Fashion lessons from the ’20s: How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes (1926)

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Fashion lessons from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes

How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes: It isn’t what you wear, it’s how you wear it

No doubt you have heard the epigram about “It’s not so much what you say, as the way you say it.” You may even have used it yourself, a sort of “when-you-call-me-that-smile” idea. And I’ve heard tell that a woman may say “No” and mean “Yes,” and that she may even say “Yes” and intend all the time to act “No.”

Fashion lessons from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes

Fashion lessons: Before and after photos

And now this has become a perfect illustration of the truth about woman’s clothes.

For there has arrived in Hollywood a famous designer, one of those chaps whose lightest word sways the length of skirt and the position of the waistline, if you know what I mean, and says, “It isn’t so much what you wear, as the way you wear it.”

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He goes even further. He says that it doesn’t make any difference at all how stunning, how exquisite a frock may be. If it isn’t worn well, it might just as well be a tablecloth or a sheet. And, says he, a gown of the most extreme chic may look like a work of a small town seamstress and the simplest little house frock look like a model from the smartest house in Paris — all because of the way they are worn.

This designer is young Travis Banton, direct from Paris — and though of course, it’s Paris, France, he looks as though it might be Paris, Texas, because he has the outward appearance of a cowboy or prizefighter rather than a male dressmaker. And in truth, Banton was born in Texas, later going to France to achieve fame in the style capital.

They brought him over to design costumes for Leatrice Joy and the fourteen beauties of The Dressmaker from Paris, Paul Bern’s picture.

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Fashion lessons: Learning how to wear the clothes

And the first thing he did was to upset everybody by these startling theories. “I don’t care so much about the clothes,” said Mr. Banton, harshly. “But these women have got to learn to wear them. That’s the main thing.”

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He even insisted, to the complete horror of everybody on the Lasky lot, that the girls take the gowns home and wear them around, so they’d learn to be comfortable in them.

“Never wear a frock in public until you’ve become thoroughly acquainted with it,” he shouted. “It can’t be done. Learn how to sit and stand and walk in it. Learn how to give it the best angles.”

And they do say that there was almost a riot when one of the girls leaned up against something.

“Don’t lean on the furniture,” said the dictator of fashions. “That’s a dress you’re wearing, not a piano drape. If I’d wanted it draped on the piano, I would have draped it there myself. Stand up. What is the use of laboring for hours to create a line, if a woman slouches over or slinks over or stands like a wooden soldier, or leans on things?”

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Fashion lessons: Hats and jewelry

He also insists that in the wearing of hats, every woman should follow this positive rule: Keep at least one eyebrow concealed at all times.

As to jewelry, Mr. Banton says it’s better to wear none than too much, and that simplicity should always be the aim and end of all effects achieved by jewelry.

“Rings can be worn on but one finger of each hand,” says he, “and if you wear more than one ring upon one finger, they must be of the same stones, unless you want to look like a five and ten cent store.

“You can wear many bracelets, but they must all be on one arm.”

The two things everyone who wants to be well-dressed must possess, according to Mr. Banton, are perfect self-unconsciousness, and an infinite capacity for taking pains in the little details.

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Fashion lessons: Get out your dresses

After reading this, the wise woman will take herself in hand and see what’s what. Get out your dresses and study their lines. See where you can take off some useless trimming here and drape the skirt more becomingly there. When you finish, it’s ten to one your gown will be twice as smart.

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If you have a new evening gown, purchased especially for some important function, wear it around the house a few evenings before you appear in it in public. Try walking in it and, what is more important, try dancing in it. If it has drapery, see that you learn to manage the drapery.

Remember you are never at your best if you are “clothes conscious.” Try on your hats and study the effect before a mirror. See whether that new hat looks best with the hair drawn down on the cheeks or with the hair pushed back of the ears.

And remember, too, that ease and simplicity are the greatest assets of the woman who would be well dressed. The habit of studying the mirror doesn’t always arise from feminine vanity. It may be the perfectly natural — and also feminine — desire to look well.

Your mirror, if you ask its candid advice, will prevent you from wearing clothes that aren’t your type. It will also tell you the good points to accentuate and the bad points to conceal.

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Caption for photo 1 (top of page): The wrong way to wear the extremely smart, plain black satin dinner gown designed for Leatrice Joy. Notice the destruction of the graceful lines of the gown and the messy appearance given by wearing the pearls in many strands

Caption for photo 2 (top of page): The same gown properly worn. Compare it with the other pictures. The train should be caught up and worn loose. One reason why a woman must become “well acquainted” with a gown before she can wear it to advantage

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