The Dress Doctor: Prescriptions for Style, from A to Z, by Edith Head, HarperCollins, RRP£8.99, 80 pages
As Cannes comes to a close this weekend, the A-list have their last chance to wow the photographers. Behind the image of classic Hollywood glamour they are guaranteed to channel there’s one woman who did more to create it than perhaps anyone else: Edith Head. The Hollywood costume designer worked on films such as Sunset Boulevard, Roman Holiday and Vertigo and won eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design.
In the 1950s, American women took more sartorial inspiration from film, and in 1959 Head published The Dress Doctor, her bestselling autobiography and style guide. The Dress Doctor: Prescriptions for Style from A to Z is an adaptation of that book, presented as an illustrated paperback. Bill Donovan’s illustrations give Head’s epigrams vitality but is her advice still relevant half a century later?
“Y” is for youth and Head suggests “a young woman wishing to emphasise youth may wear an entire outfit of pink”. It’s a prescient look at this season’s hottest colour, as seen at Jil Sander and MaxMara, but wear it head to toe and you could resemble a pig emerging from a rhododendron bush. “W” is for wedding, and Head advises brides to wear long sleeves. As Kate Middleton demonstrated, these are still de rigueur. Some of the occasions she provides advice for are more obscure. Ever wondered what to wear to a dog show? Me neither, but Head points out that “stripes will help make you visible to your dog”. They will also impress the discerning dog, being a key summer look. Green is advised against, however, as “your dog could confuse it with background greenery”.
Some final advice for the glitterati in Cannes. When “on deck” opt for “a shirtmaker dress, slacks or skirt and sweater”. Fine if you’re the Queen launching a new ferry but for Roberto Cavalli’s yacht, something a little glitzier might be in order. Starlets beware, following this new A to Z too closely could take you from A-list to Z-list.
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