Woman as Decoration



VERY now and then a sex war is predicted, and sometimes started, usually by woman, though some predicted that when the present European war is over and the men come home to their civilian tasks, now being carried on by women, man is going to take the initiative, in the sex conflict. We doubt it. Without deliberate design to prove this point,—that a complete collaboration of the sexes has always made the wheels of the universe revolve, many of the illustrations studied showed woman with man as decoration, in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and during later periods.

The Legend of Life tells us that man can not live alone, hence woman; and the Pageant of Life shows that she has played opposite with consistency and success throughout the ages.

The Sunday issue of the Philadelphia Public Ledger for March 25, 1917, has a headline, "Trousers vs. Skirts," and, continues Margaret Davies, the author of the article:

"This war will change all things for European women. Military service, of a sort, has come for them in both France and England, where they are replacing men employed in clerical and other non-combatant departments, including motor driving. The moment this was decided upon in England, it was found that 30,000 men would be released for actual fighting, with prospects of the release of more than 200,000 more. What the French demand will be is not known as I write, but it will equal that of England.

"How will these women dress? Will they be given military uniforms short of skirt or even skirtless? Of course they won't; but the world on this side of the ocean would not gasp should this be done. War industry already has worked a revolution.

"Study the pictures which accompany this article. They are a new kind of women's 'fashion pictures'; they are photographs of women dressed as European circumstances now compel them to dress. Note the trousers, like a Turkish woman's, of the French girl munitions workers. Thousands of girls here in France are working in such trousers. Note the smart liveries of the girls who have taken the places of male carriage starters, mechanics and elevator operators, at a great London shop. They are very natty, aren't they? Almost like costumes from a comic opera. Well, they are not operatic costumes. They are every-day working liveries. Girls wear them in the most mixed London crowds—wear them because the man-shortage makes it necessary for these girls to do work which skirts do not fit. All French trams and buses have 'conductresses.'

"The coming of women cabmen in London is inevitable—indeed, it already has begun. In Paris they have been established sparsely for some time and have done well, but they have not been used on taxis, only on the horse cabs.

"I have spent most of my time in Paris for some months now, and have ridden behind women drivers frequently. They drive carefully and well and are much kinder to their horses than the old, red-faced, brutal French cochérs are. I like them. They have a wonderful command of language, not always entirely or even partially polite, but they are accommodating and less greedy for tips than male drivers.

"At Selfridge's great store—the largest and most progressive in London, operated on Chicago lines—skirtless maidens are not rare enough to attract undue attention. The first to be seen there, indeed, is not in the store at all, but on the sidewalk, outside of it, engaged in the gentle art of directing customers to and from their cars and cabs and incidentally keeping the chauffeurs in order.

"An extremely pretty girl she is, too, with her frock-coat coming to her knees, her top-boots coming to the coat, and now and then, when the wind blows, a glimpse of loose knickers. She tells me that she's never had a man stare at her since she appeared in the new livery, although women have been curious about it and even critical of it. Women have done all the staring to which she has been subjected.

"Within the store, many girls engaged in various special employments, are dressed conveniently for their work, in perfectly frank trousers. Among these are the girls who operate the elevators. There is no compromise about it. These girls wear absolutely trousers every working hour of every working day in a great public store, in a great crowded city, rubbing elbows (even touching trousered knees, inevitably) with hundreds of men daily.


Madame Geraldine Farrar. The value of line was admirably illustrated in the opera "Madame Butterfly" as seen this winter at the Metropolitan Opera House. Have you chanced to ask yourself why the outline of the individual members of the chorus was so lacking in charm, and Madame Farrar's so delightful? The great point is that in putting on her kimono, Madame Farrar kept in mind the characteristic silhouette of the Japanese woman as shown in Japanese art; then she made a picture of herself, and one in harmony with her Japanese setting. Which brings us back to the keynote of our book—Woman as Decoration—beautiful Line.

