A Guide to Elegance, For every woman who wants to be well and properly dressed on all occasions
Genevieve Antoine Dariaux
I offer this as antidote to the numerous facile how-to-dress books that clutter bookstore shelves. Madame Dariaux, the directrice for Nina Ricci for many years, distills her wisdom from A (accessories, adaptability and age) to Z (zoology, a discussion of urban dog etiquette) into a tiny Tiffany-blue volume. Some might find her notions antiquated, but she’s a clear voice in the storm when many women follow fashion vigorously, but few have great style and fewer still could be called elegant. Whereas the Spade book (below) aspires to convey guidelines for achieving style on the order of a Diana Vreeland or a Jackie Kennedy, Madame Dariaux in her Guide, actually plays the role that Vreeland did for Kennedy, essentially acting as Kennedy’s stylist and style-tutor when her husband became president. A Guide to Elegance effortlessly and with a great deal of practicality (she makes smart economical suggestions throughout the luxury-laden book) offers suggestions to help women of all shapes and ages in all circumstances (financial and social) dress well and confidently. Many of the entries cover topics I’ll likely never face, like traveling with fine jewelry, for example, but there is a great deal of substance here for those who aim to dress rather than costume themselves.
Style by Kate Spade
On the other hand, Style by Kate Spade, a happy, green-covered coffee table book that fits in your spare little Spade bag, is kind of the book analogue of Spade empire (encompassing bags, glasses, home, paper, beauty products and other accessories). Like the typical Spade product, it is clean, pretty and simple. In this book, Spade aims for a Martha Stewart-esque combination of overbearing comprehensiveness (a list of books to read is included, presumably so you can be as smart as you dress), cutesy little asides (husband, Andy quoted frequently) and oddities like blithe confidence in the rightness of the color green. Like Stewart, Spade claims authoritativeness without authority. On the upside, the book design is quite nice and the illustrations are cheery. Oh, and she likes bracelet sleeves as do I. What is more off-putting is that Style comes as one of a trio of books, Style, Manners, and Occasions that if followed to the letter become a road-map to Spade-ness. Occasions, in particular, makes it clear that Spade is gunning for Martha, but taking as her launch-point for lifestyle domination bags rather than baguettes.