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Sunday -Bee Magazine Page ' 1 inn, -in Hi 1 1' . T ill i ri I The Omaha 1 , Copyright, 1S1J, by the Star Company. Great Britain nights Reserved. at is the Limit of Decency in Womans Press? The Startling Summer Outburst of Slit Skirts, X-Ray Gowns, Dia phanous Waists and Ch emises Ex posees 9 9 Judged by Philoso' phers and Preach" mm " Wh aw mmmmm s "Startling exposures and innovations hi dress MBBfo, Hfcfe, ceed ono another with such rapidity that thinking ISI .fESTC M liaAffR ill-m IBE, iHl "The uiual costume in which respectable continental European bath U never considered improper although it exposes far mora than rnoio laiccn at Ub tend. By Rev.George W.Grlnton ttastor of the Fordham Methodist episcopal Church, New York City. (""HE Immodest drew and unbe I eomlng pese of young women eften goad young men to fury. If a girl scapes the flames, the man does not, for nine times out ef tea he makes his way te the Red JLIght er 4he White Light district. Who Is to blameT No reasonable person can have any doubt about the answer. Prof. David Edgar Rice Ph, (D., Columbia University, Tho Distinguished Psychologist RECENT startling innova tlons In women's dross have Inevitably attracted the at tention of preachers ana guardians ef publlo morality. These moral (loaders have folt compelled to do Bounce tho fashions thoy have soon as luring young men Into bad habits and even to ruin. Eccentric fashions and daring ex josurcs have followed ono another with such rapidity that In this Sum mor season we must ask ourselves, How far Is this to got Women of the most refined society wear skirts moderately slashed at tho ankles. Young girls of loss social position, thinking to make themselves popu lar, havo their skirts slashed still higher. Wo have hoard It said that If New( York girls wear skirts slashed to tho knee, Chicago girls ytlll wear them with two slashes higher than the knee. A remarkable fashion called the "chemise exposee" has found many followers. It Is designed to reveal a garment that we always thought ivras meant to bo concealed. Still more outrageous Is tho so-called "X ray gown," which was worn quite conspicuously at that breeding place' of fashions, the Chantllly races In France. This costume Is certainly more startling than any slashed skirt can be. It has elements of violent sur prise. Seen In one light it appears perfectly staid, while In another Ijt offers a revelation that fairly takes the breath away. Such things as these merit the at Mention of philosophic sociologists and should bo discussed rationally end not In a spirit which would seek to suppress the color, decoration and Innocent gayety of life. Certainly the young man of to-day living In a great city Is exposed to extraordin ary temptations. The cost of living makes home life, with Its simple pleasures, unattractive or Impossi ble to attain. The youth is drawn towards external amusements, which soon come to spell dissipation. It is a wicked shame, we are told, that the dress of ostensibly respectable wom en should give him an extra Impulso In the wrong direction. Let us ask ourselves la the light of philosophy how far a woman Is Justified in following new fashions that expose tho person and how far the present fashions aro a cause of demoralization. After oxarr.lnlag all the facts and arguments I have come to these conclusions: 1. That modesty Is an outgrowth pf conventions. " 2. That prevailing fashions, In as far as they work havoc with tha conventions la which we have been reared, are immodest 3. That fashions found Immodest under the eecoad head are a cause fit demoralisation : j weW find out tho exact nature of the harm that arises from it. It Is conceivable, if modesty means only conformity to tho conventions of dross, that any stylo might become modest by being adopted by a sufficiently large number of women, and this la what has actually happened In many instances. But It happens that tho practises we are discussing hero touch the very heart of Boclal life. Tho human form, hoth malo ana female, is admittedly beautiful from tho artistic point of view, and If esthetic! enjoyment olono resulted from Its display, tho matter would not bo a serious ono. Bui through the mochantsm of tnstinct, which Is a part of our original naturo and beyond tho conscious control of any human being, however good his in tentions mar bo, tho beauty of tho human figure is Inseparably asso ciated with tho sexual Impulse, and "A costume greatly abbreviated at the ufN per end causes no shock at a fashion able evening affair and probably does no harm," To be more precise on one Im portant point a woman should nover wear anything which startles her xrlandn or the public. Exposure which excites no surprise is harm less. Wo will now apply philosophic methods of Inquiry. , As to tho first point involved that of modestyIt must bo said, from tho philosophical point of view, that it is an extremely complex and contradictory quality. So many elements enter into it that tho same situation or tho same act may prove to be either the very ossonce of pro priety or tho graveat offense against decency. It all depends. Maude Adams, for example, as Peter Pan, may display nor "nethor llmba" on the stage to thousands avory night without for a moment even raising a suggestion of Impro priety. But lot her appear on tho street In the same costume, thinly veiled with a skirt of flimsy silk, and her reputation for modesty would bo gone within an hour. The fact Is that although we as sociate modesty with clothing, mod esty 1b not primarily nor essentially a matter of clothing at all. Con versely the mere quantity or style of clothing la not in Itself a safo Index to tho modesty of the wearer. When custom prescribes or occasion demands, tho