sexual selection," on which so much stress has recently been laid in the "Descent of Man." Both in animals and dress, remnants of former stages of development survive to a later age, and thus preserve a tattered record of the history of their evolution.

These remnants may be observed in two different stages or forms: 1. Some parts of the dress have been fostered and exaggerated by the selection of fashion, and are then retained and crystallized, as it were, as part of our dress, notwithstanding that their use is entirely gone (e. g., the embroidered pocket-flaps in a court uniform, now sewn fast to the coat). 2. Parts originally useful have ceased to be of any service, and have been handed down in an atrophied condition.

The first class of cases have their analogue in the peacock's tail, as explained by sexual selection; and the second in the wing of the apteryx, as explained by the effects of disuse.

Of the second kind of remnant Mr. Tylor gives very good instances when he says:[2] The ridiculous little tails of the German postilion's coat show of themselves how they came to dwindle to such absurd rudiments; but the English clergyman's bands no longer convey their

  1. See p. 356 of Fairbolt's "Costume in England," London, 1846.
  2. "Primitive Culture," vol. i, p. 16, London, 1871.