Wednesday, May 8, 2013


The traveling Frances Patiky Stein
 in 1965— could be today

May is the month of possibilities. You may do this or that or go here or there this summer. May is the jumping off month to summer. Wherever you may leap you may be thinking "what to wear; what to pack". I know I do. Part of imagining myself on vacation is seeing what I'm wearing. If music is the food of love, then clothing is the fuel of travel.

At the same time, there is spring cleaning. The two intersected as I was culling my enormous collection of fashion how-to and history books (in order to make room for more). Some I've bought out of curiosity ("Designing Women: The Art, Technique and Cost of Being Beautiful" from 1938). Others I've had forever (the bible of my teenage self "The Handbook of Beauty" from 1955). I discovered one I've had since 1981 but hadn't yet read, "Hot Tips" by Frances Patiky Stein. I bought it mainly because I knew the author— from afar.

Frances Patiky Stein was a fashion editor at Glamour in the mid-60s and a particular favorite of the Art Director and my boss, Miki Denhof. Frances herself was way more sophisticated than the average Glamour reader she was dressing. If it were today she would be a young version of Carine Roitfeld. No surprise then that Frances soon decamped for Vogue and then Paris, where she briefly had her own accessories line and became Chanel's head jewelry designer for many years. Googling Frances Patiky Stein doesn't bring up much else. I would like to think, possibly in her 70s, she is traipsing about Paris with my ex-pat artist cousin Jill.

Back to the book. "Hot Tips" is full of them, and 32 years later they are still pretty hot. The book was designed by Rochelle Udell, who went on to make a name for herself as creative director at Conde Nast and is Senior Vice President/Creative Director of Chico's and Chief Creative Officer of Revlon, among other gigs. As we are going through a '70-'80s vibe in fashion now, even the illustrations look fresh and do-able. The cover photo, however, does not— socks with mocassins!

Lest you think I've gone of the track, flipping through this book to decide whether it stays or goes into cold storage, I read the chapter on Travel and found it succinct, refreshing and timely. I was happy to see tricks I swear by and new ones to try. Why oh why didn't I read this sooner? There's no mention of the 3-ounce liquid maximum for carry-on (of course) but many suggestions for the ultimate goal: a travel wardrobe that you can forget about to just have fun.

Long out of print, "Hot Tips" is still available online at sites such as, where there were several copies listed at the mind-boggling price of (wait for it) a dollar.

Here are a few of Frances' travelicious tips (with some 21st century updates):

> The keys to successful travel wardrobing are Organization, Pre-planning and Paring (to a minimum).

> Use non-descript luggage. Good luggage invites guesses that what's inside may also be worth stealing.

> Never put your name and address on your luggage tag. If you must, use your business address. Update: or your email or your cell phone. Once again, why advertise that you are away from your home?

>  Bag everything in plastic! Zipper plastic bags for cosmetics, drawstring bags for shoes (thank you to the GAP for the nice bags), large dry cleaning bags to insert then wrap or roll. Frances suggests keeping things on hangers inside the bags.

> Pack skirts and dresses inside out; the wrinkles will show less. Likewise fold things lengthwise in thirds. Any wrinkles will follow the body line.

> Never take anything on a trip that you haven't already worn (and that goes double for shoes).

> Take along a copy of your prescription if you take prescription medicine. Drug sniffing dogs can't read, but their handlers can.

> Don't carry passport, tickets, money, credit cards all in one handy case. How handy will it be if it gets lost or stolen? I also keep my passport number and other essentials in my smart phone on a "Keeper" app.

> The hotter the place the colder the air conditioning will be. Pack cover-ups accordingly.

> As you are looking to pare down, take things you really love and won't mind wearing often.

I realize these are not actually What to Pack Tips. She's got them, though, and they're pretty specific. What's amazing is despite the passage of time (or maybe because of it) you could pack what she suggests and look fabulous. For example, this would be an evening look in a place "...where one dresses at night take high-heeled sandals, a pretty bag for night (gold), plus extra silk shawl for evening cover! Add pretty evening bits: strapless and bare camisoles, floaty chiffon pajama or tunics to wear over silk pants, one or two bare, silky, floaty dresses, one dinner dress (short, silky restaurant-looking)... Remember silk folds to nothing, takes no room!"

Look for me at that little boite near the Trevi fountain. I may not be Anouk Aimee, and my husband may not be Marcello Mastroianni, but we can pretend...

Viva La Dolce Vita


  1. I still keep and love many of my fashion books from the 80s. I have some great Vogue ones. It is true much of the advice is still current.

  2. I have an ever growing collection of fashion how-to books but this is the first time I've heard of Frances Patiky Stein or Hot Tips. It sounds like I'm going to have to try and track down a copy, her advice sounds spot on. Thank you for sharing it.

    And, yes, I've also spent most of this month day-dreaming about holiday outfits. No holiday booked, but the outfits are completely sorted!

  3. I'm googling FPS to research the markings on a gripoix cuff I picked up at a flea market for $10. Lo and behold it is one of France's! Tres cool!