One of the things I collect is dressmaking books, I've got some from the 1870's, lots more from the early 1900's, and even more from the mid twentieth century. The ones from the twentieth century follow a format, The early chapters are almost always on how dress is a marker of a person, and explain that with a little care and not much cost anyone can make good decisions when choosing their clothes.
A few months ago I came across mention of "The Lost Art of Dress - The women who once made America stylish", and I was intrigued. I asked the local library to get a copy, they did and I got first dibs on reading it. Linda Przybyszewski explains how a series of women set out to educate women via high schools, rural education and higher education how to dress. While I'm not sure that in such a mission would be valued today - I recognize the themes in their suggestions, and they match with the ideas and themes that form much design history and design thinking of that time.
Women were to consider form, silhouette, balance, proportion, harmony, scale and rhythm. Beauty was the goal, elegance, quality, and above all nothing was to distract from the person - clothing was all to be chosen to enhance.
I'm only half way through reading .... And the library wants it back so I will have to buy my own copy. I see that traces of these doctors of dress's advice in the ubiquitous magazine suggestions on how to dress, on critiques of celebrities who 'get it wrong', in the advice of personal stylists - and I wonder if those authors know where what they say is founded - or if they are privileged somehow and have absorbed and can articulate the 'rules' proposed these doctors of dress? Or do they think they are inventing new rules - that no one came before or what came before is not relevant - because, they think fashion is all about the 'now'.
So many ideas - I want to somehow bring this together with the teaching I do on design history, and I want to dress better.
I think for those two reasons alone the book is a good one - I really must buy one of my own,