Future social historians should have a field day with the intricacies of the professional dress code for women in 1983. She should dress for the next rung on the professional ladder, but never two rungs up. "The cardinal rule," image consultant Emily Cho cautions, "is to maintain the level of the position you hold at the office."
All these books aim to give realistic advice on appropriate and "quality"--not high fashion--clothes, buttressed by wardrobe plans, investment wheels, "goof-proof" color combinations, lists of does and don'ts and trendy versus faddy, fill-in-the blanks quizzes and charts, and photos and drawings, many of which are surprisingly ugly. Much of the advice has to do with how to organize the mass of clothing that overflows most women's closets in the twilight of the industrial age. "When in doubt, throw it out," is the best advice, except sometimes there's no place to throw it. Last year before Christmas New York thrift shops were so stuffed that many refused donations.
Several of these books--the ones with the most exclamation points--dispense positive thinking; three of the authors run image consulting services. Two books deal with antique clothes; one mixes fashion and religion; one sees fashion as color . . . hard on the heels of Color Me Beautiful which has sold 1.8 million copies in Ballantine paperback. The best books come out of two New York shops, Streets & Co. and Harriet Love. EXECUTIVE STYLE: Looking it . . . Living It. Created by Mary B. Fiedorek. Written by Diana Lewis Jewell. New Century. 203 pp. $12.95.
"EXECUTIVE STYLE" means avoiding, first, overtly sexy clothing; second, anything that makes a woman look like a man; and, third, anything trendy, This information comes from an executive dressing questionnaire created by Mary Fiedorek, former Bergdorf Goodman buyer who in 1980 opened a shop, Streets & Co., just for executive women. Written in straightforward business lingo the book offers wardrobe inventory charts, page long interviews with, say, a senior partner in investment banking, and a city-by-city business trip guide to transportation, restaurants, exercise and beauty services recommended by women execs in each city. The streets basic business wardrobe costs from $1,500 to $2,000 and includes two suits, one skirt, one blazer and five blouses. LOOKING, WORKING, LIVING TERRIFIC 24 HOURS A DAY. By Emily Cho and Hermine Lueders. Putman. 154 pp. $13.95.Ballantine paperback, $6.95.
EMILY CHO extends the scope of Looking Terrific, her best-selling first book, to schedules ("The underside of getting ahead is keeping ahead"), "support systems" (shopping, closets), and your psyche. Her basic wardrobe of two jackets, four skirts, five blouses, two vests, two pants, mixes into 114 oufits. Cho outlines plans and lists that create little "cushions" of time. " 'Me' time. 'Us' time. Put-up- your-feet time. Read-a-book-without-guilt time. Play-with-the-baby time." Social historians, note the order. HARRIET LOVE'S GUIDE TO VINTAGE CHIC. By Harriet Love with photographs by Gustavo Candelas. Holt, Rinehart, Winston. 209 pp. Paperback, $12.50.
HARRIET LOVE, who runs a vintage clothing store herself, tells how to buy at thrift shops, antique clothing stores, auctions, and flea markets, how to mix vintage clothes with new Ma la Diane Keaton or Bette Midler, what you should expect to pay ($50 to $60 for everyday print dresses), how to make things fit, how to remove rust stains and bleach Edwardian whites (three progressively stronger recipes). There is an excellent listing of antique clothes shops state by state and a good glossary. The large paperback format copies the landmark 1970s book Cheap Chic, and the clothes are photographed on Love's friends. This is Cheap Chic 10 years later when the wearers are more vintage and the clothes no longer quite so cheap. THE COLLECTOR'S BOOK OF FASHION. By Frances Kennett. Crown. 256 pp. $22.50.
FRANCES KENNETT's concern is not with the "wearables" but with the "collectibles" of 20th-century fashion. Her premise: "Fashion is one of the few areas in which the collector can do well with a reasonable amount of time for research and self-education and a comparatively small amount of money." The book has beautiful photos and illustrations, though as it moves into the '60s and '70s, it is often misleading. No running shoes for today's fitness explosion, for instance, but a Sonia Rykiel model wearing a boater hat and riding a bicycle. Kennett, a textile and fashion editor for British trade publications, keeps her eye firmly on Paris couture and sees America from afar. The last 35 pages present an exhaustive catalogue of where to find collectible clothes throughout the world. DRESSING RICH: A Guide to Classic Chic for Women with More Taste Than Money. By Leah Feldon. Putnam. 159 pp. $14.95.
MONIED LOOKS from "East Coast Old Guard" through "Lone Star Chic" to "L.A. Throwaway" and "Hollywood Flash" all are in these pages. A stylist who has worked with Revlon, Perry Ellis, Scavullo and others, Leah Feldon bases the Dressing Rich wardrobe on one basic premise: "At least one part of any outfit must be of top quality, look unquestionably expensive and be in subtle and exquisite taste ... to establish rank, lend credibility and upgrade the rest of the ensemble." Anything over $75 is considered a major investment and Feldon is dead set against getting carried away. The perfect lightweight wool khaki trousers she had been searching for, $365 at the Yves Saint Laurent boutique? Move on. "Spending that kind of money on a pair of simple wool slacks is insane." The drawings are attractive and the clothes look good. DRESS WITH STYLE. By Joanne Wallace. Fleming H. Revell. 202 pp. $10.95.
JOANNE WALLACE starts each chapter with a quote from the Bible--mixing fashion with God. Founder of Image Improvement Inc., a fashion editor, former Mrs. America Pageant contestant, leader of seminars, hostess of a syndicated TV program, Wallace aims her glossy paperback at the suburban woman whose occasions run to "a PTA meeting, a club luncheon, an afternoon tea with old friends" and who needs to be cautioned against wearing polka dot panties. "Did you ever see a woman in white casual pants bend over to pick up a box of laundry detergent in the grocery store and you could see the obvious line of her yellow bikini polka dot panties?" There's advice on how to read fashion ads, how to dress the man you love, and for discount shoppers, a list of Federal Trade Commission designer ID numbers which by law must be on garments even if the labels are not. Calvin Klein's number is RN 41327. ALIVE WITH COLOR: Tap the Power of Color in Your Life. By Leatrice Eiseman. Acropolis. 241 pp. $18.95.
THE HARDCOVER publisher of Color Me Beautiful tries it again, this time with a Hollywood color and image consultant. The back cover promises the color secrets of Erik Estrada ("Yellow means 'smiles' . . . so sparkling daybreak yellow is used in and around his pool house, where he keeps his motorcycle . . . To Erik shocking pink is sex"). A quiz gives you your colortime, "Sunrise, sunlight, sunset," complete with a tear out page of color chips of your colors. Written in basic horoscope prose, the book includes client success stories like the one about the widower, the "poor, dear man" stuck in his dead wife's colortime, who, after signing on as Eiseman's client,"redid his house, his clothes, his office, his life, joined a singles group and remarried!" WAITING IN STYLE: A Maternity Wardrobe That Works! By Alyson Fendel. Acropolis. 185 pp. $16.95. Paperback. $9.95.
QUIZZES, TIPS, make-up plans, dos and don'ts, budget charts, plans for every day of the week, drawings and photographs notable for a lack of any style at all, with the exception of one woman in a short black dress with a pretty S-cruve high neckline. A sign of the times, according to the owner of a chain of New York maternity shops, is that women are now coming in with both their mothers and their mothers-in- law, who then argue over who's going to pay.