Book Review: The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia

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Here at Worn Though most of the book reviews are about cultural or historical topics relating to dress or something similar. We don’t go over a lot of how-to primers. However, as previously mentioned, Worn Through gets a nod in Nina Garcia‘s new book The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart. So, I thought I should give it a solid once-over and provide some brief thoughts.

Rather than walk you through it page by page, I’ll give you the basic picture. I haven’t read a book like this in a while; one that is coming from the fashion industry/high or mass fashion point-of-view. Also, I very rarely read how-to or self-help, so I didn’t know what to expect and even admittedly was a little skeptical. Probably the closest thing I’ve read in recent days was Simon Doonan’s Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You which is half funky fashion memoir and half interviews (A++ on that book BTW).

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I know I should start with the text, but I’m not. The first thing on my mind when opening the book was how great it looks. It is eye catching, with its golden glossy cover, mix of staid and scripty fonts, and fuchsia accents, all exuding a certain “this is expensive and feminine, yet fun” feel. The best design feature is, of course, the collection of AMAZING illustrations on every page by the illustrious Ruben Toledo. The colors enliven the illustrations which jump right off the page, and the expressions of the characters do the same. The delicate shoes, handbags, and floral motifs, and let’s not forget pampered pooches, could easily be a set of designer note-cards or artistically framed as a sassy and even elegant wall piece.

Ok, so now onto the text. The philosophy is crystal clear right from the start. Along with the blatant title, the book begins with a quote from Vivienne Westwood “Buy less, choose well, and mix it all.” This type of sentiment obviously sits well in our current cultural climate with the recession and being green swirling around everyone’s mind every time they head to a cash register. Additionally, design thinking has finally permeated the public consciousness, and therefore people want attractive and affordable to be more synonymous, and, are also willing to be creative to make it happen. This is all discussed throughout the Author’s note which serves as the introductory chapter.

After the intro commentary, it is then broken into the sections “What do I want?” and “What do I need?” with chapters including “Making investments”, “The luxe life” and “Make do and mend.” The chapters are written in the first person with a causal tone and incorporate tips ranging from a big-picture redo of one’s shopping mentality to small-scale, practical hints. It is the kind of book you can read cover to cover, or, skim for the images, list, and pull quotes, or, dive into the section that pertains to you and shelve the rest. There are also a surprising number of historical references, and often they are paralleled with contemporary information for relevance.

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The pull quotes I mentioned are one of my favorite parts, as I’m a sucker for a witty fashion quip, and there’s no shortage of wide reaching personalities voicing in including Giorgio Armani, Michelle Obama, Audrey Hepburn, Liberace, and Miss Piggy, to name a few.

Overall, I’d say I was pleased by The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart and its mix of the good sense and whimsy–an all altogether too rare combination.

The end portion of the book, “Resources” is the only part I have somewhat mixed feelings about. This chapter is the “shopping destinations and style resources” and is broken into the sections “Shopping”, “Hair and make up”, “Style, Style, Style”, “How-to”, and “Everything else.” Each section contains a brief list of go-to sources, both online and brick and mortar. (This is where the Worn Through reference is in the book). Basically, I like the concept of the lists, and generally I appreciate the indie ideas and direction to some of the obvious and not-so-obvious places. But it’s those obvious ones that initially struck me as too easy and somewhat uninventive. J. Crew, eBay, H&M, Target…these seem like too much of a given. However, they are outnumbred by the more unique sources listed, and thoughtful blending of resources is the point of the book.

The end of the book and my resulting lone significant criticism reminded me that a few years back I was heading to a larger city then my own, and asked a friend’s girlfriend to take me shopping. She was reluctant, saying she didn’t know where to begin regarding clothes that would appeal to my style sensibilities. My reply surprised her in saying that much of my shopping is done (sometimes with a weird guilt) at chain stores, malls, department stores, and often outlets of high-end stores. I guess maybe it does surprise people that you can piece together strong fashion statements from seemingly generic and moderately priced retailers. So I get it as the key with a style guide aimed at the mid-priced consumer is to indicate how to mix The Gap with boutique pieces and flea market finds.

No, this isn’t a book that’ll be incorporated into my classroom or my reference library. But it isn’t meant to be. I tend to hate the makeover shows on TV and generally steer clear of the shopping guides at the bookstore. But this book does a very successful job at achieving its goal and with a lot more panache than the average style primer. And no, I’m not just saying that because my blog is in it. If I hated it I probably would have just avoided writing anything at all. Instead, don’t be surprised if this is a hot holiday ’09 present for the fashionable friend or coworker, as it’s helpful without being overbearing, is smart enough for even your snobbiest of peers, and let’s not forget those illustrations!

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3 Comments

  • Sandra August 28, 2009 01.52 am

    Thanks for the review Monica. I was actually going to check this out just for the Toledo illustrations, but truthfully, I like Nina Garcia’s take on style. She seems to get the art of the “mix”. I think I’ll pick it up after all.

     
  • Worn Through » Book Give-Away: Style Strategy by Nina Garcia/Ruben Toledo
    September 11, 2009 - 5:01 am

  • Etta Wilkins-Foster February 10, 2010 01.25 pm

    This is not only a well designed site, but also very informative. I look forward to new posts.

    Thank you.

     

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Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.