2.23.2011

"Wife Dressing"

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When I was asked to to a review on a re-released edition of Anne Fogarty's "Wife Dressing", I jumped at the chance. Anne Fogarty is the woman who is credited with bringing Dior's "New Look" to American housewives. She is best known for her love of full skirts and petticoats, and nipped in waists (she was blessed with an 18 inch waist, though she attributes that to wearing shapewear everyday). Although she was a prominent designer, she thought of herself first and foremost as a wife.

All three times.

Now, the title may have you rolling you eyes, but there are few instances where Anne (I'm going to call her Anne and pretend we're good friends) brings up dressing for your husbands sake. It's full of advice and timeless tips that women have, over time, forgotten. I could relate to so much of it, I wondered if Anne and I could have actually been friends once upon a time.

When I get dressed in the morning I think through what my day will be like: what I will be doing, the climate indoor and out, how long I will be away from home if at all, how much I will be walking, who I will be with, the list goes on. Point is, I put what some might think is too much thought into dressing, whereas reading what Anne wrote, that is just what every woman should be doing for a successful outfit. She talks extensively about brining a tote, or large bag with you when you will be out of the house all day, full of things you may need. Shoes to change into for evening, fresh gloves for a lunch date, different jewelry, makeup, etc. You would carry a small clutch in the large bag and keep the large bag in your car, office, or whatever you choose, and take out the clutch when you go out to lunch, shopping, etc.

She writes about personal experiences and describes outfits in detail, and some of her choices really surprise me. I thought she would be quite a traditional post war era woman, but she has some non-traditional favorites, such as tweed cocktail dresses, mink purses, and thinks the little black dress is a tad overworn.

I really enjoyed her book, she assures the reader that "You are you. You are not the model in that photograph or the girl beside you in an elevator or a woman eating lunch at the next table." I enjoyed her advice for cocktail parties, hosting dinners for husbands bosses, and especially her recollection of packing a suitcase of nothing but petticoats only to have it opened at customs and burst into a fluffy mess.

In a way it made me a bit sad that such care and pride is no longer practiced with dressing for modern times, but that is a post for another time. I do recommend Wife Dressing to anyone seeking timeless advice in dressing, a bit of a giggle, and some insight into the life and thoughts of a great american designer. And while I think wardrobe isn't quite the secret to a happy marriage, I do believe that it's something that can lift the spirits and make one feel good about oneself. I think Anne and I could agree on that :)

Published in 2008 by Glitterati Incorporated

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31 comments:

Gloria Alex said...

wow i think i shall pick up a copy of that soon! thanks for sharing :)

Rebeccak said...

18 inch waist?!?! Whhaaa... I seriously hope she was very short! I am very jealous and considering a quick stop at What Katie Did for some shape-wear!

I think this book sounds like it could be repackaged under a different title and be sold today! Sound advice really. I just can't help but roll my eyes when I saw the title! :)

toridawn said...

Fun, fun! I am one of those silly girls who is simultaneously feminist to the core and longing for times when women could spend loads of time focusing on things like dressing and planning for the day (and being a domestic goddess). I don't think that this is a contradiction, however. I think it's great that women today are free to appreciate classic styling and continue to pursue equal rights. I love that dressing as prescribed in "Wife Dressing" is no longer an indication of a woman's "place" in society, but just indication of her love for fashion and value of herself for putting effort into her appearance.

Solanah said...

Toridawn, I don't think it's a contradiction either, I believe that part of being a strong woman, or a feminist, is being comfortable with yourself as a woman, and being proud of it. Modern women who dress vintage are often accused of being "anti-feminist" which I find pretty insulting. We bring the best parts of an era forward while leaving the undesirable parts behind. I think we're lucky to have the options we do today, that allow us to dress for ourselves and not our husbands. I think if you want to be a domestic goddess or a stay at home mother, that does not make you any less of a modern woman as anyone. It simply makes you accepting of your desires and I think that is a strong woman, not one who forces modern society's image onto herself. In a way, isn't that what feminists fought against in the first place?

Ok, rant over, hehe.

xoxo
Solanah

Alli said...

I think I'll definitely have to have a read of this book.
As a full-time mum and housewife I'd find it really interesting, not to mention, Im sure I'll get a bit of a giggle out of it too in some spots ;)

Alli said...

Oh, and thankyou Solanah for the sweet comment acknowledging the greatness of stay at home mums. I get so sick of people going 'oh-is that all you do?' when they find out Im a full-time mum. Let me just say, that it is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life (I was previously a histology technician for many years), but it's the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I'm an educated woman, and I made the choice to stay home to raise my 2 boys in their younger years. Bringing them up to be happy, healthy and the best they can be is my most important job. I feel blessed that I have a husband who supports me and agrees with me :)

Poppycock! Vintage said...

