Monday, May 26, 2008

The Little Black Book Of Style by Nina Garcia- A Book Review

I didn't expect to like Nina Garcia's book, The Little Black Book of Style. As a matter of fact, I bought the book months ago but haven't touched it and let the pile of books sitting on top of it grow so tall until Miss Lizzy Kitten knocked them all down every time she jumped on top. The truth is that while I love Project Runway, Nina Garcia isn't the reason. She doesn't annoy me nearly half as much as Michael Kors does, but honestly, aren't we all there for Tim Gunn?

I tried to remember anything special she wore on the show, but only came up with "sleeveless", "black" and " an oversized necklace". My impression was that she's always well put together, but doesn't steal the show, which is probably a sign of both good taste and common sense. When you think of it, the 42 year old future fashion director of Marie Claire (Elle Magazine gave her the boot recently) is a pretty good source for style guidance. And she's a proud non-blonde, despite the perfect highlights.

The book puts some flesh on the glossy image. There are a few biographical notes from her Colombian childhood and New England prep school education. We get a glimpse of the elements that shaped Ms. Garcia's fashion sense, and I found myself becoming fond of her, despite her endorsement of fur. Probably because I share many of her ideas regarding style: wear things that fit you perfectly and make you look good while ignoring ugly trends, don't be a fashion victim, don't play safe unless the occasion demands it, go for interesting accessories that speak to you personally, mix things up and buy lots and lots of shoes.

The book expands on all of the above, explains the basics every woman needs (very similar to Tim Gunn's ten essentials: trench coat, cashmere sweater, the LBD, a well-cut dark pair of jeans, a white shirt and more), speaks about finding inspiration (actually, I'm getting fed-up with the Audrey Hepburn talk. Yes, she was amazing. Yes, she was gorgeous. Yes, she was the chicest of them all. But, in reality, unless your name is Natalie Portman, you can't pull it off).

I loved Nina Garcia's definition of a fashion victim (besides her obsession with the "it" bag, a concept she and I both despise): "...count the designer pieces she's wearing. She'll usually help you out by putting the labels on conspicuous display". It reminded me of this photo from two weeks ago (courtesy of Hollywood Rag):

There's some good advice about dressing right for different occasions (Q: What to wear for a wedding? A: Don't be a bridesmaid), she deciphers the mystery of event dress code (what exactly is "creative black tie" or "smart casual"?), encouragement to invest in lingerie and cliff notes of fashion history (I wish this section of the book was longer and deeper, as I find it more inspiring than talking about Uma Thurman's white shirt in Pulp Fiction). The part I found most useless, though, was the brief interviews with designers and other prominent fashion figures (blahblahblah confidence blahblahblah be yourself blahblahblah Audrey Hepburn blahblahblah black turtleneck. You've heard it all before).

Bottom line: a fun read that actually makes sense. A fabulous gift for the young or for yourself if you've been stuck in a rut for too many years and need to find a new path. Worth reading if you find yourself having to pass some time at Barnes & Noble on a rainy afternoon.

The Little Black Book of Style is available from every book seller. I got mine from Amazon (cover price is $17.95, you'll probably find it for less).


  1. Your fashion and fashion books reportage is spot-on and hilariously entertaining! Thanks!
    (and don't they just love recycling the same things over and over when giving advice!)

  2. Question, is there a "style" book that you find yourself coming back to again and again?

  3. Helg- Thanks! :) I'm glad not to be the only one bored with the repeating reference and advice.

  4. Elsie- Sadly, I'm still searching for such a book. There are good chapters and hints in many books, but I have yet to find The Book. I want something that has less about the obvious (Audrey and her LBD) and more in-depth analysis, historic reference and written by someone who's not a C-list celebrity.

    (of course, my little fantasy is to get a book deal and write my own...)

  5. Thank you, Gaia, You've been quoted at Books to Drag around for That Smart-Ass Look :)

  6. I found that book at a small charity second hand book sales for $3. But my husband managed to leave it at a hotel we were staying,p*ssed me off big time. and of course he hasn't offered to buy me another one. what do I do with him :/


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