Archive of ‘Historical’ category

Book Review/Historical: Clothing Construction and Wardrobe Planning

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Glamourdaze is one of my favorite resources for historical style system information, and when I came across this post, I knew I needed the book the post was based on.

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The book is the 1960 edition of the home economics textbook Clothing Construction and Wardrobe Planning by Dora S. Lewis, Mabel Goode Bowers, and Marietta Kettunen. I bought it more or less impulsively, intrigued by the excerpts on Glamourdaze but not even being sure whether there was anything that would make it onto this site.

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. I think this book might be the one that I would recommend to accompany all of our other work involving Kibbe, Zyla, and simply trying to understand how to put together a good outfit together. The book is aimed at teenage girls from families where their clothing budget is not unlimited, and the book teaches you how to put together a wardrobe for a limited budget and how to budget for it, how to alter and sew your own clothing, and the basic principles of design and color. It teaches you how to look at clothes with a critical eye and how to tell good design from bad design, how to put outfits together that are appropriate for the occasion, and how to figure out what you need in your wardrobe and when you should buy certain pieces. It truly provides a foundation for how you can think about clothes, beyond your type in whatever system.

There is some dubious advice in the book as well–it suggests slathering yourself in peanut oil (!) before you suntan (!) to protect your skin (!); it also suggests uses deodorant two whole times a week–but overall, despite being dated, it is very informative. There is a clothing personality chapter, and I will be sharing this information with you in the coming days. I also think I may put the good/bad design section up here, since it’s so useful. The other parts may make their way into future workbooks.

Anyway, let me know what you’re interested in! And otherwise I suggest picking it up for yourself because it is just so useful.

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Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm: Summary

Joe Bonomo himself... How he came to lend his name to a self-improvement course for women has been lost to history.

Joe Bonomo himself… How he came to lend his name to a self-improvement course for women has been lost to history.


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I started this series because I wanted to examine a system with something approaching the standard types we all know and love today, but that also predates McJimsey. These types are a part of a whole system that involves everything from diet and exercise to makeup and how to walk down stairs.

The purpose of having these types is similar to what Kibbe says about his Image Identities, more or less:

Try to determine the kind of person you really are. You may find that you are not projecting yourself as you should. Just thinking of yourself as a sophisticate, a gamine or a womanly woman, or any other definite type, will be amazingly helpful in giving you a distinctive personality…You ARE a personality, and we are going to try to help you to release that personality from hampering inhibitions, from the handicap of too much flesh or too little vitality, from self-consciousness, awkwardness and any other malicious gremlin who may dare to bar the way of expression of your loveliest self. The self that will attract the experiences which you feel belong to you… and which DO belong to you… Love, Happiness, Success.

And the first step to achieving all that is to read the descriptions of the types and decide which one most describes you. If you feel you fit into more than one, you can create your own composite from what applies to you personally. You may also try on another type for a night–i.e., an “Aristocratic Woman” may try on the “Womanly Woman,” but must retain her true type’s characteristic restraint, for she is a not a “hoyden.”

Presenting yourself in a way that aligns with who you are, and putting thought into how you live your life, will make all parts of your life better. I think this is something that all the systems we look at share. I hope to find more of these early versions of color and style systems and share them here.

How did you like this system? Are there any types that jump out at you as maybe being closer to who you are than the ones found in contemporary systems?

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Sophisticate

Bonomo: The Sophisticate

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THE SOPHISTICATE

Prototype
Merle Oberon

Personality
-Often a woman who has learned to live by her wits
-Has read the latest books, seen the latest plays, and heard the latest gossip
-Definitely clever and likely to be a career woman
-Nervously vivacious and in many cases a brilliant conversationalist
-Shock-proof and modern
-If you can get beneath her brittle exterior, you will probably find her honestly sympathetic and generous
-…But she is a merciless antagonist!
-While she is one of the best dressed types in the world, clothes are not her major interest

Physical Characteristics
-More likely to be striking than beautiful
-Always slender, frequently exaggeratedly so and is invariably groomed to within an inch of her life
-There is never a hair out of place in her coiffure

Clothes
-Has made almost a religious study out of clothes and uses her knowledge with daring and drama
-Will be remarkable for the perfection of her dress… whether she has little or much to spend
-Her clothes will be simple by day and as elegant as her purse can buy at night
-Even if her budget is very limited, she will have more formal clothes than the average woman
-Has a preference for dressmaker suits and afternoon dresses
-Shuns the spectacular
-Her clothes flow over her with unaccented distinction
-Loves fine fabrics, rich, soft furs and genuine, even if needs be modest, jewels.
-Is partial to white evening frocks
-Her dresses and wraps will be of the moment but never outstanding

