She said : This book helps one find their personal style.

He said : Why ? Was it lost ? How does one loose their preferences ? How does one not have a point of view ? Who is convincing you that you need to find it ? Are they trying to sell you something ? This book perhaps ? Wait, did you buy all these books ?

She said : You could topple ‘find your personal style’ industry. I can give you a list of bloggers to go troll for starters.

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It is said that you are the average of the 20 people you spend most of your time with. If that were true of style, I would have become a normcore dresser. I had to find my 20 influencers elsewhere. Books helped me reach them. They connected me with folk who exist in worlds that exist far far away. They helped me understand some of the technical details of the craft. They gave me a window into the artistic side of fashion. They helped me get out of stores and got my head into the pages. These are the books I own in my home library. They are very cuddle-friendly. These are the ones I take to a tea shop and can spend a few hours with. Allow me to recommend a few :

Focal Point :

A point of view.

The Little Black Book of Style, Nina Garcia

This lady is my sartorial fairy godmother. I landed in America with an Indian sensibility on clothing and with no clue on how to dress myself in Western clothes. I was wearing t-shirt and jeans coz that was the normcore thing to do to fit in. The only advice I got was to be cheap during Black Friday sales. Nina Garcia’s book was revolutionary when I found it. It talked about the essentials, the accent pieces, the accessories, the must have shoes, confidence, attitude, rebellion, …. the building blocks of a style. To want to have a personal style, was revolutionary. I thought you were meant to have variety – one of everything and make as many outfits as possible. I was taught that you ought to save your favorites and wear them only on special ocassions. I was taught that its a virtue to dress “normal” on an everyday basis. To have style, was to be frivolous and to be distracted from the real important things in life. This book helped me undo the bourgeoisie thinking.

A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, Tim Gunn

Boy is he opinionated. And is fearless about screaming it out loud. You know how you can try something on in store that looks meh and you are not sure about … but salesperson/your well meaning friend will say the sweetest things to make you feel good in the garment and prompt you to buy it ? He is not among them. He is brutally honest. He will say the things you dread hearing. The things I veto coz I am critical, have his voice in the back of my head. Learn to say your NOs. At-least that way, you will buy less, waste less and live a more sustainable life.

Lessons in Lingerie, Rebecca Aspan.

I would try to teach all the information in this book to my future unborn daughter. I have a lot to say on this topic but I choose not to, coz this is the internet and my blog is linked to my real name. [ Open to pen name suggestions. ]

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I Love Your Style, Amanda Brooks.

I love this book.

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Tomboy Style,  Lizzie Garrett Mettler.

It’s very stereotypical in its discourse on implied masculinity and femininity but interesting nevertheless. To have these pictures in analog form bound into a book to lounge with, is pleasure.

Your Beauty Mark, Dita Von Teese

“I feel sexiest looking like a woman.”

Glamour, an almost antiquated concept, has a lot to teach a modern women. We don’t see chapters on how to beautify your bosom, often. Do we ? It helped me make up my mind on what to reject and what to keep.

D.V., Diana Vreeland

Is she a human or a tsunami ? Her passion for life is ginormous and it’s explored in reference to fashion. I could feel my personality changing as I read the book. I was talking a lot more. I became louder. I was wearing more red. I was getting bolder. I was laughing a lot more. Very few people have this sort of contagious energy. She has so much that it jumps at you from a book.

Focal Point :

Impact of our society on our personal style.

The Lost Art of Dress, Linda Przybyszewski.

This is as analytical as it gets. I find it un-necessary to think this much about clothes but it was such an interesting anthropological read that I couldn’t put the book away. They have a chapter on racism’s impact on beauty standards – very eye opening.

The Thoughtful Dresser, Linda Grant.

Each chapter is a fascinating story. I wish my blog posts had the depth of these chapters. If I wrote a book, it would resemble this one.

Deluxe, Dana Thomas.

“Buy cheap clothes but pair it with a Chanel bag” sort of thinking is a virus in today’s fast fashion-loving society. Buying luxury bags but complaining about not being able to afford anything but fast fashion is just lame. I was that fashion victim buying from Zara while saving for an Hermes Kelly. This book cured me. I don’t want the Zara or the Kelly. I want good quality clothes that I wear on repeat till they fall apart. That’s all I want. This book is written by a journalist with solid research and sources. If you have the luxury handbag gene, this book is for you. She will tell you the truth of how the Freudian psychologists, marketing departments & the PR departments encoded your bag genome.

Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline.

All about fast fashion / accelerated consumption.

I am buying this book as xmas present for the women in my family who are shopaholics.  I think I will read it again, just coz my closet size is growing too fast for my taste.

You are What You Wear, Jennifer Baumgartner.

