Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Thoughts on The Fashion File by Janie Bryant and Monica Corcoran Harel. (Hint: I loved it!)


Lately, I seem to be reading a lot about fashion, makeup, and style, and how to apply it to your life in the best way. This can be either from books, such as Maria Menounos' The Everygirl's Guide To Life, (which was actually pretty good, maybe I'll review that, too...), or from magazines, such as this month's Vogue, which I don't read very often, but, c'mon, Adele was on it.

I must say, though, that the most fun and interesting "guide" I've read so far is The Fashion File, by Mad Men's costume designer (and award-winning costume designer) Janie Bryant, and fashion expert, writer, and reporter, Monica Corcoran Harel. For those of you who live under a rock (kidding), Mad Men is a television show about people working in ad agencies on Madison Avenue in the 1960's, and their families and lives. The Fashion File revolves a lot around the show, but even someone who hasn't seen the show but likes its fashion can immerse themselves in the book - whenever Janie uses the book as a point of reference, she generally provides a picture or illustration to help out.


What I liked about The Fashion File:
I'm a very visual person and I love fashion illustration and coffee table books, so this book was a dream. The illustrations are nothing short of gorgeous. They were drawn by Robert Best, who was on season 3 of Project Runway and worked on an Isaac Mizrahi movie.
The book is divided into chapters with names such as "You as a Leading Lady", "Defining Your Silhouette and Secrets for Dressing Your Shape", and "The Dressing Room". One of the things I liked most, however, is that no matter what advice Janie gives, she always says that what makes you feel beautiful and confident is the best thing to wear, and says a few times that, although she believes the advice she gives is good and has been tried and tested, they're just guidelines, not hard "rules", which I appreciated. She also says that loving yourself and being able to gracefully accept compliments without acting too modestly is just as important - they help with the confidence, and I'm completely behind that!
I also loved that she didn't endorse buying new clothes all the time to keep up with trends, or with any kind of designer buying - she definitely encourages shopping your closet and keeping an open mind in order to put together new outfits all the time with the help of a few quintessential closet items and a few fun accessories. I especially loved the section "Seven variations on the little black dress" for showing different ways to accessorize a black dress to make it look completely different.


Janie also has some really good advice, seriously. She recommends mood boards, but not only one for inspiration, but one for each persona you want to communicate through your style. Want to dress up rocker style in all black, a leather jacket, and crazy hair? Make a mood board! Want to channel old Hollywood glamour? Make a mood board!
She also gives the advice of keeping a kind of style bible or fashion journal - kind of like a food journal, but you write down what you wore and what made you feel best so that you can remember that outfit should you ever be in a rush to figure out an outfit that looks good on you! You can even add in pictures, if you want. I know I've started mine, and it's helped!


Overall, Janie gives advice to determine, at the beginning of the book, the basics about yourself style-wise: what colours would be best on you, what shapes, the role of colour in your wardrobe, skincare, undergarment-fitting, makeup, and refining your look. I found this extremely helpful - the basics she presented weren't too complicated that I wasn't sure which one I was, and she gave really great advice for every body shape, colour combination, and more.


I also love that she included "Checklists" at the end of every chapter. They're essentially summaries of the chapter put down into a few (pretty and well-written) bullet points. As much as The Fashion File is extremely well-written, it can be hard to remember all the advice, points, and ideas Janie puts out there amidst all the pretty illustrations, so the checklists are helpful.


One of my favourite parts, however? The vintage chapter! Seriously, it's amazing. She covers every decade from the 20's until the 80's, has interesting facts about each decade, but also has ways to incorporate those looks into your own wardrobe.

A few of my favourite illustrations from the vintage chapter (they're so detailed!):

The 1920's section

The 50's section

The 60's section

And the 80's section

I loved that a lot about Mad Men, as a show, was included, but I love even more that a lot of information about the costume designing process and fitting process was also included. I'm interested in it, so it was a real treat to read about a day in the costume designer's life - it's inspiring to see how much work Janie's put into making the show more believable through tiny outfit details!

The last, albeit unexpected, part that I liked? The last section, which focused on men! I have to admit I wasn't expecting it at all, but I found it really interesting considering I know very little about men's fashions. She even includes guides on different ways to knot ties and bow ties and how to shop for suits, which is extremely useful for you and your guy. I loved the emphasis on a man dressing up, since I love a man in a suit ;).


The (very few) things I didn't like were more on a personal level:
Janie mentions that, unlike Coco Chanel, who advised woman to glance at herself one more time in the mirror before leaving and taking off an accessory, you should glance in the mirror before leaving, but then add on one more accessory. Throughout the entire book, she really advocates on wearing lots of accessories, which is nice, for sure - a lot of emphasis is placed on accessories with sentimental value, and experimenting is great - but a mention that wearing huge earrings, on top of lots of necklaces, and a belt, and an arm of bangles and cuffs can be a bit much, especially for petite women like myself. It's not a rule or anything, but although accessories are fun, a mention that sometimes even no accessory is needed if you're, for example, really trying to make a statement with the outfit you're wearing.

One more thing I didn't like which is really a personal matter is that she didn't include Audrey Hepburn in her "old Hollywood glamour list of inspiration". I just would've included her because she's inspired me so much, though I can understand that she may not influence everyone as much as, say, Rita Hayworth has. I was also surprised Marilyn Monroe wasn't on there since she was mentioned several times throughout the book.

So, as you can see, there's not much wrong with the book, at least in my opinion.


Have you read The Fashion File? If you have, what did you think of it? Have you read other style and fashion books based on a movie or television show that you can recommend?


Disclaimer: I wasn't paid or compensated to mention anything here, it is my own content and my own ideas. The book links are Amazon affiliated, and by clicking on the links/buying the linked product I will profit, but I still choose which products I want to talk about and believe in.
All photos in this post belong to Janie Bryant, Monica Corcoran Harel, and Robert Best. No infringement intended, they were used simply for demonstrative and admiration purposes.

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