A fashion expert speaks her mind: WOMEN ARE COWARDS ABOUT CLOTHES
“MOST WOMEN bitterly resist putting anything on their backs they haven’t already seen on a platoon of other women’s. Time and again. I've found women just adoring — three years later — styles that left them cold when they first came out. They’re cowards. They have neither the desire nor the courage to find out what bold and exciting new fashions could do for them."
Who said that? Jane Harris, the woman studying fashion sketches in the picture above. Who’s she? A youthful Montreal grandmother who says she is as daring and original about clothes as she can find clothes to be daring and original about. Back to her Pine Avenue dress shop, to drape such Canadian women as have the nerve to wear them, she has brought Canada's first knitted jerseys and nylon taffetas, the first Indian sari cloths and the first Terylene fabrics. What has her adventurous approach to fashion taught her about women who think they're daring about clothes?
“The other day I gave a fashion show, and in preparing the collection I forgot all about arranging something new for myself. I wore a costume that had been in my wardrobe for two years. Three clients wanted the same thing for themselves. and when 1 protested that it was no longer in my collection, one of them wanted to buy it off my back."
The other women on these pages were just passing by on the streets of Montreal. To a male eye — and maybe even to most female eyes — they include every type from the knockout to the never-mind. but to Jane Harris they are all guilty of sins against good clothes sense. Overleaf are some of Jane Harris’s models, who are all presumably dressed as women should be dressed. And then there is Jane Harris herself, in three costume changes, and some notes on how' her clothes look. CONTINUED NEXT PAGE
Where most women go wrong about clothes
By slavishly following fashion magazines: “The pathetic thing about all the poor creatures who try to stay ‘in style’ this way,” according to Jane Harris, “is that the magazines themselves are from six months to two years behind the real styles. They not only wind up wearing the same uniform as the other readers—it’s an outdated uniform.”
By overdressing because they’re afraid of simplicity: “The rage for accessories brings out armies of women who would only be at ease in a second-hand store window.”
By copying good styles but skimping on material: “A good dressmaker should be able to duplicate a fashionable style adequately. But as little as a half-yard of material can make the difference between a good and bad copy, and too often the dressmaker tries to save the half-yard.”
What one couturier does right—sometimes
“What is a good set of rules for the well-dressed woman? Well,” Miss Harris says, “when I go to Paris or Rome my first thoughts are for colors and fabrics. Yellow can be lovely in linen, ugly in velvet. It’s not till I’ve seen the new colors that I look at new inspirations in style. Only the harmonious blending of color, texture and cut will enable a woman to be truly well dressed.” Although she thinks most women everywhere fail to strike this harmony, she does have a kind word for her neighbors. “There is a certain charm in the Canadian woman’s modesty of appearance that contrasts with the overdressed New Yorker, the freakishly dressed Parisienne, and the casually-turned-out Londoner.” And what of Miss Harris herself? Her clothes, and the clothes her models choose to wear, appear here. For some comments on them, see the facing page.
Photographed behind the scenes at a fashion show she recently gave in Ottawa for diplomats’ wives, Miss Harris and her models are very chic in some outfits, not so chic in others. The knit dress worn by the model above is dated, and the pattern of the knitwork has been around for years. While the high pillbox hat of textured straw, below, is both elegantly simple and very much in the mode, the hat Miss Harris wears on the opposite page is not. On the other hand, the tunic dress
below, right, is a good illustration of Miss Harris’s contention that most women are too timid about clothes. Almost any woman who did bring herself to wear it would be so afraid of its loose, figure-defining lines that she’d belt it up. Far right, below, Miss Harris struts her chic again, but it’s going around for the second time. She’s wearing a blouson, which is a blouse gathered in with a drawstring. Blousons were stylish a few years ago, and by next fall they’ll be back for a second run. ★
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.