If you ever wanted to learn what a therapist would say about your closet and it’s tales, look no further. They have correlations to diagnose shopping behavior with emotional undercurrents.

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Fashion Victims, Alison Matthews David.

If Coco Channel was born in the small town I come from and tried to designed clothes she did, we would have bullied her into wearing a saree. If you talked to me about giving up my heels, I would mumble some excuses and try to convince you that my heels are ‘comfortable’. [ They are not. ] You sometimes need to step out of the bubble to see the larger picture to un-do the brain washing. This book has a zillion such stories from across the history of mankind. Women drowning because the skirt were too tight. Royalty being poisoned by the dye used in their garments. Its got a lot of bizarre stories that we shouldn’t forget.

Focal Point :

Understanding the why’s behind our choices.

Women in Clothes, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, and Sheila Heti.

Wrote an entire post about it here.

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Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, Wanda M. Corn.

Wrote these two posts about her : 1 & 2. This book might be the most comprehensive piece of writing on one woman’s personal style ever written. A lot of time is dedicated to her philosophy on life and her views on being feminine. Her closet and it’s origins gets a big chunk of the book. I ripped the pages out of my book to take photos for the blog post and I will never forgive myself for ruining such a beautiful book.

A guide to Elegance, Geneviève Antoine-Dariaux.

Ummm, this book is a lil old fashioned but if you have a woman in your life who buys into the idea of that lady like elegance, this book is for her.

P.S : Its all very French a la 18th century. I would assume a European aristocrat would be taught this sort of thing in a finishing school. I am too much of a commoner to take any of these rules seriously but my curiosity got the best of me. Read the page on each topic and veto the rules to make up your own mind.

Focal Point :

Shopping Methodology.

 

Sustainable lux, Jordan Phillips. 

Lessons in sustainability for the luxury shopper. I would gift this book to the wealthy women in my life who are terrified of acknowledging that their shopping habits are taxing on our natural resources. This book lets them in gently while sugar coating the problem and suggesting where to shop instead. Its a very feel good and chirpy book. Usually, most literature on sustainability leaves me depressed.

French Chic

A lot has been said about the chic French women. Every time I write about it on this blog, someone will jump at me in the comments screaming “French women are normal. They are not chic.” That is not the point ! [ It’s the difference between an atheist and a mystic. The former has some energy invested in disproving the myth of the superhuman being. The later has taken the essence of religion and applied it to find a sense of spirituality. ] What I can learn from this myth is what I care about. A condensed and comprehensive version of the wisdom is available in this book.

Cheap Chic, Caterine Milinaire.

This book is to personal style, what the book Sapiens is to history of mankind. If I were to nominate one book to be read by every woman, it would be this one. Its eye opening. It has a expansive world view on style. It has shopping strategies. It has investment strategies. It has money saving strategies. Its all elegantly written. It has chapters on conformists and rebels. It breaks the stereotypes on women having to pick one from check list : classic, tomboy, bohemian, …. and dressing accordingly. Screw the rules. Have fun with your clothing. The book has a lot to teach from the view point of having fun with style.

It’s Vintage Darling !

If you have a fabulous vivacious grandma who dressed like Coco Chanel and she was giving you advice on how to shop, it would be in this book. I am genuinely envious of all the women who wear vintage clothing. I think it requires some imagination, confidence and attitude to pull them off. This book certainly helps.

 

Focal Point :

Learnt the rules and break them.

 

Brooklyn Street Style : The no rules Guide to Fashion. Anya Sacharow

Have you ever met a non-judgemental book on style ? were there is no right and wrong. You are as likely to be laughed at, as rewarded for wearing something silly. That is the charm of New York and Brooklyn in general. No rules. No stereotypes. No typecasting. No cliche correlations between the clothes and the person wearing it. A whole lot of fun.

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Paris Street Style. Isabelle Thomas, Frédérique Veysset.

Interviews of some very Parisian men and women. I discovered Lemaire through these pages.

How to get Dressed. Alison Freer

If you had access to a good stylist, what questions would you ask about fit of specific garments ? She has all the answers written down. Even if you dont have any questions to ask, she will make you aware of the ratios and proportions.

Focal Point :

Imagery & Illustration.

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The Vintage Showroom: An Archive of Menswear

Focal Point :

A peak into the creator’s mind.

 

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Margiela : The Hermes Years.

I often wonder why we need designers anymore. It’s the same variation in different fabrics in similar cuts. But then, I learnt of the term ‘designer’s designer’. This special breed invents new techniques and puts forth a new approach to dressing. The other pick it up and make stylized versions of it. Margiela, is one such individual. This book is an absolute delight to any person who appreciates modular design and the concept of ‘timeless’.

