Monday, February 03, 2014

Dress to Impress in 1935

I've been in a very-early-spring-cleaning mode for a few weeks now.
I decided (as I procrastinated from what should have been my pattern-writing schedule) by doing what was clearly the most logical task of going through my filing cabinet and making it a functional rather than frightening space.

With the advent of Pinterest I have neglected my previous squirreling away of interesting or inspiring images and articles that pique my interest or raise my dander.

One of my discoveries, tucked far and away in the back of the bottom drawer, was a photocopy of a chapter in the book by Lillian Eichler from 1935 titled "The New Book of Etiquette".

Of course, I had to figure out what prompted me to save this pile of papers in the first place before proceeding to triumphantly recycle it and clear space in my increasingly functional filing system.

Here, friends, is a selection of what I found humourous, frustrating, and in some cases historically edifying from that 79 year old book:

"You know instinctively when a woman is well-dressed. The thought that immediately occurs to you is not, 'What a beautiful gown!' but, 'What a charming woman!' You are attracted, not by the gown she wears, but by the personality it expresses."

"[The well-dressed woman is] chic, and yet just a bit independent of prevailing fashion - enough to express her own individuality. She is at ease because her clothes are comfortable."

On Adapting Fashions to Your Figure
"... tall people should not wear striped materials even when they are fashionable, for stripes, particularly when they are vertical, add to the height. The short woman should avoid empire-effect gowns, even when they are in vogue, for long-waisted effects are very much more becoming to her."

"Short people will find short skirts more becoming than long, striped materials more becoming than those that are checked, subdued shades more becoming than those that are vivid... Tall people will do well to avoid severely tailored clothes, straight lines, solid colors.... Dark colors are best, particularly when relieved by one touch of vivid contrast at the waist."

Uh oh Scooby Doo. I think my shortness and my love of vivid colour are clashing!

While problematic (and really, what historical document doesn't have shades of contemporary mis-judgement and misplaced ethics and morals), I'd like to think I can take away a bit of inspiration from this book: to allow what I wear to be emblematic of who I am. Being conscious of that can connect your selfness to your exterior. Wear what makes you happy! Defy Ms. Eichler, fellow shorties, and wear those vivid colours! (Should they be the ones that put a smile on your face!) I'm convinced that all fashion advice is a crock of crap unless what you wear really does make you happy and jive with your self-definition.
So, define yourself, I say!


Meredith MC said...

I'm a fellow shorty with a love of the vivids. I don't want to be easily overlooked, but that;'s not why I wear the vivid colors. I wear them for FUN! And because knitting a cardigan in a dull color would likely drive me to fulfill my love of color in ways that are less socially acceptable, like painting my beetle day-glo pink (could cause accidents). The sad thing is, until today I had no idea that my love of vividness made me a rebel. Thank you Teresa for taking me back to my teenage self, when I would rebel for no other reason than to get a rise out of people. If only the author of that lovely little book (with a glance at bad habits???) could see us!

Julie said...

that is so interesting! Some of that advice sounds practical even now, I guess 'chic' has been something women have been striving towards for a very long time (and hopefully the men are striving toward it, too).

Hilary said...

I love that first quote from the book. While I might use a different adjective than "charming" to express the ideal impression I'd want to give, I LOVE this: "You are attracted, not by the gown she wears, but by the personality it expresses." Beauty/style has to come from the inside, right?