Sketched for "Woman as Decoration" by Thelma Cudlipp
Mme. Geraldine Farrar in Japanese Costume as Madame Butterfly

"And they like it. They work better in the new uniforms than they used to in skirts and are less weary at each day's end. And nobody worries them at all. There has not been the faintest suspicion of an insult or an advance from any one of the thousands of men and boys of all classes whom they have ridden with upon their 'lifts,' sometimes in dense crowds, sometimes in an involuntary tête-à-tête.

"Other employments which girls follow and dress for bifurcatedly in this great and progressive store are more astonishing than the operation of elevators. A charming young plumber had made no compromise whatever with tradition. She was in overalls like boy plumbers wear, except that her trousers were not tight, but they were well fitted. A little cap of the same material as the suit, completed her jaunty and attractive costume. And cap and suit were professionally stained, too, with oil and things like that, while her small hands showed the grime of an honest day's competent, hard work.

"The coming summer will see an immense amount of England's farming done by women and, I think, well done. Organisations already are under way whereby women propose to help decrease the food shortage by intelligent increase of the chicken and egg supply, and this is being so well planned that undoubtedly it will succeed. Eggs and chickens will be cheap in England ere the summer ends.

"I have met three ex-stenographers who now are at hard work, two of them in munition factories (making military engines of death) and one of them on a farm. I asked them how they liked the change.

"'I should hate to have to go back to work in the old long skirts,' one replied. 'I should hate to go back to the old days of relying upon some one else for everything that really matters. But—well, I wish the war would end and I hope the casualty lists of fine young men will not grow longer, day by day, as Spring approaches, although everybody says they will.'

"Mrs. John Bull takes girls in pantaloons quite calmly and approvingly, now that she has learned that if there are enough of them, dad and the boys will pay no more attention to them in trousers than they would pay to them in skirts."

We have preferred to quote the exact wording of the original article, for the reason that while the facts are familiar to most of us, the manner of putting them could not, to our mind, be more graphic. Some day, when the Wateaus of the future are painting the court ladies who again dance pavanes in sunlit glades, wearing wigs and crinoline, such data will amuse.

That the women of Finland make worthy members of their parliament does not prove anything outside of Finland. That the exigencies of the present hour in England have made women equal to every task of men so far entrusted to them, proves much for England. Women, like men, have untold, untried abilities within them, women and men alike are marvellous under fire—capable of development in every direction. What human nature has done it can do again, and infinitely more under the pressure of necessity which opens up brain cells, steels the heart, hardens the muscles, and like magic fire, licks up the dross of humanity, aimlessly floating on the surface of life, awaiting a leader to melt and mould it at Fate's will into clearly defined personalities, ready to serve. This point has been magnificently proved by the war now waging in Europe.

Let us repeat; that from the beginning the story of woman's costuming proves her many-sidedness, the inexhaustible stock of her latent qualities which, like man's, await the call of the hour.


The foregoing chapters have aimed at showing the decorative value of woman's costume as seen in the art of Egypt, Greece, Gothic Europe, Europe of the Renaissance and during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To prove the point that woman is a telling note in the interior decoration of to-day, the vital spark in any setting, we have not dwelt upon the fashions so much as decorative line, colour-scheme and fitness for the occasion.

It is costume associated with caste which interests us more than folk costume. We have shown that it is the modern insistence on efficiency that has led to appropriate dress for work and recreation, and that our idea of the chic and the beautiful in costume is based on appropriateness. Also we have shown that line in costumes is in part the result of one's "form"—the absolute control of the body, its "carriage," poise of the head, action of legs, arms, hands and feet, and that form means successful effort in any direction, because through it the mind may control the physical medium.

It is the woman who knows what she should wear, what she can wear and how to wear it, who is most efficient in whatever she gives her mind to. She it is who will expend the least time, strength and money on her appearance, and be the first to report for duty in connection with the next obligation in the business of life.

Therefore let us keep in mind a few rules for the perfect costuming of woman:

Appropriateness for each occasion so as to get efficiency, or be as decorative as possible.

Outline.—Fashion in silhouette adapted to your own type.

Background.—Your setting.

Colour scheme.—Fashionable colours chosen and combined to express your personality as well as to harmonise with the tone of setting, or, if preferred, to be an agreeable contrast to it.

