When designer Anne Fogarty first published Wife Dressing in 1959—a witty blend of fashion savvy and wifely advice that encapsulated the sensibilities of the era—women everywhere embraced the observations and expertise she shared. After all, not only did Fogarty’s designs shape fashion in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, but she herself embodied the look she had created. With her 18-inch waist—beautifully suited to her own sleek sheaths—and her infallible sense of what to wear for every occasion, be it a TV interview on Edward R. Murrow’s “Person to Person” or an intimate soirée chez Fogarty, she epitomized the womanly ideal of the era.
Glitterati Incorporated is delighted to re-release Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, updated with an introduction by Rosemary Feitelberg, fashion commentator and writer for Women's Wear Daily. Feitelberg’s text places Anne Fogarty’s original work in a social and historical context, underscoring the constraints and expectations confronting women during the 1950s and early ‘60s.
Feitelberg writes, “The title of the book made me laugh—in a roll-your-eyes sort of way. I mean, honestly, Wife Dressing? Could there have been such a raison d’être?
“In 1959, the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’…. While the notion may be an anachronism nearly five decades later, it is too easy to dismiss Fogarty’s words as pure fluff. Fogarty’s attempt to create fashionable ground rules speaks volumes about women’s roles and positions in society, both then and now. It is shocking to realize how much or, in some cases, how little has changed since the book’s original publication….
“Part of what makes Fogarty compelling is her blend of practicality and individualism. She urges readers to stand before a full-length triple-view mirror ‘with a strong honest light to take a good look at yourself from every angle. Decide how you can improve your physical proportion to fit the image you have of yourself and choose the kind of look you want to convey as a wife.’ Save for that last quip—must it always come down to a man’s approval—Fogarty is nothing but sensible.
“At the same time, she also encourages readers to recognize that, “You are you. You are not the model in that photograph or the girl beside you in an elevator or a woman eating lunch at the next table. What they are wearing may stop traffic, but be sure it’s right for you before emulating the effect.’ Work with what you have, in other words—empowering advice no matter the era.”
Readers gain new appreciation not only for Fogarty’s tongue-in-cheek humor and references made charmingly nostalgic over the passage of time, but also for her forward-thinking observations on fashion that continue to hold true today. Opinionated, outspoken, yet always a lady, Anne Fogarty speaks her mind on a wide range of sartorial subjects: what comprises good and bad taste, what fashion rules are meant to be broken, and appropriate attire for every occasion.
The Chic is pleased to present Anne Fogarty, in her own words. As she reveals in Wife Dressing, “’Chic’ is a word I’m sure Shakespeare would have used—if the word had been part of the English language at the time—and if it had been ‘chic’ to use it. Fundamentally a fashion word today, it expresses more than just clothes or style. It has come to convey a sense of contemporary culture, the ultimate fashion expression for this time and place.
“’Chico-ology’ is impossible to define. It is the psychology of fashion, meant to be interpreted by each of us in individual terms. I don’t think it’s too farfetched to predict that someday chic-ology will take its place among the sciences as a key to the emotional well-being of women. The face and form we present to the world are signs of our inner conflict and tranquility. It’s not exactly a new idea that looking well makes you feel well. Chic-ology is meant for examining and clarifying your fashion viewpoint.
“Perhaps the best way to analyze ‘chic’ is to say what it is and what it is not. Somewhere in the middle will be the indefinable truth as it applies to you. More than in any other theoretical study, chic-ology must be individually interpreted.”
Fogarty notes the following ideas, as a guideline for chic:
“Chic begins with good taste.
Chic is a statement of who you are and what you stand for.
Chic is a picture of you that says more than a thousand words.
Chic is a bearing—the way you walk and move and sit.
Chic is the image you convey to others.
Chic is doing something for clothes rather than expecting them to do something for you.
Chic is the appreciation of fabrics, textures, colors.
Chic is attention to smallest detail.
Chic is selectivity and the understanding that what may be great for someone else is not necessarily for you.
Chic is not blind acceptance of fashion fad.
Chic is classical styling with personal embellishments.
Chic may be looking different from everyone else or looking the same as everyone else.
Chic is a personal mood.
Chic is personal identity, immediately distinguishable.
Chic is a comprehension of clothes, atmosphere, and surroundings.
Chic is a custom-made look concocted from the assembly line fashion.
Chic is Instinct plus Impulse plus Individuality.”
Fogarty makes a clear distinction between fashion and chic. Chic, as she reveals, is a way of being, whereas fashion is an industry in which she works. As Fogarty writes, “If you must be a slave to something, make it Scrabble or knitting or casserole cookery. Anything but fashion, where you must be the mistress of your fate.
“Don’t be fooled. Don’t be cajoled. Don’t be ‘conned.’ Don’t let the mythical ‘they’ who supposedly dictate fashion from above squash your individuality. As a designer, I am one of the ‘they.’ I believe in fashion rules because of work. I also believe in breaking the rules as an elaboration on proven dogma. Don’t throw the rules away. Work from them.”
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Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife by Anne Fogarty
Curated by Miss Rosen