Editorials

Requiem for the sack dress

September 27 1958
Editorials

Requiem for the sack dress

September 27 1958

Requiem for the sack dress

Editorials

like all right-thinking men and red-blooded women, we greet the death of the sack dress with joy. We are glad it’s dead and we are equally glad of the way it died: abruptly and without honor, about the way it was born, with some damn-fool designer in Paris issuing some damn-fool decree and a planet-full of damn-fool females rushing off to obey. That it will almost certainly be replaced by some equally hideous contraption is not altogether relevant. Civilization is a slow process and wringing civilization out of the wild swampland of women's fashion is not a task to be accomplished overnight; in the meantime every little victory over the barbarians and dinosaurs of the Place Vendôme is a thing to be cherished.

For all this, however, we don’t really feel like gloating over the fate of the sack. The sack did represent a certain spirit of adventure, however misdirected, in the human female. Within the last hundred and fifty years there has been no sign of any such spirit in the human male — not, at any rate, in his choice of raiment. The only reason it can be said that men’s clothes haven’t been changing for the worse is that they haven’t been changing at all. It’s true that there have been a few modifications in the narrow technical sense; hats and shoes, for instance, have become lower and ties narrower, but by and large men’s clothes are still about as uncomfortable and dull as masculine ingenuity, plus masculine conservatism and timidity could make them. And all this in the face of the law under which, as any biologist knows, nature meant the male of almost every species to be far more ornamental than the female, brighter in color, more splendid of form, infinitely more attractive to the eye, freer of buttons, ropes, stays and all other impediments to his fullest comfort, health and comeliness.

Every year somebody proposes that men cast off the shackles of what passes for men’s fashion, discard their neckties, get into Bermuda shorts and sandals and start living like lions again. Until they—or if you insist, we— actually get around to doing it, men will probably go right on compensating for their own cowardice and orthodoxy by haranguing the ladies on their susceptibility to persuasion. It is not an edifying prospect; the only good thing about it is that it is suddenly and gloriously empty of sack dresses.

Three cheers for Mr. Nowlan

To all those who believe that censorship by administrative order is a satisfactory substitute for the rule of law, we suggest a careful reading of a recent speech made in the House of Commons by Revenue Minister George Nowlan. For many years federal customs officers have been saddled with the unwelcome task of saying, on no one’s authority but their own, what printed matter from other countries is fit to be admitted into Canada.

To illustrate the sheer Lewis-Carroll absurdity of this sort of control over the delicate area of communications, Mr. Nowlan reported on six lithographs which were being imported as illustrations for calendars. Three of the pictures showed women wholly nude. The other three showed women clothed only in transparent gauze. One customs officer ruled the slightly draped nudes were okay for admission but the simon-pure nudes were unsuitable for Canadian eyes. Another customs officer ruled exactly the opposite; the unadorned nudes were all right, but the clad ones were too suggestive.

Mr. Nowlan wants such questions decided, insofar as they can be decided at all, where all judicial matters should be finally decided — in the courts, and not, as present, by the tariff board. “I really think,” Mr. Nowlan said, speaking for a valued arm of the civil service, “we are better qualified to deal with increasing the seasonal tariff on cabbages and cucumbers than to pass moral judgments on literature coming into the country.”