Detail.—Trimming with raison d'être,—not meaningless superfluities.

It is, of course, understood that the attainment of beauty in the costuming of woman is our aim when stating and applying the foregoing principles.

The art of interior decoration and the art of costuming woman are occasionally centred in the same individual, but not often. Some of the most perfectly dressed women, models for their less gifted sisters, are not only ignorant as to the art of setting their stage, but oblivious of the fact that it may need setting.

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.




Madame Geraldine Farrar as Thaïs in the opera of that name. It is a sketch made from life for this book. Observe the gilded wig and richly embroidered gown. They are after descriptions of a costume worn by the real Thaïs. It is a Greek type of costume but not the familiar classic Greek of sculptured story. Thaïs was a reigning beauty and acted in the theatre of Alexandria in the early Christian era.

Sketched for "Woman as Decoration" by Thelma Cudlipp
Mme. Geraldine Farrar in Greek Costume as Thaïs


Woman in ancient Egyptian sculpture-relief about 1000 B.C.

We have here a husband and wife. (Metropolitan Museum.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Woman in Ancient Egyptian


A Greek vase. Dionysiac scenes about 460 B.C. Interesting costumes. (Metropolitan Museum.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art Woman on Greek Vase


Greek Kylix. Signed by Hieron, about 400 B.C. Athenian. The woman wears one of the gowns Fortuny (Paris) has reproduced as a modern tea gown. It is in two pieces. The characteristic short tunic reaches just below waist line in front and hangs in long, fine pleats (sometimes cascaded folds) under the arms, the ends of which reach below knees. The material is not cut to form sleeves; instead two oblong pieces of material are held together by small fastenings at short intervals, showing upper arm through intervening spaces. The result in appearance is similar to a kimono sleeve. (Metropolitan Museum.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art Woman in Greek Art about 400 B.C.


Example of the pointed head-dress, carefully concealed hair (in certain countries at certain periods of history, a sign of modesty), round necklace and very long close sleeves characteristic of fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Observe angle at which head-dress is worn.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Woman in Gothic Art
Portrait showing pointed head-dress


Fifteenth-century costume. "Virgin and Child" in painted terra-cotta.

It is by Andrea Verrocchio, and now in Metropolitan Museum. We have here an illustration of the costume, so often shown on the person of the Virgin in the art of the Middle Ages.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Woman in Art of the Renaissance Sculpture-Relief in Terra-Cotta: The Virgin


Fifteenth-century costumes on the Holy Women at the Tomb of our Lord.

The sculpture relief is enamelled terra-cotta in white, blue, green, yellow and manganese colours. It bears the date 1487.

Note character of head-dresses, arrangement of hair, capes and gowns which are Early Renaissance. (Metropolitan Museum.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Woman in Art of the Renaissance
Sculpture-Relief in Terra-Cotta: Holy Women


Queen Elizabeth in the absurdly elaborate costume of the late Renaissance. Then crinoline, gaudy materials, and ornamentations without meaning reached their high-water mark in the costuming of women.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Tudor England Portrait of Queen Elizabeth


A Velasquez portrait of the Renaissance, when the human form counted only as a rack on which was heaped crinoline and stiff brocades and chains and gems and wigs and every manner of elaborate adornment, making mountains of poor tottering human forms, all but lost beneath.

Vienna Hofmuseum
Spain-Velasquez Portrait


An ideal example of the typical costume of fashionable England in the eighteenth century, when picturesqueness, not appropriateness, was the demand of the times.

This picture is known as The Morning Promenade: Squire Hallet with His Lady. Painted by Thomas Gainsborough and now in the private collection of Lord Rothschild, London.

Courtesy of Braun & Co., New York, London & Paris
Eighteenth Century England
Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough


Marie Antoinette in a Portrait by Madame Vigée le Brun, one of the greatest portrait painters of the eighteenth century. Here we see the lovely queen of Louis XVI in the type of costume she made her own which is still referred to as the Marie Antoinette style.

This portrait is in the Musée National, Versailles.

Courtesy of Braun & Co., New York, London & Paris
Bourbon France Marie Antoinette Portrait by Madame Vigée Le Brun


The portrait of an Englishwoman painted during the Napoleonic period.

