Time to put on a little Bossa Nova music and read about style. What is this obsession with little manuals for improving one’s appearance, closet, and attitude? They are like a chat with a big sister who has better taste and who, mysteriously, grew up in Paris.
Although many style books are best forgotten, here are three that made the cut for my permanent library. They are beautiful examples of book craft, so must be owned in print form. They are witty, original, and sophisticated. Naturally, they each mention lovely lingerie…
How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. New York: Doubleday, 2014.
After you read this book you will want to drink a Piscine, to wear your trench coat with nothing underneath, or, when you do wear underwear, to have it not exactly match (to avoid the impression of trying too hard!). You will always appear to be gazing at a sunset, even when picking up frozen pizza at the supermarche. This book could be enjoyed by men as well as women, as the authors discuss their allure in a way that is charmingly (and proudly) self-deprecating.
The New Garçonne: How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman by Navaz Batliwalla. London: Laurence King, 2016.
While writing her blog Disneyrollergirl, the author became fascinated with “gentlewoman style,” the essence of masculine-feminine dressing. Its advocates are stylish minimalists who rely on a few very special items. Batliwalla’s book reminded me of the magazine Monocle both in appearance and content (not a bad thing). Besides the beautifully presented photos, the best part of the book for me was the section that profiles 14 women who embody the garçonne style. Their discussion of life philosophy and influences was refreshing. The breakdown of essential Garçonne items was good too (e.g.: the sunglasses, the t-shirt, the great lingerie!)
Get Gorgeous: 21 Days to a More Beautiful Confident You by Christel Vatasso and Pascal Loperena. Paris: Flammarion, 2016.
The author and her photographer, Parisians from the world of modelling, offer a three-week day-by-day style and beauty reboot. Although the book has a workbook design, it is easy to just ignore that and read straight through. Christel Vatasso has a lot of experience to share about dress, shopping, make-up, being photographed, and home. She also enthusiastically yet thoughtfully discusses inner beauty and confidence as key to what’s happening on the outside. I loved the cutouts of what to wear for a “uniform” to get one through the events of the day. The section on scent included the clearest explanation I’ve read of the major perfume families.
The search will continue for stylish reading. My hope is always to find writing with charm and sparkle. It could take various forms beyond style guide: photo essay, memoir, blog, website. One good source seems to lead to the next, like a chain. The essential element is a passion to connect--and to make the world a prettier place.