The article below helps us as authors see how the magazines at the time thought of and produced information for their readers, regarding the every-day wear that most women required. The dress itself is pretty fancy for "everyday" imho but apparently not to this author. Note the amount of material needed for this dress. The author also reports that the dress should not cost more than fifteen dollars. The second excerpt follows because of the cost of the dress. It is an article about living abroad written the same year as the dress article. The second article is long but has a lot of helpful information in it, especially if your characters are 1. living in Europe and/or 2. Planning a trip to Europe.
Every-Day Dresses, Garments, etc.
Emily H. May
We propose, hereafter, to devote an article, every month, to Indies' more ordinary dresses, such as delaines, mcrinocs, and calicoes; to children's common clothing; and to underclothing, etc., etc. These papers will be illustrated, like the present, with engravings, and will fill a want, which, we believe, no other magazine supplies. Very many of our subscribers write to us that ladies wish to know, not only what is fashionable for silk dresses, etc., etc., but what is pretty and cheap for persons of small incomes, and for the common dresses, and children's clothing, that every household, ricli or not, requires.
We begin with a plaid walking-dress, suitable for a best dress. The material should be either a woolen plaid, or any one-colored woolen stuff goods. It will require about eighteen yards of single width, or fourteen yards of double width material; and can be made both fashionably, and at the same time comparatively inexpensively.
The under-skirt has one gored width in front, and if the material is of double fold, the side gores come off of the front width. By observing to cut the skirt in this way, much material can be saved; then add two full widths in the back; cut the flounce a quarter of a yard in depth, and bias, and put it on us scon in the design, either with a band of black velvet one inch wide, or with worsted braid, or even with bias bands of black alpaca, stitched down by the sewing-machine. The upper-skirt is short, and even all round, (trimmed also with a bias ruffle six inches docp,) being simply looped up in the middle of the buck with a largo bow of the material of the dress.
For the jacket, cut out a simple straight sack, short, only a little below the waist; then slit it up the back, as seen in the engraving; trim with the same width ruffle as on the uppcrskir', and with a narrow quilling around the nrmholcs and at the hands. Such a dress, made of ordinary woolen reps, or plaids, at seventyfive cents per yard, and trimmed with the bias bands of black alpaca, ought not to cost over fifteen dollars, including :ill trimmings. For a winter dress, we would suggest lining the jacket with thick twilled red flannel: anil add a simple, plain, round waist to the dress.
THE COST OF LIVING ABROAD.
New York, January 17, 1870.
I find that my off-hand letters to the Evening Post, on the out-look in Europe, have raised more interest than I ventured to anticipate; and have, moreover, led friends and readers to ask some questions that may, perhaps, be properly answered in these columns. The first question turns on money matters, or, how much does it cost to see Europe; to live there in a comfortable way? I am no expert in foreign travel, and ought to speak with great modesty, yet the very fact that I am such a novice may bring me nearer to the mass of readers, and enable me to understand their ignorance, and to meet them on the level of their curiosity.
It does not cost as much as I expected to travel and live in Europe. Some friends said that I might get on well with ten dollars a day in gold, and on thinking the prospect over, I thought that seven dollars a day ought to be enough. I am speaking, of course, now of the proper expenses of travel, For these expenses, I found my estimate too high, and that six dollars a day in gold will cover the whole amount of this expenditure for two hundred and fourteen days of absence. Some persons spend less, and some spend more. A young man told me that by walking much and going to cheap hotels, he got along for two or three dollars a day; and I have very trustworthy information from a banker, of one small American family that spent at the rate of over two thousand dollars a week, although I think that this sum must include all the expenses of dress, jewels, etc. Probably most readers will be of my way of thinking, and desire to travel in a quiet, unostentatious way, and have all essential comforts and refinements without extravagances,
Americans generally are agreed on one point— that they will not consent to anything that looks like degradation, nor mix with low company, or unclean usages, for the sake of a little saving. We must go in good vessels and cars, and have good beds and food, or we are not at ease; and, in a reasonable sense of the term, we are the most aristocratic nation on earth, and quite as much set against dirt and vulgarity as the upper classes of English society. If we go in first-class steamers and cars, and live at first-class hotels, we may get along with six dollars a day, comfortably, on an average; and for a less sum, if we stop long at important places instead of being on the wing. It is often said by Englishmen that a pound, or five dollars a day, is enough to spend in travel, and this is probably so where the stops are long and the journeys short, as with the English in their summer tours on the Continent. But if one is constantly moving from place to place by long reaches, the expenses are greatly increased. Thus, at Rome my regular bill at the best hotel there —the Angleterre—was but twelve francs a day; while the fare to Marseilles, which is usually reached in thirty-six hours, was one hundred and twenty-five francs, which amounts to over sixteen dollars a day. The fare by the express train to Paris from Marseilles was one hundred and sixteen francs for sixteen hours, which is at the rate of thirty-three dollars a day. In France and England, however, railroad travelling is much more costly than in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. In Germany the second-class cars are as good as the first-class cars elsewhere, and cost about three cents a mile— a rate which enables a traveller to go a tolerable day's journey for six dollars at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour. In Italy the cost of railroad travelling in firstclass cars, which are most preferable, is from six to eight dollars per day of ten or twelve hours at the usual speed.
