It would be prudent for the beginner on the journey to correct and beautiful dress to cease all purchasing and shopping for clothes, until she has formulated a strong plan and decided the order in which to procure the necessary garments and accessories. Things bought on impulse – even very pretty things – and without a clear understanding of their meaning and use in creating workable ensembles end up swallowing your clothing allowance and will leave you with the dreaded “nothing to wear” amidst plenty of clothes and knickknacks. As has been previously remarked, you can not be properly and becomingly dressed merely by wishing it. You have to decide what your wardrobe needs, and then work at getting exactly those items. When you have a compact good wardrobe, then you can go a bit silly in getting silk flowers, little scarves, pretty dress jewelry, fancy veils, festive dresses, or whatever else tickles your fancy. But until then, direct your attention to most necessary garments. Two dozen sequined dresses of pink and baby blue tulle do not help one bit, no matter how gorgeous they are, if you really need a suit, or a cotton house-dress. So do not get carried away by pretties suitable for one kind of occasion only, unless you have a clothes allowance to rival queens.
A careful study of the whole wardrobe is necessary in order to determine the kind and number of clothes needed. This will depend on the amount of money one can afford to spend for clothes and on the needs of the person; in other words, the social demands of the community and the individual life of the lady in question. One engaged in business life will have different needs from the one who is the home maker.
The first things to consider are suitability and economy, right after having made up one’s mind to heretofore always purchase clothes which represent beauty, propriety and good taste. It is more economical and advantageous to the woman of moderate income to do her shopping according to a plan. If your income is limited, never buy things unless there is a particular need. Evening wraps lined with white satin are not apt to be economical expenditures for a woman of moderate means – although one must arrange to have a handsome evening wrap, if her social life is such as to make one necessary. But in that case the smart plan would be to make one yourself or buy an amusing and quaint antique one for cheap, and then wear it with an air of a leading society lady.
List all the occasions which regularly happen in your life, and find out what are the requirements for dress on those occasions. Consider how you wish to present yourself. What are the situations, where you wish to be dressed best? Think about your clothing budget – try to arrive at some sum, which you can designate for clothes. It will invariably lead to poorly planned and mismatching purchases, if you have no idea about the amount of money you can yearly invest in clothes. Perhaps you are putting off acquiring the very necessary suit or good winter coat, because of the vague feeling that there is not enough money, but at the same time spend exactly as much on fripperies and knickknacks. Don’t be vague. Count your assets and make a specific plan.
Recommended reading for the budget-conscious woman about to embark on a journey of good dressing:
How to Dress on 15 Pounds a Year as a Lady by Millicent Whiteside Cook
(The 15 pounds mentioned in the title translate to approximately 1200 pounds in today’s money. Although some of the advice is slightly dated, especially the parts discussing bustles, the general tone and spirit of the book is excellent and there is plenty of useful advice).
Orchids on Your Budget: or Live Smartly on What Have You by Marjorie Hillis. Very smart, if occasionally scathing advice on budgeting in such a way as to get what you want out of life, without ending up in the poorhouse. Excellent chapter on the handsome wardrobe on a meager budget.