If you read Who What Wear regularly, or simply follow fashion, you’re well aware by now that the 70s are back in a big way. So there couldn’t have been a better time for me to stumble upon a much-revered style bible from the era titled Cheap Chic that has since gone out of print. I had heard whispers of its greatness before, but the real thing is even better than expected! While a little kitschy, the bulk of the advice is incredibly timeless and wholly relevant to the recent trends of “wardrobe building” and minimalism.
As editors, we often write about the essentials you have to get your hands on, and the authors of this book, Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy, appear to have prematurely stolen our fire. It’s a book that celebrates ALL women—their individual styles—but that also believes a proper “canvas” of items will help each one of us put our best foot forward. Or, in their own words:
“The basic concept of Cheap Chic for both men and women is to have a few clothes that make you feel good rather than a closet full of mismatched fashions. Find the clothes that suit you best, that make you feel comfortable, confident, sexy, good looking and happy… and then hang on to them like old friends.”
Check out the best highlights below, paired with our fave images of 70s ingenue Ali MacGraw!
“Personal style is what this book is all about. Fashion as a dictatorship of the elite is dead. Nobody knows better than you what you should wear or how you should look. Your look might be a $2.00 t-shirt with a $4.00 strapped canvas shoe from Woolworth’s, or maybe it’s the day you stun the office with your Saint Laurent blazer and [pricey] rodeo boots, but your look should be in harmony with the way you live, who you are, and not [just] what the fashion magazines say.”
“Don’t skimp on the classics. There are certain things you shouldn’t fudge on no matter how cheaply you dress: the very best boots, a sturdy bag, a glorious jacket or shirt. You can’t afford cheap boots that will last a year and then crack across the sole. It might seem impossible to think of yourself laying out [a large sum of money] on a pair of boots. If so, start saving, even if it’s only $5 a week. In five years you’ll [still] be wearing those boots and they will look beautifully, aristocratically worn and weathered.”
“If you consider the time of year you can [actually] wear things, the clothes that fall into more than one season will give you the best CPW. On the East Coast, winter would be the largest circle, but in other places, summer might be bigger."
“Leotards come in a close second to t-shirts for all-around wearability. They are lightweight, durable, crushproof, quick drying and they really shape themselves to your body, giving you a custom fit at non-custom prices. A leotard can go under all your basic pants, shirts, and skirts. You can perk it up with a cheap cotton scarf. You can [also] wear it by itself for dancing, exercise or swimming.”
“There’s one very good reason for stocking up on the basics: peace of mind. You’ll never have to get up in the early morning darkness and stumble about looking for something to match up with something else. If you’ve got the basics, they’re all interchangeable.”
“The most basic element of Cheap Chic is the body you hang your clothes on. Building a healthy, lively body is far cheaper than buying a lot of clothes to distract from it. And once you really know your flesh and bones, you’ll find it easier to choose the clothes you really need and love. Try standing in front of a full-length mirror some morning, not holding in your stomach or sticking out your chest. It isn’t important if your breasts, hips, or legs are not those you would see in a fashion magazine. What matters is that you get acquainted with them as they are and treat them with care and respect.”
Will you be adopting any of this 70s era wisdom? Let us know in the comments!