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Costume design legend Edith Head's style manual gets a spiffy new reprint

March 29, 2011 |  7:40 am

Edith Step 4 of Edith Head's "success formula for dressing to get and keep a husband":

Don't masquerade in clothes that you hate to attract a man. Be sure you are really, deep down, his type of girl. If you aren't -- find another man.

The advice is nearly half a century old but still as right as rain.

The list is one of dozens of gleefully bossy rule rundowns in the classic fashion book "How to Dress for Succcess," written by the costume designer who outfitted movie stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly in more than 1,000 films during her Hollywood career.

The circa-1967 tome, which was out of print for eons until recent republishings, has been reprinted by Abrams books in a snazzy, lavender cloth-bound cover that matches the book's snappy but ladylike tone.

Head, who won eight Academy Awards in her career (more than any other female in history), was famous for her restraint when it came to designing for movies — a trait that makes the advice in "How to Dress for Success" all the more impervious to the passage of time.

Some pearls of wisdom that still stand up:

* Advice for sallow complexions: Regardless of the other colors in your "picture," stay away from all colors that have a yellow cast: yellow, yellow beige, orangey red, yellow browns, gold and tan. Light colors --  pastels and white -- are good because they tend to make you look tan rather than yellow.

* If you are "heavier than you should be or want to be": Shun bulky, nubby and hairy fabrics. ... Stay away from shiny surfaces such as satin, sequins or lamé. ... Wear solid colors, preferably dark ones. ... Confine brilliant colors to small touches or trims.

* On underwear: "The time to buy new undergarments is not every time you buy something new, but every time there is a change in the fashion silhouette.

* On hats: There is no flatterer (with the possible exception of a Latin lover) more certain to make a woman look younger and prettier than a hat.

We couldn't agree more.

-- Emili Vesilind

Photo: The reprinted "How to Dress for Success." Credit: Abrams