Sarah Bernhardt on American Women’s Clothing, 1912

“The American woman is recognized at once wherever she goes. Her carriage has something independent about it, and she carries herself well. Her small feet – always in movement – show her vital force. Her head, small and delicate and set so well on a long, straight neck, gives a peculiar charm that is characteristic only of the American woman. She is really a being apart in her compelling spirit.”

These are the words of Sarah Bernhardt, or at least she is the one given credit for writing this article from the April 1912 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. The article is titled, “Can the American Woman Design Her Own Clothes?” and in it, Bernhardt, who was French, answers a definite “yes.”

Sarah Bernhardt on the American Woman's Clothes

I would suggest reading the article, but here are a few excerpts of her words:

“Now I feel that her personality, so absolutely distinct, loses this charm when she doggedly emulates foreign fashions, be they French, Austrian or of other lands. Why should she not be her own distinct self and dress in the style most becoming to her?”

“Nothing to me is more delightful than a young American woman in her close-fitting American tailor-made suit with its little white collar, topped off with a smart, engaging, appropriate little hat. She is distinctive, attractive, well dressed, and above all, becomingly gowned.”

“But I ask: why should this distinctive American figure be ruined, as ruined it is, by the hideous modern corset that is so absolutely unsuited to it?”

“Therefore I say that as she is distinctively unlike the Old World woman in all else let her dress herself in her own particular style, direct and simple, and becoming to herself. Then she will have undisputed sway for charm and real elegance.”

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