Fluffy book reviews

With general good spirits, I’m still trying to work out of the house; my presence required for a bathroom remodeling job. Oddly, it’s not the thumps and bangs that are so disarming; it’s the radio the workmen are playing. Concentration remains dicey amid plaintive choruses of “No Me Vuelvo a Enarmorar”, Camilo Sesto and Juan Gabriel covers coupled with the occasional corrido and ranchera. I sigh with equal parts dismay and resignation -holding out hope for something a little peppier. Still, I really dislike the extent to which I’m knocked off kilter when faced with disruptions in my routine. My ability to concentrate is roughly equivalent to that of a six week old kitten. Hence this entry -which one is grateful to have been able to have written.

Miracle and I were talking about book reviews yesterday, that I should do some. When I asserted that I did, she said I should do something “fun”. I sternly reminded her of my role here, to be the bad guy, encouraging you to read what you need in tangent with prescriptive goals. You can get reviews of fun books anywhere, few are interested in reviewing boring books. So small though it may be, I fill a purpose. Is boring not without utility? Perhaps in pity -my literary life being devoid of all frivolity- the gods at Harper Collins have smiled on me; sending The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia which I promptly shipped off to Lisa who has written a review of it for you (below, once I get done blathering). Harper Collins is shipping me three more books, The Handbag: An Illustrated History by Caroline Cox, The Black Dress by Valerie Steele and lastly, Vintage Fashion by Emma Baxter Wright. Toward that end, I need three volunteers to write a review of these books. Volunteer in comments, first come first served. Based on the description (a history), the handbag book interests me most.

Here is Lisa’s review:


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Full of interesting quotes and beautiful illustrations by Ruben Toledo, The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia is full of advice, not hard and fast rules, on looking good in your clothes, stylish basics, inspirations, and what to wear for different occasions, as well as contributions from big-name fashion designers and other information. While extremely helpful to those who want to be stylish—I didn’t say trendy—or clueless as to how to dress, this book will also help those who aren’t so excited about clothes but want to dress right for a certain occasion, for example. While I’ve always thought I was stylish, I didn’t know everything in the “What to Wear When…” chapter and it was interesting to read what the designers had to say.

Nina Garcia is the judge from Project Runway and a fashion director at Elle magazine. In a readable, humorous way, she guides us on our way to being stylish. Ms. Garcia says that it’s “nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with attitude.” It’s like the person you see walking down the street who has the whole outfit together (clothes, shoes, accessories) and just looks good, even if what this person is wearing isn’t hot off the rack.

Chapter 1 talks about what you wear affects how you feel. Beauty doesn’t matter, but confidence does.

Chapter 2 outlines the 10 basics that every stylish woman follows (I suppose men can do it, too). Some of them are edit your closet, invest in the “bones,” it’s not about the money, and how to mix it up. Chapter 3 is about inspiration taken from film, music, travel, and art, especially collaborations between artists and fashion designers. In the film section, the author references many films with style-related scenes, from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn to 1994’s Pulp Fiction with Uma Thurman. Chapter 4 is the “What to Wear When…” chapter, with suggestions for many occasions from your first date to a summer weekend to when the invitation says black tie. Chapter 5, “Insider Tips and Tricks,” has opinions and advice from designers and others ranging from Oscar de la Renta to Tory Burch to Heidi Klum. The last chapter has the trends and names for each decade for the last 80 years.

At the end, Ms. Garcia reminds us to not take it all too seriously, to be cool, calm, and confident, and “beauty, body, and billfold don’t matter.” Anyone can be stylish. Anyone can look good in their clothes, no matter who they are. I found that some of the illustrations didn’t really need to be in the book; however, Mr. Toledo is the illustrator of those Nordstrom ads you may have seen in the fashion magazines. I would have preferred some pictures (drawings or photos, either way) of some outfits put together. There are other books on the subject, maybe that go into a little more depth, but anyone can use this as a basic primer for attaining stylishness.

One of my favorite quotes in the book, from The Catcher in the Rye: “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”

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9 comments

  1. Andrea D. says:

    Hi Kathleen, I’d love to review the book Vintage Fashion by Wright. I’ve been alive for more than half the time span covered by that book, pretty crazy….I’ve been a news editor/writer and also a costumer for decades. It would be fun!
    Andrea D.

  2. nadine says:

    I’d be happy to review the book “Handbag: an illustrated history” as I teach handbag design and work in that industry – if the “job” is still available. :-)

  3. Charlie Riley says:

    Ach, Nadine scooped me! I’d love to get my hands on the handbag book. I’m a long-time collector and have made more than a few.

  4. nadine says:

    If I do get to review the handbag book, I’ll be happy to do the review but give the book back for anyone else’s reference. I’m thinking I may have this in my reference or at my school anyway. Some how I didn’t think I was getting to keep the book but then again I didn’t get the invitation to do the review either. So maybe I’m jumping the gun!!! Oops.

  5. Charlie Riley says:

    Where do you work, Nadine? I’m hardly a fashion-industry person but I’ve been fascinated by handbags and handbag design since I was in first grade. And you’re thinking “Great, another flippin’ hobbyist…” ;D If I’d only known handbag design was a career option when I was much younger….

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