Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book reviews: Fashion memoirs and lessons from retail therapy

I recently connected with a reader about Tim Gunn's book, Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work. I had managed to score it for $5, she has seen it for $30 and of course we talked about being able to transfer the bargain situation to her as well.

The outlet which had the $5 book (many copies in fact) have since transferred them back to the warehouse, so they are in the process of bringing one in for me. At a price of $5. Woot, woot.

This led us to talking about fashion books and she indicated she was interested in titles about leading a stylish life and how fashion etc was a part of that.
There are a gazillion books out there on wardrobing, style and how to kit yourself out beautifully so that you can achieve more in your life. In fact, that is the central theme of the name "Style into Action"...namely that by cultivating your sense of style you can develop your confidence and take more effective action to improve your life.

As one woman once said to me: "I can accomplish anything in an Armani suit." Amen.

In due course, I will highlight all these in blog book reviews.

In this post however, I want to highlight books that are a bit more cerebral than the gazillion style books on the market. Cerebral (I love that word!) because they talk about how clothes impact our lives, how what we wear (& dont wear) says so much about who we are and the feelings and memories that our clothes evoke.

My fave cerebral fashion books are:

Alligators, Old Mink & New Money

A celebration of everything vintage that captures one woman's memories and imagination.

Written by a Parisian/Manhattan model who loved fashion and after her catwalk days, opened a vintage store in Brooklyn, that store is still there and thriving.

A Life in Frocks

I bought this to read on the plane going to New York, then my sister in law gave it to me for Christmas a few weeks after my return. Didnt have the heart to tell her its was duplicated - doesnt she know me by now, to know I have every fashion book ever written?

Written by a woman who is passionate about clothes - her first and most enduring love affair. She adores the ritual of getting dressed each day, buys far too many glossy magazines, spends half her life shopping and still wonders why she has nothing to wear.

Over the years clothes have comforted her, given her confidence, made her invisible, secured jobs, lured lovers, aged her and given her back her youth.

A beautifully illustrated mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy.

Money, A Memoir

This one knocked my socks off.

The author shines a spotlight on the ambivalence women have about things financial - they love nice things but feel guilty when they have them and resentful if they dont.

It covers women's mixing up of money for love and the fact that such a mix up is an awful lot to ask of a paycheck and yet many women never challenge the belief that it can happen. It talks about how a sense of value and security doesnt depend on cash nor who a woman is married to, nor what she did for a living.

Thoroughly recommend this one.

The Thoughtful Dresser

One of my ultimate favourites.

For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not because what we choose to dress ourselves in defines our identity.

For the immigrant arriving in a new country to the teenager who needs to be part of the fashion pack or the woman turning forty who must reassess her wardrobe, the truth is that how we look and what we wear, tells a story. And what a story.
For example, it tells us how a woman’s hat saved her life in Nazi Germany, looks at the role of department stores in giving women a public place outside the home, savours the sheer joy of finding the right dress.

Here is the thinking woman’s guide to our relationship with what we wear: why we want to look our best and why it matters.
This book celebrates the pleasure of adornment.

Retail Therapy - Life Lessons Learned While Shopping

A cartoon cover, but dont be fooled.

Shopping and style advice, yes, but so much more.

Intertwined with the ethos of how you shop is actually how you live.

About learning to say NO, about saying YES loud and clear to the things you wish for (even if they are expensive). Why? Because good things have a way of finding us if we are just clear about what we want.

This book is for you if you love shopping, but occasionally have asked yourself Is there more to life than shopping?

My Mother's Wedding Dress

A book about what we wear but also what lies beneath.

Told as a sequence of stories about the author's various outfits and starting with her mother's black wedding dress.

Totally engaging.

Mommy Dressing

Tells of the author's childhood, her mother being a fashion model who knew everything about clothes and nothing about being a parent. Shows how despite the fact that her world was full of glamour and riches, she was very truly deprived.

The Classic Ten

Takes ten classic items, such as the white shirt, trenchcoat, little black dress and uses examples from literature, magazines and film as well as personal stories to trace their evolution to icon status.

Heart & Sole

One woman's memoir of her life though her shoes told as a mix of shoe advice (toe cleavage is sexy), memories (her first pair of heels, move over Suri) and warm hearted observations (shopping with girlfriends and the power of red shoes).

Need I say more?

Its in the Bag

Looks at many many bags, both iconic and IT bags and discusses what they say (& dont say) about the carrier.

"When a woman fondles her beautiful Bottega, what she experiences has little or nothing to do with transporting her keys and wallet. "Its all about the feeling," he says, "about something that's a joy and a delight. The things we like give us pleasure."


The Necklace

Surprisingly wonderful

13 women purchase and time share a $40K diamond necklace.

The book tells of how they become friends as a result of the purchase and sharing arrangement as well as how their relationships evolve.

Each chapter focuses on one of the women and how the bling affects aspects of her life - whether its a marriage, their passion for life, their inspiration to become more healthy and raise awareness of women's issues.

The purchase also affects their communities as they use the necklace for fund raising develop a media profile in the process.

It truly is an inspiring book.


Kate Spade talking about people and experiences that have inspired her style.
She emphasises its about knowing who you are and having self confidence. Sound familiar?

PS: She also has an equivalent book called Occasions (red cover) and one called Manners (blue cover).

A Guide to Elegance

A French woman writes a how to, about fashion as well as life topics such as men, alcohol, funerals and matters financial. Viewed as a classic style bible for a timeless, chic and graceful life.

Ok - I snuck this onto this list even though its a style book. Couldnt resist.

Screw Inner Beauty - trash the diet and self loathing and get on with your life

OK - I have snuck this in too, even though it doesnt fit the mould of the cerebral fashion books of this post. But I couldnt help it - how can you not read a book with a title like this one??

The authors show you how to live your life with joy, pride and plenty of healthy self respect, no matter what dress size you wear. They teach you how to eat what your body asks for, to exercise because it feels good and to ignore all the haters as well as forget the number on the scale.

Very clever and insightful ideas.

I do have a few more titles that would qualify as cerebral fashion however I could not locate them ATM. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, please let me know if you have read or read any of these and what you think.

If you know of any others that I can add to this list, please also let me know.

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