Objects of Clothing.
THE clothes we wear are intended, or should be intended, to secure three objects, warmth in winter, coolness in summer, and health at all times.
It has already been shown that our bodies are warmed by their own internal fires. In the lungs, in the skin, and indeed in all parts of the body, oxygen unites with carbon and other combustible matters, producing beat in the same way that it is produced in a grate where coal is burned; and as our temperature always needs to be kept to about 980 Fahrenheit, it follows that this combustion must always be going on.
Now, the atmosphere which surrounds us is always receiving into itself the heat which comes to the surface of our bodies, and thus robbing us of our warmth. In summer, the atmosphere, full of the rays of a burning sun, may impart beat, instead of taking it away; while in winter it takes more than it gives, and would cause us to perish with the cold, were it not for the protection afforded by our clothing.
Clothes, of course, have no power to manufacture or impart beat. They only retain, and keep in contact with our bodies, that which is generated within us. If we have on a single garment which is made tight at the bottom and top, so that no current can pass up or down, there will be a layer of air between it and the body, which, becoming immediately heated, and being retained there, helps keep us warm, or rather, prevents us from being cold. With every additional garment put over this, there is another layer of heated air, adding still more impenetrable guards against either the intrusion of cold, or the escape of internal heat.
Bad Conductors of Heat. But, that our clothes may thus retain our warmth, and prevent its dispersion, they must be had conductors of 7teat, that is, they must not readily take up the beat and convey it away from the body. They must slowly absorb the caloric into their own substance, and then retain it tenaciously.
Linen, which is so universally popular in temperate climates, as an article to be worn next the skin, is unfortunately a good conductor of heat. It does not afford a warm garment. It conducts heat rapidly away from the body. Hence it always feels cool to the touch. It is really no colder in itself than other kinds of cloth, but it is solely the rapidity with which it conducts beat away from the body, that gives it the feeling of coldness. It has other qualities which compensate,in some measure, for this defect. The fibers of which it is composed are round and pliable, which makes linen cloth smooth and soft, and the sensations produced by it on the skin altogether agreeable. Fig. 67 represents a fiber of linen, as it appears under a microscope which magnifies it 155 times.
Cotton is warmer than linen, because it is a worse conductor of heat. The perfection to which its manufacture has been carried, makes it almost a rival of linen in softness and pliability. It does not absorb as much moisture as linen, and therefore better retains its powers as a nonconductor. But then the fibers of cotton are not round and smooth, like those of linen, but flat and spiral with sharp edges. Fig. 68 represents two of its fibers, magnified 155 times. This renders cotton irritable to some very delicate skins. This is the reason why linen is better than cotton for binding up wounds, where there is tenderness of the surface.
Silk has a round fiber, like linen, which is even softer and smaller. It absorbs less moisture than cotton, and in its power of retaining warmth, it is superior to both the preceding. It forms the most desirable fabric for clothing that we have; but its cost makes it inaccessible to the great body of the people, except as a holiday dress for the ladies. Its culture in our country, if extensively established, would be a source of national wealth.
The Fiber of Wool is quite rough, almost scaly, and highly irritative to delicate skins. Fig. 69 shows fibers magnified 310 times. It is not possible for some persons to wear it next the skin. But where this cannot be done it may be worn outside the linen or cotton; and being a good nonconductor, it will in this way preserve the warmth of the body, without either irritating the skin, or disturbing its electricity.
Wool, in cold climates, is one of the very be the very best materials of which clothes can be made. In New England, and, indeed, in all cold' and temperate regions, it should be worn by delicate persons, in the form of thick or thin garments, all the year round. It does not readily absorb moisture, and is a dry, warm, and wholesome material for clothing.
Hair. Though not precisely in the line of these remarks, hair may as well be introduced here. Wool is in fact hair. Every part of the skin, with the exception of that upon the soles of the feet, and the palms of the hands, is intended to produce hairs. On most parts of the body, they are short and fine, hardly rising above the surface. Upon the head and the face, they grow to considerable length.
