April 22, 2008

Wonderful fashion and millinery books from the University of Wisconsin

Filed under: Hat book and magazine reviews,Millinery trivia and events — Cristina de Prada @ 11:07 pm

Mrs Conde Nast - Image from the book Woman as Decoration, scanned by the University of WisconsinYou’ve got to love the fact that more and more old books that are now in the public domain are being digitized to make them available to a wider audience. Today a new array of books came to my attention thanks to Shay and her blog Little Grey Bungalow.  As you can see on her blog, she has found out a veritable treasure of scanned books (36 in all, related to fashion and millinery) available online from the Department of Human Ecology of the University of Wisconsin.

I cannot beguin to guess which one of the books will tickle your fancy, but I can tell you I went directly for Emily Burbank’s Woman as decoration, from 1920. And I can tell you I was not disappointed, the title gives it away, and the following jewels come from this book:

From the Foreword: “Contemporary woman’s costume is considered, not as fashion, but as decorative line and colour, a distinct contribution to the interior decoration of her own home or other setting”… “A woman owes it to herself, her family and the public in general, to be as decorative in any setting, as her knowledge of the art of dressing admits”.

From the chapter The laws underlying all costuming of woman: “The ideal pose for any hat is a french secret”.

From the chapter Establish habits of carriage which create good line: “Woman to be decorative, should train the carriage of her body from childhood, by wearing appropriate clothing for various daily rôles”.

From the chapter Woman decorative in her motor car: “It is not easy to be decorative in your automobile now that the manufacturers are going in for gay colour schemes both in upholstery and outside painting”.

From the chapter Woman as decoration when skating: “To be decorative when skating, two things are necessary: first, know how to skate…” (don’ say!!)

The conclusion “Remember, that while an inartistic room, confused as to line and colour-scheme can absolutely destroy the effect of a perfect gown, an inartistic though costly gown can likewise be a blot on a perfect room.”

And now on to the remaining 35 books… My next one is Straw Hats, their history and manufacture, the chapter Hand and Machine sewing looks mighty interesting, very little has been written on that subject!


  1. I alternately laughed and groaned through that entire book! Your gown, your dog, your car must be perfect…your rooms must provide an artistic background to your clothes…

    I’m not sure what my rooms provide to my clothes except possibly pet hair.

    Comment by Shay — April 23, 2008 @ 1:52 am

  2. Wonderful find. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Glorious Hats — April 23, 2008 @ 4:12 am

  3. I think life today would be a big dissapointment to the author of the book, there’s just no time to make our clothes match our wallpaper or the upholstery of our car (which tends to be very dull these days, no red leather upholstery on cars anymore, darn!).

    Comment by cristinadeprada — April 23, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  4. I loved those snippets, they made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately I’m finding it difficult to be decorative at all these days with a large baby bump. Is there any advice for that? Off I go to adorn my automobile.

    Comment by Cath — April 23, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  5. How funny! I was going to post a link to the UW books today! I think I’ll just point people in your direction instead; you have done a brilliant job featuring the collection already.
    The few books I have skipped through were not nearly as entertaining as your selection. Now off to tell my cats that they had better shape up and be more artistic in the background. (wait a minute, Tiggie is already doing that. Maybe he has already read the book…)

    Comment by Jill — April 23, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

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