Thursday, 31 March 2011

Planning a Winter Wardrobe - Part 2


 Some more advice on planning a winter wardrobe, this time from the ever-knowledgeable Mrs. Betty Keep.

"How do I achieve a well-balanced wardrobe? Mine always has the appearance of being thrown together."

"This problem is one that appears frequently in my fashion mail-bag - and here is the answer.  In order to be successful in anything you have undertaken it is necessary to have a plan, and in fashion this rule is a golden one.  It is not how much you spend; it is how much you plan.  The girl or woman who has a wardrobe full of unrelated clothes and accessories will never look smart and well-turned-out no matter how much she spends on clothes. 

I consider a chic wardrobe is based on classic lines, with colour and accessories to individualise the wardrobe to the wearer's own style.  The intelligent girl puts her own style before high style.  A perfectly planned, balanced wardrobe has no room for passing fashion fads. 

The first step in planning is to know which classics will outlast changing fashions.  This is what I consider to be the backbone for a winter daytime wardrobe:
  • one un-belted camel-hair coat or a tweed one
  • one single-breasted three-button tailored suit
  • one long-sleeved and one short-sleeved shirtmaker blouse
  • a cashmere cardigan sweater
  • a coat dress
  • a wool skirt
  • one late-day dress
The second step in being well-dressed is to plan a wardrobe as a whole. This can be done by choosing a basic colour scheme.  For perfect colour planning, buy coats, dresses and suits before blouses, hats and other accessories. 

The best basic colours are black, navy, brown and beige, because they are the easiest to accent with other colours.  The correct shade to flatter your eyes and hair can multiply your attractions.  But don't forget that artificial light changes and will often fade out a colour. 

The third step in planning is to make a periodical inventory of your wardrobe and discard worn-out garments and re-plan any unrelated pieces.  Clothes that can be interchanged are true wardrobe builders. 

The fourth step is the careful choice of accessories, and when purchasing be sure all items are good mixers.  For a small wardrobe the classic accessory is best.  Particularly good is a classic shoe in fine leather.  The same rule applies when choosing a bag.  It should not be exaggerated in size, colour, or shape.  A beret in a becoming colour is a chic and economical hat. 

Gloves are important, and I can think of few occasions when a well-dressed woman is seen without them.  Have at least two short pairs in white; the washable kind - and keep them spick and span."

(from The Australian Women's Weekly, 8 July 1953)

(from The Australian Women's Weekly,  29 July 1953)

I have enjoyed reading Betty Keep's column, "Dress Sense", and was interested to find out that she joined the staff at The Australian Women's Weekly in 1947.  Apparently she had already "occupied a prominent position in journalism" for the previous ten years, presumably in something to do with fashion.  In 1947 she had three children, Tony, Margot and Dickie, aged 22, 16 and 12 respectively.

To quote from an AWW article from 1947:
"She says she herself has never owned a large wardrobe.  "My guiding principle," she says, "has always been to have a small, carefully considered collection of clothes.  Then I aim at perfection in accessories.  Hats are my real fashion hobby, and to buy one once a week is my fashion dream.  Actually, I buy two new ones
every season.  Modern living is too streamlined to have much of any one thing - least of all clothes."

I was fascinated to find that the State Library of NSW has a 2 hour interview with Betty Keep from 1992, and I'm looking into whether I can access a copy of it, or a transcript. 

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