Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to Dress Well on Practically Nothing!

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?

8 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

So true! Our house was built in 1941 and the closets are tiny.

I love that tweed coat; you could still wear that today.

Deja Pseu said...

One other thought: women could also get away with wearing the same few items over and over because clothing was just better made then, even the average brands. Dresses were lined, seams were finished, buttons were attached with heavier thread.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

You are so right! It's one of the reasons I love vintage clothing. They don't make them like they used to. Plaids and stripes were matched, armholes were made with gussets to fit better, buttonholes were bound, etc, etc, etc.

metscan said...

I have also been thinking about the past. There actually were not many places that had ready- to -wear clothes,definitely not for kids and teenagers( I´m talking about time I remember in the late fifties and till the mid sixties). Clothes for men and women were handmade and eventually kids got theirs made from their parents old clothes. I still have the habit of changing clothes immediately when coming home. Aprons were worn,and clothes were taken much better care of than today,they were aired, mended and ironed. We live in a house that was built in 1907 and there were no closets at all. Somehow I have a longing for that era, although I´m not into anything vintage.

Avery said...

Just caught wind of a Pickfair estate auction taking place Nov. 22-23, 1 pE/12pC. There are some really cool items up for bid like Mary Pickford’s personal autograph book, select pieces of Pickford’s jewelry collection and rare pieces of art from Pickfair.

Just thought I’d pass the info. along for fellow vintage/antique lovers. I guess it will be broadcast live on www.auctionnetwork.com/pickfair, along with a tool that lets internet viewers to bid remotely against the floor.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Oh yes, Metscan, I remember I always had to change into play clothes after school, and my good school dresses were handed down to all my sisters. They lasted years and years.

Avery, that looks like a fun auction. Thanks for the info!

fuzzylizzie said...

I can only imagine what her teacher salery was in 1959. I started teaching in 1977 and I made around $10,000 that year, and that was after teacher pay had gotten a big boost in the mid 70s!

You are so right in saying that it's time to return to quality. Cheap trendy things that I've bought usually last a year in my closet, but I've got some great vintage pieces that I've been wearing - and loving - since the 1980s!

Belle de Ville said...

I've blogged in the past about having a very large wardrobe. It's not that I'm a collector, I just can't give up certain clothes because they were made with a craftmanship that you don't find today except in the most expensive collections.
Deja Pseu is right to post that clothing was constructed so well because it was meant to be be worn over and over. In my opinion, today's clothes are designed and manufactured with built in obsolescence so that they don't hold up forcing you to go out and purchase more every year, or even every season.
Metscan also posts an interesting observation. Much greater care was taken to protect fine clothing. Our culture now has such a throw away mentality so that we don't take care of our clothes the way we should.

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