Saturday, January 22, 2011

Before you know it, it's a habit

On week nights I like to read my serious books at my desk. I sit sideways, feet up, furrowed brow at at a biography or weeping openly at Seamus Heaney.  On Sundays I read the weekend papers at the kitchen counter, often in between toast and sorting the washing, sometimes as a combination of all three. Sometimes at night I read novels in bed until my shoulders feel like lead and I can't keep my eyes open. 
On Friday night I like to sit on the couch in my pyjamas (read: a scrappy nightie), glug water from a bottle and re-read favourite fashion books while we watch re-runs of Law and Order. ("Objection!" "Over ruled!" is one of my favourite exclamations.) 
If you too would like to adopt some aspects of my sloth, here is the first installment of a collection my favourite fashion books. 

I'll address each tome in no particular order. 

I Love Your Style (Amanda Brooks, Harper Collins 2009) is the most recent. The book is divided into ten themes (Vintage, Classic, Eclectic and so forth) which are split into three more sections (definable style, indefinable style and shopping.) It's logical but not necessary - the text and illustrations are so absorbing you'll soon be interpreting the material at your own pace and noting it against your own style. The author opens with an detailed chapter on her style and continues this personal approach to all her varied topics and explanations.  Ms Brooks relies heavily on the personal style of a muesli of women, some expected, others overlooked for decades: Marlene Dietrich, Kate Moss, Margherita Missoni, TV presenters, rock stars. It's warm, accessible and the illustrations are inspiring. It's a good book for those of us (probably most of us) who have a wardrobe full of interesting things and would like some stimulus to set us re-styling and reinventing.  
Surprises: There are lots, not least the three shots of a teenage Jodie Foster circa late 1970s looking very preppy chic. 
Pleasures: You'll frequently find the same woman under different headings, proving it's not so much what you wear as the way that you wear it. 
Verdict: If you only buy one fashion book in your lifetime ... 

The Parisian Woman's Guide to Style (Virginie and Veronique Morana, Universe 1999). Disclaimer: I love France. Each time I visit I am more besotted with every baguette crumb, every awning, every rose at every florist, every little well groomed dog that struts by me on a leash, every French person and every perfectly curled vowel of the beautiful language. And yes, I love their style and I love their clothes.  This book is not a manual as much as an explanation - how one suit can last a lifetime, how you can wear one colour head to toe and look phenomenal, how to acquire the few basics that French women rely on season to season. It's written, styled and modelled  by a mother and daughter team who sell their jewellery in one of the posh parts of Paris; their advice and insights are friendly and provide a good understanding how Parisian women manage to look great all the time. Personally I think you have to be French and live in France in order to have their advice work for you one hundred per cent, but you'll still pick up some interesting pointers with this book. 
Surprises: that Virginie and Veronique look like sisters. 
Pleasures: The feminine, refined chapter on underwear (sorry, lingerie!) 
Verdict: Twelve years old but hardly dated (except for the chisel toe shoes). A lovely read, beautifully illustrated. 

Vogue Modern Styling - How to Achieve It (Charlotte Du Cann, Guild Publishing, 1988). I found this Vogue franchise publication in an op shop for two dollars. The illustrations are great and (with a couple of Gecko exceptions) very applicable today. Lots of shoulder pads to be sure, and lots of long limbed models, but the styling is great and the photos are lovely. You're probably not going to learn huge amounts from the text ("The Little Black Dress is the epitome of Gamine chic") but you will start thinking of how you might use a tuxedo jacket or re-think your application of floral skirts. The illustrations I've used here are from a series  of colour plates in the centre of the book - most of the photos are in black and white but still very inspiring.
Surprises: The celebration of English eccentric dressing. 
Verdict: A nice picture book to enjoy with crumpets and checked jarmies. 

So that's three - tomorrow night I'll conclude with three more and possibly a big finale for my all-time favourite. Meanwhile, checkout the English rose on the right - I've never wanted to thread my hair with bracken so badly as when I gaze at that picture. 


  1. I admire your habit of reading frequently. We share that. I'm often dismayed at how reading seems to be a dying activity.

    Thanks for the great book-reviews. I hadn't haerd of these tomes and will seek them out, especially the first one.

  2. "haerd"? I meant "heard." Sorry!

  3. Those look fantastic! I'm itching for some non-vapid books on fashion, thank you!

    I'm a big reader - I read every day, often for hours (I'm a nighttime, in-bed reader).

    Baxter, I must say, I really like that you are posting more frequently. I've always enjoyed your writing and photos. :)

  4. Bax, that Amanda Brooks book looks good. I'll have to check it out.

    So you love Famous Seamus. Not surprising. Do you know Eavan Boland's poems? I like her work a lot as well.

    I wish we lived in the same town & could go op shopping together. You have some fabulous finds.

  5. I hope you enjoy them, Shy! I think being able to read and access books is one of life's great privileges and pleasures. (And rest assured, I "heard" you correctly.)

    Thank you Sheila! You'd know how much it means to hear someone is enjoying a blog. May I add that the irony of your comment in light of my weekend break isn't lost on me. I'm really enjoying the blog now - it took me a while to get the hang of it. It's incredibly satisfying to keep it updated regularly.

    Yes Charlotte, I am a huge admirer of Famous Seamus - I have a soft spots for a lot of the 20th Century Irish poets, particularly MacNeice and Kavanagh. (Kavanagh supplied the title of my blog!) I've not read Eavan Boland but am very excited about discovering her an will report back when I I've read a good serving of her work. And Amanda Brooks' book is great - very thoughtful and artful.