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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A guide to gracious living, Amy Vanderbilt


I have been reading the book "Complete book of etiquette - a guide to gracious living" by Amy Vanderbilt. She starts it with the words:
"Who needs a book of etiquette? Everyone does."
Here, I will be "cutting out" some of the parts I found are good to know.

The best-dressed women I know pay very little attention to the picayune aspects of fashion, but they have a sound understanding of style.

There are smart women who haven't changed the length of their skirts in twenty years, whose hats are always more or less the same shape although they vary in colour and material with the seasons. Such women often wear their hair exactly the same way from girlhood on, wearing it short or long as most becomes them, despite current agitations one way or the other.

We may envy such women. They have such a sure sense of what is good for them. They save time and temper assembling their wardrobes. Often they are considered among the best-dressed women in the world, although they might not make the famous list because, while they have style, they are superior to mere fashion.

This sureness is, sad to state, not for all of us. Instead, we are pushed hither and yon by the shallow dictates of fashion, often to a degree that is truly wasteful and silly. While fashion, if you can afford it, is fun, it is no fun to feel you must discard an expensive dress you have worn only a few times because it is no longer "high style." Unless you can really afford it, or because of your position must afford it, it is better to avoid all the expensive aspects of radically new fashion ideas until they have been sifted enough for the sound ones to emerge and have a fair existence.

The basic wardrobe has a theme which often carries through from year to year. If you have one winter cloth coat you must consider its color as your guide for all the seasons you wear it. The same is true of the accessories you bought for it. Such long-range planning means that you can buy better quality, for the investment is to be spread over more than one season, as it must be if you are an average woman not engaged in the fashion business which lives on quick changes.

The woman who has no basic color scheme in her wardrobe must have considerable money in order to be well-dressed. She will need many more accessories than the woman who plans each season's clothes around what is still good and usable in her existing wardrobe, who has accepted the idea that there are certain basic colors becoming to her and to which she should adhere if she wishes to dress well on a controlled dress expenditure.

Basic colors are black, blue, brown (with all its variations), and gray, possibly green and wine. On the first four a good wardrobe can be built, allowing for much variety (although brown, itself, is difficult for formal clothes; the beige tones are better). The last two, as basic colors, are more limiting, except for a season or two. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy a plum or wine suit or a green one, but you should accept the fact that after two seasons such suits are readily recognizable if worn too frequently and that if accessories are bought to match them they will not be easily worn with other colors.

It is the interchangeability of accessories that makes for interesting variety in the wardrobe, not a large number of dresses and suits. Even extravagantly well dressed women follow the basic plan, sometimes never varying the basic color from season to season.

As a young girl's taste in clothes develops, she will find that she turns  again and again to certain accent colors because they make her prettier or happier. Eventually she is guided almost unconsciously to these colors, and variations of them, in choosing, say, a print dress or flowers for her spring hat. She will have decided early which of the basic colors go best with the accent colors she likes to wear, and she will buy her shoes, bags, belts, coats, and hats in basic colors that will complement or match anything she is likely to buy.

Here, we will end this part.
♥♥ Pinky Honey


  1. I love, and completely agree, with the opening line of that last paragraph here. As much as I adore just about ever colour, there are some that I gravitate towards more heavily, and all the more so as I've gotten older. For example, while (from a visual standpoint) pink is my favourite colour, I tend to wear certain other colours more (and some less), such as navy blue, aqua/turquoise, red, brown, and more recently this year, green. I do find that I'm pulled towards such shades when I go shopping and love that because I own multiple pieces in each, my wardrobe becomes a lot easier to mix and match different outfits with.

    Wise advice and insight across the board from Ms. Vanderbilt, thank you so much for posting it, honey.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. You are ever so true, dear Jessica.
      My basic colors are mainly black, dark blue and dark grey and - a pencil skirt in a basic color gives me freedom to wear and upragrade my outfit from "Plane Jane" to "Elaborate Display of Frill" :)
      As always: I'm thakful you've stopped by.