NOT-Recomended Reading: The Style Strategy


A few months ago, HM and I were wandering around a Barnes & Noble killing time, and I did my obligatory time in the Fashion section. Although I’d snickered at Garcia’s previous efforts – especially The One Hundred, a list of must-have items that bored me to tears – I thumbed through The Style Strategy with unexpected interest. Here was a book that claimed it would outline a less-is-more philosophy without making the shopaholic feel deprived. I thought, hey, I’m a shopaholic. This could help me!

Wrong-o.

Not only does Garcia’s book fail to present any ideas that are even remotely new, but she spends the majority of the book telling you that THE BOOK IN YOUR HANDS IS COMPLETELY AWESOME. I cannot express in words how aggravated I was by this tactic. I mean, seriously. How often can an author reference the title of a work WITHIN that work without looking foolish? I’d say twice. Garcia must’ve dropped her own name on every other page.

This might’ve been a less heinous crime if the book was as fabulously insightful and invaluable as she constantly claimed. But no! The Style Strategy provides advice that any woman with three or more functioning brain cells already knows: Inventory what you own before shopping, figure out the difference between “want” and “need” to avoid binges, the tailor can help fix beloved-but-damaged garments. So helpful!

I kept reading in hopes that this little tome would improve, but no such luck. It remained uninteresting, trite, and self-referential throughout. And I decided that I don’t ever need to read a Nina Garcia book again.

Did anyone else pick up this book? Like it better than I did? Maybe I’m missing something … it has certainly happened! I’d love to hear more opinions.

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  • Poppy Buxom

    Me me me! And I agree–it was lame.

    I *really* need to stop getting sucked in to books by their stylish illustrations.

  • SR@MyStyle

    Haven't read it and am now unlikely too, thanks for the tip!! Have a great day my dear!

  • Lindsey

    No, haven't read it, but was wondering: what fashion-oriented books would you recommend? Ones to help someone like me know where to START? I loved fashion in high school but am now a SAHM and it's all kinda gone down the drain. I've read your blog since last August and am finally going to attempt to do something about my extremely dilapidated wardrobe. Sadly, I don't know where to even begin!

    The one truth is, whenever I'm lost, I turn to books for inspiration and direction… ha! So perhaps you can help me get off on the right foot!

    I know what book I'm *not* getting though! Thank you! 🙂

    I love all your posts. I was especially touched by the Trust Yourself one you did recently, and really enjoyed reading your financial update. You're a remarkable, candid, honest & lovely woman.

    I miss Minnesota! We moved from St Paul this past November (to KANSAS – eek!)… kiss the ground for me, will ya? 😉

    (whew, what a comment! LOL!)

  • Coco

    I have not read it, but did read/look at her previous books.
    They were…meh.
    I think she is writing to the women out there who really don't think about these things–and as much as it seems unbelievable, they are out there. I wouldn't even call myself a "smart shopper" and I know I am at least a few steps more accomplished than many women (and men) out there (in shopping, at least). Many people out there aren't even to the point of developing their own style–they need help just tackling the basics.
    The present "disposable culture" of cheap sweatshop handbags and "wear-em-once" dresses is taking potshots at true style. Garcia's new book sounds bland, narcissistic, repetitive…but if it inspires even a few people to get a pair of vintage shoes repaired or turns someone into a "quality" instead of a "quantity," it's worth something.
    Also, I really like the illustrations in her former books for some reason. I really ended up looking at them because I loved the pictures. I have been tempted to cut them out and make a collage. You have inspired me:)

  • K.Line

    I was so irritated by that black book she put out a few years ago that there is no way I will spend my money on her writing again. Your review is very useful!

  • Mother of Style

    Style books are something I don't really ever buy. I check them out at the library if I really am intrigued by what I see when I'm browsing at B&N.

  • Anonymous

    I read this but don't remember much about it. I liked The One Hundred because the illustrations were so fun to look at. I did truly enjoy Tim Gunn's book: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style, so check that one out if you haven't.

  • fröken lila

    some time ago i read another of her books, the "little black book to style" (or something like that). it had nice illustrations, but neither the usual "ten garments every woman should have in her closet" (including the horrible white men's shirt which looks like a sak on at leats every other woman) nor her other style tips (which she aparently seems to recycle in every book) were remotely as interesting as your blog. i bet you could do a lot better (if you should ever write a book on style) than she!!

