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Required Reading — I Love Your Style: How To Define and Refine Your Personal Style

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I’m gonna say what too many fashionistas are afraid to vocalize: most of the fashion-related “how to” tomes lining bookstore shelves are complete and utter rubbish. Oftentimes, they provide common sense advice or so-called inspirational mottos that read like fortune cookie snippets (i.e. “be true to yourself” or “wear comfortable shoes”). Other books, meanwhile, feature a gaggle of celebrity photographs and encourage readers to mimic these trendsetters’ looks— which leads to the masses all looking like one scarily monolithic unit. But Amanda Brooks’ I Love Your Style breaks away from the mold by fusing together the author’s memoir-esque musings about discovering and developing her own personal style with images and bits of info about style icons through the ages and useful tips about the key wardrobe pieces within various style categories.

Brooks starts by identifying some broad style categories and providing images of those who helped to define them. For the “Classic” style lovers, for example, she incorporates images of Jackie Kennedy, Mia Farrow, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and more. She also identifies some of the key pieces in creating this look: from a little black dress to pencil skirts, sensible pumps, oversize sunglasses, riding boots, and tailored trousers. These are, in turn, accompanied by tips on what to consider as you shop for these pieces, how to pair them in a sensible manner, and how to take these staples and wear them in a way that expresses your individuality. She even lists books, films, and resources for readers to further familiarize themselves with the looks discussed.

The main personal style categories she explores are: Classic, Bohemian, Minimal, High Fashion, Street, and Eclectic. Out of these chapters, I found “Classic” and “Bohemian” to be the most robust and inspired. The weakest was probably “Street,” since Brooks attempts to lump too many different looks together — from  rocker girl cool (as defined by Debbie Harry) to Rasta-flavored to hip-hop (which is, in and of itself, a category that could inspire an entire book). I feel like there could have been more categories (such as Mod, Hippie, Afrocentric, Goth, etc.), but I do acknowledge that doing so would’ve presented a huge challenge — particularly given the space constraints that naturally accompany print media.

Once she has discussed the major categories, Brooks then moved into the shopping phase of the book, breaking down the basics every woman should have in her closet, the best places to shop for on-trend accessories and pieces, what to look for when shopping for vintage duds, and more. When providing advice, Brooks moves beyond the abstract and gets specific, which makes her words all the more useful — for example, she suggests keeping accessories at a minimum when wearing vintage fashions since most tend to be rather ornate. I do wish she listed more specific resources in terms of vintage stores, thrift shops, estate sales, sample sale destinations, etc., since most of this info doesn’t come intuitively to readers, but I suppose that could comprise an entire directory in and of itself. Still, the tips she offers will be useful to both style novices and more seasoned fashionistas.

Not only does Brooks provide valuable information throughout the book, but she encourages readers to experiment, to mix and match fearlessly so as to establish a style that is all their own. And, by doing so, she encourages women to approach fashion as a means for self-expression.

I Love Your Style: How To Define And Refine Your Personal Style, $13.59. Visit Buy at Amazon.com

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