The October 1959 issue of Ladies Home Journal has a small month-to-month feature about dressing well on a budget. This is Mollie Farnham, a young Midwestern kindergarten teacher. The magazine notes that in the September issue, Mollie had purchased a camel skirt and beige blouse, and then knitted a cardigan sweater to go with them. In this issue, Mollie shops for her "all-important fall-and-winter investment: a coat." Since she already had a white dressy coat and an evening cover-up, Mollie needed a good serviceable coat for everyday wear.
She shops carefully, and considers several options, but chooses this black and white tweed coat by Gordon Corpuel for $35.00 ($260.00 today). "Mollie's new coat has a flattering cowl collar, is warmly lined in furry black Orlon. The black and white tweed will go well with her beige separates from last month as well as another of her favorite colors: blue." She then adds a black handbag for $3.00 ($23.00 today). She can now alternate the coat and purse with beige or black shoes, and white, beige, or chamois gloves.
Her second accessory purchase is a hat for $3.95 ($30.00 today) . "Mollie rarely wears a hat to school during the week, but for Sundays and special occasions she does. The coat takes on a special occasion look when accessorized with her new turquoise hat, pearls, and white gloves."
Lastly, if Mollie has time and a few extra dollars at the end of the month, she'll invest in some blue wool to sew this basic sheath dress from Vogue Basic Design #3000.
The focus here is on investing in practical but versatile basics that you can accent in different ways with accessories. Mollie's coat wardrobe is complete with one tweed for everyday, a white dressier version, and an evening wrap. How many coats are in your closet? How many dollars have you invested in trendy styles, inexpensive fabrics, or unusual colors that don't work for everyday? Isn't it wiser in today's economy to spend more money on one practical coat in a high quality fabric and basic color that can be worn for years? A change of accessories changes the look in a few seconds.
Our mothers and grandmothers got along with far less clothing than we do today. Each piece of clothing was a carefully considered investment that was meant to last for several years, not several months. Think about it this way. How big are the closets in most houses built in the 40's and 50's?