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Gamine
Next: Summary

Bonomo: The Gamine

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THE GAMINE

Prototype
Betty Hutton

Personality
-May be a wiry little elf of a grandmother who keeps her family on tenterhooks with her mischief…
-…But she is apt to be young.
-A bit breathtaking but she has a grand time in life
-If she is true to type, so do the people around her
-Gay, impudent, and up to no good… in an innocent, or not so innocent, way
-Rules and regulations mean little to her and she manages to break most of them with impunity and much satisfaction
-She is fundamentally honest and loads of fun

Physical Characteristics
-Certain to be slim
-Boyish in appearance
-Leggy and gracefully gawky in gait
-Apt to have unruly hair, which she tosses about to emphasize her big moments
-Not unfrequently has an upturned, tilted nose
-Even a scattering of freckles do her no harm

Clothes
-Gives the effect of being carelessly casual in dress
-Affects sports clothes in and out of season
-The ideal sweater and skirt girl
-Will have neat little tailored suits or jaunty boleros, frequently with hats to match and varicolored blouses
-Can wear natty checks and daring plaids
-Berets, “beanies,” and boyish caps are made for her
-“Schoolgirl” clothes become her even when she well past schoolgirl age
-Like dirndls with big bright patterns on them, which she frequently supplements with a dainty little baby blouse frilled at the neck and at the edges of the little puffed sleeves
-In the country, you may come upon her racing her “bike” at breakneck speed, blue jeans rolled up to the knees, heavy socks crammed into well worn moccasins, shirt tail out, and log bob flying in the breeze
-But at night, like as not, she will float upon the scene a veritable fairy queen in a billowing frock of pastel tulle with a chaplet of flowers upon her head

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Outdoor Woman
Next: The Sophisticate

Bonomo: The Outdoor Woman

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THE OUTDOOR WOMAN

Prototype
Katharine Hepburn

Personality
-May be anything from a wood nymph to a college champion
-Is in her element out of doors
-Slings a mean ball at tennis, but that is the only mean thing about her
-An expert at most games, but a swell loser
-A good companion as well as a good sport and has hosts of friends of both sexes
-Intelligent and well informed with a wide scope of interests
-…But too good-natured to be competitive
-Her disposition is 1A
-Invariably has an inseparable canine friend
-Views on life, marriage, and men are sane and satisfactory
-Respects her body and takes care of it
-Likes an effect of spaciousness in her home… windows with wide vistas and polished floors with warm rugs scattered over them… and flowers everywhere
-One of God’s best gifts to the 20th century

Physical Characteristics
-May be as slender as Katharine Hepburn or as lusciously developed as Betty Grable
-Her voice is pitched low, but is not “throaty”
-Has the build for slacks and sweaters
-Usually heavily tanned

Clothes
-At her best in sports clothes
-Looks wonderful in tweeds, which need not, however, be of the mannish type but may be in lovely pastel tones of blues, rose, or gold.
-Wears slacks and sweaters indoors and out
-Many of her most attractive clothes are white (looks good due to her tan)
-Can wear a white evening gown to perfection, and in a white tennis frock or a dead white bathing suit she is a knockout
-Will have a well-cut, professionally made riding habit even if she has to concoct every other garment in her wardrobe with her own fair hands
-Her riding clothes will be strictly conventional in type, and all eccentricity in this kind of apparel she rejects with scorn
-She will be the pink of perfection when she goes for a canter, boots polished to within an inch of their lives, every hair of her head under control
-Likes cottons because they are crisp and tubbable (note: I think this means washable), and looks wonderful in them
-On warm days, wears a tailored suit of striped seersucker or a cotton plaid with a fresh blouse and a trim little hat to town… cool, competent, and refreshing to behold amid the hordes of wilted femininity
-Her preference for cotton extends even to her underthings and evening clothes
-Will have simple lingerie of lovely pale-toned batiste with a smartly done initial in a contrasting color
-Pique and organdy evening frocks are the delight of her heart and infinitely becoming to her type
-As a rule, she prefers a little precious jewelry to a lot of imitation stuff
-Strange to say, pearls are often her most flattering stone

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Exotic Woman
Next: The Gamine

Bonomo: The Exotic Woman

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THE EXOTIC WOMAN

Prototype
Ilona Massey

Personality
-Before assigning yourself to this role, consider what you are letting yourself in for
-Stars of stage and screen, to which the best examples belong, only have to sustain it for two hours
-A haunting air of mystery about her
-Seems to spend a great deal of time in the distant depths of her being
-Quite a gal, and when successful, simply mows ’em down
-May do deadly work over a luncheon table but her big moments are at night
-A difficult role to maintain, but amusing to assume from time to time

