I hope you already know about this great book, as it is a fashion classic. Written by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, the directrice of Nina Ricci, the book was published in 1964, right before people stopped caring about being elegant, and concentrated on being young.
No matter, as it is like a time capsule of advice on everything from couture copies to what to wear in Singapore. I went to her for advice about short sleeves, and was not disappointed:
Of greatest interest was this short sentence under the heading, Age:
“The most loyal friends of the not-so-young woman are… short sleeves which are cool but do not bare the top part of the arms.”
It’s just as I expected, actually. I’d like to make the point that I’ve noticed lately that it is not just the not-so-young that are looking for ways to cover up the area Madame Dariaux refers to as “most unaesthetic.” There seem to be an awful lot of shrug sweaters tied over little stappy dresses in style blogs these days, and with good reason. A lot of women just do not feel comfortable baring their entire arms all the time. And I suspect that much of the shrug-wearing can be blamed on air conditioning. (I also have a theory that the reason so many women in their 20s are so great at layering is because they learned it out of necessity – having to conform to their schools’ dress codes through the use of multiple layers!)
I have a 1950s Glamour magazine (you know, the magazine “for the girl with a job”) around here somewhere that has an article that debates the question of whether or not it was appropriate for an office girl to wear sleeveless blouses in the summer. The conclusion was that it was okay, but keep that jacket handy in case you are called into the boss’s office.
But getting back to Elegance, it truly is a gen of a resource if you are interested in how women of the late 1950s and early 60s viewed dressing, especially if you are wanting to know how the chicest of Paris dressed. To learn about how the middle class of your area looked at clothing, talk to your mothers and grandmothers. You’ll find that their rules about dress were often just as rigid as those of Madame Dariaux.
The book has been released and can be bought on Amazon, but they also have a selection of the original at very reasonable prices.