Guidelines for Style, Form and Colour in 1928. (1).

I found an old book a few years ago "THE CUTTER'S GUIDE" A MANUAL OF DRESSCUTTING AND LADIES' TAILORING, by M.E. Roberts, published in Sydney in 1928.  At the back of the book, I found guidelines for form (what we now call style) and colour, and I want to share these over the weeks.
Stylish 1920's lady
Image sourced from


1/.  It requires just as much art to be a fine picture or a poem as it does to paint the one or write the other.  There is a considerable difference, though, between being artistic and being artful.  If a woman's arts are only a veneer to cover a selfish and unbeautiful life they are not admirable and seldom deceive for long.  Character shows through us whether we will or not.  The beautiful life and grand character are more often hidden from view by a dowdy or inartistic appearance, so a woman should try to appear what she is - try to show in the outward appearance what the inward life is, and make a fine picture.

2/. It is not to be denied that, in painting a picture or writing a poem, a woman may be doing a more lasting work and giving pleasure and uplifting to more people than she will do by making herself a beautiful picture and her life a poem.

3/. Though the matter of making herself beautiful is not so longlasting, it is not to be despised.  No one will question the wisdom of cleaning and garnishing the house every day, seeing that it becomes disarranged and needs doing again to-morrow.

4/. One of the greatest English art critics has said:-  "I believe true nobleness of dress to be an important means of education, as it certainly is a necessity to any nation which wishes to possess living art, concerned with portraiture of human nature.  No good historical painting ever yet existed, or ever can exist, where the dresses of the people of the time are not beautiful, and had it not been for the lovely and fantastic dressing of the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, neither French, nor Florentine, nor Venetian art could have risen to anything like the rank it reached.  Still, even then, the best dressing was never the costliest, and its effect depended much more on its beautiful and in early times, modest arrangement, and on the simple and lovely masses of its colour, than on gorgeousness of clasp or embroidery".  This makes it every woman's duty to be beautifully - that is, suitably - dressed, as it is her duty to make life brighter for all around her by making herself and her home beautiful.  This is where art helps towards good living, and a woman can, in that way, do more to cultivate a sense of the beautiful and help train the artistic  feeling and love of the beautiful in those with whom she comes in contact, than by any other means.  It is no unworthy study to learn to do just to and make the best of yourself.  If you are to be one of the workers of the world and wish to dress other people well you must do justice to and make the best of them.  If this seems an unworthy study then choose some other way of life.

That is this week's excerpt.   Really, it boils down to making the best of what you've got by using shape, style and colour without spending more than you need. And we certainly tend not to use florid prose to say that perceptions by other people are based on what we wear and how we appear.  Although we might question the allocation of the role of domestic goddess as a duty a bit hard to accept in the post feminist era.
1928 day dresses
Image was sourced from

Sarah Liz



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