I firmly believe that people who have a strong sense of style, who know how to dress and shop, are less likely to have cluttered closets, because they are less likely to purchase items which don’t flatter them, and less likely to keep items which were mistakes (And who doesn’t make some of those? Blame it on the lighting.) or which no longer suit their lifestyle, taste or body. And so I give you my reviews of style guides I’ve accumulated over many years, not that I’m convinced I’ve absorbed a darn thing. But style CAN be learned. The only books I don’t review are Elsa Klensch’s Style, because it is waaaay too hard to find (BUT FIND IT YOU MUST) and a marvelous color-matching how-to which is even harder to find. Getting your hands on a color-matching book is GAME-CHANGING.
These reviews are in no particular order.
Nina Garcia’s Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion (publication date 2010) is a funny, highly personal look at what-to-wear fashion: pants vs. dresses, when to go casual, time-honored tips, tricks and all. Look Book is indeed arranged by occasion, from job interview to New Year’s Eve Party. The occasions are grouped by themes such as “life events.”
But Ms. Garcia, Editor-in-Chief of Elle and a judge on Lifetime Television’s Project Runway, goes far beyond fashion. She offers opinions on everything from how to ask for a raise to surviving meeting your significant other’s parents; honors her charities of choice; and decorates her pages with irreverent, wise, timeless quotes of gifted people ranging from Amelia Earhart to Lauren Bacall. The quotes could be a book in themselves.
A reader will not, however, find guidance on how to dress. There are no formulas for accommodating body-shape, no hints about color choices. Unhappily, Ms. Garcia also engages in the common, bewildering-to-the-outsider habit of name-dropping – designers and their styles are referenced as if they are a reader’s quirky family members. And like many style editors, Ms. Garcia assumes that everyone knows the basics, concerning pattern, fabrics, etc., as she converses about options. I for one wish someone would explain bouclé. The book is not for beginners, but it is educational and entertaining.
Any woman in a panic over what to keep in her closet might want to look at Marie Claire Outfit 911 by Marie Claire magazine contributing editor Joyce Corrigan (publication date 2012). Many of the choices highlighted in this book are deliberately over-the-top, outrageously extreme to illustrate fashion “nevers” in diverse situations from job interview to clubhopping. These so-called “Deal Breakers” are funny. And the “Deal Makers” are instructive. Outfit 101 supplies multiple visuals of smart options, providing readers with an excellent guide for their own selections. It does not examine topics such as how to choose a cut for your body type or decide which colors are right for your skin tone.
Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, co-founders of WHOWHATWEAR.com, a celebrity – and fashion-following website, have expanded their reach with What to Wear, Where (publication date 2011).
This guide covers occasions ranging in significance from first interviews to a 5-year-old nephew’s birthday party. It may seem overzealous to worry about what to wear to a 5-year-old’s birthday, but these women offer sensible arguments for paying attention to one’s clothes ALL THE TIME. The authors are their own “mannequins” in their examples, which makes this book far less intimidating than a book filled with images of runway models. And, refreshingly, they don’t toss around designer references like confetti. It does not examine topics such as how to choose a cut for your body type or decide which colors are right for your skin tone.
Anna Johnson unites her diary, autobiography, advice and portraits of diverse, authentic women around the world into a witty, timeless conversation about self-empowerment, life’s challenges, life’s opportunities and, finally, compassion, for self and others. Something will speak to you. A client gave me Three Black Skirts: All You Need to Survive as a gift, and I’m glad.
I’m also extremely fond of Christa Weil’s Secondhand Chic. But then again, I’m a NYC native, and as one of my MBA professors once put it: “Anyone who shops retail in NY doesn’t deserve to live here.”
Sorry guys, but you’ll need to turn to Clinton Kelly or who knows who for your help (What Not to Wear is one of my homesick shows: dislike his books).
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