How To Dress for Success by Edith Head

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One of the Women’s Room’s favourite animated films is The Incredibles, due entirely to the wonderful Edna Mode, the height-challanged, giant glasses wearing fashion maven who gives the ailing Super Heros’ suits a stylish makeover. She has the best lines (“No capes Daaahrling…no capes”) and is allegedly based on a cross between Karl Largerfeld and the genius Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.

Edith Head designed costumes for stars such as Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson in the days when it was all about the glamour. So we were almost hyperventilating with excitiement when we discovered that Miss Head’s book “How To Dress For Success“, which was first published in 1967, has been republished and updated by Joe Hyams.

All the useful tips expert Edith picked up during a lifetime of making clothes for films are packaged in the book, which is handily small and bound in lavender cotton fabric. Luckily for us, as well as advice on how to build a successful wardrobe, analyse your figure and use colour successfully, Miss Head has included a chapter on “How to Look Younger”, a chapter title who’s words brutally remind us of the importance of youth back in the 60s (has anything changed?). She allows us insights into how the movie stars of the day keep loooking fab (they took great care of their skin and hair) but also claims that “As the years advance, the right clothes are the greatest ally a woman has in camouflaging the signs of age that are as inevitable as autumn leaves at summer’s end”.

She’s ‘old school’ in her straight talking advice, which doesn’t pull any punches, no touchy-feely empathy for the middle age frump here, if she was alive today we can see her using phrases like “get a grip” and perhaps giving those bossy Trinny and Susannah girls a run for their money. She includes a strict list of The Big Don’ts (wide belts, which is tough as that’s a hot trend for winter, blouses that finish at the waist, tight fitting clothes, flounces and ‘extremes’) and gives guidence on grey areas such as decollete, weight and hemlines. She suggests overcoming liabilities through the Three Cs, Camouflage, Conceal and Cover up while maintaing that “Maturity is the time to act mature and think maturely while you manage to look younger.”

No mention of capes, but the book is a retro joy for fashion followers and we’re sure Edna Mode would give her full approval. Definitely one to add to the library.

How to Dress for Success


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