by Minnie Apolis
At first glance, a title that tells you how to get dressed seems rather insulting. I mean, I have been able to dress myself since grade school if not earlier, thank you very much. But right on the book cover it says, "A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing." Costume designer, as in Hollywood? Secrets, as in stuff only the "in" crowd knows? Clothes that are amazing? Well then, let me step right up and take a look at that book there, sister.
Perusing this book is not enough. You really need to take some notes throughout because the little stain and fabric guides in the back are all-inclusive as far as tips to live by. Oh those stain and fabric guides in the back are nifty, don't get me wrong. But I found I really needed to check through the book again for those little things to add to my shopping list because they will solve so many problems for me.
You will find out things like which alterations are worth it and which ones are too involved to be worth the cost. Why pay way extra for athletic fit shirts when you can have the side seams taken in for next to nothing? (Psst, this is where I feel miles ahead of the crowd because I have my own sewing machine and could do most if not all of the suggested tinkering.) Possibly the greatest gift the author gives her readers is permission to change store-bought items to suit your body and your life.
You will find out amazing uses for humble items like cornstarch, safety pins, hangers from the dry cleaners, moleskin, Static Guard, Wet Ones, nonstick cooking spray, cat litter and more. (This chapter is the main one for making a shopping list from.) This info could save your life if you spill something on a suit at lunch and you have to give a presentation in an hour!
Along the way, Ms Freer also skewers a handful of "Dumb Fashion Rules That Were Made for Breaking" -- you tell 'em, Alison! Another chapter is devoted to men's wear, one is on how to arrive at and describe your own personal style, another on how to shop the thrift stores. There's a whole chapter on storing your clothes (let them breathe!), and one on the unmentionables. She explains why your pants are riding up and why your skirt is riding the merry-go-round about your waist. She explains why us ladies need slips and camisoles, and how to solve bra fitting problems.
One of my fave chapters is all about shoe care for whatever type of material they are made of; you can use some products on manmade materials that are too drying for leather, for example. I like the part where she explains how to bring shoes back from the dead, too.
"Make sure to allow your shoes to dry out completely between wearings. This can be helped along by stuffing newspaper inside each shoe to absorb the excess moisture that's left behind. you can also make your own moisture absorbing inserts by filling a pair of old socks with either activated charcoal ... or plain old baking soda. ... While silica crystal sachets (like the homemade cat litter versions we talked about making back on page 172) are a good choice for combating moisture when putting your shoes away for the season, baking soda or charcoal versions are what you need if you're fighting foot stink..."
While calling this book a gold mine of wardrobe tips might be going a wee bit too far, perhaps calling it a silver mine is fitting (no pun intended, ha!).
Shall I nitpick? I waver on her choice of treatment for blood stains, since I have had good results overall with hydrogen peroxide, a liquid that she touts for some other keen applications. While she expects invisible zippers to fall apart under normal use and advocates swapping them for metal zippers, I have never had a problem with them. Also there were just a couple typos and a wrong page number given. All picayune stuff.
Ms Freer even includes a few funny stories taken from her career as a costume designer on television series, although to her credit she has the decency to refrain from dropping names.
Let me just give this a quick five stars so I can get back to making my shopping list, OK?
[This book was obtained for free from Blogging For Books in return for publishing an online review. No strings were attached re demanding a positive review or anything like that.]
How to Get Dressed, Alison Freer, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2015, 242 pages including stain and fabric guides and index. ISBN: 978-1607747062