Currently Reading: You’re Better Off Naked

You know how I love a good dose of fashion advice from the past, so this little book from 1962 was irresistible.  It was written by Wayne Healy, who was actually a woman, and who had worked as a writer and editor for various fashion publications including Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar.  As you might guess from the title, this book was written with a sense of humor, but there is a touch of something else that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Maybe a touch of honesty tinged with sarcasm?

But I’ll let you be the judge.  Here are some of Wayne’s words of wisdom.

The most formidable barrier to good looks on any basis – in or out of clothes – is the load of extra poundage every other woman in the country carries with her.

Fashion magazines are gourmet fare, stuffed from cover to cover with improperly identified goodies.

There are no fashionable or unfashionable colors.

To dress well you must be a sheep.

When color reaches the point of accessories, a number of women turn from gay sports to nitpicking little deacons.  They choose a hat matched to a suit, say – and then drive relentlessly on for matched gloves, jewels, bag and shoes.

Bermuda shorts – with their two-inch-above-the-knee stop – are ghastly on the most beautiful legs in the world.

Fashions that are fundamentally ugly on most women never should be taken seriously, no matter how hard the press and fashion industry try to shove them down your throat.

And most depressingly:

At age thirty-five, nevertheless, a certain amount of physical deterioration has begun in everyone, and will continue till life ends.  The important job of a woman is to hold the deterioration to a minimum, and then recognize  the exact extent of it at all times.

Books like You’re Better Off Naked are important because they give us a glimpse into, if not exactly the way women thought about dressing, then at least about the types of advice they were being given.  Today we’d find a lot to take issue with in Healy’s advice, but it is surprising how much of it stills applies.  Bermuda shorts really are ghastly.

At one point in her career, Healy must have written a fashion advice column, as some of them were added to the back of the book.  One writer asked what were the twenty-five worst fashions.  I’ve edited the list to ten.  Remember, this is 1962.

Cardigans with large fur collars.

Clear plastic or lucite handbags.

Cotton or kid gloves embroidered in rhinestones or sequins.

Small, cheap fur stoles.

The artificial flowers that come with the dress.

Plastic bags stamped to imitate alligator.

Prints with writing – such as Oh, la,la, or L’amour toujours.

Anything decorated with poodles.

Big skirted teen-age taffeta date dresses on ladies past thirty.

Cheap satin.

Clearly, the Fifties were over.



Filed under Currently Reading

15 responses to “Currently Reading: You’re Better Off Naked

  1. Diana coleman

    Just found ONE on .amazon. Expensive, but a great gift for a fashionista friend. Found the tips to still be pretty au courant. Thanks!


  2. Love it! Thanks for sharing all these fabulous books. It is so interesting to read these all advises!


  3. Danette

    Hah! Fun reading! I believe it’s the same year that ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ came along. Such rebels 😉


  4. Susie

    Well, I guess I have a few fashion no no’s on the list. I love my clear plastic and lucite hand bags. I always wondered if there was a time these were considered “cheap”. And I thought it was kind of weird when one of my vintage tops came with artificial flowers. Come to think of it I have a clear plastic purse with artificial flowers and lucite handles. What a great book!


  5. Matchy-matchy was considered gauche even then? Who knew?!


    • I can remember a few “nitpicking little deacons” in the early 60s – women who equated dressing well with everything matching. But for the most part, you matched shoes and handbag, and everything else might be in a coordinating color. Of course by the 70s all those “rules” were gone!


  6. This books sounds like a wonderful read. I must track down a copy!


  7. Oh no, I just bought those bermudas! That book reminds me of the Peg Bracken’s early 60s “I Hate To Cook Book” that used to make my pre-feminist mom laugh.
    Of course, now those lucite purses go for a fortune!


  8. Maybe someone should write a history of fashion advice…and not the classic kind about horizontal stripes. It would be a fun read!


  9. Hello Lizzie. I got a laugh on the Bermuda shorts. I’ll never forget when I was in high school, our student counsel fought hard for the freedom to wear Bermuda shorts. It was the 80s and they were back “in style”. I thought they were ugly then too, but it was the freedom to wear shorts during the last few days of school when the temperature was climbing toward the 80s F. I enjoyed the review of this book. I’ve been looking around for things written on the elements of classic good taste. If you have any recommendations, let me know.


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