How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing

Image of How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing
Release Date: 
April 14, 2015
Ten Speed Press
Reviewed by: 

Here’s the thing about fashion, taste and style: for many of us who have lived a life of fashion we have learned that maybe two of those qualities can be taught in a cursory way at best. In the majority, good taste is one of those ephemeral qualities that seems to be innate. To some degree, one can be taught style and fashion by reading, and yes, of course, one can always learn about maintenance and good habits by reading, but one can never acquire taste from a book, from a class, or by association; you either have it or you don’t. Rather than look to the author on the subject one need only go as far as Diana Vreeland:

“Of course, one is born with good taste. It’s very hard to acquire. You can acquire the patina of taste.”

For so many of us, Mrs. Vreeland was the “Delphic Oracle” of fashion, taste, and style. Yes, she was as nutty as a fruitcake, but there was so much truth in her lunacy. Ms. Freer is a costume designer who seems to believe that she literally wrote the book on fashion, taste, and style. This of course is certainly not the truth, yet she does offer the reader quite a few helpful hints and tricks about presenting oneself to the outside world. She provides the reader with loads of useless information that only the most well versed fashionphile will ever speak of or ask about. In essence, this is with the greatest of intention but relatively useless, pedantic, or superfluous subject matter in real life unless of course, you are a costume designer!

What needs to be said here is that just because you can wardrobe characters for film or television does not necessarily translate to everyday life. Yes, author Freer may be at the top of her game professionally, but as a fashion and style maven, maybe not. No matter how long you stand in a garage you will not become a car! There is no forgone conclusion that just because you are a costume designer that you will be the definitive voice for style, taste, and fashion. Mrs. Vreeland covered many of these issues during her life and with far more humor and experience and with far less verbiage.

For me, the meat of How to Get Dressed lies in the helpful hints which include chapters on how to store your clothes, tips on doing laundry including stain removal, dry cleaning, shoe care, and the assorted glossaries that reside in the rear of the book. Again, so much of what is written has been said before by many, who, to me, are far more qualified to speak directly on the subject.

If you want to consider this a “how to” manual or a beginner’s primer for dressing, then maybe this is the book for you. But for those of us who have more than a soupçon of knowledge when it comes to fashion, there is no need to reread what you already know.