Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to Dress for Success

I picked up this gorgeous cloth-bound copy of Edith Head's How to Dress for Success at the Victoria and Albert Museum Book Shop when I was there in the Spring. I was lured in first by the lavender cover and then by the author's charming retro illustrations.

The book is clearly circa 1967 and her reference lists at the end are rather charming. Her recommendations for the working girl's (single or married) basic wardrobe include:

MORNING (before work - at breakfasts, etc.):
2 shifts or smocks or dusters or zipper-front step-ins or breakfast coats or robes

AT WORK (When no specific costume is required):
2 suits
6 tops - blouses or shells or sweaters
2 day dresses (1-piece, or 2-piece or jumper-type) and a separate jacket or cardigan
2 skirts to be worn with the jacket or sweater and blouses from above
1 coat

If you have a luncheon date, fresh gloves and jewelry or any accessory you can bring with you can be added to your basic costume for a lift. Many girls who like a change at noon carry a large handbag for this purpose.

If you are going out after work and don't have time to go home and change, take some instant glamour with you to work: a little veil or bandeau for your hair, pretty jewelry, gloves or a chiffon scarf. Some girls who wear suits to work carry a "dress-up" shell for evening dates.

AFTER WORK (with time to go home for a change):
1 costume (1-piece or 2-piece dress) and a jacket or wrap
1 cocktail or short dinner dress (try to use the wrap from above)
1 dressmaker or cocktail suit, with three changes of tops (knit, lace, crepe, matching fabric or brocade)
1 coat (unless you can use the coat from the costume #1 above)

AT HOME (entertaining):
1 hostess gown or hostess pajamas
1 at-home skirt or pants, more if you're married - with extra interchangeable tops
3 tops for above - blouses or shells or pullover sweaters. (Important note: These can be the same tops you use with your date clothes.)
2 dresses - 1-piece or 2-piece (for informal entertaining)

AT HOME (not entertaining):
1 housecoat or slip-on
1 lounging pajamas and tops, or pants and tops

1 informal or semi-formal costume
This can be a dress and wrap or a dress and coat. It can be the same dinner dress you use for entertaining at home. If this is a 2-piece dress, get alternate tops which are great wardrobe stretchers.
1 formal evening dress and wrap, if you have use for it. (If not, get two semi-formal costumes.)

Based on this list, I'm sorely lacking in the basic wardrobe department. I had to look up what a housecoat was (it's basically a robe) - and I'm still not quite certain what a hostess gown is...I think it's a dressier dress that's short of semi-formal, meant to be worn when hosting guests in your own home...hence the name.

The most telling chapter is the one on undergarments or 'foundations' - What you can't do about your figure through starvation and exercise can certainly be improved through wearing the right foundation garment...Bras and pantie-girdles fill in where nature failed. The waist-line bulge is a thing of the past, if you will merely take the time to find a garment that eliminates it, and to have it properly fitted. The pantie-girdle? Her advice is most definitely sound and just kills me, considering.


The Lone Beader said...

I really lack in this department! Is there anywhere in the book that mentions jeans & a t-shirt? ;)

phoenix said...

No, there's no mention of jeans and Ts as far as I can recall - I don't think it was quite as acceptable in the 60s for women to dress like men n pants! ;)

Semi Formal Evening Dress said...

Before you ever open your mouth to greet the interviewer, they are scanning your physical image and forming a profile of the candidate they are about to view based on the way they look. Once that initial impression has been formed, it is difficult to sway that image to the positive if a negative impression has already been made.

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