I love it! It sounds like a wonderful book, and the illustrations have captured me already. Looks like I'll be picking up a copy soon...

Mrs. Deem said...

Oh I love this book! I had so much fun reading it a few years back...it's totally entertaining. Also, it's interesting to see how much clothing, lifestyle and expectations has changed during the past half century. Wonderful review!

Mrs. Deem said...

*have changed

Miss Amethyst said...

oh darling!! That book must be 'The Bible' ;) of all vintage fashion!! I have to get a copy at once!!!

Sherry from Alabama said...

It takes a strong woman to go against the norm and be a girly-girl. I'm putting this book on my wish list.

Sherry @ A Happy Valentine

Maria Ramona said...

sounds like a charming little read-- thanks for the recommendation!

FoofandFaff said...

This sounds like my kind of book, may need to check it out, thanks for the review! :)

punkinlady said...

Thx. I will have to check this book out. Sounds fun. Kind of reminds me of “Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Century Household by Jennifer McKnight Trontz” – Just going back to the basics. Some of it is kind of funny, but its good advice for the most part. To me, going to a simpler life is less stress. I agree, don’t worry about the model in the photograph. Just be you.

Michelle said...

How cute! I will have to read this. It may be woefully old fashioned, but when I'm feeling crummy, I put on red lipstick and more mascara. It helps!

Alejandra Ramos said...

I will definitely be getting this book! (And will pick a couple for my two friends getting married this year.)

Also, I LOVE those lacy pants. Are those bloomers? I want a pair!

Alyssa W. said...

Hello! I enjoy your blog and all the lovely outfits you wear. Thank for sharing your love of vintage fashion with others!
I recently finished reading this book and loved it! It was refreshing.

~Alyssa

Erin said...

Love the illustrations! I'd love to check out the tips and life advice in this book!

The Zany Housewife said...

I can't wait to check this book out. Thank you for introducing us to it!

Miss Emmi said...

I really love her bloomers - I tend to sit like that and they look much more practical than a petticoat!

Donda said...

I don't like the idea that a woman's day centers so much around her presentation. i like dressing nicely, but we have more brainpower than just figuring out what looks nice and if we'll need to take evening shoes. i know that's not entirely what it means in the book (or i assume) but the focus just niggles at me.

Jesuiseval said...

WOW, I long for the forgotten formalities and preparedness of eras gone by and this book will be the next book I touch! Thanks so much for your review because otherwise I would have never known about this gem. :)

Solanah said...

Donda, women who put thought into their appearance are not wasting their "brain power". Getting dressed for some of us is a fun foundation for the rest of the day, and being presentable and comfortable throughout the day is a concept that is lost on some people.

I think about clothes all the time, it's my passion, and it's my job. You may think my intelligence is being wasted on something so superficial, but I am happy with myself, and I know my specialty well.

jojography said...

I really think this is going to be a book I like. I'm, too, one of those people spending probably too much time thinking about what to wear even on a normal day when I only go to school. Dressing the way I like, appropriate to situation and feeling comfortable all day is making me happy. If I've got the feeling I don't look good, my hair is dirty or my clothes are just a tad to tight, I feel uncomfortable all day. Thanks for sharing, I'm definitely going to read it!

Stella Rose said...

This sounds wonderful!
I read an article recently about how dressing sloppy around the house can be detrimental to a relationship. I can relate to what Anne is saying in reference to that. The article used sweatpants as an example. Clearly sweatpants are no longer welcome in or out of the home, haha!

Gabriela Von Bohlen said...

I just ordered this book, I wonder whether it's the same, with a different title.

http://www.vandashop.com/product.php?xProd=7510&xSec=30&navlock=1

Gabriela Von Bohlen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
casey said...

I've always wanted to read this book--so I'm rather excited it's being reprinted! I've always wondered about how much of the advice would be dated, and it's refreshing to know that some of her advice is the same sort of thing we'd encounter in any modern style book--learning to dress for who you are (not who you imagine are/want to be! ;). Going to have to get my hands on a copy...

♥ Casey

Julie said...

Solanah, I love your "rant" above. It's something I've been trying to put into words for a very long time...it's nice to see it written out where it can reach others. Thank you!

Cerridwyn said...

Where is it written that feminists cannot be fashionable? I wear vintage clothes because I adore them. It's something I do for me and me alone. Although my husband gets a kick out of my outfits, even those that include *gasp* mink. I'm an academic (and anachronistic) editor. My penchant for delightfully foppish hats doesn't alarm my colleagues or clients, nor does it undermine my credibility. It may seem strange, but a suit from the '40s makes me feel empowered. When I think of all the women who entered the workforce before me, I tip my hat to them and give heartfelt thanks.

Donda said...

Solanah, I agree that thought in dressing is important. I don't know even know why it bothers me. I'm constantly looking at what others wear and how it's put together, both clothing choices and the make up of the garment.