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Three Books For Frugal Fashionistas

by Melissa Walker
Sep 17, 2009 (All Things Considered)

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One of the biggest myths about the fashion world is that it's only for people who value lavish extravagance. Not true! Even the designs in the runway shows going on this week in New York are returning to simple lines and more affordable looks. And any genuine fashionista will tell you the most innovative clothing choices originate with those who have to get creative, not people who have the budget for hand-sewn gowns with 4,000 sequins. These three book will inspire you to find your true personal style — which has more to do with your sense of self than your bank balance.

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'Fashion 101'

Fashion 101, A Crash Course in Clothing, by Erika Stalder, paperback, 128 pages
Marketed to teenagers, Erika Stalder's Fashion 101 has more style information in its 128 pages than a gigantic September issue of Harper's Bazaar — plus fun illustrations.

The clear prose and fascinating tidbits — did you know that the first sports bra was created from a jockstrap? — make it a riveting read for aspiring stylistas of any age. Plus, learn why the military has a bigger influence on fashion than Anna Wintour and Tyra Banks put together. From underwear to outerwear, this is the ultimate primer for a newbie Project Runway fan.

'Vintage LA'

Vintage LA, by Jennifer Brandt Taylor, paperback, 232 pages
Once you've got your fashion vocabulary down, you're ready to meet Jennifer Brandt Taylor in the book Vintage LA. A Hollywood girl through and through, Taylor knows how to find movie star glam on a budget. At age 16, she started designing clothes and self-publishing her own magazine, Pesky Meddling Girls. All the while, she was gathering information on secret spots and riveting back stories from her celebrity-filled hometown. Vintage LA is chock-full of the city's fashionable history, including classic photos from a golden era and interviews with high-profile residents. Taylor's reverential glee for all things iconic makes her the perfect tour guide through both the undiscovered and the infamous aspects of West Coast style.

'DV.'

DV., by Diana Vreeland, paperback, 196 pages
And, finally, a chance to spend time with an Original Fashionista of the first order. Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue, knows that stylish is as stylish does: "The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it," she says in the pages of her memoir, DV.

I am mad about being a fly on the bright red floral wall of her celebrated Manhattan apartment as Vreeland tosses off inspirational gems like, "We all need a splash of bad taste. It's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I'm against." and and "I'm a great believer in vulgarity — if it's got vitality."

Vreeland invites everyone who has a sense of personal style into her opulent world, where she celebrates ingenuity over affluence on every page. And under all that fabulous frock talk, her memoir reveals an extraordinary affection for her husband and a heart more dazzling than anything in her immense closet.

So whether you want to drop the history of the miniskirt into your water-cooler conversation, or just spend some time with three authors who understand that true style has substance, these three books will inspire you to find your inner chic, without ruining your credit.

Three Books ... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

Melissa Walker is a former magazine editor who has written four books for young adults.

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