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.
Clearly, the Fifties were over.