Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: The Fashion File

     Katherine Jane Bryant, better known as Janie Bryant, is an award winning costume designer for the hit 1960s inspired tv show Mad Men. FACT: the 1960s was my absolute favorite era in fashion [actually everything in between the 1920s-1960s I absolutely lovelovelove]. I love everything about it, the volume, the drama, the silhouette, and the feminine details in the clothes, the waves in the hair, and the cat eye look. But this book draws inspiration from all of the great eras of fashion from the roaring 20s to the super-sized glamour of the 80s. 

"Knowing your 'character' is the key to cultivating your style. Who do you want to be today? With the right clothes, you can be whomever you want to be. And you can change your 'character' from day to day, depending on your needs and whims."

     The first immediate reaction that I had to the book is how beautiful the illustrations are. Janie Bryant is a costume designer after all so it only comes with the territory! Aside from the aesthetics, the book is very organized and flows very well. Every illustration, photograph,  and image of a piece of jewelry are appropriately placed throughout the book which makes for an easy transition from text to image on every page. [If you can't tell already I'm very particular about how things are organized.] Another very obvious reaction to the book is how passionate Janie is to her work. In the foreword written by January Jones, who plays Betty Draper, she described how emotional Janie Bryant would get when everything would come together with the costume. She would even plead her not to cry when she has seen her finished work. On top of which, her love for vintage and her impeccable taste in the classics is definitely evident -- she had an entire chapter dedicated to her passion for vintage! 

"Janie is a firm believer that you don't have to spend a lot of money to look fabulous. You can find something vintage and alter it and make it really special."
- January Jones

     In addition, another first impression-based reaction that I had was how she incorporated some very relevant history about fabrics, colors, and origins [beauty and brains!] Inevitably, shapewear and undergarments and defining your silhouette and shape was also greatly emphasized. Dressing for your body type is a must and a very obvious call [at least for most of us]. By knowing your correct measurements like your bust, waist, and hips, and body type/shape makes all the difference in the world when it comes to fit and the visual aspect of a garment. But the topics of shapewear [like Spanx] and undergarments was kind of one of those 'duh' moments. January Jones and Christina Hendricks who play Betty Draper and Joan Holloway, respectively, attest to the fact that having the correct undergarments beneath those costumes [girdles, long-line bras, and stockings] contributes to making them feel, walk, and maintain their postures for their roles. And this point is totally relatable because when I'm trying on strapless dresses without the correct bra, the fit is completely off and it doesn't look right. Or when some women wear racerback tanks with the bra straps showing, it's just plain sloppy or worse, muffin tops [disastrous]. Lessons learned: learn thy measurements and the correct undergarments and shapewear is the foundation to a polished look! 

       My absolute favorite ideas in this book are: 
  • Putting together a fashion journal
  • The cocktail chatter and checklist  after every chapter
  • Calling your closet a dressing room 
In chapter 3 titled "The Dressing Room," Janie encourages readers to start a fashion journal. In this journal she suggests you jot down your most basic information like those before-mentioned measurements, shoe size, most flattering colors and silhouettes, and shopping needs. She also suggests that you jot down your favorite outfits as you discover them. I took this advice and began my very own fashion journal and formatted it a bit differently, but with the same basic idea. Among several other additions of my own [topic of next blog perhaps?!], I used the idea of writing down your favorite outfits, but since I'm such a visual person, I took polaroids instead [and i wish to invest in a dress form very soon so that the outfits will be more neatly presented!] 

   I also loved how she included a checklist after every chapter which summarizes a lot of her key points. This not only serves to jog your memory of what you've just read, but also serves as a place of suggestions and MUST-TRY! ideas, like trying on pieces in colors you've never worn before and practicing walking around the house in heels with the correct posture! The cocktail chatter segment that comes along with it is filled with a lot of interesting facts about history and fashion [now you can impress your friends at your next dinner party!]

"Conceptualizing a fantastic outfit requires viewing an open landscape of possibilities."

   And finally, I thought that it was creative how she calls her closet her dressing room, a term she described as a "more glamourous moniker." The whole point of having a so-called dressing room is to get dressed and to get dressed very well! And in order to do that, everything needs to be visible, as stressed by the quote above. I cannot tell you how many times I've overlooked so many pieces in my closet because it's overflowing and so many good options were hidden beneath the massive cluster of clothes [fashion confession]. Organization and placement is also just as important as the visibility of your closet. Janie Bryant advices that you archive your clothes based on seasons and in the order in which you would dress - tops and blouses up top and skirts and pants on the bottom. And of course, rid your closet of pieces that no longer fits or stained and basically anything that's beyond repair. So read up and find your inner Betty Draper or Joan Holloway! 

Love, KB

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