"A tribute to a time when style--and maybe even life--felt more straightforward, and however arbitrary, there were definitive answers." --Sadie Stein, Paris Review
As a glance down any street in America quickly reveals, American women have forgotten how to dress. We lack the fashion know-how we need to dress professionally and beautifully. In The Lost Art of Dress, historian and dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski reveals that this wasn't always true.
In the first half of the twentieth century, a remarkable group of women--the so-called Dress Doctors--taught American women that knowledge, not money, was key to a beautiful wardrobe. They empowered women to design, make, and choose clothing for both the workplace and the home. Armed with the Dress Doctors' simple design principles--harmony, proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis--modern American women from all classes learned to dress for all occasions in ways that made them confident, engaged members of society.
A captivating and beautifully illustrated look at the world of the Dress Doctors, The Lost Art of Dress introduces a new audience to their timeless rules of fashion and beauty--rules which, with a little help, we can certainly learn again.
Both a history and a defense of home economics, this book follows the Dress Doctors, a group of female teachers and writers whose mission, starting in the mid-19th century, was to help women assemble budget-conscious wardrobes with a sense of art and occasion, utilizing rules about color, decoration, and appropriateness. Przybyszewski, a University of Notre Dame historian and prize-winning dressmaker, leaves little doubt as to her opinion of fashion after home economics departments and classes were dismantled in the 1960s: "If the Dress Doctors looked around at womankind today, they would wonder why so many of us are determined to appear ready to seduce at all hours of the day." The author unabashedly addresses the irony of miniskirts (especially in the workplace) as an infantalization of women during the feminist revolution. Finally, she argues for a return to the teaching of sewing: "the American Association of University Women girls to work with their hands in grade school and junior high why not sewing?" The author can be critical of the Dress Doctors, who, for example, virtually ignored African-Americans and other minorities, but she effectively argues that women might do well with a more traditional concept of fashion. 31 b&w images and two color inserts.