Today, celebrating what would have been her 116th birthday, Google honored costume designer Edith Head with a fitting, stylish logo doodle. Through the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, Head designed for the most stunning women in Hollywood, including Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak, Jean Harlow, Natalie Wood, Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. Winning eight Oscars, all for costume design, she won more than any other woman. She also owned her own unique look: a short bob, some kind of neckware, and her signature, round-framed glasses. Head was a titan in fashion, starting trends on the silver screen that rippled through mainstream.
She was also a wise bird willing to share her expertise with non-Hollywood elite. In 1967 she penned How to Dress for Success, a fashion guide that’s been continually reprinted since (the most recent edition hit shelves in 2011). Below are a selection of pointers from the book, including Head’s pointed advice on how women can use fashion to attract the opposite sex. A bit outdated or the kind of blunt know-how one needs to hear? You decide.
The first step to designing a wardrobe
“Put on a skintight undergarment and a paper bag over your head with eyeholes cut in it. Look at yourself in the mirror. Minus a head, you’re looking at your torso without the distractions of personality. Ask yourself what kind of body you see. Is it straight or curved? Do the arms look too fat or too thin? How about the legs? Does your tummy stick out? What about the bust? Does it need to be lifted a bit? Are your shoulders narrower than your hips? Do you have bad posture?”
“Many faux pas of fashion can be avoided if you curb your instinctive desire to buy things with your heart instead of your head. If you hunger for certain types of clothes, for which you have little use, put yourself on a diet. Just as you resist too much whipped cream and French pastry to keep your figure in shape, you can say no to those yearned-for but unneeded purchases that lead to a wardrobe that is shapeless and without form.”
On testing an outfit
“Before you are interviewed for the job you want, try on the complete outfit you intend to wear,” she writes. “Look at yourself in the mirror from every angle, including sitting down which is the way you will look most of the time to the person who will make the decision.”
On looking and staying young
“If you sometimes think that your neck is getting shorter with the years, the chances are it’s because your chin is getting bigger. This is a signal to keep away from turtlenecks, which have a tendency to make you look as though you have no neck at all. V-necks, soft cowls and stand-away collars make necks look longer, chins smaller and frame the face without focusing attention on the neck. Matinée-length necklaces and pendants, for the same reason, are far better than base-of-the-neck jewelery.”
“Color plays a very important part in painting a younger picture of you. Soft-focus shades are kindest to mature complexions. Vivid oranges, electric blues and sharp greens are trying for all but the young. Warm beiges with a pink rather than yellow base are flattering to most skins.”
From the infamous second chapter, “How to Dress to Get a Man… and Keep Him”
1. Decide want kind of man you want.
2. Find out what kind of girls he likes.
3. Know what kind of fashions pleases him.
4. Don’t masquerade in clothes you hate just to attract a man. Be sure you are really, deep down inside, this kind of girl. If not, find another man!
5. Learn all you can about him — his hobbies, his interests, his likes, his dislikes.
6. Be interested in his interests.
7. Choose your wardrobe to please him and suit his way of life.
8. After you get him, stay the way you were and don’t relax into a post-marriage slump of careless marriage.
9. Look reasonably enticing in the morning — better at night.
And what better way to end this plethora of advice then with a song about trying to look like Edith Head?
Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on Vulture, Time Out New York, and The Hollywood Reporter. He is the host of the pop culture podcast Operation Kino.