|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Antiques And Arts News||Home|
( Originally Published 1963 )
Now that you know all the things I'm against, you may wonder just what I'm for, and you're fully entitled to know. So without further ado here is my personal fashion credo - ten fairly simple rules or goals toward a well-dressed you.
1. A small but good wardrobe-one that is carefully planned. Junk or store your unwearable clothes. Pull out the clothes you don't wear because they're too long, too short or too tight and alter them. Reserve a whole day, if you possibly can, for the project. Next, see what's left. Now you'll be able to. Make a list of what you have, if lists help you think.
Arrange your closet by seasons. Then by colors. Try and keep matching accessories (belts, scarfs, jewelry and gloves) on the same hangars or nearby the clothes they're worn with. Only after you've composed this clear picture of what you own and actually wear can you decide if, and what, you need to buy. Most closets are so cluttered and badly arranged it is amazing what you discover once you've straightened them up. But please get rid of your white elephants even if they were once your pride and joy and cost some phenomenal amount. Rummage sales, charities, underdeveloped countries and the like can all make better use of them than you can now.
Mentally review the routine of your life and see what items of clothing you really lack. Most women, no matter how often they shop, find that they have too much of one kind of clothing, not enough of another. You may have too many party clothes, not enough street wear, or vice versa. Perhaps you have blouses, lots of pretty ones, crying for a good straight black skirt, which would almost solve your needs for daytime clothes. Or a suit equally desperate for a new jersey. Or a cocktail dress you've never worn because you never got around to buying shoes to go with it. And so forth. Fill in the important gaps. Only then will you be ready to think in bigger terms. A new fall suit? A good wool dress? A winter coat that will give all your winter clothes a fresh look. Always keep the basic questions in mind: What do you really need? How much can you spend for it?
2. Basic clothes in a popular price range that give wide possibility for individuality. By this I mean clothes that are simple, exciting but understated, that fit into your life and that you can make truly your own by the way you accessorize them. This calls for dresses and suits that are classically cut, with unbroken, uncluttered lines-clothes which challenge your imagination to add your own kind of special touches: a scarf tied at the side of a round neckline, a red sash on a pink linen sheath, arresting jewelry and color-complementary shoes and bags. Basic clothing must fit into your life because it can be dressed up or down, and because it automatically sees you through a day that begins with shopping and ends with cocktails.
3. A non-fussy, non-gadgety wardrobe. This may seem to be another way of saying what I've just said, but there are women who are seduced by dresses decorated with rhinestones or bows or feathers or heaven-knows-what. Millions of those plastic pocketbooks with gaudy appliques have been sold. There are hats that look like a double banana split and which the women who buy them often wear, with heavy doses of make-up, jewelry, and furs. My advice in such cases: PLEASE, ladies, don't compete with the circus.
4. Clothes that are not enslaved by the current fad or fashion. (And thus, clothes that will not be outdated the following season.) Select garments that are beautiful in themselves and there fore wearable for years to come. Dresses that can be quickly tagged "the trapeze," the "brioche," "the Empire," the "new look" (which usually gets old rather quickly), inevitably become "last year's." This does not mean that you should ignore the current fashion. I think women more or less must stay within the boundaries of the current fashion trend. A long skirt looks terrible when everyone else is wearing short ones. Some styles are simply out of mode. We are social creatures and few among us would feel comfortable in a hoopskirt with everyone else wearing a slim short sheath. But a modified version of the latest fashions is a much better investment than an extreme model. And don't let the saleslady intimidate you by saying "But everybody's wearing it!" When someone says that to me I'm certain I'm not going to!
5. Clothes that you wear-not clothes that wear you. You don't want to own dresses that are remembered longer than you are. Very few women can carry sensational clothes and hold their own. Most fashion models wear their high-fashion clothing only when working or looking for work. Do own a few pieces of fabulous clothing, but choose them carefully and be sure they are right for you.
6. Clothes (in a price range you can afford) made o f materials that drape well, wear well, clean well. The most important thing about a dress is the fabric it's made of. Good fabric tailors well, but if the fabric is not good the most careful tailoring cannot give the clothes long life. Crepe, satin and velvet require expert tailoring, detail, lining, and there are no good synthetics of these fabrics. As for synthetics, wools, silks, peau-de-soies, nylons, dacrons, and an infinite number of combinations of these and other new man-made fibers, have brought glamour and luxury into the lower price ranges.
7. Clothes that are well-made. Do become sensitive to how the clothes you buy are made, before you buy them. Look at the details. See if the seams of the dress are pinked and then rollstitched. Rough unfinished seams are the sign of a cheaply made garment. Good zippers usually mean a good garment. Lined skirts, once the sign of expensive clothes are now available in low-priced fashions too. Inside hook closings that insure good fit around the waist, tiny straps that attach to your bra straps securing the drape of a bodice, hand-finished button holes, the cut of an armhole-these are some of the marks of good clothing. So is the drape of a bloused back, the perfect smoothness of a skirt. And the quality of all details: the buttons, lace, ribbon-all add to or detract from what you're wearing.