There is not a great difference in the cost of hotel living in different parts of the continent of Europe; all are cheaper than the English hotels. At a firstclass hotel in London, such as the Langham, which is made so pleasant to Americans by Colonel Sanderson, formerly of New York, a good single room costs a dollar and a half a day, dinner at the table d'h6te the same, breakfast seventy-five cents, and attendance thirty-seven cents. A man may make this sum considerably less by taking an upper room and dining at the restaurant, but this is the amount that an American is likely to find himself moved to spend, and it is not much above the mark to say that it costs five dollars a day to live well at a London hotel without expensive wines.
In Paris the rates are less except, perhaps, at such establishments as the Grand Hotel. Your room will cost, at such an excellent hotel as the Chatham, which so many quiet Americans frequent, from four to eight francs, or from eighty cents to a dollar sixty cents according to position; breakfast sixty cents, dinner a dollar, service tweny-five cents a day; the whole amounting to from two sixy-five to three dollars and five cents a day, without wine. In Switzerland room rent is very cheap, and a good chamber does not generally cost more than sixty cents a day; and dinner varies from sixty cents to a dollar; and you can make an agreement for any length of time to live comfortably at from seven to ten francs a day, or from a dollar forty cents to two dollars a day. A well-educated clergyman told me that at a good pension in the beautiful town of Lausanne he could live comfortably with his family by the month at the rate of five francs per day for each person.
At Rome a clergyman of my acquaintance, who had refined tastes and a wife with good Boston no. tions of comfort, took rooms near our hotel, and assured me that he estimated his expenses at not more than a dollar and a half a day for each member of his family of seven persons. He hired pleasant appartments, and had his meals served and his work done by servants of his own. His figures may have been somewhat too low, but not much, I think. Rome is generally a cheap place to live in, and I have reason to speak well of the hotels there, alike for comfort and attention. In one respect they go beyond Switzerland in cheapness, and at the Hotel d'Angleterre, besides an excellent dinner, the light wine of the country was given at pleasure to the guests for one dollar.
I may as well say that in Europe everybody seems to drink wine at dinner, and the stomach is thought to be protected by it from the doubtful mercies of most of the water. My experience favors the general impression that the water is often debilitating, and that a moderate allowance of light wine is proper, as it is common. A frugal and temperate man may add from twenty-five to fifty cents to his daily expenses for this item, or may substitute beer at half, perhaps quarter, the cost.
Of course we may greatly increase or lessen our expenses by our habits of frugality or extravagance. I am speaking of the moderate outlay for one person. If one has a private parlor the amount is nearly doubled, and the presence of ladies always brings more formality, delicacy, attendance and delay. If husband and wife travel together the expenses are in most repects more than doubled; and even if they do not indulge in the luxury of a private parlor, they must expect to be subject to the red-tape exactions which wait on all royalty, and which try to make out every lady to be a queen. It is not well to overlook any causes that change our rate of expense. Thus, if we travel in a country where we have many friends who ask us to visit them or dine with them, our hotel bill may be less, but the cost of carriages and other incidentals may be more.
In a mountainous region like Switzerland one may save most expense by walking, and a good pedestrian may keep up with horses and mules in the great mountain roads. For example, I started from Pontresina for the Piz Languard on horseback, to ride as far as the precipitous part, and a young Swiss couple on their honeymoon started at the same time on foot, and reached the top not more than ten minutes after me. Again, three ladies from England —young ladies too—started at the same time from Visp for St. Nicolaus, on the way to Zermatt; they were on foot, with a single guide to carry their carpet bags, and we three each on a horse, with a guide; and we all six arrived at about the same time, four hours ; but we three spent thirty-six francs, or over seven dollars, for our conveyance, and the three ladies spent but six francs, or a little more than a dollar, for their conveyance ; and they seemed, moreover, to enjoy the adventure most, and probahly cared more for the fun than the money. I made their acquaintance at Zermatt, and found them to be very intelligent, as well as plucky; and I shall send them a copy of this number of the Evening Post at their pleasant home in Devon, in part fulfilment of my promise to make historical the three damsels who were already, and perhaps by nature as well as reading, romantic. I say again, that I like the English, and those ladies were so honest and brave as to win all respect ; and they said that they had met with no discourtesy in their whole Swiss tour. They carried out their independent policy at Zermatt, and went up the Gorner Grat with one horse that had drawn them in the wagon from St. Nicolaus, they taking the saddle by turns, while we three Americans took three horses and three men to carry us up, and spent three times the money.
