When you’re a fast-paced superfemme of a career woman, the last thing you’d have time for is a book entitled The Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, right?
This book, reprinted in 2015 by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, was written by celebrated U.S. fashion designer Anne Fogarty in 1959. Inside, Fogarty shares some wise gems of advice for looking effortlessly chic, relevant for any woman in time, married or not.
These timeless tips will carry you far beyond the household:
Discipline frowns upon impulse bargain shopping, and is the voice that reminds you to devote time and effort on good grooming and dressing well.
Fogarty writes: “A bachelor girl can be a chameleon, changing her look to suit a new whim, a new job, or a new beau. But settling down means it’s time to crystallize your position, your taste and your style.”
Discipline is the secret of good grooming, well-cared for clothes, and an organized household. It helps you decide which style is right for you—and what does not suit.
Compress your wardrobe
If it’s sitting in your wardrobe collecting dust, doesn’t suit your coloring, or makes you uncomfortable, get rid of it. An uncluttered wardrobe makes choosing what to wear every morning easier.
“Don’t hang on to things that may some day come back into style, have sentimental value, or that ‘will do’ for rainy days or household chores. Fashion is for today. Don’t look back—and don’t look further ahead than the current season.”
To set your private abode apart from the outside world, Fogarty suggests you should pay just as much attention to the style and fit of nightwear as you would with other clothes. You owe yourself this piece of private luxury, so when making careful nightwear selections, fastidiousness is key.
“Perhaps I’m a little oversensitive to the need for glamor in every phase of a wardrobe, but at the speed with which we all live, it’s nice sometimes to drag your foot in a furry mule and slow things down a bit.”
I love Fogarty’s straight-forward approach, and her advice on perfume hits the nail right on the head:
“Scent is subtlety, not a sledge-hammer. Women who say their perfume leaves a man panting are quite right: they’re choking him to death. The minute he can find some fresh air he’ll escape.”
This is a timeless style guide for a timeless lady.
Among these tips, she includes topics such as leaving behind old shoes, tasteful accessorizing, frames for girls who wear glasses, and what to do when you can’t find a thing to wear. It’s interesting to note that at the time, Fogarty was a fully-fledged career woman, always dressing the part for the occasion.
Although her era was “a man’s world,” the book shows many ways in which a woman can have her own way. The art of wife-dressing demonstrates how women can assert their authority and independence within the confines of their stereotypical 1950’s gender role.
As Fogarty says: “Wife-dressing is many things. An art. A science. A labor of love. A means of self-expression. And, above all, a contributing factor to a happy marriage.”
For those of us whose time is too early for the altar, the art of timeless dressing is the stepping stone to a happy, independent woman.