I collect fashion and style books, both vintage and modern. I enjoy looking at the styles of my youth, and love all the Store Directories in the back of the books. What, no website for Barney’s in 1979?
My latest read gave me a case of the sads for adult women of the 1960’s. The book is How To Dress For Success, copyright 1967, by famed costume designer Edith Head. She did the wardrobes on hundreds of films, including some well-loved ones: Sabrina, The Sting, Rear Window, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (?) et al. She won eight Academy Awards for her work in design, so she knows fashion.
But the book talks to a woman I’ve never been: one who dressed for the “success” of marrying the boss, for example. Here are some vintage pearls (no pun intended) from Ms. Head’s book. Should we laugh or cry?
- From the chapter How To Dress To Get A Man, And Keep Him:Let’s consider the first date . . . . Here’s where what you wear comes into play even more importantly. Suppose he merely invites you to have dinner with him Saturday night. You can’t ask him “Where?”
Uh, really? He’s so in charge, I can’t ask where we’re going to eat?
- And on that oh-so-special occasion when you host him at home for dinner:What should you wear? Something he has never seen, of course.
What if he’s seen it before? Ack! The road to the altar is rocky.
- And one of the key secrets to success with men is:Choose your wardrobe to please him (emphasis in the original), and to suit his way of life.
Ms. Head was a woman of her generation, and no doubt meant well. (Although remember The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963). She does include advice for the woman executive on her way to the top, and I love this one: “What you wear when you sit in the president’s chair is entirely up to you.”
|Edith Head on the job, designing for Grace Kelly.|
We have come a long way, in a relatively short time. There are still lady mags advising on how to get a man, rock his world with our magical sexy parts, and snare him with our best souffle. (I broke up with lady mags, here). And we have a long way to go: women make up fewer than 20% of the U.S. Congress, what?
|Oh yes, executive class air travel in the 1960’s. With lots of perks for the guys. Source.|
I’ve put Edith Head’s book up on the shelf, with gratitude that I lived just a little bit later, didn’t go to college to get my MRS degree, and I enjoy an egalitarian marriage. I’m grateful to all the brave women who came before me, and alongside me, to fight for equality. It’s better this way.
Have a sunny day and stay fabulous,
And no reason to put our (faux) pearls aside, they still look timeless: