Edith Head was the fashion lady of the mid century. As a designer and costume stylist most notably for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, though she won 8 Academy Awards for her work in over 1000 films she basically wrote the book on ladylike, fashion-forward dressing. Also, she literally wrote a book. How to Dress for Success was first published in 1967, but still resonates now, and even if it doesn’t, it’s totally entertaining.
You would not have been able to get your hands on this bit of literary gold, except that the tome was just reprinted by Abrams books. Below, read the best chapter (though they’re all worth a perusal) entitled “How to Dress to Get a Man…and Keep Him.” It may offend some of your The Feminine Mystique sensibilities, but lines like, “If your man happens to love duck hunting, dont rush out to equip yourself with gun, poncho and rubber boots until you know what kind of women he likes. Some of the most rugged sportsmen we know just cant stand competitive women,” make it all worth it.
Excerpt From: How to Dress For Success From Chapter 2: How to Get A Man and Keep Him
The contents of this chapter may be a shock to the woman who feels that the less she wears in pursuit of a man the better. To her we can only say that while the boys ogle and applaud the charms of Venus Unadorned in art galleries, night clubs and between the covers of some magazines, its the covered girls rather than the Cover Girls they invariably marry. Man is a possessive animal by nature and cares little about sharing his wealth of wifely treasure with the wolf-pack. And corny as it may seem in our free-wheeling society where topless bathing suits, bottom-revealing pants and above-the-knee skirts abound, most men shudder at the thought of their wives as striptease artistsbeyond the masters bedroom, that is.
When you place yourself on the launching pad, pointed toward the great adventure of matrimony, please be realistic and pick a goal you can reach. Falling in love with a man so famous, so rich or so handsome that youre unlikely ever to meet him is simply propelling yourself toward heartbreak. Even if you did manage to get into orbit with such a paragon, consider the difficulties of keeping up with him as you fight off the competition. Look all around you for a man to marry rather than star-gazing. Count the available men you see every dayat the office, at church, at the railroad station, at the skating rink, the country club or the beach. One of them may be just for you. Ask yourself if you measure up to the challenge of attracting him with what you wear every day.
In spite of the oft-repeated phrase mouthed by everyones Aunt Tillie that all men are alike, we urge you to start on your husband quest by discarding this notion instantly. The only way all eligible men are alike (regardless of size, shape, personality or financial standing) is in their desire to stay in the lead and to avoid the altar while being chased by some woman, or more likely, by several. Men, dear reader, are very much in demand. Statistics prove that (1) women outlive them by at least three years, leaving a growing residue of eager widows to add to the already sizable pool of mate-hungry women, and (2) there are 3,617,545 more unattached women than men in the United States (single, separated, divorced and widowed). (In Australia, the picture is in reverse, in case you want to go there.)
THAT FIRST MEETING
Before advising you on how to dress to get a husband we must, of course, assume that you already know an eligible mana man you would like to marry.
If you dont know the man, or havent met him, do what a hunter does. Go where the game is! Weve heard many sad tales of unattached girls taking costly cruises to romantic places only to find themselves in the same boat with six hundred other miserable females, all vying for the overworked attentions of the three bachelors on board. One such bachelor confided to me that his theme song in this mle was Good Night, A Thousand Good Nights.
Weve also shed tears over the laments of girls who spent an entire years savings at plushy resorts where the huntresses outnumbered the quarry ten to one. Our advice to these women is very practical. If you just cant meet any men in your own town or city, pack up your vacation wardrobe and go to a convention hotel. Pick the convention where youd be likely to meet the kind of man you think youd like. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, printers, publishers and advertising men all attend conventions by the hundreds.
If this doesnt appeal to you, you might try spending your vacation traveling back and forth on a train or plane that plies between two points well-traversed by businessmen. For example, you could take any non-stop flight between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. By railroad you could try the Merchants from New York to Boston. But before you take such drastic measures, consider the possi-bilities near at hand. Do you live near a university? Take some night courses. Do you play cards? Join a card club or take a Bridge Cruise. Do you like to dance? Take a series of dance lessons at one of the major dance studios. Do you like sports? Indulge your interest by participating actively. Skating, skiing, tennis, golf, archery or any other sport can place you where the game is in more ways than one.
It goes without saying that what you wear in any of these pursuits is of vital importance in sparking the meeting. If youre traveling, your costume must be impeccable, your luggage interesting and your reading matter carefully chosen to invite conversation.
Under no circumstances allow your seat companion to see you reading this chapter!
If youre going out for your favorite sport, be sure your costume measures up to your performance on the court, the rink, the links or the slope.
But, you may say, why would any man want to meet me? Im far from beautiful, and just not the type they turn around to look at. Our answer is simply that very few women are sensationally beautiful. If you can make yourself interesting to look at and interesting to be with your attraction for the opposite sex will be more than satisfactory.
Frequently at parties and premires attended by Hollywood stars, visitors are shocked when they see the wives of our handsomest film stars. These men, who work constantly with women who are the epitome of glamor, very often marry girls who are quite ordinary to look at. The unknowing are inclined to comment, How on earth did she ever get him?
I can tell you, because I know. She interested him more than other women.
Have you ever analyzed what makes the most interesting people you know interesting? Chances are it is the fact that they are interested in you. The same principle works with men. The most fascinating woman in the world, to any man, is the woman who is sincerely, truly interested in him.
Its obvious that you cant really show how interested you are in a man unless you know something about him. This is the second step, once youve met him.
GETTING TO KNOW HIM
Youve spotted your game now, Diana, and you want to bring him back alivewith an engagement ring in his paw. Whats the bait that will make him follow you to the ends of the earth or propel you down the aisle to the strains of Lohengrin? Getting to know him, getting to know all about him, as one of the lovely songs from The King and I so aptly put it. Draw him out; discover his interests, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes. If possible, try to find out who his favorite actresses are in motion pictures, television and the theater. This might be your clue to the types he likes. Ask him why he likes these stars. Is it the way they look, the way they talk, the parts they play? Youll learn a lot about that man simply by listening. Dont forget, however, that a much too aggressive attitude and too many pointed questions might scare him away. So by all means be subtle. Be interested, not inquisitive.
So much for the psychology of the first meeting. Now lets consider the first dateinevitable outcome of the successful meeting. Heres where what you wear comes into play even more importantly.
If he tells you exactly where hes taking you, the solution to the question of what to wear is quite simple. When you know he has box seats for a much-heralded concert, opera or ballet, you know youll be safe in your prettiest short evening dress, white kid gloves and most elegant jewelry.
But suppose he merely invites you to have dinner with him on Saturday night. You cant ask him, Where? or How much money do you plan to spend? You probably dont even know how much money he has. This is the time where good judgment must take over. If you wear your prettiest short evening dress when he planned to take you to a small inexpensive restaurant that caters to the family trade, one of two things will happen: (1) youll be miserably uncomfortable all through dinner and fail to be any fun as a companion, or (2) hell change his original plans and feel forced to take you someplace more in keeping with your costume, in which case hell think your tastes are too rich for his bank account. Either way this first date is likely to be the last.
However, if you consider all the possibilities before you dress for that first date, you can be perfectly dressed for almost any eventuality. This is called playing it safe. Select a simple dress from your wardrobe that can be dressed up or down. Adorn it with attractive, but not lavish, jewelry. If, when he comes to pick you up, he mentions going somewhere where theres music and dancing, you can change your jewelryput on a little evening hat or headdress and add your most party-festive coat or fur. If he says youre just going to the movies, leave well enough alone and wear your daytime coat, plus a colorful and interesting scarf.
But suppose hes meeting you right at the office and you have no clue where youll be going from there. Should you wear that pretty semi-dressy dark dress to the office and follow the same course? No, indeed. In such an eventuality, theres nothing that can top a soft suit with high-buttoned jacket in a flattering, feminine color like soft blue, beige, gray or rose. With the jacket on, you are well dressed for business, but underneath your jacket is glamor you can switch on as needed. It is a pretty, dressy shell overblousesleeveless if you have attractive arms, with cap sleeves if you dont. Have a jewelled pin or necklace and earrings tucked in your handbag. If your evening turns out to be a big one (a party, a plush candle-lit restaurant or a night club) off goes the jacket and on go the jewels. If nothing more exciting develops than a hamburger with french friesdont open a single button of that jacket, and keep the jewels concealed!
Either way, you have it madeand youre on the way to a second date for sure.
But lets face it, a soft dark dress and a soft pastel suit dont make a wardrobe. These are merely the staples that belong in every womans closet. The building of the right wardrobe for every occasion on your big game hunt for a husband depends on the man. Men fall readily into five categories or types. If you have been doing your homework in finding out all about him, you can easily decide which group your man fits into and then dress accordingly. Instead of shopping madly for a lot of new clothes selected without plan, buy with him in mind. So lets get down to cases and talk about him. (Rememberhe adores it when you do.)
… Success Formula for Dressing to Get and Keep a Husband
1. Decide what kind of man you want.
2. Find out what kind of girls he likes.
3. Know what kind of fashions please him.
4. Dont masquerade in clothes that you hate just to attract a man. Be sure you are really, deep-down his type of girl. If you arentfind another man.
5. Learn all you can about him, his hobbies, his interests, his likes and dislikes.
6. Be interested in his interests.
7. Choose your wardrobe to please him and to suit his way of life.
8. After you get him, stay the way you were, and dont relax into a post-marriage slump of careless dressing.
9. Look reasonably enticing in the morningbetter at night.