“Can a man who reads be all bad?”
-Anon Sir, Anon
I take a fierce liking to a person – he may be friend or foe, it matters not – who will buy me books. For Christmas, I received How To Get Dressed by Alison Freer from my brother, Daniel, for whom I possess that fierce liking aforementioned. To begin with, the cover is black, white, and gold, attracting the attention of Rachel Heffington, a notorious magpie. This book is a useful sort of “How To” because, besides collecting a singular array of chapters ranging from getting rid of stains to finding a trustworthy tailor, How To Get Dressed is written from a unique angle: that of a costume designer. Ms. Freer is not just any costume designer – she works within the modern era, which means that her tips on getting clothes to fit, feel, and look amazing are currently useful. A book about pinning Elizabethan ruffs or donning panniers would be interesting, no doubt, but hardly something to write down and use next time you stepped into Nordstrom's Rack.
I peeled through How To Get Dressed on Christmas Day. It's the kind of book that is easy to get lost in. I emerged at dusk, thoroughly determined to have the best outfit planned for the morrow. Perhaps the best thing about Freer's book is the casual, engaging style of its author:
“The jobs I take are particularly unglam – because there is a world of difference between a professional costume designer who dresses actors as the characters they play and a celebrity stylist who exclusively outfits stars for red carpet appearances.
One of us (the celebrity stylist) has every top clothing and jewelry designer in the world on speed dial, while the other (the costume designer, that's me!) usually has only five hundred bucks and a pocket full of ingenuity to get the job done...the thousands of hours I've spent in the trenches figuring out what works for my actors' wardrobes has made me an authority on anything and everything having to do with clothes – from determining what constitutes proper fit to what to do when a wardrobe crisis strikes.”
-from How To Get Dressed by Alison Freer
I found the chapter on “Be Your Own Costume Designer” particularly inspiring as a way to further tailor (ha.ha.) my vision for personal style. Freer recommends thinking of yourself as a character and coming up with a “clever, visual phrase” to describe who you are a person. I don't want to detract from the book (this could be a post of its own in the future) but she advises taking a sheet of paper and writing down many, many things about yourself: your favorite pastimes, from whence you came, your heritage, your profession, your taste in art and music, etc. Then begin to tailor the phrase, even consulting a thesaurus if it helps! Freer calls her main signature style “Backwoods Nouveau” and her secondary, more professional style, “Genteel Bizarro.” Some of her clients' own styles include “Librarian Noir,” “Classic Pop,” “Faux Bespoke,” and others! I found this book full of such unique ideas and I will be coming up with my own catchphrase very soon! Knowing your style down to a clipped, vivid phrase will be helpful as you gather inspiration and add items to your wardrobe, cutting down on items that aren't “you.” Other favorite chapters were “Fit: The True Enemy of Great Style,” “Dumb Fashion Rules That Were Made For Breaking,” and “Store Your Clothes Like The Wardrobe Girls Do.”
In short, How To Get Dressed quickly jumped onto my list of recommended reading. Whether you're interested in developing personal style, getting a peek into the world of costume design, or learning dozens of life-hacks that will quite literally save your sartorial life, this book needs to go on your To Be Read list.
Cheers, and may people continue to over-stock your bookshelves with such awesome gifts!