I am not a fan of ‘style guide’ books. There is something both comical and absurd about a person following a book, step by step, on how to dress themselves much like following a recipe in a cookbook or something. I’ve flicked through some of them in disgust and horror (don’t get me started on Trinny and Susannah’s wonderful ways of making everyone look exactly the same….). However, when The Cheap Date Guide to Style, written by Kira Jolliffe and Bay Garnett came out a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued to check it out and yes, I forked over the money on my first ‘Guide to Style’ book. Why the intrigue? For a start, I was a major fan of Bay and Kira’s Cheap Date magazine which is sadly now defunct and a book coming from these thrifting-obsessive style mavens HAD to have some depth to it beyond the usual ‘This is a pencil skirt. You wear it like this.’ rubbish that I see in some style guides.
After I read through the whole thing in about an hour, I concluded that for me, the book would be better named ‘Style Affirmation.’ The book, far from adopting a ‘Do this, don’t do that’ methodology is about encouraging a unique personal style, cultivating eccentricities and really putting your own stamp on things. This excerpt from the end of the book is a good summary of what it’s trying to get at:
‘There are no rules. The world is your oyster, whether you end up looking fabulously odd and asymmetrical or chicly reined-in and conventional. By listening to your own opinion, the possibilities are endless. Absorbing an old Cecil Beaton photo, you could be inspired to wear kid gloves in grey with pearl wrist buttons of an evening out, and why not? Limitlessness is an addictive fix."
It is a book that in some ways is already preaching to the choir since if you’re a thrifter or vintage-lover, there won’t be any revelations in this book but rather than giving you new insight, you’re sort of agreeing with everything and thinking ‘This book gets me!’. Well at least, that was the case with me. If you’re not inclined to go rooting around charity shops for finds or you don’t wish to be a style eccentric, then it’s unlikely the book is going to suddenly convert you so in fact, the audience for this book is a little on the niche side.
So for example, when the book was going through their idea of ‘Wardrobe Basics’, instead of opening me up to something new, it actually gave me a few practical reminders, such as going to the dancewear store to pick up more ballet warm up shoes, getting a simple grey sweatshirt and also some painters trousers from a hardware store, all things I would have done anyway.
It also features some style insight/advice from a good mix of people from Chloe Sevigny, Anita Pallenberg, Anna Piaggi, Vivienne Westwood, Camilla Nickerson, Kelis and strangely Mischa Barton – probably the only major blight in the book. No offense to any Mischa fans, but I’m not convinced by her supposedly ‘unique’ and ‘individual’ style. But bar that, great quotes like ‘I think one should be completely relaxed, and a little bit off, assymetrical’ (Anna Piaggi talking about style), ‘You can be stylish and not necessarily chic.’ (Chloe Sevigny) and ‘It’s much more fun to be your alter-ego; it’s good to be your imaginary best friend.’ (Angela Butolph talking about adopting different style personalities). These are some of the fashion archetypes, you might want to feel like chanelling for a day:
Then there is the fashion mindset that runs throughout the book which is encouraging people to thrift and go vintage with repeated references to the icons of the past laid out in a collage/mood-board format. There is reverance for the past:
It really does try and make you see the origins of your clothing do not end at big chain stores:
So, I suppose, though I’m not recommending this book as a ‘Guide to Style’ – i.e. someone looking to completely reinvent themselves and following this step by step, word for word, which I still maintain is a hideously bizarre way of approaching personal style, I’m definitely saying buy it and read it to just nod in agreement and re-affirm what you already know is right anyway.