The next element in an attractive outfit is the texture of the material used. While a pleasant texture will add an extra depth to one’s dress, it is only really important to avoid fabrics which are so horrible that they will negate the effort put into choosing an otherwise becoming ensemble. Organic fibres, such as wool, cotton, silk and linen, are traditionally used in quality clothing and will usually have a good texture. Today, however, there are many cheap synthetic fibres and synthetic blends which are both affordable and, when chosen carefully, can make perfectly fine fabrics. There are numerous cotton and polyester blends which retain the soft breathability of cotton, but are far less susceptible to creasing. Neither would we wish to forgo the comfort of stretch fabrics, so long as they present as well as their no-stretch counterparts. For all these reasons it is more important to consider the way a fabric looks and moves than to look at the composition of the material.
The most important fabric to avoid is PVC, or any fabric which looks like plastic. Plastic is certainly a useful substance, but it is not refined. The extent to which synthetic fibres make decent clothes is the extent to which they resemble an organic fibre. There is nothing feminine about plastic or PVC. Surely the only reason it is used in women’s clothing is the provocative shine created when stretched across a woman’s body. This in no way recommends it as an appropriate material for a tasteful dresser. The predilection of certain unhealthy subcultures for black PVC and metallic finishes also means that this material has certain overtones with which a lady should never willingly associate herself.
Polar fleece, toweling, parachute, puffer material and obviously fake shaggy fur should all be given a wide berth when buying clothing. There are far nicer warm alternatives to all these fabrics, as was noted in the discussion of coats in Principle 2.
Convincing fake fur, or even real fur for those who can afford it, works admirably as a trim, but is very rarely cut well enough to make a decent woman’s coat. If such a well cut fur coat can be found, it should make an acceptable garment.
The next material which needs to be avoided is leather, most especially wet look leather. These materials have also been fetishized by various unhealthy subcultures. Leather, whether real or imitation, may be acceptable in a jacket, gloves, belts, shoes or handbag, but is to be avoided in almost every other item of clothing. If leather clothing is tight, it looks too sensual, if the garment is loose and long, it looks heavy and uncomfortable and is not flattering. Ladies of taste will not wish to fall into either of these categories, and so it is best to avoid leather look clothing.
Because the idea of the leather jacket has been alive in our culture for some time, there are probably many women who own such a thing. As long as it is not too ostentatious, and is paired with suitably feminine clothing, it should be an acceptable addition to a casual outfit. Needless to say, any jacket which draws too much inspiration from motorcycle gang culture, such as those which feature pictures of skulls and are covered with chains and studs, should be avoided. Leather jackets will certainly look better if they follow the instructions for well cut jackets covered in Principle Four. If the reader already owns a leather jacket which she wishes to continue wearing, and it falls below the waist, it is best to leave the jacket open, so that the waist remains visible. Long leather jackets are usually too flamboyant to make tasteful dress.
Even if a material is not actually made of PVC, any ultra-shiny materials are best avoided. Shiny Lycra is both an unpleasant texture, looks absurd, and is irretrievably associated with amateur dance costumes. It looks childish and unrefined. Metallic lames and ultra shiny satins can also become overwhelming, particularly when one’s entire outfit is made from a single bright colour. Very shiny fabrics will also ensure that the light catches every lump, and therefore can be very unflattering when drawn tightly across an imperfect figure. Small touches of a shiny fabric in an outfit may be acceptable. Satin may be used when caution is taken to avoid anything too shiny, tight or cut to resemble a night gown or lingerie. Prints will also help minimise the shine of some satin fabrics. Shiny satin works very well as a lining to a coat or jacket, but ought not to be used on the outside.
While it may not ruin an outfit, fabrics with some texture to them are generally very satisfying to the eye. One particular fabric it is wise to avoid are those made of jersey knit. This clingy, stretchy, lightweight fabric is a difficult fabric for dresses as it drapes poorly. If the wearer has a good figure, and the dress fits well, this fabric may be acceptable, though it will look very casual, and it is essential that it not be tight fitting below the waistline as it will cling so very closely. If the wearer has less than a perfect figure, and the dress is loose or ill fitting, this fabric will drape in a very unattractive manner, catching every lump and drooping laxly everywhere else. Furthermore, this fabric looks cheap and casual. Neither cheap nor casual are descriptions most adult women should wish to be associated with their appearance. This fabric is perfectly acceptable for a t-shirt, but generally is not a good choice for dresses and skirts.
Fabrics with a slight natural variation in colour or texture, such as marl or linen will add a depth to an outfit which is not achieved by flat colours and smooth fabrics. This is by no means a necessary feature of a garment, but is a satisfying additional touch. Fabrics, such as jacquard, which have a woven pattern also please the eye.
The finishes of an item of clothing will rarely be so bad as to ruin an otherwise acceptable outfit. If one has the option however, there are some finishes which it is better to avoid. Firstly, a visible zipper placed down the front or back of a dress for the purpose of inviting onlookers to imagine unzipping the garment are not a nice feature. It is somewhat unlikely that a dress featuring such a zip will be modest enough in other respects to be worn by women of taste, but it is theoretically possible. If a modest dress featuring a visible zip is found, and the zip is not obviously trying to provoke lustful thoughts in others it can probably be ignored. Velcro, plastic zips and novelty buttons shaped like fruit or other such childish things can be given a wide berth if possible.
Embellishments, in the form of embroidery, beads, lace, applique, trims or contrasting fabrics are generally an appealing way to add detail to an outfit. The difference between a formal outfit and an ordinary outfit should only be the richness of the fabric and intricacy of the details. They ought not to be completely different kinds of clothing. Chiffon and tulle are particularly feminine fabrics because of their soft and floating drape, and are highly recommended for formal wear. Lace is also very feminine, although not all laces are as delicate as we might wish.
Note: The red tartan of the skirt in the featured image in the header is not a particularly feminine pattern, but as the outfits were otherwise very stylish the image has been used regardless.