Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Truth About Style by Stacy London

"If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people."
                                                                                                      Virginia Woolf

Those of us who love Stacy London will once again enjoy reading her latest book about finding your style niche and how style can heal our inner selves. The Truth About Style is a more personal go-around this time, part-bio and part style health care. I say style because fashion isn't style. Fashion is the creative part of the industry that comes out with new trends every six months. But style is something personal, a reflection of our intimate selves. The clothes we wear are a statement of who we are and comprise our "style".
"Trust me when I way that it is always better to wear what works, what feels organic to you, than to force yourself into a current trend that simply feels wrong. Dress for yourself and what suits your lifestyle, and you will always look good."
In an interesting few pages at the beginning of the book, Stacy London defines what she believes style is and why it is important for women (and men) to develop their own style. Style, as she notes, ends with an E, for emotion. Emotion is what we feel about ourselves and how we feel about ourselves often determines how we dress. This sort of interplay became very evident in the show she co-hosts, What Not to Wear. It was easy to see that many people who dressed terribly had body issues or self-esteem issues. For some, clothing was a way to blend in or hide themselves. And this is precisely what London does in this book; she takes a close look at a few specifically chosen women to see what might be causing their style problems. I will come back to this part of the book later. By the way, I love the quote from her father that Stacy includes in the first chapter, What This Book Is Not. When Stacy was doing poorly in grade 10 trigonometry, her father told her "You limit your options every time you don't try your best." What truth!

Applying this to style, London says that poor style limits our choices and control. It's a rather obvious connection, yet one that is often missed (as is evidenced repeatedly on What Not To Wear). Because when we don't present ourselves well, what we offer are poor first impressions. We influence all the other possibilities in our lives by the image we project -- something many people either ignore or don't understand.
"Style is about creating possibility. It's taking passionate, strategic control of your image -- not just to dress for a job you may not even have known your were going to want but for oodles of other things you can't predict for your future."
As a result of this, London chose nine women from the stories she received on social media with whom to work with on their style disconnect, as she terms it. She chose these nine women because their issues were common to many women and because she could identify with them. The women came to New York for "start-overs" which are a sort of style reboot based on what each woman wants/needs for her life.

The first person Stacy tackles is herself because as she writes, she too has gone through this process. With plenty of cute and interesting pictures of herself way back when, Stacy tells about her struggle with psoriasis, a skin condition that can make life truly miserable. I know because I have a good friend who has it and who also has several children who have this condition. Sea water and ultra violet light provide relief, but it's difficult to deal with the scaly red patches that can cover legs, arms, face and scalp. Stacy's battle with psoriasis continued until she was in grade seven at which point she found a cream that worked. From this point on, Stacy started to heal from the emotional and physical scars of dealing with a condition that made her want to hide her body. Stacy could wear the clothes she really wanted to - she could choose the skin she wanted to present to the world. She could finally be herself.

Woven between the rest of her personal story which includes anorexia and self-esteem issues are the stories and "start-overs" of the nine women. For each there is a picture of the outfit they wore to New York, followed by some commentary on each woman's story and how Stacy can relate their particular situation to her own life. It's a personal encounter both ways and the end results for each woman Stacy meets are, not surprisingly, fantastic. I found it wonderful to get to know Stacy London on a more personal level and to see how she sleuths out the style disconnect for each woman. At the end of all this, as London writes, "Style is a form of self-expression and aspiration."

The Truth About Style is engaging, well written and is organized so you can read the book really anyway you want. I flipped through the chapters on the individual women and read those first, but Stacy's story is no less interesting. I didn't know she worked at Vogue and her anecdote about catching an elevator with Anna Wintour was quite humorous. I found it incredible that while suffering from anorexia, Stacy managed to get hired at Vogue without a second glance. On second thought, not really all that surprising considering the models that show up in Teen Vogue.

What I love about Stacy London is her take-no-prisoners attitude towards style and her ability to approach a person's style disconnect with compassion and humour, helping people understand why they dress the way they do and then offering them a way to be true to themselves.

The following book trailer will give readers a quick view into the content of The Truth About Style, demonstrating London's gift for helping women empower themselves through fashion:

Book Review:
The Truth About Style by Stacy London
Viking Penguin:   2012

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