What I Read ItalyI’ve had these two books sitting on my shelf for the better part of this past year, and though I have flipped casually through the odd section at one time or another I had yet to really tuck into them.  Now was the perfect time to slide them out.

First of all, my interest in the topic of personal style was suddenly piqued.  I had been feeling a sense of charity shopping withdrawal (especially when it came to the clothing racks) plus, it’s the time of year I tend to re-evaluate my cold weather clothes, deciding whether they are to be packed away or put in my charity shop donations bag.

I also felt they would serve the practical purpose of getting me excited and focused on my upcoming birthday charity shopping trip. I knew that after such a long absence from the charity shop racks I might fall into the trap of picking up things that I don’t really want or need simply because they looked like a good deal. I wanted to really tidy my charity shopping list and head out to the Chelsea charity shops with focus.

Italy porch

Our beautiful house in Lake Garda, Italy

And finally, I was about to leave on a family vacation to Italy with my in-laws.  I knew this trip was going to provide more time than normal to sit on the deck in the sun (and as it turned out, during thunderstorms) reading but I also needed books that weren’t too big (or hardcover) to pack in my carry-on luggage.

Harper’s Bazaar Great Style

Jenny Levin
Aurum Press, 2008
This book is full of great photographs of style icons and celebrities alike and in a book on style, photos are exactly what I’m looking for.  The photos are even more appreciated because they include well dressed ladies from different walks of life, ages and decades.  When you see a classic trench coat being worn by Catherine Deneuve in 1964, and Kate Moss in the 2000’s, and Coco Chanel and Drew Barrymore are sharing a page looking amazing and stylish, you know the trench coat really is a classic piece you need in your closet, and great personal style is timeless.

And if the photos weren’t enough to make this a great read, It is full of lists! *drool* There are few things I love more than a great list.  They made it easy to jump around to the different sections of the book as your mood struck you, rather than feeling as though you had to read it cover to cover to get the most out of the content.

Italy porch William

My early morning reading buddy

Style Clinic
Paula Reed
HarperCollins, 2009
On first glance, this book was much the same as the Harper’s Bazaar offering.  The take away being that both Jenny Levin (senior editor of Harper’s Bazaar at the time of publication) and Paula Reed (style director at Grazia at the time of publication) are women who know how to help women get started discovering and developing a sense of their own personal style.  They both highlight the importance of classic and basic pieces that we should all have hanging in our closets; and the common items they chose (although set out differently) are almost identical.  This book included just as many photos, but more often depicted individual clothing pieces and outfits on mannequins or draped empty rather than on individuals of notoriety or celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) status.  It also included much greater detail throughout the book, including advice on how to select the correct style and fit for your body type when it came to those “essential”  basic pieces.  Throughout the book, quotes on style and fashion could be found jumping off the page as well as “universal style truths.”  From the words of famous designers and style icons to Paula Reed’s own truths, you are likely to find something thought provoking. For me it was this:

Diana Vreeland, legendary editor of Harper’s Bazaar and American Vogue, once said “Elegance is refusal.” In simple terms, success is about knowing what works for you and what would look better on someone else.

Final Thoughts

These books were both great places for me to start considering how to proceed with focusing in on and understanding my own personal style.  I will say that for me, Style Clinic offered more detail and opportunities to consider the style that suits my personality, shape and lifestyle.  I think that is where the empty clothing or clothing on mannequins came in handy.  I was seeing the items for what they were rather than on someone “famous” who, while lovely and stylish, is absolutely nothing like me.  It did require more focus however to really read and appreciate the valuable content.  Great Style was a much easier read and similar to the glossy magazines full of celebrities we find at the salon.  It was still full of great fashion and style advice and admittedly it can be easier to narrow down styles we are attracted to, when we can see them on people whose style we are drawn to and admire.

As for Italy, we had such an amazing family vacation.  We did a little of everything, sightseeing, relaxing, eating and drinking, swimming; I could go on.  But here’s a (very) little look at our trip.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So the question for you is, where do you look for your fashion and style inspiration?
Perhaps you might find it in the charity shop window…

Happy hunting everyone!