My grandfather met me at the exit door of the overnight Zephyr that transported me from Denver into Chicago. “You can’t wear those Denver clothes in Winnetka,” he sighed while lifting my suitcase into the trunk of his red Cadillac, “Let’s go to Marshall Fields and find you something to wear.”
Always a careful listener, I paid attention when the saleswomen (dressed in black from head to toe) brought outfits into the dressing room while saying things like, “this print will make you look friendly; this navy skirt is great for church and dinner at the club; this white eyelet dress will make the boys take notice; this black sweater with gold buttons will bring you interesting girlfriends.”
My grandfather would dismiss “this” blouse or “that” skirt based on his knowledge of what the other “kids” were wearing, the way it fit on me and what he thought would help the other kids accept me in spite of the fact that I was, “that new girl from Denver.”
It was my grandfather who made me aware of the importance of fashion geography and its weather, the difference in body shapes, the when and where to wear tweeds, floral prints, and solid colors, and what accessory choices constituted a person’s style, appropriateness, and ability to engage others. My curiosity piqued, I wanted to learn more! Enabled by my grandmother’s 30-year collection of catalogues and magazines, and the natural coolness of her basement (in the unbearable heat of Winnetka summers) I set out on a journey to discover what more I could learn about what I began to call “wardrobe strategies.”
Before the summer school classes at New Trier High School, after the swimming parties and before the dances, I spent every waking moment immersed in my grandmother’s world of fashion. Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Ladies Home Journal, Town & Country, Time, Life, Mademoiselle, Seventeen magazines showed what the high fashion ladies wanted to wear while Abercrombie and Fitch Co., Butterick, Vogue Pattern Book, Simplicity, Sears Roebuck & Co., Mode du Jour, and Marshall Fields depicted what women actually purchased and wore.
With a clear understanding of how much I didn’t know, I studied the lines, designs, patterns, and shapes of garments. The importance of a blazer (or sport coat), number of buttons (double or single breasted), it’s color (country-club navy or herringbone tweed), lapel shape (notched, peaked, shawl), pockets (patch, flaps, jetted), and back vent (no-vent, single, double vent). Nearly every private school uniform had one; nearly every member of a country club wore one; and (at that time) all flight attendants were required to wear a blazer.
So, why couldn’t I get one to fit me?
That question led me to the discovery and definition (for the first time ever) of three 5-year, highly predictable wardrobe “cycles” – each characterized by a specific body shape, design and psychology. From that discovery, I catalogued the emotional responses evoked by the arrangement of wearable things (which I call “looks”). These insights enabled me to develop a strategy by which a person’s wardrobe can be arranged to achieve specific outcomes: getting a job, engaging an audience, first date and networking success.
“Suzie Woodward’s Wardrobe Strategies” was published by Scientific Press in 1984 and sold 50,000 copies. I gave the 1st copy to my grandfather who died 6 weeks later.