Friday, June 29

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...


The final entry for our week on Personal Presentation will be on a lady's wardrobe. There is a bit of an obsession with wardrobe size, style, and fit in today's society. One can hardly flip through a magazine without coming across at least one or two blurbs on creating the perfect style or flawless wardrobe. There are even countless tv shows and websites dedicated to the subject!

How a lady dresses really depends on what she needs to do with her time. If a woman works outside the home, she will need to have more variety than a woman who is a homemaker. This is NOT to say that a homemaker should allow herself to become stuck in a clothing rut. Your family and home is your job and you should dress like it! Remember, it takes the same amount of time to put on a well-fitting and stylish top and bottom as it does to slap on a pair of sweatpants and a ratty tee shirt.

Though it is a bit outdated, I have found Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson's book Better Than Beauty: A Guide to Charm to have one of the best explanations on wardrobe planning I have ever read. Here it is for your enjoyment:

Planning a Wardrobe
"How does one do it? Many women's magazines have a blissful way of attacking the problem as though money grew on trees. They tell you how many dresses and pairs of shoes you will need, what hats and coats to choose, and what accessories. But most of us cannot afford a whole new wardrobe at one time. And even women who could afford it would think twice before they threw out a few favorite frocks or a good coat and started from scratch.

Planning begins at home, right in front of your clothes closet. But even before that, there is one important step. Sit down for a moment and think. During the coming season, where will you be going, what will you be doing? exactly what types of clothes will you need the most?

No one except you can plan your wardrobe. But here are a few general ideas which may help:

Let's go back to your clothes closet. Take out everything you have left from last year. Let us suppose that it is an autumn and winter wardrobe you are planning. Out comes the old coat (how board you are with it!), the crepe frock, the brown wool sweet dress, the tired dinner gown, the suit that was such a bargain but really not much fun to wear. What a collection! This is the time when familiarity breeds contempt! You'd like to bundle them all up and send them to a worthy charity. But you can't. So, sit down and do the next best thing.

If you can sew, you're in luck. If you've never tries to sew, by all means make an effort. Or, if you don't want to sew, find an inexpensive seamstress. You have no idea how much money you can save if you've never tried this most practical of all ways to use leftovers.

Take that old coat. You really do need a new one. But let's not make a decision about it until we've considered the whole problem. Put the coat aside for a moment. If you can manage to salvage the suit, perhaps you'll be able to get that much needed coat. Your suit wasn't a success. The skirt was never becoming because it bulged in the back, though you did like the jacket. And it was a good looking tweed. How about the old wool dress? You never realized how nice it's plain nubby surface looks next to that nubby green tweed. Why not make a new skirt out of the wool dress? Sometime that merely means cutting at the waistline and mounting the skirt on a belt. Sometimes it means a complete remaking. But even that is less expensive than buying a new skirt.

Well, if that works, you won't have to spend as much on a suit. So there's something saved toward that new coat.

How about the crepe dress? Is it beyond redemption? Well it's black and that's a help. But the collar looks worn and gray. Cleaning can't change that. How about ripping the collar off entirely and putting on a small one of heavy white silk? Don't sew it in. Put it on with snaps, so that you can remove it easily. Why not have several collars? A dusty pink or a soft yellow would look lovely on black, if those colors look well on you. At any rate the old black crepe will do to start the season. So again you've saved something toward the coat.

The dinner gown is a lovely color, but you've worn it so often. And it's skirt has a decidedly last-year look. Must you wear it another season? No- you have a plan. You'll get a coat. It will be black, because your last one was brown and also because the wardrobe that includes only one coat can stretch itself the furthest on black. You'll ask the store to get you enough extra fabric from the manufacturer to make a simple skirt. The neighborhood tailor will make it for you for very little. The old dinner gown can be cut up to make a really lovely blouse to wear with the new skirt. And you doubtless have other blouses or sweaters that will do nicely with the black skirt and give you a well-put-together look when you wear them with a new black coat.

That leaves a dinner gown to be bought. And, when you get some extra money, a street dress or two.That is the way to plan.

Of course, your closet will reveal an entirely different set of props, but the theory holds just the same. Too many women look dowdy merely because they do not make the effort to pull their wardrobes into shape. It does take thought and effort. But the results more than justify them. Chic can easily be a triumph of mind over money."

Homework: What five things can you add to your wardrobe to make it a bit more easy for you to get dressed in the mornings? Do you enjoy purchasing accessories (shoes, bags, jewelery) more that you enjoy purchasing clothing?


Anonymous said...

The scenario you presented about remaking items in your wardrobe is something I have never pondered. I think it is creative and wonderful.

I have the patterns and fabric to make 2 summer dress shirts, 1 long sleeve dress shirt, another denim skirt for working in, and a house cleaning/gardening apron.

