The Lost Art of Dress

We’re getting ready for our big Spring event and are so excited to announce that our speaker is none other than Linda Przybyszewski, best selling author of The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish.

Yves Saint-Laurent once so eloquently remarked that while “fashions fade, style is eternal.” Yet, after taking a look at a crowded street in New York City or peeking in at a mall in suburban America, it seems that eternity has actually found its end. Today, one sees Ugg boots worn at all times of the year, yoga pants masquerading as trousers, and exposed flesh parading down the red carpet. Grace Kelly and Betty Draper are out, while Miley Cyrus and the Real Housewives are in. When did this transformation take place? And how can we regain our once proud sense of style?

Przybyszewski-The Lost

Linda Przybyszewski has the answers in the book, The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish. Przybyszewski reveals the untold story of a remarkable group of women in the first half of the twentieth century—the so-called Dress Doctors—who taught American women how to dress and spearheaded a nationwide movement toward beautiful, economical, and egalitarian fashion. Based in Home Economics and Retailing departments across the country, the Dress Doctors offered advice on radio shows, at women’s clubs, and in magazines; armed with their simple design principles, modern American women from all social and economic classes learned to dress in a way that made them confident, engaged members of society.

A historian and expert dressmaker, Przybyszewski comes from a long line of sewing women; she’s won blue ribbons, made cocktail dresses, and even fashioned a coat for her dog. To write this book, she drew on historical archives as well as her personal collection of over 700 dress and sewing manuals dating from the 1910s. In an interview she can discuss topics such as:

  • What we can learn from the Dress Doctors: The Dress Doctors prized practicality and empowered women to design and make clothing for both the workplace and the home. For example, they championed skirts that would allow women to move about freely and campaigned against impractical and painful shoes.
  • Why women found it easier to grow older in the era of the Dress Doctors: Before the Youth Quake designers of the 1960s, girls looked forward to the day they could wear the sophisticated clothing of grown women. Complicated cuts and draped styles were reserved for the woman over thirty. Old age was seen as a time when a woman deserved a stately and magnificent wardrobe.
  • Why the Dress Doctors were forgotten:  The women’s movement, the Cold War, and the fact that suburban life blurred the traditional distinction between formal city clothes and casual country wear all led to the eclipse of the Dress Doctors.
  • Why we need the wisdom of the Dress Doctors today: The Dress Doctors explained how to choose a wardrobe to suit the occasion, whether work or play, without racking up credit card debt. And they knew which cuts and colors fit a woman at every stage of her life, from school girl to grande dame. Their advice is timeless and as useful today as it was years ago.

Stay tuned for more information about Przybyszewski and our upcoming event: Reawakening the Art of Dress.

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