Concerned about your appearance? Always.
Worried your friends think of you as “a cube”? Terrified.
Fear not. Read Edith Head’s 1963 style manual How to Dress for Success
Edith Head was a very successful woman. She was the world’s most famous and prolific costume designer and won eight Academy Awards dressing Hollywood icons like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.
As if that didn’t make her cool enough, she was also the inspiration for Edna Mode in The Incredibles.
I couldn’t wait to read her wisdom and discover how I could become more successful at dressing and at life.
One of her main tips is to assess your figure’s strengths and weaknesses. “Simply put a bag over your head with eyeholes cut out and look at yourself in the mirror.” We were off to a frightening start. Like most women, I look better with a face.
After I’d wept for a while about my physical shortcomings and taken off the tear-sodden paper bag, I carried on reading.
Here are some of the lessons I learned:
1. It is always fashionable to look your best.
2. When accessorising, use a colour accent no more than twice to avoid looking overdone.
3. A glamorous pair of hostess pyjamas is essential for entertaining at home.
My favourite chapter was entitled ‘How To Build A Successful Wardrobe’.
Edith suggests you create a blueprint of all the activities that fill your days (work, evenings out, going “to market”) and analyse how much time you spend doing each. You must then go through your clothes to find suitable outfits for every activity, noting what you’re lacking and what you have that’s superfluous. Through careful investigation I concluded my time is mostly spent “dancing around in my bedroom to Paloma Faith” and “lying on my ass in bed”. This requires a lot of fabulous party dresses and vintage kimonos.
As well as fashion guidance, Edith’s book offers dating tips.
Are you a single, heterosexual woman struggling to find a husband? Of course you are, this is 1963. To all you mid-century Bridget Jones types, Edith recommends you hotfoot it down to a lawyer/doctor/rich man convention to meet an eligible bachelor and impress him with your unique brand of crazy. Didn’t meet Mr Perfect? Fancy a break to cheer yourself up? Well for goodness sake don’t waste your holidays on holiday. Instead purchase multiple plane tickets so you can travel back and forth between destinations frequented by dashing businessmen. Your suitor/victim will be trapped with you on the plane ride and unable to resist your impeccably attired stench of success/desperation.
Other than these hair-brained strategies, it seems the main trick to attracting a man is pretending to be interested in everything he says and never letting him catch you in your rollers.
Disappointingly, although Edith herself was a famous lesbian, there’s no chapter on how to dress to attract a woman.
I still loved the book though. Not only was it a hilarious (and sometimes frightening) history lesson. It was also a fascinating insight into the principles used to create some of Hollywood’s most incredible fashion moments.