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Project Gutenberg: Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank, 1917

Oh, wow. Diana found a good one, on Project Gutenberg.

Woman as Decoration, by Emily Burbank

This is a book mostly about clothing styles, put up for the world to see. It was web-published through Project Gutenberg, including photo scans of illustrative plates. Images of women back to Queen Elizabeth (I) and especially at the end, styles of 1916 and 1917 (just before irenecastle25.jpgthe bulk of my favorite vocal music was written). The book is in the public domain, and how lucky that is for us!

I particularly love the photos of “Mrs. Conde’ Nast” which really foreshadow flapper attire (including a photo of a fortuny tea gown), and the photos of “Mrs. Vernon Castle.” Irene Castle was a dancer who with her husband influenced fashion, musical styles, dancing styles, and had a great influence on popular culture outside of NYC in the years 1912-1918.

The Castles were important in the Ragtime culture, and danced the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear (scandalous), the Tango, Foxtrot and many others. She bobbed her hair ten years before flappers made the style commonplace.

The photo here is Irene Castle in an impulsive moment in front of the camera. Wonderful, no? Woman as decoration, for sure.

But I digress. There are never enough photographs for me, in any book. However, for a book of 1917, this one has some real gems. And the talk about recognizing the line of a garment and knowing which lines flatter the self, is modern. She speaks of finding lines that transcend fashion and fad. Those ideas are good in any age… even 90 years after the words were written.

I’m grateful for access to this book. Perhaps you’d like to check it out yourself.

One Response to “Project Gutenberg: Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank, 1917”

  1. DeeMichelle Says:

    I thank you for posting this. I’m writing a story set in WWI, and the information you provided was very helpful.