She wears the typical Empire gown, cloak, and bonnet.

The original of this portrait is the same referred to elsewhere as having moistened her muslin gowns to make them cling to her, in Grecian folds.

Among her admiring friends was Lord Byron.

A descendant who allows the use of the charming portrait, explains that the fair lady insisted upon being painted in her bonnet because her curling locks were short—a result of typhoid fever.

Costume of Empire Period
An English Portrait


Portrait by Gilbert Stuart of Doña Matilda, Stoughton de Jaudenes. (Metropolitan Museum.)

We use this portrait to illustrate the period when woman's line was obliterated by the excessive decoration of her costume.

The interest attached to this charming example of her time lies in colour and detail. It is as if the bewitching Doña Matilda were holding up her clothes with her person. Her outline is that of a ruffled canary. How difficult for her to forget her material trappings, when they are so many, and yet she looks light of heart.

For sharp contrast we suggest that our reader turn at once to the portrait by Sargent (Plate XV) which is distinguished for its clean-cut outline and also the distinction arrived at through elimination of detail in the way of trimming. The costume hangs on the woman, suspended by jewelled chains from her shoulders.

The Sargent has the simplicity of the Classic Greek; the Gilbert Stuart portrait, the amusing fascination of Marie Antoinette detail.

The gown is white satin, with small gold flowers scattered over its surface. The head-dress surmounting the powdered hair is of white satin with seed-pearl ornaments.

The background is a dead-rose velvet curtain, draped to show blue sky, veiled by clouds. The same dead-rose on table and chair covering. The book on table has a softly toned calf cover. Gilbert Stuart was fond of working in this particular colour note.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Eighteenth Century Costume Portrait by Gilbert Stewart


Madame Adeline Genée, the greatest living exponent of the art of toe dancing. She wears an early Victorian costume (1840) made for a ballet she danced in London several seasons ago. The writer did not see the costume and neglected, until too late, to ask Madame Genée for a description of its colouring, but judging by what we know of 1840 colours and textures as described by Miss McClellan (Historic Dress in America) and other historians of the period as well as from portraits, we feel safe in stating that it may well have been a bonnet of pink uncut velvet, trimmed with silk fringe and a band of braided velvet of the same colour; or perhaps a white shirred satin; or dove-coloured satin with pale pink and green figured ribbon. For the dress, it may have been of dove-grey satin, or pink flowered silk with a black taffeta cape and one of black lace to change off with.

Victorian Period about 1840
Mme. Adeline Genée in Costume


A portrait by John S. Sargent. (Metropolitan Museum, painted about 1890.)

We have here a distinguished example of the dignity and beauty possible to a costume characteristic of the period when extreme severity as to outline and elimination of detail followed the elaboration of Victorian ruffles, ribbons and lace over hoops and bustle; curled hair and the obvious cameo brooch, massive bracelets and chains.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Late Nineteenth Century Costume about 1890
A Portrait by John S. Sargent


A portrait of Mrs. Thomas Hastings of New York painted by the late John W. Alexander.

We have chosen this—one of the most successful portraits by one of America's leading portrait painters—as a striking example of colour scheme and interesting line. Also we have here a woman who carries herself with form. Mrs. Hastings is an accomplished horsewoman. Her fine physique is poised so as to give that individual movement which makes for type; her colour—wonderful red hair and the complexion which goes with it—are set off by a dull gold background; a gown in another tone of gold, relieved by a note or two of turquoise green; and the same green appearing as a shadow on the Victory in the background.

We see the sitter, as she impressed an observer, transferred to the canvas by the consummate skill of our deeply lamented artist.

A Modern Portrait By John W. Alexander


Portrait of Mrs. Philip M. Lydig, patron of the arts, exhibited in New York at Duveen Galleries during Winter of 1916-1917 with the Zuloaga pictures. The exhibition was arranged by Mrs. Lydig.

This portrait has been chosen to illustrate two points: that a distinguished decorative quality is dependent upon line which has primarily to do with form of one's own physique (and not alone the cut of the costume); and the great value of knowing one's own type.

