Style guides are sort of the opposite of the September Issues. Where September Issues scream at us -- WHAT'S HOT WHAT'S NOW WHAT'S TRENDY -- style guides (the good ones, anyway) are all about creating a foundational wardrobe for "real life." A foundational wardrobe is more than the sum of its parts; it's more than jeans + white shirt + trench + boots + bangles = outfit. Learning how to shop for and build a foundational wardrobe is learning how to invest in pieces that are worth at least what you paid (and hopefully, sometimes, more). A great style guide will teach you to do that, and it will teach you how to sift through the mountains of up-to-the-minute trends and choose wisely.
The best guides will do all of this with a combination of humor, practicality and -- most importantly -- experience and good taste. We have compiled a list of five great style guides that would provide any fashion fiend hours of enjoyment.
Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet
Is there any more beloved (current) fashion icon than Tim Gunn? It's doubtful. His success is due, in large part, to the fact that he comes across as so authentic in every way. His mannerisms, vocabulary and personal style are so unique, you want to know what he thinks about everything.
The book: A history of fashion in a Bill Bryson-esque narrative. (Think At Home.) There are lots of pictures, and practical advice on how to shop and dress. A particularly good book for someone at the beginning of their fashion journey, and for Tim Gunn fans.
The Truth About Style by Stacy London
Stacy London is a fascinating character. She went to Vassar, double-majoring in philosophy and German lit, and then went into a career in fashion. In her new book London explores her history of eating disorders, which sheds some light on why she's so effective with clients of all sizes on her TLC show, What Not to Wear.
The book: London uses her own experiences to illustrate makeovers (called "startovers" in the book) for women. The women and their makeovers represent many ages, ethnicities, budgets and styles. A must for London fans.
How to Look Expensive by Andrea Pomerantz Lustig
If you watch any fashion design show, you know that "looking expensive" is paramount in having great style and appeal. Lustig -- a beauty editor with 20 years of experience -- has a lot of useful tips on how to get an expensive look for less. Beauty blogs are abuzz about this book.
The book: A phenomenal read for the budget-conscious fashionista. This is less about Lustig (a more behind-the-scenes figure, as beauty editor of Glamour) and more about the info she has "stolen" while on set for shoots.
Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet
Francophiles will adore this little book! The book itself is as simple and understated as the style author Ines de la Fressange recommends -- less is more! There are plenty of great tips on how to create personal style -- whether you are planning a trip to France or not. The blank pages at the end of the book for your own notes are a nice touch.
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The book: "Celebrity model" de la Fressange doesn't just tell you what to wear, she tells you where to get it and then where to wear it. Part-fashion guide, part-Parisian travel guide, it's a fun and fast read you will turn to time and again.
The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia
Every fashion icon has a list of wardrobe staples, and Nina Garcia -- fashion editor (Elle, Marie Claire) and Project Runway judge -- gives us her top one hundred. While on PR Garcia comes across as somewhat enigmatic, she is more straightforward -- and funny! -- in print. You probably don't need all one hundred pieces, but from this list you can certainly begin building a solid foundational wardrobe.
The book: Funny, readable and will give you a new insight into Garcia. (Assuming you have an old one, of course.) It was a toss-up between this and her previous Little Black Book of Style, which is also worthy of consideration.