In travelling in America a large part of the expense is for transit from point to point, between hotel or house and steamboats or stations. Thus you are usually charged a dollar and a half, and sometimes more, for a carriage to take you from your house in New York to the railway station, not a mile distant. In Europe the cost for such service is very little, and you find good conveyances within call, at very low rates. In Rome you can ride any where in the city with a friend a single course for sixteen cents, and the driver is quite happy if you make it twenty cents. In London you can have a cab for a mile for twenty-five cents, and for greater distances at reduced rates. In Berlin, you can have a cab for twenty minutes for twelve cents, and for half an hour for seventeen cents, and you may take your luggage with you for twelve cents additional. In Paris you have a good vehicle with two seats for forty-five cents an hour by day, and sixty cents at night, with a few cents extra charge for baggage, and about ten per cent less if you take the vehicle in the public street, instead of ordering it at the stable.
So great is the difference between the coach-hire in New York and Paris, that a friend of mine in Rome, who is very accurate in his statements, told me that it cost him sixteen dollars in New York to take his family and baggage to the boat, and very much the same service was performed for him at Paris for two dollars and a half.
Labor is cheap in Europe, and cheaper than we desire to see it in America; while it is evident that labor might be cheaper here without loss to the laborer if the prices of living were less. I have not the full facts to illustrate this subject, and will speak only of what came under my notice. In Switzerland you can have a man and a horse or mule, a day, for two dollars or two and a half, even in places where travellers are numerous; and in Germany seventy cents, or a German dollar, is thought fair pay for an intelligent guide in the city or country. In Venice, Florence and Rome a dollar secures you a well-informed guide ; and Mr. Bruno, at the Hotel d'Angleterre, Rome, who is a most courteous as well as intelligent man, was most happy when he earned five francs a day for conducting strangers among the ruins and art of that city. In Paris mechanics have usually five francs, or a dollar in gold, a day—and for a very substantial day's work.
The price of the native products of industry shows the rate of common labor. Thus you can buy in Switzerland for a dollar, or a dollar and a quarter, a collar or other piece of lace that seems to require days of skilful labor; and I was assured that a lady's necktie that was offered for a dollar and a quarter took eight days to make. For a franc, in Venice, elaborate pieces of shell work were everywhere offered, and I did not see how more than one a day could be made by one pair of hands, although there is no limit to what skill can do. In Naples you can buy finely cut lava cameos at from one to two dollars each. I have a head of Dante, that cost me only two dollars, that is a little gem of art. A painter offered me a good copy of a Madonna or Sibyl of Guido, which was very beautiful, for four napoleons, or sixteen dollars, and I did not see how he could have done it in less than that number of days. I was led to think that in Germany skilled labor brought less than a thaler, or seventy cents, a day, and in Italy apparently less. In Milan handsome gloves with three buttons sell for forty or fifty cents a pair, and in Rome the most beautiful scarfs are sold at five and six dollars each. Such facts of course prove that labor must be very cheap, and far cheaper than we ought to desire to see it in this country.
Houses and rents are closely connected with the price of labor, and so are all commodities; for if labor is cheap, materials are easily gotten out and transported, and if building costs little rents are generally low, and sellers can live well on comparatively small profits. In many parts of Europe, where the buildings are numerous and the population does not increase, perhaps diminishes, houses are almost as free as the hills and pastures, and are looked upon as having a sort of superannuated value. They once cost something and were valuable, but they have had their day and use, and, like old ships, whatever is made out of them is so much unexpected luck. I suppose that a family with little money, who wish to live with a look of splendor, may find many a palace in Italy in the decayed cities at less rent than will secure a third-rate house in New York. I did not enquire the price of store rent in Europe, but goods seemed to me generally cheap, and rents must be somewhat in proportion. I bought a good silk hat in Venice for three dollars and forty cents; a handsome suit of light woolen summer clothes of the Court tailor in Berlin for twenty dollars, and had them made to order. I confess that his Majesty's costumer somewhat surprised me by coming with his workmen to my room, at the Hotel Royal, to try on the coat in its unfinished condition on Sunday morning, just as I was preparing to go to the pulpit of the American Chapel in Berlin—a fact that made the preacher think more, not less, of the good old Sabbath rest of our genuine Americans.
