This handbag-sized book by stylist Kendall Farr may be the best book ever written about how to get dressed.
Kendall Farr is a stylist and fashion editor. That means she helps celebrities present a cohesive public image, and styles catalogues and fashion shoots so that the products will sell. You don’t get to do this for years without learning a trick or two about clothes. And I mean clothes, in this instance, not fashion.
Style, as Farr points out in her bossy but refreshing way, and fashion are very different animal. Fashion can be a killer, but style remains eternal – you can have it at any age and at any weight as long as you choose clothes that, in her words ‘fit and flatter’ your body type. And if your clothes don’t fit and flatter you, why are you buying them?
Farr, being an arch pragmatist, concentrates principally on frame – your bone structure. Your weight, she points out, may go up and down, but your fundamental bone structure is yours for life. One tip she doesn’t give is to view yourself from the back – I’ve found this to be the best way to work out if your shoulders are wider or narrower than your hips, and how much your waist indents. She divides figure types into three principal shapes, with the addition of another three for women who carry more weight, as this affects, to a degree, what kind of clothes you should choose.
About this she is absolutely specific, giving advice for every kind of item, and I found her advice spot-on. There is also advice for petites, some of which I balked at slightly, but when I tried it, it DID make me look taller (dammit, as I loved my long skirts, but they have now all gone in the recycling bin).
She also bangs on about another subject at length – that you should not expect your clothes to fit you off the rack because they won’t – ALL clothes, particularly taiored ones, require a bit of alteration to make them fit you properly. She suggests getting acquainted with a good tailor, though not all of us can quite stretch to this. My small, curvy figure was one reason I learned to sew when I was a student – there was no other way to get clothes that would actually fit. To this day, I have to take in the waist on virtually everything.
The section on your wardrobe is great – pruning your clothes so you end up with fewer clothes of better quality; a list of trendproof items (classic wool coats, trench coats, black cashmere turtlenecks…); how to store your ‘keepers’.
The section on shopping will enable you to shop with a much more specific goal in mind, although the information on labels wasn’t much use to me, being a Yurrupean.
Overall, I picked up some great tips – to buy flesh-coloured camisoles and then hand-trim them with lace (really sexy look under a sheer-ish shirt, as it gives the look of nudity without the actuality); to look for cross-over items such as a classic shape in an unexpected fabric, or a classic fabric in an unexpected shape; how to echo trends without following them slavishly; how to dress as you’re getting older without putting all your goods in the shop window.
The book comes in a slender format that you can slip into a largeish handbag, and possibly a pocket, so you can take it with you when you shop. Which brings me to its only fault – a lack of photography. Something has to give, and in this case, its the use of illustration rather than pictures (I prefer photography, as the silhouettes are not elongated).
I bought this book a couple of years ago and I dig into time and again – it’s well worth investing in. Alongside Kate Hogg’s More Dash Than Cash, which I’ll review at a later date, it is possibly the best book ever written about how to get dressed.