It was an imperfect, yet memorable, title for what would be the handbook to a revolution.
First published in 1975 and updated in 1978, “Cheap Chic” was a guide to personal style that blew a big raspberry to establishment norms with a pugnacious manifesto: “Fashion as a dictatorship of the elite is dead. Nobody knows better than you what you should wear or how you should look.”
Yet what’s still revelatory, as Tonne Goodman, fashion director at Vogue, said last week, is that the book promoted no single feminine ideal. “It’s saying: You decide if you’re healthy,” she said. “You stand in front of the mirror and decide if you want to walk an extra 10 blocks. You figure out how to dress for your body.”
Ms. Goodman had spent the day at fashion shows and was truly horrified, she said, by the rail-thin models. “So this is on my mind,” she said, as she quoted from the book’s introduction: “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.”
She added, “What more feminist manifesto can you have than that?”