VARIETIES OF THE FEMALE FORM
Just about all female adult figures can be put into one of the following categories: Tall (over 5'8") and thin, tall and medium, tall and heavy; Short (under 5' 3") and thin, short and medium, short and heavy; Moderate height (from 5' 3" and 5' 7") and thin, moderate and medium build, moderate height and heavy build. Of course there are many variations for each type. Some women would be called very short-if they were say, under five feet tall. They could classify as very tall if they were over five feet eleven inches. And in any event the parts of the body vary widely. A woman may be thin-hipped and heavy bosomed, narrow shouldered and big bosomed, large hipped and flat-chested, and so forth. Now because we, almost all of us I think, do have in mind what we would call "the ideal form," it is important to know a few general rules of proportion which can help anyone with a figure "problem" to come closer, or to seem to come closer to this ideal. It may relieve you to know that the measurements of the ideal lady of all time, according to the art connoisseurs are as follows:
THE IDEAL BUILDHeight Weight Shoulders Bust Waist Hips Thighs 6'8 1/2 ? 19 50 39 51 ?
These are not figures taken from Marilyn Monroe's tape measure -though I don't think hers are too different. They are over two thousand years old, derived from a lady a bit older than any of our movie queens-Venus de Milo. The figures may seem high, but it's the proportions that count. By our standards Venus is a bit narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and too "waist-y." But she has survived the test of time and she is considered beautiful by all standards.
Before listing some basic laws of proportion which can bring you closer to this "ideal" in the eyes of those who see you, I want to say for the record that a woman who thinks individually and who is not afraid of stepping outside the "norm," or of redefining the "ideal" in her own image, may choose to violate some of these rules, and can still emerge looking beautiful in her own way, which is, after all, the real goal.
These simple, and almost painfully obvious laws of proportion have been foundation stones of artists since the caveman drew deer and buffalo on his wet stony walls. They may seem like things a two-year-old would know but since there are so many of these laws broken every day, they should be read and re-read:
Vertical lines are slimming, this means seams, button closings, sleeve endings, all details and decorations as well as any striped prints or fabrics.
Horizontal lines are broadening, all the above-mentioned if run horizontally instead of vertically.
Diagonal lines are universally flattering Unorganized detail or clutter distract the eye Light draws attention and as such may be fattening.
Dark de-emphasizes and escapes attention and as such is almost always slimming.
Next, I've boiled the infinite number of body types down to the four most common "problem" figures and listed some more specific rules of dressing.
TOO TALL? If you're five-feet seven or over you're considered tall, but whether or not this is a "problem" depends on your attitude, your posture, and how you dress. Juno, Jupiter's wife and Queen of Olympus, was proud of her height. So were the beautiful Amazon women. Never dress as if you were embarrassed about your height. Your posture should be regal, and better than other women's since you are more in view. If you are of medium or thin build, there is almost nothing you can't wear. All the taboo clothing-the horizontal stripes, full skirts, draped or blousy dresses, big prints, heavy jewelry, big bold earrings-are for you if you like them. If you tend to be heavy better observe some of the rules that apply to the plumpish even though you can better carry the extra weight because of your height.
This is not a question that all women answer honestly, or sanely. I have heard women and men in this country who consider themselves, their wives, or their friends "fat" if they were not bone-skinny. The "rail-look" which we've become accustomed to seeing in magazines and movies is an artificial one. Your bones are supposed to be covered with flesh. A woman looks better with hips and a bosom-and an 18-inch waist went out with Scarlett O'Hara. My teen-age friends weep if they can't circle their waists with their hands. They pull their belts in so tight that they faint. I'm against all this worship of the fleshless form. But I am also opposed to fleshy jowls, extra rolls of fat at the waist or wherever they are not necessary. Begin to get rid of them by exercise, diet, sleep and real health. Start heading for that "ideal" form.
Many people today don't think this is possible. I do. Angular, skinny women look dangerous and some men are afraid they may get cut up if they get too close. Actually, in many parts of the world a skinny woman is considered less attractive than a woman who is ugly and old. A skinny woman looks impractical to some people-as if she might die off quickly, or have trouble keeping house and bearing children. Actually this is untrue, as thin people far outlive fat ones, and the strongest most energetic women I've ever known usually look as if a mosquito could knock them down. Nevertheless, the too-thin look is a problem-one you can cure by diet, lots of sleep and exercise and which you can hide from the world by careful dressing.