Between serving as fashion director at Marie Claire, judging designs on Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and penning her fourth style book, “The Look Book,” Nina Garcia found time to give us a how-to on tackling life’s stickiest style situations. Need help pulling together looks for that big date night and beyond? Read on.
Q: You added “author” to your extensive fashion resume when you published “The Little Black Book of Style" in 2007. Now, three years — and three books — later, you’ve published your most comprehensive style guide yet. Can you tell us how your books have evolved?
A: If you look at all of my books collectively, they make up their own unique style program. You can set the mood for your style philosophy with my “Little Black Book of Style,” while “The One Hundred” is indispensable for building your foundation of timeless, classic pieces. Everything you need to know about shopping smart on a budget is in “The Style Strategy.” Now, my “Look Book” is like having your own personal stylist — truly indispensable when you’re having trouble putting together the right outfit for a specific occasion. Let me be your guide when you’re navigating the tricky waters of situational style.
Q: What was the main source of inspiration for your latest book, and what sets it apart from the others?
A: I get so many questions from women around the country asking me what the “perfect” outfit is for a particular occasion. This book aims to answer those questions — it’s a roadmap to situation-specific dressing, and there’s really nothing else like it on bookshelves today. Believe me, I checked! My “Look Book” aims to provide women with a guide that will help them feel good about the decisions they make when they don’t have a clue about what they should wear.
Q: One of the first pieces of advice you offer in the book is “Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” How much should a woman’s individual personality and lifestyle influence her wardrobe, and how often should she reevaluate?
A: A woman has to feel comfortable and confident in everything she wears, it’s the key to great style. You can acquire fashion, but style is something you develop as your personal taste develops and grows. My book shows you how to bring out the sense of style that many women might not know they even have. Once you’ve locked down your style and identified the looks that work best for you and express your personality, dressing for any occasion will be a snap. If your wardrobe isn’t influenced by your personality and lifestyle, then it’s time to reevaluate.
Q: Your latest book is broken up according to eight key occasions, including Work, Dating and even Dream Travel. Which areas do people tend to have the most trouble with?
A: The hardest looks for me to write about were the ones that we have the most trouble dressing for in real life — meeting your boyfriend’s parents, Christmas at the in-laws’, and other situations that feel awkward even before considering what you should be wearing. These outfits take some thought, which is precisely why I wrote the book — to make these style-crisis situations easy for everyone to handle.
Q: “The Look Book” covers everything from what to wear when breaking up with someone to what to wear when meeting a potential surrogate. What are some of the more unconventional occasions or circumstances that you’ve come across?
A: Well, a flight attendant once asked me what she should wear to her sister’s upcoming wedding. The kicker? Her sister was marrying her own ex-boyfriend. Now there’s an uncomfortable situation if ever I heard of one!
Q: One of my favorite parts of the book is the section that talks about clothing that men don’t understand. What are a few pieces to avoid on a first date?
A: You don’t want to intimidate a man on the first date. Women always tend to go ultra-sexy, but it’s important not to take it too far. Avoid sky-high stilettos and a plunging décolletage or micro-mini. If you wear a short skirt, balance it with a more modest top. Be approachable and comfortable. Remember, most guys aren’t into overly “fashion-y” looks to begin with.
Q: Work tends to be another key area women struggle with. When it comes to the office, do you have any quick tips for wearing current trends while still looking professional?
A: Many of the trends for fall 2010 translate beautifully to the workplace. Camel, lady bags and architectural minimalism are all perfect for the office. Choose your trends wisely and incorporate them judiciously into your professional wardrobe; you’ll look fresh and modern without being a trend victim.
Q: Can you name the top three versatile wardrobe pieces every woman should own?
A: A little black dress, one quality handbag (NOT 12!), and a crisp button-down (classic white is my personal favorite).
Q: What is the one piece of advice that woman should remember from your book?
A: Take a moment to consider the message your clothes are communicating to the world, and make sure your outfit is saying what you want it to. My book guides you through certain difficult style situations — occasions for which what to wear is definitely not self-explanatory and makes them easier for any woman to tackle. It’s about putting your best fashion foot forward and learning which outfits will work for you time and time again.
OK, now the lightning round…
Favorite color? Black — it’s a classic for a reason.
Favorite fabric? At the moment, shearling.
Favorite midnight snack? Fruit.
Person you’d most like to meet — past or present? Coco Chanel.
Guilty pleasure? Pancakes!
Qualities you most admire in a person? Dedication and loyalty.
Favorite getaway? I’ve been escaping to my country house every chance I get this past summer.
Favorite place to shop? Downtown Manhattan boutiques that carry interesting, offbeat items. I love Evolution in SoHo for its cool skeletons and amazing rocks.
Hardest thing to pull off? At this point, anything overly studded or grommeted just looks over-the-top. What once was chic now looks cheesy.
Don't forget to enter our Nina Garcia Book Giveaway, and visit the Fashion Institute in New York on October 26, where Nina Garcia will meet with fans, offer fashion tips, sign book copies and more.
Photo: Hyperion Books