How To Be Sophisticated?—Dana Wynter
I’m here to preach sophistication for teenage girls, a nice kind of sophistication. In England, where I grew up, girls dressed very, very youthfully and wore no make-up at all until they were seventeen or so—I’ll get to make-up. later—but in America that needn’t be so. An American young lady can look as grown-up as she likes, provided she does so in a nice way. And I think I may have a few helpful suggestions.
First of all, and most important, a teenager can wear sheaths! Nothing is more sophisticated than a straight-line dress: all the top models and most really well-dressed women prefer them for all but the dressiest occasions. They are neat and simple, and you can wear a sheath almost anywhere—shopping, to dinner, even out dancing. Any time you’re not sure where you’re going, it’s the perfect solution. They don’t wrinkle the way a full skirt does, because there’s less to them. And you don’t take up two seats in the movies or on the bus as you do wearing a dozen crinolines and petticoats!
The one problem with a sheath is that you must be fairly slim to wear one well. Many teenagers have trouble with weight, of course. I did. I was always putting on pounds! Naturally, that prevents you from wearing a perfectly straight dress. I recommend diet and sports—everyone does—but while you’re waiting for the pounds to disappear, you don’t have to be stuck with dirndles and flounces that pretend to hide your posterior and actually only make you look worse. The answer is to look for a dress that is straight in the front, with some fullness in the back. They’re making a great many of these today, and not only are they good for camouflage but they allow you to walk more freely than a perfectly straight sheath would. One word of warning: look for a print or a solid-color in your sheath—or even a stripe if it isn’t too dramatic. Not a black one, please, or a slinky one in satin or crepe until you are in your twenties. A pastel-colored sheath will make you look twice as sophisticated as any of your friends in full skirts, without allowing their mothers to raise an eyebrow.
Buy a basic dress
Most girls don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes, but a girl can be very well dressed on a small budget. If she’s careful. For instance, bargains are all very well, but so many people buy things they don’t want or need just because they’ve been marked down. I’ve done it myself. Now I walk past every bargain table with my eyes shut. I pay a little more for what I buy, but I get what I want.
The one thing a girl should spend a little on is a basic dress. I have a long-sleeved turtle-neck black wool dress that I wouldn’t be without for anything in the world. It doesn’t have to be a black outfit. Navy blue does nicely.
Incidentally, this business of a flower or a scarf to brighten up one basic dress is so important. They make such stunning accessories these days, and there is so much you can do with them.
Don’t go bareheaded
About the most unusual thing a girl can do these days,is wear a hat. Why, I don’t know. So few young women wear them now, and almost no girls. Perhaps it is because they do muss up your hair. I can’t deny that I wear my hair for my hats—and still, when I take a hat off, I have to comb my hair again. But the wind can have that effect, too, you know, so that’s no excuse for always going bareheaded. And there is nothing in the world more flattering than a hat, framing a girl’s face in flowers or cloth, bringing out the color of her eyes or her hair, or pointing out the interesting angles of her face.
I have a private theory that the reason most girls won’t wear hats is that they’ve had bad experiences. They’ve bought hats that looked simply stunning in the store; when they walked outside they caught a glimpse of themselves in a store window—and looked so top-heavy and ridiculous! Well, there’s a very simple solution to that—never buy a hat sitting down! Put the hat on, and no matter what the saleslady says, insist you want to see it in a full-length mirror. Then you’ll be able to buy one that looks well when you’re walking in the street!
For myself, I like huge, dramatic hats. I’m tall—5‘ 7” in stockings—so I can wear them. Short girls, and young girls, should stay away from big hats. You don’t have to stick to a cloche, necessarily, though they are very pretty. But if you choose a hat with a brim, it should be fairly small. There’s no reason why it has to be utterly plain, though—since you’ll be wearing a simple, straight-line dress you can certainly have some flowers or color in your hat. And there’s nothing that makes a woman feel more feminine than buying a hat—unless it’s wearing it.
Sophistication—a full time job
As long as we’re getting sophisticated, let’s do it twenty-four hours a day. I don’t like girls in trousers. A woman should check her appearance from every possible angle—like standing up to buy a hat—and no woman can possibly tell how she really looks walking down a street in slacks! Furthermore, if you are just sitting around the house, or even doing housework or homework—it is just as simple to slip into a little dress as a pair of jeans. Then you’re feminine as well as comfortable. When it comes to shorts, that’s a different story. Shorts are cool—which slacks are not—and give you more freedom than either slacks or skirts. But don’t buy them carelessly. Get a chic length and a good fit that will take care of any problems you may have on thighs or hips. A few years ago, I would certainly have said that you should wear only flats with shorts, but now I think heels are permissable. I have found that since I wear heels most of the time, and I like really high, thin ones, a change has taken place in my feet. Flat shoes are uncomfortable for me now. And of course, heels make your ankle look slimmer and your leg look better.
Finally make-up. I go through phases myself. Right now I’m wearing a rather dark rose lipstick, but I’m just pulling out of a period in which I wore a lipstick as light as my first one—a pale natural shade. In this day of bright red mouths, you’d be amazed how striking this is. Sometimes I change lipsticks with my clothes, matching them. I own about five lipsticks, I suppose. I don’t think American girls need keep their faces scrubbed and shiny until they are seventeen, as English girls do. The touch of lipstick and the dash of powder on a shiny nose—that we didn’t start using until we were seventeen—is perfectly appropriate here several years earlier. But when you start using more elaborate make-up, go lightly. And above all, don’t set your eyes and mouth at war with each other for attention. Don’t neglect either, but underplay one so that the other becomes your most important feature.
And that’s the secret of sophistication. Just as with the simple dress and the bright hat, let the eye fall mostly on one striking point. That way you’ll always make a smart impression—as a bright young woman who knows how to dress and look her age.
—BY DANA WYNTER
Watch for Dana in the 20th Century-Fox film The Sun Also Rises, and in MGM’s Something Of Value.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE APRIL 1957