Physical Characteristics
-Truly beautiful or aesthetically unusual looking
-Makes a wonderful fashion model and is a wow at a night club
-Tall, slender, and remote
-Eyes are an important part of the picture
-Moves slowly with languid grace

Clothes
-A very dramatic type that can go to great lengths with her clothes
-Her jewels may be as many as her purse can buy
-Has a strong sense of drama that expresses itself in her fashion
-Large drooping hats, diaphanous dresses of pale-toned chiffon and of lace as illusive as a cobweb create for her an aura of romance
-Classic drapery that falls in statuesque folds
-Illusive half-tones that make an artist reach for his palette
-One of the few types of women who can successfully wear old embroideries and brocades without looking “arty”
-May borrow many of her accessories from the past, such as antique beaded or jeweled bags, tiny spangled fans or hand-painted ones with which she stirs up clouds of fragrance from her draperies
-Perfume should be subtle and illusive, conjuring up images of strange tropical gardens or pungent Eastern bazaars
-May wear old jeweled lockets and rings and bracelets, elaborately set with real or imitation stones
-During the early hours of the day, wears flowing negligees heavy with patterned lace or embroidered housecoats in the tones on sees old paintings… Bronze, Titian red or deep, fragrant-looking violet

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Aristocrat
Next: The Outdoor Woman

Bonomo: The Aristocrat

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THE ARISTOCRAT

Prototype
Joan Fontaine

Personality
-Of distinguished taste and mind
-May belong to any strata of society and live in any community
-Wealth, or the absence thereof, in no way affects her status
-Scrupulously careful about keeping her engagements and answering letters
-Often her handwriting is exaggeratedly large and angular
-Goes to great lengths to be courteous to those who serve her, both in shops and in her home
-Expects a great deal of others and herself
-Is a good citizen, and as a rule, a good, though severe, mother

Physical Characteristics
-May be slender or substantially stately
-Has good skin and beautifully cared for hair
-Coiffure shows the effects of professional fingers but is not severely sleek
-Is never spectacular, but is obviously and impressively “a lady”
-Speaks carefully in a modulated voice
-In extreme examples, there may be a slight affectation of speech

Clothes
-Clothes are almost a career
-Up on all the latest whims of fashion
-Outfits will often obtain their effectiveness from one arresting decorative motif
-Combines a trained taste in dress with daring originality
-Loves tailored clothes, often compensating for their simplicity in line with unusual color
-Hats are neat and super smart, with lines calculated to emphasize her interesting face
-Veils are close
-Abhors anything that does not stay put
-Never an undisciplined hair in her coiffure
-Prefers cocktail suits to dinner dresses
-When she does go all out for formality, that is likely to be exactly what happens
-Decollete will be as low as the law allows, and her jewels many and significant
-If they are real… wonderful! If not, no one will be the wiser

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Previously: The Womanly Woman
Next: The Exotic Woman

Bonomo: The Womanly Woman

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THE WOMANLY WOMAN

Prototype
Greer Garson

Personality
-100% feminine
-Takes the second role on the stage of life and stars in it
-Gentle, affectionate, and tender
-Home is the center of her interests, but not the circumfrence thereof
-First and foremost a wife and mother
-This is obvious from a casual glance, even when she is 16 years old
-Laughs readily and charmingly
-Fond of everything young: pigs, puppies, and babies–you will find a battered doll tucked away in her drawer until she can replace it with knitted booties
-No appeal to her sympathies, be it personal or civic, goes unheeded
-While she has her full quota of common sense, enjoys silly hats and sentimental novels
-Does not go in seriously for sports

Physical Characteristics
-Delightlyfully rounded facial features
-Lips with flower-like curves
-Voice is low with a lilting cadence

Clothes
-Femininity in clothes
-Soft materials: soft wools, silks and rayons that fall into caressing lines of their own accord
-Laces, flowered chiffons, and sprigged cottons are among her best textures
-Softly flattering tones; petal coloring and flower motifs are becoming
-Will prefer a brow-bouquet to a hat and will wear one whenever the occasion permits
-Loves fashion and wears new styles with grace and appreciation, but will likely look like the Womanly Woman next door
-Country clothes will be simple frocks of the spectator sports variety in lovely colors, worn with pearls (real or synthetic) and feminine white sandals.

Pick up Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm at Vintage Makeup Guides.

Next: The Aristocrat

Bonomo Original Hollywood Beauty and Charm

I’ve long been interested in exploring the origins of the systems we use today. I’ve summarized the materials by Belle Northrup and Harriet Tilden McJimsey, and have discussed the work of Grace Morton. I’m always on the lookout for new primary source materials that only provide a understanding of the predecessors of Kibbe, Kitchener, Zyla, and the like.

