A Head for Dressing

(Image of Edith Head: TCM)

“The basic elements of any business woman’s wardrobe should rely on this trio: simple casual suits, tailored dresses, and good separates.” Edith Head wrote that in 1967 in her book “How to Dress for Success.”

Sounds simple enough, but times have changed in the workplace and in society. That didn’t stop a number of designers from showing very nice suits during the last spate of shows. But are suits and tailored dresses being worn? I see a lot of separates. Mostly jeans with boots or pumps with elongated toes, paired with a shirt and fleece vest or 3/4 length coat. That seems to be the uniform of the working (?) mom. Younger professionals are wearing those low waisted trousers with a bit of flair to the bottom with the same shoe/boot choice. At least that’s what I see on my infrequent excursions into the coffee shop.

Yesterday I finished watching my Lifetime On Demand’s version of “Coco Chanel.” What an eye opener. (To begin with, the apartment! At least the sitting room in which Shirley MacLaine held court was magnificent. Why did that sort of decorating go out of fashion? Ah, I answered my own question: “fashion.” Move me into M. St Laurent’s or Mde. Chanel’s digs any day. But I am in danger of becoming a fossil.) The story stops in the 1960’s. I guess my view of fashion does too. Chanel knew a thing or two.

Do you know what I miss? Gloves. All the women seated at the front row of the fashion show finale were wearing gloves… longish gloves under 3/4 sleeves. Most had a double wrapped pearl bracelet over the wrist. A few showed wristwatches. Bracelets were a given. How incredibly elegant. The collection featured the same sorts of looks. Don’t forget that it was Mde. Chanel’s stated purpose to liberate women’s clothing from the Victorian era. She chose jersey and other materials to make her sportswear for women. Scandalous!

Today’s looks can be said to be even more scandalous. Overt sexuality is the order of the day. I’m as red-blooded as the next ex-fraternity man, but — and perhaps this is age — the woman who holds my peripheral vision longer is the one who is beautifully tailored, well-groomed, and very confident. (“I like you; you remind me so much of me….” Mrs. E. is known to joke.) Tailored looks slim, elongate and flatter. Ask Mr. Mizrahi, he’s doing nice work over at Liz Claiborne. I’ve just emailed him to see if he’d like to weigh in with his opinion of modern elegance. He is another who has a unique vision… a head for this sort of thing, if you will

Stay tuned. Great dress, huh? Can this only happen in New York?

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