It’s 2017, and a confusing time to be a woman. On the one hand, I want to be a successful woman, in control of my own destiny and making my way in the world. On the other hand, I just need a man to tell me how to make other men want to marry me. Preferably by manipulating that other man with my mode of dress.
Luckily for me, there exists this book – The Woman’s Dress for Success Book. Printed in 1977, it’s obviously an absolute goldmine of excellent and not at all sexist advice. I think we can assume this is the first of many conversations we’ll have about what I shall now refer to as The Book, but for today I thought, what chapter could possibly be more interesting, and important, than the chapter entitled “Dressing to Attract Men”? The answer is: possibly only the chapter about how to be a good Executive Wife. But I must walk before I run, and I must first attract a man before I can become his wife. Let’s find out what I’ve been doing wrong, shall we?
First it’s important to note that this information is based on research, including research done “at hotels during conventions”. God knows that if I had wanted a man’s unbiased opinion about what makes women attractive in 1977 I too would have gone directly to the bar of some shady hotel during a dentistry convention – that’s just good science.
We must begin by picking the husband we want from the following options:
Men in High-Risk Professions
Artists, Musicians, Writers
Men in High-Fashion Industries
Men with Old Money
Men with New Money
Doctors, Scientists, Accountant and Engineers
Professional Army Officers
And that’s it. Woe betide any woman who wants to attract a man who is, I don’t know, a patisserie chef or some kind of IT whizz (to be fair, did IT exist in 1977? Maybe they count as a scientist).
I immediately struck off Old Money, Professional Army Officers, and Blue-Collar Workers. While you meet all types on Tinder, I’m yet to naturally encounter any of these men in my dating pool, so it’s unlikely that dressing to attract them is a worthwhile use of my time.
Right! Let’s start with lawyers. I meet lots of lawyers, and if we put aside the fact that two lawyers dating each other is the worst thing I can imagine, at least they are readily available. This section starts with this great excerpt:
“Frankly, Mr Molloy,” the new woman lawyer said, “I’m more interested in marrying a partner than becoming one.”
PREACH, mystery woman lawyer. Who wants to spend all day using their apparently very good brain to solve interesting and complex problems, building themselves a degree of financial independence in the meantime, when they could marry a partner in a law firm, instead! Bonus: if your husband’s a partner in a law firm, he makes pots of money and is hardly ever home, and, when he is home, he’s so stressed out he’ll barely speak to you or your children! A quiet, well-financed life. What more could any young woman want.
Bad news for me team – turns out male lawyers are “attracted to women who look like they would make excellent witnesses”. That means: quiet and conservative, avoiding large costume jewellery, no noticeable makeup or anything that “flashes sexuality” (I mean, that’s probably not a look you should be going for in the workplace in 1977 anyway, mystery woman), and lots of beige, dark blue, and white. Please feel free to randomly select any post from this blog, and I think we can see why I am not yet the homemaker for a successful man in a suit with a briefcase.
No problem! Let’s keep a positive attitude. I also meet lots of Corporate Businessmen. Apparently that means I can be “moderately fashionable”, which is definitely a step up from “looks like a woman who witnessed a serious crime”. Unfortunately for me, “[my] man has been trained to conform” – not exactly getting me worked up here, Author – and I’m not allowed to be the first one in my area to try a new trend. Preferably, I’ll only wear things that have been popular for at least six years. I’m a 34 year old woman who owns several pairs of dungarees. I’m not catching the eye of a businessman, it would seem.
Alright, so far we’ve confirmed why I’m not doing well with attracting men who I have a lot of exposure to. Truth be told, I thought it was a combination of my fairly obvious lack of interest in them and how I snigger at the way they play air cricket when they’re standing around talking to each other (my career progression is assured). The Book has brought me down to earth with a bump – it is, in fact, my choice of bright colours and gaudy earrings that has rendered me unwed.
Time to turn it around. Since I’m verging on spinsterhood, let’s be honest and go with – whichever category is most likely to be naturally attracted to me. That’s the man I’m trying to attract with my mode of dress – whichever one already thinks what I’m doing over here is okay. I’m supremely lazy, so I think we all know I’m not shifting my wardrobe to “conservative classics” in an effort to lock down a dude with a trust fund and a jet. Please hold while I read this chapter in an effort to find that elusive group of men.
Turns out my choices are: doctors, or artists. Seems like two entirely different things, but there you go.
Doctors “have no sense of where clothes are appropriate”, so you can dress like a lunatic in a silk dress for a picnic in the woods, and Mr Dream Doctor will not be able to tell you are sliding into Grey Gardens territory. So far, so perfect.
Artists, on the other hand, are attracted to women who put together colour “well”. Apparently a yellow blouse, green skirt, and an orange sleeveless sweater, worn together, gets the male artist’s motor running (I’m imagining this look and I’m only now understanding exactly how many drugs people were taking in the 70s). They are pretty much the exception to every other man in this chapter, all of whom apparently are keen for women to wear beige, navy or pastels.
I’ll keep you updated, dear blog readers, on my progress in meeting any artists/doctors and whether or not wearing All The Colour with scant regard for conservatism pays off. This time next month we’ll cover off how to dress for success at work, just in case this husband-hunting thing doesn’t pay off for me. Stay tuned!