amount of conceal ment afforded by clothing may vary within extremely wide limits with out offending decency. The woman who escapes from a burning build ing clad only in her night dress, or perhaps with tho very last thread of clothing burned from her body, Is every whit as modest as tho woman who is gowned from head to foot It is asserted by students of eth nology that among savage tribes, whero practically no clothing what ever Is worn, the women In thqlr own peculiar way exhibit as keen a sense of modesty as is to be found In any civilized country. A trav eller in Central Australia states that when he de sired to take a photograph of a group of young women they wore vory coy at the proposal to- re move their scanty garments, and re tired behind a wall to do so; but once In a stato of nudity thoy made no ob jection to expos ure to the camera. Tho distinction mado by these women may seem an exceedingly flno ono from our point of view. But what shall we say of tho womanwho "A suggestive contrast between a modest gown and an exaggerated form exhibits genuine of the slashed skirt." Photo Taken at tho Actors Society Fair in London. etnbar rassmont Dome mis protection, modesty is tne when a gust of wind exposes the stocking under her walking skirt, but who an hour later may bo seen extended her full length on the beach clad In a bathing suit? This comparison affords a con vincing illustration of the fundamen tal fact of ethics, that In the last an alysis morals aro nothing more nor less than customs. Whatever sanc tion morals may later derive from what wo aro pleasod to call absolute right the fact remains that In ethics "whatever is is right" In its origin modosty was an in stinct banod on fear, prompting tho individual to protect her body from the approach of a stranger. In the course of time the only protection needed by the woman was that against the sight of the stranger, and inasmuch as clothing came to cyxni characteristic of the person who avails herself of this protection and conforms to conventional Ideas of dress so far as they concern the ex posure of her body to disrespectful glances. Modesty as we know It to day Is only an outgrowth of conven tions. It we accept this definition of modesty, wo are, however, forced to Bay that many of tho recent innova tions in woman's dress as well as the movements of the turkey trots and tango dances are distinctly Im modest. Woman herself has decreed that only a very limited portion of her figure shall be exposed to publlo gaze. Eve adopted the fig-leaf apron of her own volition, and her daugh ters la various climes have made whatever additions they pleased to the original outfit In our own country tho limits of exposure are woll defined, although varying con siderably with the occasion. Es thetic considerations reduce the up per limits in the ballroom. Con venience and freedom of movement curtail the lower limits in the ln-t terest of the woman athletically ?' inclined. A rainy day wo compla cently allow to play havco with all our traditions. But with these and other minor exceptions, tho require ments of modesty in dress are pret ty definitely fixed, and may not be transgressed with impunity. So far we have been concerned only with establishing the fact that Immodesty in dress and social amusoments actually exists. The important consideration tben Is to "Tho so-called X-ray skrt from Paris is the climax of all these extravagances." PbotoaranU TAn f Chantilly Races. It is tho uncontrollable strength of this impulse that is tho cause of much of our social woe. If tho effect produced by a wom an who appears Improperly clothed In publlo places were confined to her own circle of acquaintances lit tle harm would bo done. In factvfa mtliarlty with her real virtues might completely counteract any harmful Influence. But unfortunately, the effect Is more far-reaching. Every Indication of Immodesty on the part of a woman tends to break down In every man who sees her that in stinctive respect for tho sex as a whole which constitutes its strong est safeguard against insult There Is little wonder, as has been pointed out so frequently by writers on this subject, that so many women aro treated with scant coui tesy in publlo places. The growing disrespect tor women 1b an ovil for which they themselves are In largo part responsible. Nor is it an extenuation of tho harm that may result to say, as many well meaning women do say, that even though they may adopt the styles that are under criticism, they do not carry them to extremes. By a peculiar psychological process the power of suggestion grows stronger In. proportion as the actual reality is kept in the background. When little is left for tho imagina tion to work upon, interest largely falls. When limits are exceeded, the feeling of disgust enters aa-a saving factor. And so It well may be that the woman who carries her audacity to extremes is doing less real harm than her moro conservative sister. In art, if It is permissible at all to raise the question of morals in art, It is generally rocognired that the nude is moro moral than the thinly draped figure. And in tho real life of human emotion's a few Inches of well shaped ankle showing out from under a fluffy skirt proves more attractive to the spectator than the entire form of the ballet dancer. It is a rather odd coincidence that this charge should be broughtl against the sex at tho very time' when women are showing an aroused Interest in social welfare. It Is an interesting question whether, because of our quickened social con science, we have Just become more sensitive about an evil already ex isting, or whether wo are face to face with a new situation, tbe ten dency of which is to further confirm our traditional bollet in tha delight Cul inconsistency of woman.