How To Get Dressed: Any Style Secrets?

I recently read the style book How To Get Dressed by Alison Freer. You can find it here on Amazon. The author is a costume designer for television and movies (she doesn’t name any names, darn), and knows whereof she speaks.


The book and the author, a smart cookie.

Are there really any style secrets to be spilled? I think we’ve heard them all by a Certain Age, but How To Get Dressed is still an entertaining, breezy read with some good suggestions. I recommend it for nightstand reading and you can just dip into any topic that interests you.

There are the expected chapters covering how to get the right fit, alter your clothing, find pieces that express your personality, and keep your clothing in top condition. Alison has a vast and deep knowledge of how to do alterations, and how to do them “quick and dirty” if you have to.

The author also has a passion for hanging everything up in your closet. She means everything, including panties and bras. I could not get on board here – she recommends safety pinning your bras to paper covered hangers, e.g. – but her goal is to have you see everything you own in one place. I prefer my underthings in a lightly sachet-ed dresser drawer, and I will remember where they are.

One of my favorite chapters is “Dumb Fashion Rules That Were Made For Breaking.” Of course, that title speaks to me, and a lot of us older bloggers who are tired of being told what we “can’t wear” after a certain age. Alison’s “dumb” rules to break include:
1. Always fear wearing stripes.


I adore stripes, like this dress with two kinds of them!

2. Don’t mix your metals.


Love these gold and silver drop earrings.

3. Short boots make you look stumpy (really they don’t).

4. Redheads can’t wear red (oh yes they can).


Jessica Chastain, hello.

5. Don’t wear leggings as pants. On this one, I do follow the old “dumb” rule. I like leggings under short dresses and long tunics. But you do you when it comes to leggings, just be confident.

I did pick up a few new tips; let’s call them “style secrets” to make it more alluring.

1. Hand-washing clothing is an art that I have been hacking at for years. Alison recommends Woolite in two flavors, a five-minute swish (that’s a lot of swishing), rolling in a clean towel “like a burrito” until your piece is almost dry. Then she favors a steamer over an iron. And since I don’t own an iron, and can get very wrinkly, she’s convinced me to buy a steamer.

2. How to successfully thrift. Humble-brag: I know this stuff pretty well, but it’s an excellent guide for beginners. I was reminded to carry my measurements and a cloth measuring tape with me. And a pair of thin socks so you don’t have to stand barefoot on questionable surfaces.

3. There’s a pretty hilarious chapter on what absolutely cannot be worn to a job interview. The power suit, hose and pumps are no longer needed for 95% of workplace interviews, but Alison reminds us that the following looks are still best avoided: lint-y sweaters, unpolished shoes, rumpled shirts, too-long pants, lots of cleavage, or smelling like tobacco smoke. I will add: political buttons or tees – way to piss off about 50% of any given population. Wait till you have the job before you start pissing people off.

4. Have as many clothes as you want, as long as you can see them, take good care of them, and enjoy them. There are no arbitrary numbers for Alison – have a tiny closet or a bedroom-sized one – as long as you wear the clothes frequently and with happiness.

Enjoy your reading today, share the love and stay fabulous,

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  1. I like your tips, even though I am no longer in the middle of life. I woke up the other day on my 75th birthday and realized, gee whiz, I’m old. I tossed out a lot of stuff in the lead-up to the big Seven-Five, so I like idea of keeping only as many clothes as you can see. You can find out how 75 feels, just in case you’re planning to reach that advanced age yourself, at: You probably don’t ever say gee whiz; that’s the prerogative of us 70-somethings.

    • ah Barbara, it is my plan to get there. If the pace resembles the trip from 50 to 60, I think I will be there in a blink. Thanks so much for your comment, and congrats on your de-clutter.

  2. I think these kinds of books are so hysterical. Honestly, if you are a woman of a certain age and you haven’t figured it out by now, a book like this is not going to help. Laundry tips aside, if you are comfortable and you feel pretty and you don’t scare small children or get kicked out of public places then keep on doing what you’re doing. Like you, Patti, you definitely know what you’re doing and you inspire people. YOU should write a book! XXOO

  3. I’m going to have to read this—it’s fun to get other people’s perspective!!
    I’m a steamer girl—I have an iron upstairs for when I’m doing alterations, but I find it so much easier to steam my clothing. It’s not quite as pressed as an iron, but who cares?

  4. I do find reading about caring for clothes interesting even if I don’t often follow the author’s advice.
    I chuck almost everything in a 30 degree cycle, unless its a delicate, hand embroidered piece of clothing which goes in the sink with a dollop of baby shampoo. Other than knickers, tights and socks I don’t wash stuff I’ve only worn once, I hang it up to air in the utility room. The tumble drier only gets used if it’s raining and I can’t hang my washing on the line and even then it’s only bedding that goes in – never clothes (ruins them) or towels (we’re typical Brits, they have to be rough and scratchy not soft and slimy!) xxx

    • LOL at the rough and scratchy towels! I grew up without a clothes dryer and those towels hung in the sun are a fond memory. xox

      • I find that hanging clothes to dry in a doorway of the house speeds up the process hugely. A slow, subtle draft works wonders. Hmmm. I grew up in the era of oxfordcloth and linen; everything got ironed. Thanks for permission to get myself a 21st century steamer.

  5. I love the sound of this book.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Patti.
    As someone who is interested in clothes I like reading about other people who are interested in clothes…if that makes sense.
    I am not necessarily looking for ‘tips” just entertainment. This sounds like a fun read.

    As for laundry tips….oops!
    I am bad!
    I chuck everything in the machine (I sometimes select wool or silk) and I tumble dry most things. (not bras or tights, or silk/wool)
    My only defence is…”I live in Scotland!!” :oP

    • Agreed – the author does give a wonky way to hang sweaters, but I think they do better folded. xo

  6. The Simply Luxurious Life had a good post today about a work uniform. It brought up an Obama quote about wearing a blue suit every single day: that’s one less decision to make. So if getting dressed is stressful, make it simple.
    Also re laundry: dryers are terrible on clothes. I line dry everything except towels. Having lived in Africa without running water or electricity, I had my fill of hand washing for life, thank you very much. A lingerie bag works wonders. My new machine has a 15-minute cycle for not-really-dirty-but-would-be-better-freshened-up clothes. Love it.

    • You are so right about the dryer – I only use it for sheets, towels, and rough-and-tough clothes. And the short wash cycle is brilliant – I use it too. xo

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