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My favorite style guides

Categories: basics


I have recently edited the bejeezus out of my closet and have found that I am left with very little to work with. This is a good thing and also quite daunting to me as a big picture task I am working on. Is there a book or a site that would be a good place to start over or to help me start building upon what I have left? A check list of sorts if you will.

I own my own company and also freelance for a company that has a pretty casual dress code as well as having five kids, so a “go to” guide would rock.


Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a pocket stylist, someone you could have on speed dial for moments just like this? In my dream world, my pocket stylist (J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, of course) would appear magically — with new clothes! and excellent advice! and possibly a martini! — every time I had any kind of closet crisis.

That would be so lovely, don’t you think?

I’m totally waiting for Jenna to write a style book (Jenna! I’m available if you need a ghost writer! call me!) but until that happens, I rely on five core texts to break out of my style ruts, all of which include some sort of list that Britt can use to help her rebuild her wardrobe.

“The Lucky Shopping Manual” and “The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style”, by Kim France and Andrea Linett

Kim France and Andrea Linnett, the geniuses behind Lucky Magazine, put these two guides together. “The Lucky Shopping Manual” covers basics for work and play, with extensive photographs but no actual shopping recommendations — in other words, they’re not saying that you need to buy these shoes exactly, just a pair like them. I love that. Their follow up, “The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style,” defines 10 styles, ranging from Euro Chic to Bombshell to Arty Slick, and narrates what the core pieces are for each look and how to make those pieces work for you. Linnett and France (who recently left Lucky, sadly) operate on the premise that your style is probably some mix of several of the styles outlined in the book rather than one easily categorizeable look (I’m a mix of American Classic and Gamine, for example). The book ends with a collection of photos of Lucky staffers and a dissection of their looks, all of which are a hodge podge of the looks outlined in the book. Super fun to read and super useful in identifying the parameters of your personal style.

“Parisian Chic,” by Ines de la Fressange

Ever wish you could look more like the chic French girls you see on street fashion blogs? Ines de la Fressange is one of those girls, and she’s sharing their secrets in this beautifully illustrated book. De la Fressange — a former model — dishes on French women’s strategies for understated, classic style (although the simple shorthand is to focus on buying beautifully made, classic pieces). This book compelled me to buy a navy cashmere sweater and a pair of driving mocs, because clearly having the right pieces is the key to a workable — and super chic — closet.

“Dress Your Best,” by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

Stacy London and Clinton Kelly are the original American style gurus. Their book, “Dress Your Best,” is a “What Not to Wear” consultation at your fingertips. The book is divided up by body type; each body is styled in tall, regular, and petite options. The looks are classic and timeless, and focus on core pieces that every woman can wear. Plus, there’s plenty of funny Clinton and Stacy banter, which would of course be the best part of being styled by them.

“A Guide to Quailty, Taste & Style,” by Tim Gunn

I love Tim Gunn; he is the embodiment of quality, taste and style. I truly believe that if more people behaved like him, the world would be a better place. Gunn’s approach to fashion and style is intensely personal; he wants you to think about who you are and how your clothes reflect that. His closet clean out tips include making a pile for pieces that touch your soul, which is a wonderful way to think about clothes. But he’s also intensely pragmatic — “Make it work!” — and even the most soul-stirring pieces are out if they don’t work for your real life. This book is a delightful read, and one that will make you think critically and constructively about the connection between your closet and your personality.

Matchbook Magazine’s 50 Classics for Your Closet

My last pick isn’t a book but a simple magazine piece; in their very first issue, Matchbook magazine (which you should all be reading, every single month) published a printable list of “go-to basics every Matchbook girl should own.” While I am not advocating that you run to the mall, list in hand, and pick up everything they recommend, I do think that a list like this is a good starting point for thinking about what your closet is lacking. I’m all in favor of a closet full of basics, and having them mapped out for you (in such a beautiful layout) is super helpful, but you need to tailor those basics to your own style. My black pants, for example, are all skinny and cropped, because that’s my look; I have them in cotton, wool, and velvet, for any occasion. Use this list as a starting place for making your own list, and then use that list to shop for gaps in your closet. So easy!

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2 comments so far...

  • I can’t tell you just how timely this is. You’re a fashion mind reader.

    Nataly  |  August 26th, 2011 at 5:27 pm

  • Wow! This is a great round up. I especially want to read the first three books.

    Nmaha  |  August 28th, 2011 at 11:58 am