Never underestimate the power of a fabulous dress

A book for women who love dresses and love to dress
Do you have a fabulous dress that makes you feel invincible?  Well darlings, you are not alone; the right dress or pair of shoes can be magical.
 
And, if you think caring deeply about fashion makes you a lightweight, think again. Some of the most accomplished women I know are mad for fashion. One of the chicest women I know is a senior partner at a national law firm. She lives for fashion. Her business wardrobe is mostly simple Chanel and Prada. Another fashionable friend is an art director. She is in charge of brand development for an international magazine chain. Her taste is impeccable. Her look is very luxe haute hippie.  Another friend lives outside of Boston.  She has a more casual lifestyle than the other two women, but, walking her dog or going to work, she looks elegant. Even with two grown children she is a head-turner.
 
And it is not just my personal friends who can combine a love of fashion with high-powered accomplishments. Huma Mahmood Abedin, who works closely with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was featured in Vogue. She served as traveling chief of staff and "body woman" for Clinton during her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a known fashionista with a penchant for stilettos, in spite of her height. And these were just the first two well-wardrobed women who came to mind.
 
A love affair with fashion can start young.  My grandmother worked in a couture house. I am sure that I inherited my fashion gene from her. In junior high, I could bring her a magazine photo of a dress I wanted and she would just cut the pattern. After buying the fabric it would us only a day to complete the dress. She would make me a new dress every two weeks. My friend, the lawyer’s, face glowed when she talked about her mother making prom gowns for her and her sister.
 
The habit of whipping up the latest style stuck. I remember making a slinky black Diane von Furstenberg wrap from a pattern she had licensed to Vogue. It took a day to make it. I wore it out that night and for many years thereafter. Even while studying at McGill University in Montreal, I would occasionally take a break to make the latest “it” dresses. A few years later, as a young married woman in Montreal, I met a friend who had the same habit. She fed her fashion habit by sewing while studying to be an engineer.
 
I can remember every dress I ever wore for any major occasion in my life, both the happy and sad ones. I learned early on not to underestimate the power of a great dress. The right outfit can enhance good times and act as armor against the bad. I bought a slim white suit from a chic French boutique in Montreal, to wear to graduation. 1930s fashions were all the rage that summer. The white silk shantung suit was perfect. It had a trim belted peplum jacket and sleek pencil skirt. It was chic and a little demure.
 
I wore it to graduation with a pair of strappy white sandals on a hot summer’s day. Later that same summer, my father died unexpectedly. I wore the same outfit to his funeral. It was exactly what he would have wanted me wear to say goodbye on hot summer’s day. I could never find that outfit again. But I doubt I would have worn it anyway. It had served its purpose. There is a lovely photo of me and my father at my graduation – one of the few of us taken together.
 
The Hundred Dress: The Most Iconic Styles of Our Time by Erin McKean, Illustrated by Donna MeHalko, catalogs the most beloved dresses of our era. It is a book for women who love dresses and love to dress. The book contains almost every style of dress imaginable, from the cute mini Baby-Doll to long and elegant Siren gowns.
 
The authors reach a bit in naming some of dresses. I have never heard of dress styles called the Vreeland, the Chanel, and the Biohazard – and I doubt I will again, but the book is cleverly done. Classic dress styles, such as the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the T-shirt, and the “Mondrian,” may provoke a smile and even a fond memory or two. A few others may provoke laughter or even a grimace as you get a flash of fashion’s wackier past. There is a wonderful illustration of each dress with a capsule history as well as who wore it and when.
 
As you read The Hundred Dresses, you may be surprised, as I was, by how many dresses you recognize and how many of them you have worn. You will be reminded to never underestimate the power of a great dress.
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