One of my favorite websites is Glamour Daze, which collects materials on fashion and beauty that have fallen out of copyright. They sell compendiums by decade on Vintage Makeup Guide. I bought the 1940s guide because it came with an extra book, a scan of a book on charm that I saw included dressing to certain types.

Something I’ve been trying to figure out is when exactly Northrup’s use of yin/yang to create a unique style identity morphed into McJimsey’s series of distinct types. Morton, for instance, changed “yin” and “yang” into masculine and feminine, but her book doesn’t have types.

So far, this book, which is from 1947, is the first book I’ve had come into my possession that has style types. I doubt it was the first, and it doesn’t make use of yin/yang, but it’s still interesting to look at.

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This book seems to have been the accompanying materials for a course called the “Bonomo Original Hollywood ‘Success’ Course,” taught at the Bonomo Culture Institute. The materials date from 1947. Do not be fooled into thinking that the Bonomo Culture Insitute was some highbrow institution or a finishing school. It seems to have been something along the lines of the Barbizon courses or something like that, but what is really strange is that Joe Bonomo, who writes little explanatory letters throughout the book and claims to be the author of the whole thing, was actually a Hollywood stunt man/strongman. I guess that when he lost out on the role of Tarzan to Johnny Weissmuller, he turned to… Teaching women how to dress?

The book also has sections on things like diet and exercise and applying makeup to enhance your facial features, but we’re going to focus on just the style type and clothing sections. The types this book uses are: the Womanly Woman, the Aristocrat, the Exotic Woman, the Outdoor Woman, the Gamine, and the Sophisticate. This week, I will start putting up posts for each type.

Try and guess what each type is supposed to be in the comments, and I’ll be back tomorrow with an explanation of the Womanly Woman.

Dark Autumn Blonde, Part Three

Yesterday I received the first edition of Grace Morton’s The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance in the mail. The second edition from 1955 is available online, complete and completely free thanks to Cornell University. The one I have is slightly different; for instance, in the clothing personality chapter, Morton uses “masculine” and “feminine,” and the revised, posthumous 1955 edition uses “yin” and “yang.” Regardless of which edition you read, it’s a book filled with dense information about everything we care about: style, line, movement, color… It’s definitely a book I recommend either downloading from the Cornell site or picking up cheaply on Amazon. A lot of it is antiquated, such as the section on how your personal appearance should make you “marriageable,” and the fact that there is no information on coloring for women of color. The information it does have, however, is incredibly helpful, and echoes of her work can be found in everyone who came after her.

(This book also solidified my view that McJimsey is the one who came up with the “types” as such. There are a few more books from this era I want to obtain, but so far, I haven’t really found anything that predates her that uses Dramatic, Classic, Romantic, etc.)

A lot of the masculine/feminine (yin/yang) stuff basically repeats what we already know from Northrup. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing, since, as I said above, the material in this book is pretty dense, but from what I have read, what has interested me the most is the information about color. She groups people by hair color, and then hair color subgroups.

Obviously what interested me most is the section that applies to me, the blondes. She says that the best colors for blondes are blue-greens and violets, of both the red-violet and blue-violet variety. I find this true, for the most part–these are easy colors for me to wear, the ones I can steal from most palettes.

But I also found some kind of recognition for the thing that confuses me the most about my coloring:

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This is the first thing I’ve found that says that some blondes do better in medium-to-dark value colors. Conventional wisdom gives blondes light pink lipsticks and puts them in light blue dresses. Getting the Light Spring palette was life-changing moment for me; the sheer terribleness of the colors on me turned everything I had always been told about color in relation to myself on its head. I’d never seen myself look so red and unhealthy. It took me a long time to figure out what was missing. It turned out to be darkness.

Darkness, for me, is magical. Even colors on the Dark Autumn palette that fall on the brighter side of things are hard for me to wear. I love Dark Autumn yellow, but if I wear it by itself, I lose some jawline definition. When I put on a lipstick described as “warm, rusty brown,” it loses all brown and looks like a nice, rosy pinkish-red. I used to gravitate toward spring colors in makeup. Now I understand why I’d look at myself in the mirror and wipe off my lipstick before I left the house. I didn’t even wear lipstick on a regular basis before this year because I had no idea what colors worked for me.

I’m a blonde, but I happen to need darkness to come alive–which is something the color world has seemed to kind of forgotten since 1942. Certainly beauty magazines and makeup companies have. It’s always nice to get a little confirmation about what you see in the mirror and in yourself.

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