  • Diana

    That's too bad. I really liked her other books, but this one sounds like it's not worth even picking up.

  • Sarah

    I always get books from the library first and this is exactly why. Sorry you didn't like the book. I haven't read it and am not going to.

  • eek

    I also found it a little underwhelming, but I am a sucker for those Ruben Toledo drawings. They are really the reason I have bought 2 of her books!

  • Renee

    i read her "little black book of style" and wasn't incredibly impressed. nothing tops Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality Taste and Style.

    http://www.thriftypoet.blogspot.com

  • Vanessa

    Good to know– won't pick this book up.

  • Anonymous

    I thought that the 100 list of whatever book was a nice book for someone who wasn't sure where to start, or what to start with. I use it as a guide if I am just totally lost and need a put together outfit. I prob won't even buy/read any of her other books, though.

  • Melrose

    I was given the One Hundred as a gift a few years back when I wasn't so obsessed with fashion, and I remember being happy that I had a few of the items, and something to build from. Now I look at it and its like… DUH. Trench. DUH. animal print….. but I get its appeal to the clueless.

    And yes, the illustrations MAKE the book…. at least you wont hesitate to cut it up and do a little art project maybe?

  • Emily S.

    Can you recommend an alternative to The Style Strategy? I'm looking for something similar for my sister, who is getting ready to graduate college and wants to conduct a major wardrobe overhaul accordingly. I've almost picked up this book for her multiple times, but something always stopped me.

  • Denise

    I'm with Eek: I adore the Ruben Toledo illustrations. I own her other two books, and thought The Black Book of Style had some good advice. If can add my own two cents regarding other style books, a few favorites are Eccentric Glamour by Simon Doonan; How to Have Style by Isaac Mizrahi; Brenda Kinsel's first three books; and though it's a bit tongue in cheek and definitely not for everyone, I really love The Bombshell Manual of Style by Laren Stover.

  • Sal

    Hi gals! First off, thanks for pointing out what I forgot: The illustrations in this book are GORGEOUS. Truly. Even if you have no intention of buying, take a peek.

    Now, as for my recommended style books … I have read many, and skimmed many more and I have to say that most of them disappoint me. The one that I return to again and again? Trinny and Susannah's "What You Wear Can Change Your Life." As much as the very title of their show, "What Not to Wear," rankles me, the very title of this book thrills me. It wasn't until I read it that I truly set myself on a path of focused, honed style. They can be a little judgy and thinness-focused at times, but overall it's truly fantastic. And the section on color pairings is absolutely unmatched. Lindsey and Emily S., this book would be especially great for someone who is looking for a start-at-the-beginning style primer.

    If I come across anything else I adore, I'll be sure to post. Denise's recommendations include quite a few I haven't yet sampled!

  • Faith J.

    I checked out all three of Nina's books from the library, and they really helped me. I loved them. I thought they were well-written and very inspiring. I enjoyed them for the same reasons I enjoy reading style blogs, they give me ideas and inspired me to stand up for the importance of fashion and taking care of yourself.

  • Lesa

    Hated it and the last one!uriss

  • Travellingone

    I agree – the book was a waste of time, but I took it apart, framed some of my favourite illustrations in dimestore gilt frames and put them in my bathroom. They look fabulous!

  • Rosie

    I own all of her books yet still need to read them cover to cover! I definitely found this one the least interesting. As many of you have said, the illustrations make the books – my main reason for purchasing them. I absolutely love Toledo's work – what wonderful ideas to make a collage or frame some!

  • Peldyn

    I found that some people need more hand holding and maybe her latest book is just what they need. Over time I myself am more and more turned off my her so I will give this one a pass.

  • Lorena

    DId not pick this book up and will not pick it up now!
    However I did pick up her first book, The Little Black Book of Style… I expected more from it …I was disappointed… there was an entire chapter dedicated to how her mom had a seamstress that lived in their house, how rich they were and how all her style came from all the travels she had as a child… sucky, sucky book.

  • Anonymous

    thank you! I don't have to read another *style* book/
    I have already read A LOT!/
    (^-^)

  • storiteller

    I totally agree on Tim Gunn's book! It didn't have anything earth-shattering to say style-wise, but I loved how it exactly matched his voice, intellectualism and all. I can't imagine Glamour has ever quoted Kierkegaard and Roland Barthes, but Tim Gunn's book does in a way that's totally non-threatening and actually applicable to clothing!