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Friday, January 18, 2013


"Success is often achieved by those that don't know 
that failure is inevitable." ~ Coco Chanel

I started with this (now annoying) organizing bender on New Years, and have been looking at my stash of books on image with an eye to re-arranging them. In my fruitless search for an effective system, I've not surprisingly gotten sidetracked re-reading a couple of them.  'How To Dress For Success' by Edith Head (with Joe Hyam) (1967, Abrams) and 'The Triumph of Individual Style' by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor (1994, Fairchild Publications.)

The Edith Head book is a great dose of nostalgia- Chapter 2. is a total classic- 'How to Dress To Get A Man..and Keep Him' advises a woman to show an interest in a given subject simply because a man she's after has said interest. It seems the slant on the majority of the advice is designed to help the reader 'please' the man she's after. Even the language is old fashioned. But aside from all the entertaining and quaint advice designed to help the fairer sex in her 'man trapping' endeavors, there's a lot of solid, basic philosophy on dressing. (And the illustrations are pretty cool, too.) In Chapter 6, 'How to Build a Successful Wardrobe' she says  "building a proper wardrobe is somewhat like building a home. Think of it like a home- because your wardrobe is something you're going to live in. It must not only be comfortable, but adequate for all your needs." Her advice on what constitutes the 'basics' of a wardrobe and accessories is woefully outdated of course, but the concept of having 'foundational' pieces for your wardrobe is classic. There's a chapter on how to dress young, and one on how to use color successfully. In the chapter on color there's even a segment about 'man pleasing colors' if you're so inclined. :-) Like I said before, most of the sections are full of some common sense philosophies even if the language and specific recommendations are outdated. Even in the unlikely event that you get nothing useful from this book, it's a fun read by one of Hollywoods' most legendary costume designers. Much of what I enjoy about this book is that it is so 'of it's time.' 

The Triumph of Individual Style is written by two true leaders in the image industry.  Most consider this book to be a 'bible' for image consulting. Carla Mason Mathis is cofounder of The Body Beautiful, ( which offers image consulting and in-depth training to become a certified image consultant. Helen Villa Connor ( brings her extensive background in developing educational materials and clothing construction to Triumph of Individual Style. Where do I start with this book? To give you an idea, if you google it, you won't see it for less than $85- and that's for a used one. I've seen it offered for as much as $1,000, but I can't imagine anyone actually paying that much. And I couldn't find it in my local library system, so that route is a no go. For a new copy, at most online sources right now you'll probably pay about $250…..unless of course you go to the publisher, like I finally did- ( - in which case you'll pay $53. Whew.   

The approach here is one of developing self acceptance- they introduce art elements to explain differences in various aspects of physical appearance so you'll begin to see yourself with an enhanced level of self appreciation. In fact, there's gorgeous art throughout the book. And you can get as specific as you'd like- this book breaks things down to the point of exhaustion. It's wonderful. Chapter 1, 'line'- choosing fabrics according to the lines of your face and figure, chapter 2, your basic shape and how to choose silhouettes in clothing, chapter 3, proportions and how to balance yours, and so on. Camouflaging, bone structure, color patterns… even developing your personal style based on your innate creativity. This book is a truly wonderful wealth of information. If you love the subject, then get this book. If you are hopeless at choosing clothes for yourself, this is the book for you. Either way, look at it like this- if you spend $53 on a book that will help you forever after to avoid spending all your clothing budget on unflattering clothing that doesn't reflect who you are, then it's a great investment, right? 

Happy Dressing!