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· Fashion Notes: Nina Garcia's The One Hundred

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Fashion Notes: Nina Garcia's The One Hundred
by Dorothy

I love browsing books on style. I've read a lot of them, although I usually only borrow them from the library -- how often is one really worth keeping? In my experience, the advice in style books doesn't really vary that much: buy quality, buy classics, buy pencil skirts.

I wonder about giving voice to my irritation with this book: it's a charming, fluffy, frivolous thing, obviously gimmicky (exactly one hundred essentials!) with adorable illustrations. Subtitle aside, it's clearly not meant to be a style bible, even for people who adore Nina Garcia. Complaining about this is like saying that America's Next Top Model is unrealistic about the fashion industry. Duh. But since being churlish is what I'm good at, I'm going to complain anyway.

Garcia herself writes that this is not meant to be a definitive list of garments every woman must own; this is a starting point, a guide to her personal style ("reading this book is...like walking you into my closet.") However, it's written as advice, probably because that's what her publisher wanted. I imagine Garcia and her publishers planning this as a quick follow-up to The Little Black Book Of Style, which I haven't read yet. The initial concept: an alphabet of fabulous pieces for fashionable women to own! Great, right? Except that at some point, they changed their minds -- maybe they realized no fashion essential starts with X, maybe The One Hundred sounded classier than The Alphabet of Style, who even knows (or cares) -- and they ended up with this padded-to-hell mishmash.

In my opinion, there simply aren't a hundred pieces "every stylish woman" must own. Garcia throws in some obvious choices (ballet flats, little black dress, cashmere sweater, jeans, red lipstick, pencil skirt), some nice things I'd hardly consider essential (real or fake fur, leather pants, Missoni knits, cape), some things I can't imagine ever wanting (caftan, Wayfarers, Havaianas) and some things that aren't clothing or accessories at all (iPod, BlackBerry).

A few more thoughts:

- Does anyone really need ankle booties, knee-high boots, Frye harness boots and cowboy boots? If you really love boots, sure. Otherwise this seems like overkill, especially the last two.

- I don't think the A-line dress is the universal flatterer Garcia seems to think it is. Perhaps this is the case if it's very well cut and made from good fabric. However, I am a size-0, just-this-side-of-petite woman with a flat chest, a small waist and curvy hips, and the A-line dresses I've tried on obscured my best features and made me look like a little girl. A pear-shaped little girl.

- Actually, while I'm navel-gazing, a lot of the advice in here is just inapplicable to a woman my size. Maybe if I read "Man's White Shirt" as "Little Boy's White Shirt"?

- M is for Mad Money, Q is for Quality Champagne (heaven forbid you should drink prosecco!), and V is for Valid Passport. (You know, just in case some aspiring fashionistas are walking around flashing invalid passports.) Sometimes you just gotta say ferchrissakes.

On nail polish: "Go for either the vamp red or a light, light pink. Maybe black satin if you feel like being goth or punk rock. But do not dip into a middle-ground palette. Corals and fuchsias are just asking for trouble." What kind of trouble? I'm assuming she's thinking that "middle-ground" shades look unpleasantly old-lady, but I don't think this is universally true.

- On perfume: Garcia recommends the signature scent, which, fine, but she also suggests wearing "any man's cologne." Oh no no no. I love wearing masculines -- I just bought a full bottle of Chanel Pour Monsieur -- but you do not want to wear just any man's cologne. Sheesh.

- On choosing red lipstick: "For fair skin, go for a red that has blue undertones." Nina, this pale orange woman is frowning at you.

I'm not sure it's possible to write a definitive guide to style, which is so much about individual preferences and associations anyway. Certainly, I've yet to read one. This book is charming, but I wouldn't recommend it as anything more than eye candy.

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