Mrs. Lydig has been transferred to the canvas by the clever technique of one of the greatest modern painters, Ignacio Zuloaga, an artistic descendant of Velasquez. The delightful movement is that of the subject, in this case kept alive through its subtle translation into terms of art.

A Portrait of Mrs. Philip M. Lydig.
By I. Zuloago


Mrs. Langtry (Lady de Bathe) who has been one of the greatest beauties of modern times and a marked example of a woman who has always understood her own type, to costume it.

She agrees that this photograph of her, in an evening wrap, illustrates a point she has always laid emphasis on: that a garment which has good lines—in which one is a picture—continues wearable even when not the dernier cri of fashion.

This wrap was worn by Mrs. Langtry about two years ago.

Mrs. Langtry (Lady de Bathe) in Evening Wrap


Mrs. Condé Nast, artist and patron of the arts, noted for her understanding of her own type and the successful costuming of it.

Mrs. Nast was Miss Clarisse Coudert. Her French blood accounts, in part, for her innate feeling for line and colour. It is largely due to the keen interest and active services of Mrs. Nast that Vogue and Vanity Fair have become the popular mirrors and prophetic crystal balls of fashion for the American woman.

Mrs. Nast is here shown in street costume. The photograph is by Baron de Meyer, who has made a distinguished art of photography.

We are here shown the value of a carefully considered outline which is sharply registered on the background by posing figure against the light, a method for suppressing all details not effecting the outline.

Photograph by Baron de Meyer
Mrs. Condé Nast in Street Dress


Mrs. Condé Nast in an evening gown. Here again is a costume the beauty of which evades the dictum of fashion in the narrow sense of the term.

This picture has the distinction of a well-posed and finely executed old master and because possessing beauty of a traditional sort will continue to give pleasure long after the costume has perished.

Mrs. Condé Nast in Evening Dress


Mrs. Condé Nast in a garden costume. She wears a sun-hat and carries a flower-basket, which are decorative as well as useful.

We have chosen this photograph as an example of a costume made exquisitely artistic by being kept simple in line and free from an excess of trimming.

This costume is so decorative that it gives distinction and interest to the least pretentious of gardens.

Mrs. Condé Nast in Garden Costume


Mrs. Condé Nast wearing one of the famous Fortuny tea gowns.

This one has no tunic but is finely pleated, in the Fortuny manner, and falls in long lines, closely following the figure, to the floor.

Observe the decorative value of the long string of beads.

Mrs. Condé Nast in a Fortuny Tea Gown


Mrs. Vernon Castle who set to-day's fashion in outline of costume and short hair for the young woman of America. For this reason and because Mrs. Castle has form to a superlative degree (correct carriage of the body) and the clothes sense (knowledge of what she can wear and how to wear it) we have selected her to illustrate several types of costumes, characteristic of 1916 and 1917.

Another reason for asking Mrs. Castle to illustrate our text is, that what Mrs. Castle's professional dancing has done to develop and perfect her natural instinct for line, the normal exercise of going about one's tasks and diversions can do for any young woman, provided she keep in mind correct carriage of body when in action or repose. Here we see Mrs. Castle in ball costume.

Mrs. Vernon Castle in Ball Costume


Mrs. Vernon Castle in Winter afternoon costume, one which is so suited to her type and at the same time conservative as to outline and detail, that it would have charm whether in style or not.

Victor Georg—Chicago
Mrs. Vernon Castle in Afternoon Costume—Winter


Mrs. Vernon Castle in a summer afternoon costume appropriate for city or country and so adapted to the wearer's type that she is a picture, whether in action; seated on her own porch; having tea at the country club; or in the Winter sun-parlour.

Mrs. Vernon Castle in Afternoon Costume—Summer


Mrs. Vernon Castle costumed à la guerre for a walk in the country.

The cap is after one worn by her aviator husband.

This is one of the costumes—there are many—being worn by women engaged in war work under the head of messengers, chauffeurs, etc.

The shoes are most decidedly not for service, but they will be replaced when the time is at hand, for others of stout leather with heavy soles and flat heels.

