Most of my book reviews look at books for teens. Mostly books for teen girls, at that. I’m happy to say that one of my favorite overall genres is YA lit. But this morning before work, while waiting for my Dunkin’ Donuts delivery guy (also known as the Boyfriend), I read Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred. And I decided to put my thoughts on fashion books out there. Because, the truth is, I love fashion books too. And they are, for me, totally library related, because I discovered this love while shelf reading years ago when I work in circulation. My section, in part, covered the area where these books tend to be classified, and since I was required to spend at least half an hour shelf reading every day, my section never really got messy. So I had to find something to do while filling my requisite 30 minutes. And this is how I discovered my all time favorite guide to style, Laren Stover’s The Bombshell Manual of Style.
A bombshell believes in her fantasies…She expects people to send flowers and stop by with Champagne. And somehow, they do.
Since discovering the world of fashion guides and style books all those years ago, I have since devoured more than I can usually remember. I don’t necessarily take them at face value, but I enjoy them all and, with tongue firmly planted in cheek (or chic, as the case may be) offer up their wisdom in casual conversation, much to the annoyance of most of my friends.
So, here follows a list of some of the most fun reads in this genre I have discovered. Don’t worry about the publication dates. These are not books on trends. Like a LBD, a Burberry trench, or a white, button-down shirt, these books are timeless.
- No shock here, it’s the Bombshell Manual of Style. This book gives more than mere fashion advice (and the fashion advice it includes really should be followed. At least, not without a grain of salt). Instead, it is a “lifestyle book” full of words of wisdom, lists of great old movies, and even a comprehensive examination of the books any Bombshell worth her peroxide will have in her personal library. When I’m feeling down, I buy a bottle of champagne, run a bubble bath, and re-read my favorite passages from the book. It perks me right up.
- Entre-Nous: A Woman’s Guie to Finding Her Inner French Girl. By Deborah Ollivier. This is another book I discovered while shelf-reading, and subsequently gobbled up. Like the Bombshell Manual of Style it offers a lot more than just tips on how to dress. Snippets of French History, a few (really great) recipes, and the ubiquitous book list flesh this style guide out to encompass the whole person, not just her wardrobe.
- Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred. What sets this book apart is the manner in which it’s organized. One hundred items, from the boyfriend cardigan, to the belt, to perfume, arranged alphabetically (at least one item for each letter of the alphabet). Nina includes tips on how to wear something, a list of her favorite finds (which include Target and the Gap alongside Hermes and Gucci), as well as an overall push for vintage. Instead of setting out a list of exactly what every woman should have in her wardrobe, she sets up a backdrop, and makes it very clear that it should be used only as a starting ground, from which each reader should strive to make everything they own truly unique. What I loved most about this book was its unabashed mixing of high and low style. She admits to her love of Hanes t-shirts, tells her readers that two of the most important items she can own are a pair of Converse sneakers (my all time favorite) and a zip-front hoodie. She also seems to have a thing for skulls in her accessories, which I found unexpected and delightful.
- How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton. Don’t be put off by this book’s length. “448 pages for a fashion book? How much could someone possibly have to say?” A lot. This book goes well beyond how to match colors and who makes the most comfortable four inch stilettos. It is, in fact, a general guide to living a fashionable life. It includes everything from how to get dressed well in five minutes to how to change a lightbulb. The writing is clear and witty, and the book has actually ended up being my go-to reference guide for just about anything.
- Tim Gunn’s A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. This book is the ultimate reference for dressing successfully. It includes a discussion of all the elements of style, from channelling the icons, to developing trademarks and signature looks, and does it all with Tim Gunn’s beloved characteristic wit, empathy, and intelligence. Anyone who’s fallen in love with him through Project Runway will his book wildly appealing, while at the same time, actually picking up a pointer or two.
Librarians are notoriously frumpy. Of course, like any stereotype, there are those who fit the bill, but many who break the mold. With a little careful browsing in the 630’s (while checking for out of order books and litter), anyone can learn the value of cashmere, the proper way to wear a brooch, and even how to walk in a pair of heels.