Searching through my library of vintage craft books earlier today I came across an intriguing essay published as part of The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (Odhams Press – 1938).
Entitled A Chat On Good Grooming it explains how you should plan your wardrobe to ensure you will always be well groomed, without resorting to the additional cost of new clothes!
Far more dictatorial than chatty in style it provides the reader with some basic rules to follow to achieve this goal:
The text goes like this:
How can the busy housewife or business girl be well groomed? How can it be done without additional expense for clothes?
One of the first essentials is to dress to your “type.” Consider whether you are tall or short, slim or plump, angular or not, fair or dark, or just between. A few simple rules will help, but they must not be followed slavishly because there are always some people who are exceptions and you may be one of these.
1. Dark complexions and dark hair need warm colours, reds, oranges, yellows and warm browns. Warm complexions need warm colours; cold colours would throw up and intensify a warm complexion to a ruddy glow.
2. Dark hair and pale skin can wear cooler colours than the dark-complexioned type.
3. Fair hair and fair skin, the English type, can find a shade in any colour range to suit; silhouette will really be the deciding factor here. The short, plump figure should choose the darker shades, while the taller slim one may wear the lighter, bright hues.
4. A well-balanced garment never has a line cutting it in half horizontally; a line of any kind, either the hem of a costume coat or a seam, running round the figure halfway between shoulder and hem will have the unpleasant effect of dividing the garment into two equal portions. Either the bodice or the skirt must be the more important.
5. Find out what style suits you and keep to it, adapting it to prevailing fashion; not wearing it to the exclusion of the fashion in vogue.
6. As to colour schemes, never have more than two main colours and one of these must predominate. Do not have every accessory in the same contrasting colour. One accessory must be more important than the rest. Thus, as a guide, a navy suit would look well with:
(a) Navy hat with small trimming of cerise, navy shoes, navy blue gloves with cerise stitching and a navy suede hand-bag.
(b) small red hat, gloves to match the hat, blue shoes and bag.
(c) Red hand-bag and all other accessories in navy with red trimmings, or a red scarf.
These are only hints but they apply to any colour scheme. Here are some more generally known hints:
Vertical lines add height, or rather, give an illusion of more height. Horizontal lines or stripes give width. So if you wish to avoid extra height or width do not wear stripes that bring about such an effect.
Only the slimmest figure can wear gowns with the clinging “cut on the cross”line.
There is always just the right hem length; any deviation from it will upset the balance of the garment.
Do not mix sports clothes with dressy clothes; makes sure, too, that accessories are consistent with the rest of the outfit. Smooth textured cloth needs accessories of smooth texture too. The outfit should have one special feature or focusing point, such as a touch of contrasting colour, a carefully chosen trimming, or buttonhole, or dress ornament.
One other point which is very important, keep all clothes including footwear in good repair. This is not an extravagance but an economy, it is essential to those who wish to look well turned out.
Is the arrangement of your wardrobe well planned? Have your dresses plenty of hanging room? A wardrobe should be high enough to allow the longest evening gown to hang full length. If it does not, then a hanging corner wardrobe, having a wood top and side curtains will be better.
It all ends a bit abruptly really, as you rush out to find hammer and nails to put your hanging corner wardrobe together! I’m really not sure how this article really explains how to do things without any additional expense and it brings up some strange suggestions which I haven’t heard before, such as only wearing smooth accessories with smoothly textured clothes; its not something I have ever or am ever likely to give very much thought to!
And I have to say that as a red head with a rosy complexion I take great exception to not even being included in the list of complexion types which are all apparently inferior to the English type! With the benefit of over 80 years hind-sight it certainly seems an odd thing to say.
And yet, I have never felt comfortable wearing a mid-length coat with a longer skirt so that just a few inches of the skirt shows below and I’ve never really thought about why. But as a combination it certainly does lack balance so maybe I really do need to start matching the textures of my accessories to my clothes!