How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer’s Secrets for Making your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing – Alison Freer (2015)


I tend to dress up quite a bit for my job now that I’m in a leadership position, and so every now and then, it’s fun to read a style guide to pick up any tips or fixes that might be appropriate for me. I’m not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like to look nice in my professional life and otherwise.

So I happened to see this title on the New Titles shelf and checked it out expecting — not much, really. I thought it was going to be all “Sex and the City” runway fashion ideas and weird photography of skinny young people (e.g. ‘arty pictures of runway models with television aerials on their heads’ sort of thing) when it was actually much more useful than that. Quelle surprise.

The author, Alison Freer, is a professional costume designer in LA in the media business and has a few years behind her so she knows the business. She also knows clothing and how to make your clothes good on you, and she had loads of enthusiasm and some good ideas as you might surmise from the number of page flags seen here:


So, as the book is more of a handbook to pick up and put down, I thought this review would work best if I presented the info in note form. You may well pick up different ideas from me though if you read this. To the notes:

  • A skirt that spins around your waist during your day is probably due to the skirt fitting your hips and not your waist. The solution: have a tailor put darts in around the waist (that’s probably too big for you), and then it won’t spin. It also happens when a skirt is cut into a cylindrical shape as opposed to an hourglass shape (which is the shape of a lot of women.) The fix: buy the skirt that fits your hips and have a tailor add a few darts and take in the (probably too big) waist.

Well I never….

  • There’s a long procedure to check whether your blouses or shirts fit you. (Haven’t done this yet with my shirts, but did bother to take rough notes about the process so think that there might be some validity to it…)
  • If you have a favorite piece of clothing but it has one or two scratchy seams, buy a sheet of moleskin (that stuff for your feet), and then put the sticky side actually on that seam when you wear it. (Because you love it enough to put up with the scratchy seam that won’t be scratchy any more. Obvs this won’t stay on for a wash or similar, but it works for that evening or day.)
  • It’s worth buying the commercial wrinkle-release sprays for when you have wrinkles but not time to drag the iron out. (I actually quite like ironing when I pull out all the equipment, but it takes quite a lot to get me to do that. I find it a bit of a rigmarole.)
  • Wool boucle [just imagine the accent on the ‘e’] (French for “curled”) is made by wrapping at least two different yarns into a twisted pattern.
  • Corduroy – the ribs are called “wales” and range from in thickness from three to twenty-one ribs per inch.
  • Peau de soie – the material that dyeable wedding shoes (and similar) is made of. It’s a quite a heavy weight that takes dye evenly.

And lots of other random facts. Overall, this was both an interesting and a fun read, worth trying for non-fashionistas as well. As an afterthought, the author’s love of clothes was pretty infectious and she did make me want to go through my wardrobe (which I ended up doing).