Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Who? - The Lost Art of Dress and Mary Brooks Picken

The Lost Art of Dress - The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski focuses on the topic of the Dress Doctors. The Dress Doctors refers to women from the first half of the twentieth century who adviced the women of America on how to dress well. They believed that anyone could dress well and look stylish as long as they followed 5 simple design principles - harmony, proportion, balance, rhythm and emphasis. One of the these women was Mary Brooks Picken whom I enjoyed being reintroduced to.

Mary Brooks Picken was born 1886 and founded the Women's Insitute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, PA in the early 1900's. She is one of the reasons USDA starting creating and providing sewing pamphlets to rural women of the United States. Mary used her role as a teacher to reach millions of individuals, she is accredited with writing nearly 100 books/booklets on the topic of the domestic arts. The Women's Institute educated more then 300,000 women in sewing and home arts via correspondence courses and encouraging women to sew for profit and pleasure.


The Institute also published a magazine called the Fashion Service which Mary frequently wrote articles for.

Mary was considered an expert on the creation of fashion but she included more then just sewing instructions in her writing she also discussed her philosophy of life. She felt that the domestic arts encouraged dignity, joy, meaning and self esteem in a woman's life. One of her goals was to inspire women to wear only well-fitting clothing in styles that flattered them, and to be unconcerned with trends.
In 1957 she became the first women to publish a dictionary, The Language of Fashion which was later renamed The Fashion Dictionary which is still available today as a republication. Mary also was the first woman trustee of The Fashion Institute of Technology and was part of the group who started New York Fashion Week in 1943. She continued attending New York Fashion Week well into her eighties. American fashion would of been quite different without her influence and the other Dress Doctors.

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