Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Eleanore King's Studio Secret Dress Chart

Welcome to my very first Vintage Thingies Thursday post! I'd like to thank Elizabeth for alerting me to Coloradolady's meme. I'd prefer to call it "Vintage Things Thursday," but alas, the meme wasn't mine to name.  It is right up my alley, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to participate, even though this blog is primarily about the celebration of all things vintage!

For this very first post, I'd like to introduce you to the fabulous Eleanore King's Studio Secret Dress Chart Rule of Fourteen, that did indeed, tell the women of the late 1940s and early 1950s if they were overdressed at a glance:

According to Sharon Fisher-Larson in New Twists for Teaching Professional Wardrobe, the originator of the Rule of Fourteen was a "famous Parisian couturier" who announced in Godley's Lady's Book that "no lady should appear in a street outfit that was comprised of more than fourteen eye-arresting elements."  On the  first page in the booklet we have visual examples of the Over Dressed, Smartly Dressed, and Under Dressed woman:


Just what is that thing perched on the Over Dressed Woman's head?  It's hard to believe such a silly-looking hat was made and sold.  Though I wouldn't mind a pair of those platforms.

Included are a list of accessories to match each occasion, and a pictorial chart of accessories a woman might choose according to the event:

This edition of the Dress Chart hails from 1950.  Unfortunately, I don't have the beauty book, Glorify Yourself, in which this chart was included. It is now next on my list of vintage beauty books to acquire!  I have a feeling that the Dress Chart was the free gift with purchase mentioned in the ads of the time for this book.

And it must have been a very popular book, as newspaper articles were written about Ms. King's work.  Google News Service has digitized the September 26, 1948 edition of the Eugene Register-Guard in which you'll find the article For Safety Remember the 'Fourteen Count' to Look Your BestI suppose it was thought to be dangerous to be overdressed!

Today, the "Fourteen Count" continues to be invoked for protection against overdressing.  In a short web article entitled How to Look Your Professional Best, the Rule of Fourteen is cited as being one of the "tricks of the trade" by Dr. Everlyn Johnson, an apparel and textiles specialist at Mississippi State University.  Her contemporary list of apparel to count are as follows:
  • Each visible item of clothing.
  • Each accent color.
  • Each pattern or textured fabric.
  • Each decorative trim.
  • Each piece of jewelry.
  • Colored nail polish.
  • Colored toenail polish (if toes show).
  • Colored or textured hose.
  • Hat.
  • Handbag (3 points if it is multicolored, has contrasting trim, or has decorative hardware.)
  • Exposed handkerchief.
  • Contrasting belt (2 points if it is especially ornate).
  • Decorative, eye-catching buttons.
  • Eyeglasses (2 points if ornate or in a fashion color).
I hope that you've enjoyed this first edition of Vintage Thingies Thursday, and I hope that it will keep us all from leaving the house overdressed in the future.  As an extra tidbit, don't miss the society pages in the September issue of the Register-Guard for some lovely vintage wedding dresses.  There are also a few vintage ads to peruse too.


  1. What a great post..Welcome to Vintage Thingies Thursday...actually, I did not name the meme, I took it over for a lady last year who had to stop blogging, and it was such a fun day...I did not want it to end. I kept everything the same...LOL

    I really enjoyed your post...and I am never overdressed when I leave home...

    Have a great weekend. And Happy VTT

  2. What an interesting post! I learned quite a bit, I think I am most often underdressed!

  3. Coloradolady, I think it's a great meme, even if I would have named it differently. I'm glad that you took it over, because I've really enjoyed the posts I've read in the last week or too! Thanks for keeping it up!

  4. Lemondrop Marie -- I am so glad that you enjoyed the post! I learned a lot too in researching the history behind the Rule of Fourteen!


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