This reprinted 50s handbook is a hodgepodge of great (and hilarious) fashion advice

It is no exaggeration to say that the concept of American fashion would not be what it is today without designer Claire McCardell, who is credited with inventing the idea of ​​American sportswear with her pragmatic approach to clothing in the 1940s and 1950s. of my ideas come from trying to solve my own problems—problems just like yours,” she wrote, “I like being able to zip up my zippers, blindfold myself. I need a dress that can cook a dinner and then go out and meet the guests.”

In 1956 she was released What should I wear?, a book of fashion advice for women of all ages being republished this September (with a foreword by Tory Burch). Considering the enduring appeal of her style and perspective, it’s no surprise that her advice rings as true in 2022 as it did then. (“Like every woman in the world, after your first trip to Santa Fe, you’ll have a period of turquoise and silver.” I haven’t been to Santa Fe, but I know in my heart that she’s absolutely right. ) McCardell’s laid-back tone means that even the parts of the book that are painfully out of sync with today’s world – lots of advice about dressing for your man and the women in the neighborhood – are an invitation to laugh rather than roll your eyes (or at least do both). My Favorite Point: “If you have a cab lover in your house, make sure you have plenty of pointy heels to give him an excuse to take a cab. Think about this: Yours shoes can soothe his conscience.” You just can’t argue with that! Here are the most important lessons from McCardell’s book.

What should I wear? by Clare McCardell is out now.

Know your audience

“If your maiden aunt sees a ladybug on her suit jacket collar, don’t blame the maiden aunt. Blame yourself. You’re dressing up the ladybug for the wrong audience.” McCardell writes this early in the book, and she is absolutely right. We all know the kinds of things we can ignore, whether we’re at work or with friends (or even which friends we’re with). Do we want to join or be the talk of the evening? These are all things we consider when we get dressed, but doing the mental math at the time of purchase will likely save us from spending on those things that end up in the closet with the tags still on because they never quite look right. right when you set them. What’s thrilling to me is that even then McCardell was not one to downplay the flourishes of creativity or eccentricity; instead the message is simple. Wear the weird stuff where the weird stuff will be appreciated! Of course, if you wanted your maiden aunt to not be amused by your outfit, well, that would be great too.

Know your placement

“Take advantage of where you will wear it. If you go to Venice, where the sea is the color of the scene, be sure to take a blue and green wardrobe with you. Or purposely wear dark red because it looks good with turquoise.” McCardell talks at length about the importance of color, how introducing a bright color you’ve never worn before can be the equivalent of a makeover, and the importance of considering color together with fabric (“turquoise on satin and turquoise on jersey are two completely different stories”). I just love the idea of ​​thinking about color as it matches or contrasts with your intended environment. Perhaps this is most obvious when shopping for holiday clothes, because it’s easier to think of ourselves as dressing for a fantasy (the idealized version of ourselves for holiday), but why not bring that same energy to our everyday attire? This is exactly why seeing one of Christopher John Rogers’ creations outdoors in the city can be so exciting – an oasis for the eyes!

The earrings are of essential accessory

“In an increasingly hatless society, earrings play an important role because they give you a dressed-up look to match your long gloves, your cocktail shoes. McCardell stresses the importance of having the right gloves and hats for every occasion, things that are no longer part of our daily uniform, but this sentence justified my recent obsession with earrings. After I get dressed every morning, there are times when I change my earrings several times – gold or silver, chunky or studded, dangling, mismatched: There are so many options! – and I find that they play an important role in balancing whatever is worn underneath them. Now that we They are However, a society without hats (beans don’t count!), I’m considering whether it’s time to bring a fun little everyday hat into my wardrobe, perhaps like the ones Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen featured in The resort collection Row.

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