Harper's Weekly, August 8, 1857
"Chat. The Feminine Revelations of Broadway."
P. 498: A modest friend complains that his delicacy is dreadfully shocked, during his daily walks in Broadway, by the free revelations at shop doors and in shop windows of such mysteries of female making-up as no one would venture to disclose by word of mouth, though they are flouted in the eyes and face of every passer-by.
He tells us his is painfully put to the blush at every step he takes, for the whole of Broadway is festooned with skeleton hoops, inflated crinolines, and expanded petticoats. He can not, he says, go into a dry goods store to buy a pair of gloves, without popping his head (of the impropriety of which he seems duly conscious, as becomes an unmarried man) under a full-blown female skirt, which, hanging from the top of the door, threatens, like a gigantic extinguisher, to catch and envelop his bachelorhood within the mazes of petticoat restraint.
Nor is it only that his modesty is wounded; his imagination, he says, has received an irreparable shock, for he had always hoped to admire our belles as beautiful and complete living totalities, while this unabashed disclosure of details so freely reveals the means of the making-up of our fashionable beauties, that he can only view them as artificial figures, ingeniously constructed, like a Chinese puzzle, out of odd pieces.
Our correspondent is unnecessarily fastidious, perhaps; but we have been somewhat surprised ourselves, we confess, at the free revelations of our Broadway shopmen, who, by the way, should have nothing to do with the sale of articles of female apparel and adornment, which should be left to women, who are exposed to so much suffering and temptation for the want of just such employment as is monopolized by those of our own sex.
Do you ever calculate the proportion of city stores exclusively devoted to the wants and caprices of women? Nine-tenth of all Broadway purchases are made by and exclusively for them, and the immense capital of that great mart, with its hundred of millions invested in land, buildings, and stock, may be considered as a perpetual settlement upon our wives and daughters. Here, then, is business enough to justify the employment, in their proper sphere, of thousands of unoccupied women; and we can not imagine how their own sex can possibly utter many of their wants in any other but female ears. Let alone what may be called the necessities of dress and household requirements, which, from their universality, may perhaps be a not improper subject of communication between the sexes, and think of the complicated artifices of fashion and the cunning devices to supply the deficiencies of nature. What it must cost female delicacy to reveal to a smirking, bewhiskered French coiffeur [hairdresser] the capillary destitution, and to ask for a front, a braided tail, or a dye? How does a feminine anatomy of fashion venture to ask the masculine shopman for those mountains of skirts and mole-hills of padding by which the dead level of nature is varied with the elevations of art? If the ladies can do all this without a rising blush, we think that our correspondent need not be so nice, and might open his eyes, without winking, to the feminine revelations of Broadway.