Thursday, May 13, 2010

67. The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia

I love Project Runway, always have. I think the quality has gone down a bit in recent seasons but it's still a really good show, which is due in part to Nina Garcia. She has impeccable personal style, high standards and a critical eye -- which makes her a perfect fashion design competition judge. You don't always like her, because it's not her job to be nice to the designers, but you always respect her. That's why I was excited to learn that my library carried The Little Black Book of Style and I was going to be let in on all of her secrets. I don't always have a lot to spend on my wardrobe, so I'm always interested in any tips and advice from people that I think are stylish.

Every time you dress, you assert your identity. With style, you tell the world your story. In that way, style affords you opportunities to think about your appearance as a quality of your creative character. The Little Black Book of Style helps you to explore your own fashion voice -- the piece of you that joyously revels in the glamorous experience of creating your best self. From cultivating good taste to guarding against definite fashion faux pas, Nina Garcia offers readers the ultimate guide to follow when it comes to dressing their best. Including tips on how and when to wear an outfit, occasion-appropriate wear, advice on how to combine colors and textures, and inspiration on how to achieve your own signature look, you learn how to experiment, storyboard, archive, and play. Timeless and universal, this book seeks to remind women that eternal style is internal style, and that everyone has what it takes to discover themselves through the colorful palette that is fashion.

Summary taken from the Harper Collins website. 

Okay, let me get this out of the way: I hated this book. Hated! Such a disappointment. Like many people, I only know Nina from Project Runway, and as such, the jokes fall completely flat and seem completely out of character. There wasn't enough background information on Nina's personal life and personal style. There's a lot of emphasis placed on confidence and it being the most important aspect of style, but it all sounds empty without any advice on achieving that confidence. I guess this book isn't meant to be touchy-feely. I appreciated the repeated references to fit and the importance of making sure that clothes and lingerie fit properly but again -- there's zero practical advice on the matter. And the repeated references to wearing fur were off-putting -- fur really has nor relevance to my style or the style of anyone I know, yet Nina goes so far as to say, "And, PETA be damned, I am a huge fan of fur." Good for you, Nina.  

I will give her this -- the look of the pages is very aesthetically pleasing, what one would expect of someone with her background as a fashion magazine editor extraordinaire. The first two chapters were about "being your own muse" and "the basics" -- which I guess I expected the whole book to be about. It seemed to me like she really didn't have enough to say, so she rounded out the rest of the book with lots of quotes, illustrations, spacing out copy. It's less than 150 pages, and she's really not saying much of anything. One chapter focused on inspirations, and it was seriously so boring. She listed 17 movies, broken down by scenes to watch for types of style; 10 musicians/bands and explained how they were stylish; and three artists that inspired three fashion designers. I almost fell asleep! The next chapter was about what to wear when -- it was pretty unnecessary in my opinion, but I think she included it because this is what people ask her about when they meet her. I really don't care about what I should wear to the Hamptons during a summer weekend, because I don't go to the Hamptons during any season. Whatevs. The overview of noteworthy trends and designers from every decade starting in the 1920s was especially pointless to me. She included it so that readers could sound knowledgeable around fashionistas -- um, this just sounds like filler to me. Sorry.  

The last chapter is what cemented my negative opinion. I don't think that I was the target audience for this book -- it seemed to me that Nina and her fashion insiders are completely out of touch with mainstream/middle America. The "insiders tips and tricks" included in this last chapter have nothing to do with me or basically anyone I know. Nina doesn't take the time to explain who the people quoted are and while it's interesting to ask each of the 28 insiders who they think is the most stylish woman they know, I don't know who many of those women are either. It was frustrating and by this point I wasn't in the mood to do Google searches for that many people. Here are some examples, so you can see what I mean.
Q: How to dress to make an entrance?
Zac Posen: The same way you make an exit: with aplomb, shoulders back, and a withheld secret.
Maggie's reaction: WHAT THE F@#*?

Q: What one item should all women own?
Michael Kors: Brown crocodile stiletto pumps.
Maggie's reaction: Seriously? I have never heard anything so impractical in my life. Is this for real?

Q: What items, besides a trench coat, should every woman have in her closet?
Christopher Bailey: An iconic Burberry Manor bag (among other things)
Maggie's reaction: 1) Who? 2) Yeah, let me get right on that. Oh wait, that bag costs over $1,000. Never mind. 

Q: Who do you find eternally stylish?
Heidi Klum: I think that non-fashion victims are eternally stylish...
Maggie's reaction: Um, what?

I got the feeling that Nina made a book deal after gaining notoriety from the show and then had to figure out what to write about, rather than coming up with this concept organically. This book didn't appeal to me and I'm really glad that I didn't spend money on it. Project Runway fans may want to check it out for themselves, but I personally didn't get anything out of it. 

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