Regarding accessories, I have never really been interested in having more than the basics for shoes and bags. I have these wonderful Mary Jane style sneakers to wear with my skirts. They are very comfortable to wear.

I do make beaded jewelery for myself and as gifts. I enjoy working with semi-precious stone beads, so I have a small collection.

Thank you for the work you have put into these presentations this week.


Anonymous said...

Since I have been changing my eating habits and begun to exercise, I have been slowly accumulating new things for my wardrobe. I have 4 new blouses: black, 2 ivory,and one in a light sage green. And a new black and cream dress - but the five new things I need would be: a black skirt, a denim skirt, a new dress in navy or brown, and a new winter coat and a matching set of boots.

~~ Mrs. J ~~

Buffy said...

I think one of the best 'outfits' to wear around the house for a lady is a tea dress. If need be a cropped cardigan can be added for warmth and even leggins or opaque tights. Tea dresses come in all materials so you can wear cotton for everyday and silk for special occasions.

Good series of articles BTW.

Heather said...

The remaking of a wardrobe presents an interesting idea...I shall have to ponder it further. I had a roommate in college who was famous for remaking her clothes, and she did a great job. I was always envious of how well she sewed. Remaking clothes was a natural thing for her, but I never really considered it for myself. Now I shall have to try.

Shoes are my downfall. I love shoes! Unlike most women, however, I only discovered shoes when I was 28. Up until that time I wore a child's size 2 shoe. There is very little selection that does not have characters or bows on it in that size range. Then I put on a bit of weight and I can now wear a ladies' 4. This meant that I bought my first real pair of heels at age 28. Now shoes are my weakness, but finding my size is a real challenge still. When I find a pair in my size that I really like, it can be so difficult to restrain myself!

Mimi said...

What a great article!

This winter, I will need a new coat -- or at least have the one I have altered to bring it up to date. The material is still in good shape.

I also need a navy skirt. And, I need a few unmentionables.

It seems that I'm always reading in older books about how women constantly remade their wardrobes to look new. Sometimes, they made just little adjustments, such as changing the collar and hemline, every year. Other times, they completely remade a whole dress to look different.

I do sew some, but haven't attempted much of this kind of thing. I think I'll keep an eye out for what I can do. It's a little scary to cut into something. But, if I might be getting rid of it anyway, why not try it?

Way back in the seventies, I had a suit that was cut with a lot of fullness. That type of look was in style for about a year, and, then, a narrower silhouette came in. I did find an inexpensive seamstress who beautifully tailored my suit to look brand new. I actually enjoyed wearing it more after she re-did it. I had a small frame at the time, and the daintier, narrower shape felt better on me.

Now, I do have someone that I use when I need garments hemmed or taken in just a bit and such. But, I don't think she'd take on that huge a project -- at least not for an affordable price.

Courtney said...

I probably don't really NEED anything, but I'm always adding things to my wardrobe. Sometimes that makes my life harder, so maybe I really need to commit to not adding a thing!

Oh, wait. I did think of several: a good black skirt, preferably one that can be worn during the winter and summer (especially for warm weather funerals), and one or two tops to match (winter/summer).

Also, I could use two aprons: one for everyday cleaning/cooking, and a heavier one for outdoor work and deep cleaning. I have one that I use for cooking, but I really need a long one to protect my skirts when cleaning and gardening. I have a pattern to make one, but lack the time. Looks like for now purchasing will be the best choice!

I've really enjoyed your articles this week. I've really become conscious of my posture in the past few days, and in fact, sat up straighter as I've been typing!

Greta said...

Hello, I love this blog.

My five pieces I am currently looking for are:

1)A pair of grey wide leg trousers (I have a wool pair for winter already, so I'm looking for perhaps cotton for summer)
2)A pair of off white summer peeptoes (leather upper and lining, rubber shoe, plain design with no unnecessary embellishments)
3)A trenchcoat (off white but not too beige, right length in arms and waist in correct place)
4)A tan leather bag (I have recently become convinced that tan goes with everything- despite the fact I have numerous bags already)
5)A pair of black flat shoes- Unfortunately part of the heel came off my existing pair the other day, necessitating me hobbling home so as not to skid over onto my backside.

I am looking but, alas, quality classics are few and far between here. :(

Sherry said...

Wonderful series--you kicked off the school in grand manner. Thanks so much for your posts. The cogs are turning...

Anonymous said...

To make getting dressed easier and to look more pulled together, I really need to get:

1. New unmentionables.
2. & 3. Skirts - 1 khaki and 1 denim, perhaps.
4 & 5. New 3/4 sleeve blouses or shirts - 1 in a green and 1 in a yellow.

I definitely enjoy shopping for accessories more than clothing. I have difficulty finding clothing that fits me properly.

Anonymous said...

1. A new coat
2. A few new skirts
3. A new evening dress
4. New nice shoes for going to more fancy places such as the opera or theater
5. Running shoes

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...