Think Bette Davis in that stunning off-the-shoulder cocktail dress in "All About Eve." Remember Hedy Lamarr swathed in exotic peacock feathers in "Samson and Delilah," or Grace Kelly in billowing black velvet and white tulle in "Rear Window." All three outfits point to Edith Head, the Hollywood costume designer extraordinaire who won eight Oscars dressing casts of hundreds in her long career.
Now Head's best-selling 1959 autobiography and style guide has been revived in "The Dress Doctor: Prescriptions for Style, From A to Z" (Collins Design, $19.95). The new book includes advice, witticisms and anecdotes on Old Hollywood - culled from the original book complete with more than 80 colorful illustrations by famed artist Bil Donovan.
Head's words of wisdom are timeless: "Every woman's task is to be a do-it-yourself dress doctor, and the person she must know is herself." And readers will love all her "inside" stories on dressing Hollywood's leading men and women - improvising a "reclining" board for Mae West in "She Done Him Wrong" since her costumes were so tight, or shopping with Audrey Hepburn in San Francisco and eating "the most chocolatey" French pastries.
Some of Head's tips on dressing to go to the circus, to play pingpong or shoot archery are sure to bring a laugh; however, see if you agree with some of the famous costume designer's "Don'ts":
let your clothes be fitted too tightly. Even a perfect figure looks better if it doesn't resemble a sausage. Only bathing suits should "fit tight."
wear a date dress when you're arriving for a day's work at the office. The dressy dress, the low-necked lacy blouse, the glitter sweater and all of the glitter category belong to after-dark.
be too different. You don't want to dress like the herd, but you don't want to look like a peacock in a yard full of ducks. Being too much of an individualist is not being well-dressed.
feel that you must look "dressed up" when going to a party. A simple dress is safer if there's a question of what to wear. Plus, you will be much more comfortable simply dressed than overdressed.
be afraid to wear a becoming costume many times. It's an old-fashioned idea that you must have a new dress for every occasion or party. Even if you have the money to do so, it isn't necessary. The modern approach is to change accessories; seems like I wrote that just last week.
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.