Rents in Europe vary very much in different cities and different seasons. Reports represent the present charges at Rome as enormous, and I presume there is some foundation for them. Yet I went about among the furnished apartments there with Bruno to get information for a friend, and I found quarters for the whole season at rates that would be thought very moderate in New York. Everybody lives in suites of rooms on floors, and I visited no one but the Pope who had the whole house to himself. In fact I do not remember visiting any friends on the Continent who occupied a whole house except a banker, in Paris, and our American Minister in Florence. This usage not only makes the rents less, but brings down the price of service, furniture, fuel, etc. A handsome suite of furnished apartments can be had in Paris for prices at from five hundred to two thousand dollars a year for families such as would be obliged to spend two or three times that amount for a suitable house in New York. At Rome the American Club rents the ground floor of the Palace Gregori for fifteen hundred dollars a year; a suite of rooms which would cost about as many thousands in an equally central hotel in New York. When I left Rome, at the close of November, the prices of rooms had not been generally raised, and there were long lists of vacant apartments at the banker's, although in some cases attempts had been made to extort exorbitant sums from families that had taken lodgings without having made terms previously. The Roman people are said to be very mean and grasping in money matters, and a very excellent American priest, who insisted upon it that they were pure in their domestic morals, allowed that they were not to be trusted at all in business affairs, and were sure to cheat you whenever it was possible. I did not see much of this disposition, perhaps because I dealt mostly with the best class of people, and was, moreover, not worth plucking.
I am sometimes asked if families of limited means who find it hard to live on their incomes here, can do better by going abroad. My advice to American families is that they should look upon their.own country and home as the best place for them, other things being equal, and that they should regard it as a great advantage to live in a climate and among a people familiar to them. Yet it is undeniable that small incomes bring far more comfort and advantage abroad than at home, not only by buying more commodities, but by saving self-respect from the sharp wounds which so often are made here by reduced fortunes and the too frequent loss of attention. Thus a family of half a dozen persons in New York city, with two or three thousand dollars income, cannot live in what is called genteel style and keep in society and educate the child or children, while in Geneva, or Dresden, or Munich they can get along comfortably with that sum, I think, and can be free from the painful comparisons that are made here between them and more showy neighbors. Moreover they can abroad associate with persons of refinement on the basis of character and intelligence, instead of wealth and parade, and also live within the reach of music and other arts that are pleasing and instructive, and sufficient to meet the social wants which in America are met often in such a prodigal way. I am assured that at Dusseldorf, and nearby on the Rhine, you can rent a good house and garden for two or three hundred dollars with churches and schools within reach. It is remarkable how little respectability depends upon mere money getting and money spending in the most cultivated portions of Europe ; and I have visited a great scholar at Berlin, in his frugal rooms on the third floor of the house, and found him courtly as well as refined, and not only in the best Berlin society, but a favored guest at the King's table. We Americans ought to have this spirit and respect worth more than wealth ; but I am sorry to say that nowhere in the world have I seen so much sycophancy to mere money as in this metropolis of ours.
We are a young nation, but are suffering from some of the worst vices that the Old World has outgrown. While France is making a new study of social economy, and the art of living is more and more based upon positive science, and to live beyond the income is thought folly as much as wrong, we are rushing on pell-mell into extravagance, and bringing up our children like princes. Shortly after returning home, I chanced to walk up our Fifth Avenue on a pleasant day, and was startled by the splendor of equipages, and especially the excessive dress of the ladies on foot. What did it mean ? for it looked like a grand parade, such as would have brought Paris into the streets in admiration. But no. It was only the usual show. All that array of feathers and lace, velvet, satin and cashmere—all that marvellous work upon the hair, and perhaps upon the face—it was nothing unusual but an every-day affair.
Abroad you feel that money is a very serious matter, and that it must be earned with great effort. Thus Switzerland is rising from ice and filth under the spur of gain ;and while the desire to earn money is not the highest motive, it is better than no motive at all, and may start other motives in its turn; and certainly a great many virtues tend to go with industry and thrift. Italy is feeling the same spur, and is going through an industrial and commercial training, whose fruits cannot but be good on the whole. An American can hardly understand the disposition with which a Swiss mountaineer or an Italian peasant regards a shining franc, so much of solid value that is usually out of his reach does it command, and it puts him in possession of some luxury that would otherwise be as far out of his reach as a star of heaven. It is well for Americans to connect this love of gain with honest industry, and not encourage idleness or folly by prodigality or alms-giving.
At home we need the same care with ourselves and our children ; and we are not only to return to the old specie payment, but to the old specie sobriety. At present our habits are more inflated than our currency; and we need at once the reduction of our public taxes and our private extravagance. The cost of living moderately here is great, and the last few years have a story to tell of embarrassment and wretchedness in families of refined tastes that has not yet been written. It is not wise to expect to set back the tide of custom by words, but every honest and just word does some good, and my earnest word to Americans is: Be true to this Republic of Washington and Franklin; make it easier for Americans to live at home than abroad; encourage the industry that earns a fair income, and the economy that gives it a fair market for buying and selling; make it possible for worthy young people to marry and live together in comfortable homes; stop the work of licentious habits, the importation of foreign vices, and the banishment of so many of our best people to other lands and tolerable prices.