Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Style Strategy By Nina Garcia- A Book Review

Nina Garcia's two previous books, The Little Black Book Of Style and The One Hundred were fun to read as well as a very good resource for anyone looking for information and direction in building a stylish and enduring wardrobe. Her new book, The Style Strategy- A less is more approach to staying chic and shopping smart- a presumptuous shopping guide for tough economic times, lacks both the charm and, ironically, the practicality of its predecessors.

Let's start with the basic premise: the need for such guide. If you've read Garcia's other books, you already know what are the basics of a good and stylish wardrobe, how to accessorize in a smart way, what's worth splurging on, where you can fake it, and how and where to shop for vintage. In short: you already have a strategy and you know how to fill the gaps in your wardrobe in the most efficient way. So, what's the point of this book?

Unsurprisingly, The Style Strategy repeats a lot of the ground already covered in the older books. Do we really need a repeat of the LBD, trench coat, classic white shirt, dark denim, pencil skirt, tailored blazer and cashmere sweater chapter? Tim Gunn has already written a book and created a TV show around this. The magazines have printed countless of instant makeover articles about these items and we all know you can pair said cashmere sweater with the pencil skirt for work and your jeans on the weekend. And the LBD can be dressed up or down. Seriously. If you've been paying attention to the other books you already know how to shop smart and not waste money on unnecessary items. There's no need for the shrill and almost hysterical tone of the first chapters of The Style Strategy (not to mention spending the money on it...). It feels heavy-handed and hastily written and edited. There are too many repetitions and redundant paragraphs, and it looks like someone was a bit too frugal with editor hours.

Nina Garcia's famous sense of humor and subtle snark seems to have evaporated. Is it the economy? The move to Marie Claire and TLC? Who knows. But even Ruben Toledo's charming illustrations and the style icon quotes (everyone from Miss Piggy to Elizabeth Hurley and way way way too much Michael Kors) can't save this book from itself. It's even worse when Ms. Garcia tries to be inspirational. We don't pay her to be faux-deep and talk about priorities in life; I had to laugh at her advice to make a mall excursion with friends and family into a blissful bonding experience with those who matter most. Obviously, she's never been to a Jersey mall.

The wardrobe guidance is schizophrenic at times and a bit contradictory. What to keep? What to toss? She tells us to get rid of too trendy items that can date the look and be costumy, but also to save them and wait till the trend comes back and makes these clothes and accessories "vintage". I'm sorry, but one needs a really good inherent sense of style to know when these things work, and you rarely learn this from books. Some of the advice here would land you on "What Not To Wear" faster than you can say "Lady Gaga". Parachute pants? schoolgirl kilts? Seriously?

There's also an issue of lifestyle. In Nina Garcia's line of work, cocktail parties and making an impression in glitzy events are a regular occurrence. It makes sense that she would put the serious money into the dresses and shoes she wears on this occasions, while skimping (maybe, if you actually believe her, which is another problem with this book) on everyday items. However, most of us have slightly different needs. It's the regular pumps you wear to the office that need to be of the highest quality you can afford and would prove a smart investment. And I don't know about you, but I only have one "serious" cocktail dress. It's very pretty, from an indy designer and I've worn it exactly three times during the three years I've owned it (and it will forever be known as "the dress I wore when I met Tim Gunn"). On the other hand, I have many dresses that fall into the "day to night category" and have proven time and time again they were an excellent investment. For some reason, Ms. Garcia has completely skipped this category. She refers to casual dresses as "little extras", which makes me raise my eyebrow. If these are just "extras", what exactly are we supposed to wear?

I also have issues with her advice about allowing yourself to splurge on drugstore makeup and cosmetics. This attitude creates the exact problem The Style Strategy is supposed to tackle. There's nothing wrong with buying a drugstore lipstick here and there, but when this kind of impulse shopping becomes a habit and one finds herself with 38 bargain lipsticks but not even one amazing luxury item that makes her look and feels truly fabulous, there's something very wrong with the picture. I have no doubt Nina Garcia knows this, but her pampering advice is so scattered and all over the place she has completely missed the mark.

I've combed through the book over and over trying to find some piece of truly original advice. There's one: Top quality hosiery can make an outfit. There are great deals on luxury tights in the spring, so take advantage and stock up on the best brands during their sales.

There you have it.

Bottom line: Save your $22 and buy a Dior lip gloss.

Image: Hoovers- the apron dresses of the Great Depression, named after President Hoover. One of the few amusing fashion facts in the book.


  1. It's hard to take this blog too seriously with it's poor grammar (i.e. "Tim Gunn has already wrote..." Should be, "...has already written") However, I do appreciate the points being made to keep me from making a $22 dollar mistake.

    1. What, you can't get a real editing job so you stalk the internet to find people who spend time, money, effort, etc. And find meaningless mistakes they made, instead? You might as well buy a big jacked-up diesel trcuk with oversized tires and announce to the world you have an under impressive sex life. Your need for a book like this might stem from your stick-in-the-butt attitude. It probably shows in your clothing choices.

  2. Gaia,

    I haven't read this book, but your review is awesome! :)


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