Can a book teach you how to dress?

The language of style.
April 5 2006 2:18 PM

Paper Doll

Can you learn how to dress from a book?

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And that is why the best book I read was the plainest of the bunch: an unassuming little guide called Does This Make Me Look Fat? by Leah Feldon. Yucky font, boring line drawings and all, Feldon's book—which actually has almost nothing to do with fatness—is what fashion dorks like me most desperately need: easy basic rules for boring classic uniforms that will not horrify your toddler. Head-to-toe black. Vertical silhouettes. Garments that skim, rather than cling. Got it. And if you're short, skip the Capri pants. Skip the Capri pants! Why didn't anyone tell me? (My husband swears he did.) She mentions Audrey Hepburn a lot. But for the truly challenged, Audrey is about as good a touchstone as you can hope for.

Some women are inherently stylish. But for those of you who aren't, it is rules like Feldon's that will make you free. You won't come to love clothes, but you may start to think of them as allies rather than foes. You'll start to notice when things skim as opposed to cling; people may start to say you've lost some weight or ask about your eyeliner (Eyeliner? Are you drunk?). And one day your not-quite-3-year-old will cock his head and say, "Mamma, you look handsome." And that will be your signature personal style.

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Correction, April 5, 2006: This piece originally identified the hosts of What Not to Wear as "Clinton and Kelly." Their names are Clinton Kelly and Stacey London. ( Return to corrected sentence.)

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