This 25-year-old book is one of the best fashion books ever written.
It might seem odd to review a book that was published 25 years ago and has long been out of print, but out of the hundreds of books in my fashion library, this is the one that I’ve always found the most useful.
The edition I’m talking about is the 1983 publication by Kate Hogg. It’s been out of print so long that I can’t even show you a photograph of the cover, but be quite clear – what you want to avoid is the later edition by Rosie Martin and Linda Watson, which is very disappointing in comparison.
For those who don’t know, More Dash Than Cash was (maybe still is, I wouldn’t know) UK Vogue’s page for the budget fashionista, and something I used to read avidly when I was a teenager with champagne tastes and a beer income (nothing new there then).
The photographs may be laughably out of date, and some of the accepted wisdom is passe (in 1983 it was still rather outre to wear tweeds in the city), but the majority of the advice remains copper-bottomed today: grooming is more important than your clothes; a small, flexible wardrobe of good quality items is what you should aim for; wearing something different every day is not a sign of being well-dressed.
Dating from the days when most women owned one – perhaps two – handbags and no-one had ever heard of Paris Hilton, it assumes you don’t have much money but are amply supplied with enthusiasm and are willing to put some time and effort into your appearance.
It covers how to develop an individual style; wardrobe tactics; what makes a classic garment (an invaluable chapter); outside inspirations; alternative fashion; how to read a fashion photograph; health and exercise and finishes with a fun chapter on ‘fashion characters’ (I seem to be a classic with a touch of ‘executive dresser’…). In the course of the different chapters, it covers subjects such as how to maintain and care for your garments; shopping logic; what to look for in a coat or jacket; and colour planning.
Some phrases bear quoting: "Making the effort to look striking costs very little – a fresh attitude and energy are more vital than money", "there is no point in trying to live up to certain financial standards if you cannot afford to carry them through without a deprived struggle," "choose clothes that fit your lifestyle," "there are advantages in a small budget – it forces you to be disciplined, to think hard about how much you really want to buy," "treat everything you own as if it cost five times the price," etc etc. Over the years, many of the sentences in this book became my fashion mantras and they have never let me down.
It does fall short in certain areas. It’s not good on vintage, which it has something of a downer on, and some of the advice on alternative sources won’t work for a woman over 40 – we’re hardly likely to dress up boys’ school uniforms or girl guide outfits at our age, are we? Though heading for the ships’ chandler’s is still a good move. But for a wealth of seriously useful fashion advice, you really can’t beat this book. Buy it if you possibly can.