The other week I read Shocking life-the autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli, and I’d like to return to it once more. As I noted on Instagram I felt there was some great stories in this book but the designer’s instance of referring to herself in the third person made it a less then thrilling read. I wish an editor had stepped in at some point.
On the next to last page there is a list of The twelve commandments for women. This does ring a bell, I vaguely remember a Swedish magazine or possibly a radioshow bringing them up at some point, but then again as they are well known what I have to say about them is probably old hat, but here they are. These commandments were written in the 50’s and based on her experiences as a couturier but how do they hold up?
1. Since most women don’t know themselves they should try to do so.
Agreed. Knowing yourself, what suits you and what you need are probably vital for putting together a useful closet.
2. A woman who buys an expensive dress and changes it,often with disastrous results, is extravagant and foolish.
This is still good advice. But there is a certain pleasure in being extravagant and foolish, and buying an expensive dress might get you qualified as that to begin with.
3. Most women (and men) are color-blind. They should ask for suggestions.
I don’t think she means actually color-blind but rather bad a knowing what colours suit them and which go well with one another. Asking for advice is a good strategy.
4. Remember-twenty per cent of women have inferiority complexes. Seventy per cent have illusions.
Really? I would say nowadays the numbers are reversed.
5. Ninety per cent are afraid of being conspicuous and of what people will say. So they buy a grey suit. They should dare to be different.
Supposedly by following commandment three that should be sorted. And a grey suit can be a good base for some wonderful accessories. I wouldn’t mind having a grey suit actually, mixing it up with some chartreuse blouses or a raspberry red t-shirt(long sleeves).
6. Women should listen and ask for competent criticism and advice.
This list isn’t well-written, this should come before number three and then the piece of advice after that should specify “in particular when it comes to colour”. It’s all very anti-Chanel who’s palette was very much about neutrals. They were enemies of course, Coco once(allegedly) put Elsa in the pathway of a burning candle and she caught fire.
7. They should choose their clothes alone or in the company of a man.
I prefer shopping alone as if I’m out with someone else I will spend more time on helping them then looking for myself. And if women should ask for competent advice, can staff be trusted? Not everywhere, a well-chosen friend is probably better. Personal shoppers can be hired, might not be a bad idea for some.
8. They should never shop with another woman, who sometimes consciously and often unconsciously is apt to be jealous.
Disagree. I’m an excellent shopping partner, and I know other women who are as well. And the women you can’t shop with because of jealousy will probably be like that in other areas of your life too, and maybe that’s not a relationship to invest in or maybe have an honest talk.
9. They should buy little, and only of the best or the cheapest.
This actually sounds rather cool. Still valid. But remember that “fast-fashion” is cheap because the price doesn’t reflect the use of common resources and sub-standard working conditions and is in reality very costly for the environment. Go vintage or second-hand. Swap with friends.
10. Never fit the dress to the body, but train the body to fit the dress.
I’m all for women making time to exercise as it’s vital for a good health but don’t do it to fit into a dress. And in this day and age of prêt-a-porter the clothes are made for theoretical body types. I still have to get stuff fitted for a nice silhouette as I’m between sizes and losing more wight would not be the solution.
11. A woman should buy mostly in one place where she is known and respected, ad not rush around trying every fad.
This is good advice. Establishing a personal connection with sales staff with get you better service and advice.
12. And she should pay her bills.
Schiaparelli herself obviously had a problem because her customers didn’t always pay for the clothes in time and despite being a huge commercial success she wasn’t so financially. But always pay your bills, late fees is a waste of money.