Wednesday, September 05, 2007
When MotherTalk offered me the opportunity to read and talk about The Little Black Book of Style (Nina Garcia, 2007), I jumped at the chance. After all, I could use an infusion of style. One might charitably term my own style "early absent-minded professor" or "mom who knits" or "at least she tries." I shop at thrift stores and Target, hitting the major department stores for sales and Banana Republic when they send me a coupon. While I think usually I don't embarrass myself, it's not like I don't have fantasies of Clinton and Stacy coming in to clean up my look. So I hoped Nina Garcia--fashion director for Elle magazine and a judge on Project Runway--would be able to help me.
I felt all stylish just carrying the book around, I have to confess. While much of the advice in it is fairly run-of-the-mill--invest in classics, be comfortable in your own skin, don't be afraid to mix it up--there are some entertaining extras as well. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with fashion icons (many of whom are unfamiliar to me) in the back. While I'm not going to take Michael Kors's advice about what to wear on a plane (a black cashmere turtleneck and white jeans? Not this mom!), I'm amused by his certainty. Did you know that the one item all women should own is brown crocodile stiletto pumps? There it is, on page 110.
In other words, this book offers me a fantasy escape into another world. I'm not actually going to build my wardrobe around crisp white men's shirts, no matter how great they look on Uma Thurman or Audrey Hepburn--I'm too messy, I won't iron, and I'm comfortable in my more rumpled skin. But I like imagining the life I might lead in these clothes, the little black dresses (ok, I do have one or two of those), the ballet flats and four-inch heels (in size ten? and with these knees?), the great bags.
Is this a book mothers can embrace? Sure, if you don't take it too seriously. And here I think Garcia helps you out, because she keeps reminding her readers that this isn't about fashion, about fitting in, about making all the right choices--it's about having fun and being comfortable. Style is more accessible, perhaps more democratic, these days than it's ever been: with Mizrahi designing for Target and Vera Wang for Kohl's, runway looks make it down-market pretty quickly. Garcia tries to help you sort all that out. She doesn't substitute for Stacy and Clinton: the book is very short on specific advice for specific issues (what to wear if you're pregnant, or larger-than-average, or really petite, for example), preferring to focus on general guidelines. But it's a quick, fun read, more helpful and less time-bound than a fashion magazine. The movie and music connections are entertaining, and the decade-by-decade walk through twentieth-century fashion helped me recognize that a couple of good things besides my lovely daughter came out of the 80s. I'm not sure the book will change my style, but it was fun to imagine how it could.