Test Your Fashion – A 1958 Examination in Good TasteJune 26, 2021
Picture the scene. It’s 1958. You like clothes, but you have no taste. Or do you? Argh. You read a magazine, but the artful black and white images of angular models in Hardie Amies don’t help with your personal style. Desperate, you turn to the local lending library. Ah, here it is. Useful. “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Good Taste”. Great! You’re a woman. You’re intelligent – why, you’re reading a book! This is totally going to work. You study the work, which has authors by authorities like Audrey Withers and Madge Garland. But suddenly you’re even more nervous – have you understood correctly? Luckily, here is this handy way to test your fashion. Let’s see how well you do!
This is based on a real etiquette guide, though even the original is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But only somewhat – they are joking-but-not-joking, you know? Much like the piles of style and etiquette books we still have today. How to Dress for Your Shape. How to be Parisian. Modern Etiquette for a Better Life. 50 Essential Etiquette Lessons. So many publications ready to tell you how wrong you are. Anyway, here we go, good luck!
Test your fashion
1. If port wine was the colour of the season and you knew from experience that it made your hair look like mud and your skin like parchment, would you:-
- Wear it and be damned?
- Stick to the shade of navy you have been wearing for the last fifteen years?
- Confine it to accessories?
2. Can tweed be worn in London?
3. If under five feet or over five feet eight inches, would you wear a leopard coat?
4. Are four or five gold bracelets smarter than one?
5. Are trousers suitable for shopping in a country town?
6. Are trousers suitable for riding?
7. Are trousers suitable for golf?
8. Are deodorants Non-U?
9. You are going to a fashionable wedding on a summer afternoon. Would you wear eye make-up?
10. Is bad conversation better than none on social occasions?
11. If you answer the phone and it is someone you dislike at the other end, can you pretend you are out?
12. The arbiters of thought and behaviour who exercise most influence upon the life of the Good Taste woman are:
- Beverly Nichols, Godfrey Winn, Monica Dickens, Nancy Spain, Denise Robins, Lady Barnett and Mrs Gerald Legge
- Cyril Connolly, Nancy Mitford, and the editors of Harper’s Bazaar
13. Test Your Fashion – Should one take a job?
14. Do you see the gulf between a mini-piano and a clavichord?
15. Is a homophone:
- An aspirated commercial for a detergent?
- A call-box for men only?
- A source of verbal games?
16. Test Your Fashion – If you want a rise, should you:
- Find out what the others get?
- Threaten to resign?
- Ask for one nicely?
- Wait and see what happens next Christmas?
17. If you did embroidery:
- Would you ever make a table runner?
- Would you ever decorate a tea-cosy with hollyhocks?
18. If you discovered your husband was having an affair with another woman, would you:
- Have it out with him?
- Have it out with her?
- Order the full treatment at Liz Arden and get tickets for a show?
- Divorce him?
19. If your boyfriend made an improper suggestion, would you:
- Talk about the weather?
- Refuse, giving reasons?
- Slap his face?
20. The Good Taste Woman goes to the theatre:
- To have a good laugh.
- To have a good cry.
- To find out whether she agrees with Ken Tynan.
9 Definitely yes
17 No and no again
Test Your Fashion – How did you do?
The Awards Ceremony
20 Correct Answers
Well done! Although you don’t need my seal of approval, you already know very well that you are an arbitrator of glowing Good Taste. You will never be talked about in the society pages for your terrible faux pas. Basically, you make the rules. No need at all to test your fashion.
Just be careful, because nobody likes an unqualified success. Right now, someone is combing through your tweets and any day now you’ll be @ at for a newly unfashionable opinion. Your best move is to apologise unreservedly, take a social media cleanse, and appear back in three weeks as if nothing has happened.
Test Your Fashion – Silver Star
16 Correct Answers or Above
You do not make the trends nor fall wildly outside the box. You carefully follow the general standard and earnestly hope to get it right. Tall or short, you would never wear leopard print. You think that red lipstick is daring and crazy. You are not noticeable, and that’s a good thing in your reckoning.
10 Correct Answers or so
You can get a job on any red top’s celebrity website tomorrow. Basically, there’s a 50/50 chance of getting it right, and that’s what you got. It’s not important whether something is right or wrong, it’s important that you state your opinion and everyone hears it. Are you Piers Morgan?
Test Your Fashion – Ladybird Sticker
Anything below 8.
You are a duffer, you have no taste, and you probably even like your sticker. You will stick it on the lapel of your leopard print coat, which you wear though you are far too short.
The remedy: Join a Facebook group for gold star holders. Get involved in endless comments on whether Kim K is a perfect parody or perfectly dreadful. Ask yourself, can Victoria Beckham ever be truly rehabilitated? Ask the group. Leave the group, as the notifications are getting annoying. It’s lockdown, the questions of “What to wear in London” or “Which makeup is best for a summer wedding?” are so remote that you can only sigh, pull your leggings on, and wish for a day when it actually mattered – 1958 or 2021, you’ll settle for either.
This is an edited version of some of the questions and answers from “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Good Taste”, ed Susan Chitty, published 1958 by MacGibbon & Kee.