Stacy London’s “The Truth About Style”

posted: 10/02/12
by: TLC
Image Courtesy Penguin Group (USA)

About the Book

Stacy London is the co-host of TLC's What Not to Wear. She is the co-founder and stylist in chief of Style for Hire, a personal styling company. She appears regularly on NBC's Today show. She is the editor in chief and editorial director for Westfield Style Magazine, a custom publication for Westfield Malls. She has appeared on numerous TV programs including Oprah, Access Hollywood, and Wendy Williams. She previously worked at Vogue and Mademoiselle.

With her unique talent for seeing past disastrous wardrobes to the core emotional issues that can lead to sartorial crises, style savant Stacy London has transformed the look and lives of hundreds of guests on TLC's hit TV show What Not to Wear. Now, for the first time in print, London not only shares the principles of how to dress well and why you should but also examines the reasons why so many women don't.

In The Truth About Style, London moves beyond the often intimidating seasonal trends of fashion, which so often leave women feeling inadequate and judgmental about their own bodies, to the more valuable and enduring concept of style: a way to dress that enhances and celebrates who they really are. She opens the book by sharing her own history and struggle with self-esteem on the path to her discovery of the healing power of style and learning to find self-confidence. The core of The Truth About Style is a series of case studies featuring nine real women, each of whom faces a particular issue that many women confront when shopping or opening their closet doors. After assessing the hurdles that have held them back, London leads them through detailed "start-overs," in which she helps them select looks that not only flatter them physically but reflect and celebrate their personalities.

If you have ever despaired of finding the right clothes or being able to love the body you have, The Truth About Style will be an inspiring, liberating, and often humorous guide to finding your truest self-expression.

Read an excerpt from The Truth About Style on the next page!

Image Courtesy Penguin Group (USA)

What This Book Is Not

This title is a funny one for me. If this chapter were a person, I'd never let them get away with defining themselves in the negative. But in this case, I want to dispel you of any preconceived notions you may have about this "type" of book.

Why write a book about fashion? I've struggled with this. It's not that I don't love the subject, but what else is there to say that every fashion blogger, mommy blogger, stylist, ex-model, and even I haven't already said? I mean, there are a kajillion fashion books out there already. Does anyone really need another tome to tell her what 99 items to buy, how to dress like the women on TV shows, how to dress for the red carpet, or wear shimmer? I'm not knocking "how to" books--they are often great, and necessary. But I did one of those already. My first book, Dress Your Best, which I coauthored, was about how to dress according to body type, just like a Colorforms manual. Why write another one? Save the trees! Keep your money! Who needs another fashion book?

And then I had a bit of an a-ha moment. It came to me at the home of my dear friends Molly and David, whose three children were all under the age of six at the time. These kids were like aliens--so polite, so well behaved, but inquisitive and joyous, and just such a pleasure that I had to ask Molly and David how they managed to be such wonderful parents. What was the trick? It was Zion, their son, who gave me the answer: their house rule was "Yes!... And?"

I sat there blankly looking at this five-year-old, waiting for him to finish the sentence. David stepped in to explain that this was the first rule of improv: The idea is to take what life has given to you, accept it wholly, and then build on that. Accept and create, essentially. Molly and David's kids had been taught to accept rules, to be creative, and their demeanor reflected what they'd been taught. It's not only a great parenting strategy but a fundamentally useful life philosophy. And as I sat there, I thought, That's a great style philosophy, too--and one I can write a book about.

First, consider the principle "accept what you've been given"--the "yes" part of the equation. "Yes," where style is concerned, is an unbiased, dispassionate acceptance of who you are, where your body is right now (today, not next week, after a crash diet), and what your life circumstances are. You must accept the good, the bad, and the ugly, without prejudice. "Notice, don't judge," as my sister Jaclyn once told me attribution, sister, see?). You must get to a Zen place about the raw material you have to work with, to be able to say, "I love my back, hate my ass, I'm old, I have limited resources, and that's okay." Acceptance means knowing when your pants are too tight. It means not wearing your favorite dress when the armholes squish your chest into your armpits. When I say "accept," I mean accept: No more judgment, just pure dispassionate observation. The "yes" is absolutely essential to style. If you deny the reality of your body or your life, you'll never be able to dress any of it well--even the parts you love. You have to see it all to work with any of it.

Ignoring a problem (or a "problem area") doesn't solve it. Trust me when I say I've tried that route many, many times. The only way to deal with a style problem is to confront it and attack it head-on. This is the "and" part of the equation, the best part of it. "Yes" is acceptance; "and" is advancing to the next step. "And" is coming up with a passionate strategy to emphasize what you love about yourself and to de-emphasize what you don't. Don't ignore your least favorite areas or try to hide them. Hiding implies a shame about ourselves. Even when you don't like something, you can accept it and "consciously camouflage" (trademark pending) it instead. Go up a size or three to look great in your pants. Strategize your spending budget. Part of "and" is using style as a tool to help create the image you want to put out in the world that tells others how you want to be treated. It can also help you foster self-esteem you didn't know you could have.

Going through the mental process of "Yes... and" is paramount before you try on a single article of clothing. Style doesn't start with your body--it starts with your brain. There has been much discussion in the last few years about neuroplasticity, the notion that the brain can reconfigure itself and form new pathways throughout life. The same can be said for how you think of your physical appearance, especially how you dress--call it the neuroplasticity of style.

For fashion-book clich?s like "the must-have trench for spring" or "three ways to rock a poncho," you'll have to go somewhere else. Let's be honest: If "how to" advice were that useful, you'd all be dressing well and I'd be out of a job. The "how to" approach is about changing your look. From years of working with women, I've discovered that that is only part of what they're really after. For that reason, my book doesn't only deal with how to dress well, and why you should, but it examines why you don't. We all put obstacles in our own path toward personal style, myself included. If we understood why we constructed these practical and emotional obstacles, we might move beyond them to healthier, happier perceptions of ourselves and, ideally, a better sense of self-esteem. Style can change your look, certainly, but it can also change your life.

And that, my dears, is What This Book Is.

The book is called The Truth About Style. But when I think about it, there's more than one truth. Or maybe there are lots of little truths that add up to one big one.

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