I am addicted to old home economics textbooks. I love the calm, matter-of-fact voice in which the authors tell you that "Very glossy satins, and harsh tweeds are unbecoming to the mature figure and to the person whose complexion has lost the vitality of youth" or ask you to fill out a quiz to determine if you are an "all-around girl: sincere, wholesome, charming" or a "coquette: flattering, petite, scatterbrained."
Recently I checked a copy of Clothes with Character out of the library (published by DC Heath in 1946, written by Hazel Thompson Craig and Ola Day Rush — home ec textbooks are always written by women with three names, for some reason, maybe to indicate that they are married and thus not just academic home-ec experts, but practical ones as well?)
Here is an excerpt I found wonderful:
What to Look For When You Buy a Dress
Before you buy a new dress
- Study the current fashion magazines, newspaper sketches, and make several tours of the better shops and shop windows to see what is being shown.
- Take an inventory of your wardrobe on hand to find out your most essential purchase.
- Decide upon color, general lines, kind of material and size. Do not accept a substitute.
- If you choose a printed material, moisten your finger and rub it over the hem to see if the color is permanent. Many prints fade and become ugly under the arm and across the shoulder.
- If you choose a wash dress look for a color-fast and shrinkage label.
- See that all pieces are cut the right way of goods to avoid constant twisting.
- Move your arms and make sure the back is full enough.
- Sit down and make sure the skirt is full enough.
- For additional points in buying a dress study illustration 59.
from Clothes with Character, p. 222.
What I like best about this list is the professionalism of it. "Study" the fashion illustrations! Follow this checklist! Being a well-dressed woman is work, not play, and don't you forget it!