Hair, like wool, is a bad conductor of heat; and, as growing upon the head and face, is doubtless intended for some useful purpose. That it was designed as a warm covering, can hardly be doubted. The beard, when permitted to grow, is a natural respirator, guarding the lungs against cold and dust. It has been noticed that blacksmiths who have allowed their beards to grow, had their mustache discolored by irondust, which lodged among the hairs, and very justly inferred that the dust must have found its way into the lungs, and done mischief, had it not been arrested by this natural respirator.
That the beard, when long, does ward off a great many colds and throat troubles, is too well known to be denied. It has required moral courage on the part of those who have broken away from the universal practice of shaving, for which they should be honored rather than ridiculed. For those who do not suffer from throat or lung complaints, especially if they are getting advanced in life, it may not be thought worth while to abandon the razor. Yet the change would not be regretted. Fig. 70 is a human hair, magnified 250 times, showing its scaly surface.
The Color of our Clothing is a matter of some moment. The dark colors absorb the light, the sun's rays, and heat, much more than the lighter ones; and as those bodies which absorb heat well are likewise good radiators, the dark colors have the highest radiating power. White reflects heat and rays of light, and is a bad absorber and bad radiator. In summer it prevents the sun's rays from passing inward to heat the body, and in winter, interrupts the heat of the body in its passage out. In summer, it makes the coolest garment; in winter the warmest one. These facts can be very simply illustt&ted, by laying, side by side, upon the snow, when the sun shines, two pieces of cloth, the one black, the other white. Lifting them up, after a time, the snow will be found considerably melted under the black cloth, but not under the white.
It is now seen that the object of clothing is not to impart heat to the body, but' to prevent its loss; that it is not to create it, but to furnish the occasion for increasing its degree. It appears further, that clothing protects the body against the evil effects of changes of temperature, and that white garments, by reflecting, instead of absorbing heat, guard it against the heat of summer.
Clothing should be Porous.All articles used for garments should be porous, and permit the free passage of insensible perspiration. The skin receives oxygen through its pores, and gives back carbonic acid. It performs a sort of subordinate respiration. Indiarubber garments, worn next to it, interrupt this, and must do mischief. Shoes made of this material soon cause the feet to become damp and cold. The dampness is occasioned by the insensible perspiration, which cannot escape through the rubber. Such shoes worn in the open air, should be immediately taken off on entering the house.
Thin Shoes. The defective way in which American females protect their feet from cold and wet, is a sore evil; and be who persuades them to adopt a wiser fashion, and cover their feet with better guards against colds and consumption, will deserve the gratitude of the nation. We are in many things too fond of copying foreign fashions: but if our ladies would, in this matter, follow the excellent example of English women, they would live longer, and leave a hardier posterity behind them.
The shoes worn by our females, high and low, rich and poor, axe not thick enough to walk with safety upon a painted floor, hardly upon a carpet in an unwarmed room; and yet they walk with them upon cold brick sidewalks, upon damp and frozen ground, and even in mud.
The result is, that they suffer from colds, sore throats, pleurisies, lungfevers, suppressions, inflammations of the womb ' and many other aments, which in early life rob them of their freshness and beauty.of their health and comfort, of their usefulness to their household and the world, and leave them helpless in the arms of their friends, with a patrimony of suffering for themselves while they live and a legacy of disease to hand down to their children. Would that they were wise in season I Some, to their honor be it said, have already adopted a safer course. It is hoped the evil will be gradually corrected.
Never attempt to mould the Form by Dress.Parents commit a great error when they attempt to mould the forms of their children, particularly their daughters, by their dress. This cannot be done. It is the work of nature, and she wants no assistance in it. The great object of dress in childhood, as well as in adult life, is to promote health. With this, there is not much difficulty in preserving the symmetry; without it, deformity is almost a matter of course.
The fact cannot be too often repeated, nor too seriously urged upon parents, that while the foundation of all graceful and just proportion of the different parts of the body must be laid in infancy, it cannot be done by tight bands, and ligatures upon the chest and loins, and legs, and arms. Upon all these points, the garments of children should set easy, leaving the muscles at liberty to assume the fine swell and development which nothing short of unconstrained exercise can give. Could infants tell all the horrors they suffer from the restraints put upon them by tight dresses, it would make many a mother's heart bleed.
In these brief remarks, the principles are given which should guide us in the selection of our clothing. The intelligent reader will be able very easily to fill up the outline.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071