Mrs. Vernon Castle Costumed á la Guerre for a Walk


Mrs. Vernon Castle in one of her dancing costumes.

She was snapped by the camera as she sprang into a pose of mere joyous abandon at the conclusion of a long series of more or less exacting poses.

Mrs. Castle assures us that to repeat the effect produced here, in which camera, lucky chance and favourable wind combined, would be well-nigh impossible.

Mrs. Vernon Castle
A Fantasy


A skating costume worn by Miss Weld of Boston, holder of the Woman's Figure Skating Championship.

This photograph was taken in New York on March 23, 1917, when amateurs contested for the cup and Miss Weld won—this time over the men.

The costume of wine-coloured velvet trimmed with mole-skin, a small close toque to match, was one of the most appropriate and attractive models of 1916-1917.

Courtesy of New York Herald Modern Skating Costume 1917 Winner of Amateur Championship of Fancy Skating


One of the 1917 silhouettes.

Naturally, since woman to-day dresses for her occupation—work or play—the characteristic silhouettes are many.

This one is reproduced to illustrate our point that outline can be affected by the smallest detail.

The sketch is by Elisabeth Searcy.

Drawn from Life by Elisabeth Searcy A Modern Silhouette—1917 Tailor-made


Souvenirs of an artist designer's unique establishment, in spirit and accomplishment vrai Parisienne. Notice the long cape in the style of 1825.

Tappé himself will tell you that all periods have had their beautiful lines and colours; their interesting details; that to find beauty one must first have the feeling for it; that if one is not born with this subtle instinct, there are manifold opportunities for cultivating it.

His claim is the same as that made in our Art of Interior Decoration; the connoisseur is one who has passed through the schooling to be acquired only by contact with masterpieces,—those treasures sifted by time and preserved for our education, in great art collections.

Tappé emphasises the necessity of knowing the background for a costume before planning it; the value of line in the physique beneath the materials; the interest to be woven into a woman's costume when her type is recognised, and the modern insistence on appropriateness—that is, the simple gown and close hat for the car, vivid colours for field sports or beach; a large fan for the woman who is mistress of sweeping lines, etc., etc.

Tappé is absolutely French in his insistence upon the possible eloquence of line; a single flower well poised and the chic which is dependent upon how a hat or gown is put on. We have heard him say: "No, I will not claim the hat in that photograph, though I made it, because it is mal posé."

Sketched for "Woman as Decoration" by Thelma Cudlipp
Tappé's Creations


Costume of a Red Cross Nurse, worn while working in a French war hospital, by Miss Elsie de Wolfe, of New York. An example of woman costumed so as to be most efficient for the work in hand.

Miss de Wolfe's name has become synonymous with interior decoration, throughout the length and breadth of our land, but she established a reputation as one of the best-dressed women in America, long before she left the stage to professionally decorate homes. She has done an immeasurable amount toward moulding the good taste of America in several fields. At present her energies are in part devoted to disseminating information concerning a cure for burns, one of the many discoveries resulting from the exigencies of the present devastating war.

Miss Elsie de Wolfe in Costume of Red Cross Nurse


Madame Geraldine Farrar as Carmen.

In each of the three presentations of Madame Farrar we have given her in character, as suggestions for stage costumes or costume balls. (By courtesy of Vanity Fair.)

Courtesy of Vanity Fair
Mme. Geraldine Farrar in Spanish Costume as Carmine


Madame Geraldine Farrar. The value of line was admirably illustrated in the opera "Madame Butterfly" as seen this winter at the Metropolitan Opera House. Have you chanced to ask yourself why the outline of the individual members of the chorus was so lacking in charm, and Madame Farrar's so delightful? The great point is that in putting on her kimono, Madame Farrar kept in mind the characteristic silhouette of the Japanese woman as shown in Japanese art; then she made a picture of herself, and one in harmony with her Japanese setting. Which brings us back to the keynote of our book—Woman as Decoration—beautiful Line.

Sketched for "Woman as Decoration" by Thelma Cudlipp
Mme. Geraldine Farrar in Japanese Costume as Madame Butterfly

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