Read about the designer here.

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Yohji

He is a dress maker. This man’s philosophy is worth knowing.

Read more about him in my older posts : part 1, part 2, part 3.

Balenciaga

The recluse who gave us black clothes as a form of minimalism. The master who invented numerous techniques that are used in the tailoring world today.

A Beautiful Fall

I didn’t understand what the word ‘style’ meant till I read this book. YSL is my HERO. Anything I write about the book is biased. I wouldn’t mind if you don’t read this book. Coz I would have liked to kept it a secret. Paris in the 60’s was something.

Focal Point :

Street Style.

The Sartorialist : 1, 2 & 3.

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Cycle Style.

Women in this Town.

Men in this Town.

Asian Street Style

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Denim Dudes

Denim : Street style, Vintage, Obsession.

Focal Point :

It’s a Craft.

Sewing Couture

I purchased this to learn to identify quality of goods. I buy my clothes online. When they come home, I try to compare the stitches and try to assess if the makers took any short cuts. It’s a good dictionary to own. Espy if you are a blogger who uses the “S” word while chanting “buy less. buy better. make it last.” What is quality ? Why are your seams falling apart ? Why are you clothes aging poorly ? this book will teach you.

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This book moved me to tears. But I went right back to wearing navy blue poplin as a uniform. So take my words with a pinch of salt. On any given day, I would sit with this book over go to a store/mall/website to browse. Its an expensive book but the makers deserve the money for all the effort they put into this project. It’s an encyclopedia on fabrics.

Focal Point :

Sustainability.

Wabi Sabi

I wasn’t born appreciating the beauty of the everyday things. I needed a philosopher to open my eyes to it. After this book, I started mending my clothes and polishing my shoes. I started wearing simpler and humbler clothes with pride. I walked past the shiny things I would have liked. A zen approach to zero waste and simplicity.

[ I have to add : wabi sabi has a commercial tag in today’s Western hipster market. I know a blogger, who writes about sustainability, throw out her perfectly usable set of china and buy a new set with the wabi-sabi imperfect aesthetic flown in from Japan. Please read this book before it becomes typecast as a commodity, instead of a mindset. ]

Fugitive denim

Do you wear denim ? Do you love your denim ? The global economics of denim and the nuances that go into making it. It explores the human factors in sticking to our ethics.

A bunch of pretty things I didnt buy

Do you know a young person who constantly buys cheap clothes for no reason at all ? Do you know an older person who constantly buys cheap clothes with no need at all ? This books is a 101 on fast fashion for a person who doesn’t read anything else but quotes / whatsapp forwards.

Wear no evil

A book full of infographics, numbers and stories on fast fashion. This should be the first book on fast fashion anyone should read. Discussions on fast fashion should not be cause-impact-fact based. Most of the time, it’s being discussed from the view point of a consumer – its inconvenient, it costs more money, its not as perfect as it can be, “but I need that dress”, “what if I invest and get bored of it?”, “I know a single mother who cant afford it “, … Discussions on fast fashion should be more from the lens of folks who suffer to get these clothes to us. This book gives an overall picture.

Focal Point :

Build a fantastic closet.

Lessons from Madame Chic

Her book became the catalyst on triggering women in America to investigate the closets of French women and start capsule wardrobes. She taught me the idea of everyday elegance.

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Parisian Chic, Ines.

Very French. No sermons on minimalism in this book but a lot of words on taste. She is a blue blood after all !

Curated Closet, Anushka

Another blogger with a book deal who will ask us to buy striped tops and add a pop of color with an accessory ? Or so I thought. Wrong. She has some great advice on closet building. There is nothing generic about this book. She has had years of interaction with her blog readers which could have contributed to her understanding of diversity.

Lastly :

The Human Origins.

Sapiens

If you are a Homo Sapien, you need to read this book. If you routinely venture opinions on intellectual matters, you need to read this book. Everything else can wait. When we make contact with the aliens, the information in this book should be shared to help them understand us.

[If you read ‘A short history of nearly everything‘ and ‘Guns, Germs and Steel‘, you can skip this book. ]

Zero-waste gifting :

Give them a book that you love. Go “borrow” it once they are done reading it.

Borrow a stack from the library. Offer to make the return once they are done.

Give them your stack and ask them to keep the one they like the most. You can replace your book once they decide.

Please ask your loved one if they need the things you want to give them.  A gift is not supposed to make someone unhappy by adding to their clutter.


I was asked to make this post last last year after I made a list on my fav books on sustainable living. Sorry for the delay 🙂 Too many books coming at you in one post ? That is a good problem to have don’t you think ? If you don’t like any of the books being suggested, feel free to take it up with me.