Monday, November 23, 2015

Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy, 1975

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Personal style is what this book is all about. Fashion as a dictatorship of the elite is dead. Nobody knows better than you what you should wear or how you should look. What we want to do is to lay out the alternatives, the guidelines, and show you the way some of the people we think look exciting today put it all together for themselves.
The basic concept of Cheap Chic for both men and women is to have a few clothes that you really love rather than a closet full of mismatched fashions. Paring down your wardrobe is going to simplify your life and looking good is going to make you feel good. Find the clothes that suit you best, that make you feel comfortable, confident, sexy, attractive and happy...and then hang onto them like old friends.

(223 pages)

Yikes, I am so not the target audience for this book. I have no idea what I was thinking when I requested it, except that I've been thinking about sprucing up my wardrobe lately and the idea of buying "cheap" and "chic" clothes sounded really appealing. Plus, this book came out when my mother was very young - my older aunts were even old enough to be putting together their own wardrobes in the 70's - so it's kind of cool to see what was fashionable back then.

But therein lies the problem I have with Cheap Chic: it's meant for girls old enough to be my mother's age. And while it's pretty cool to see all those original pictures of people wearing various outfits, there's really just about nothing I can pull out for modifying my 21st-century wardrobe. And all of the nitty gritty - about mail-order boots (oh, the novelty!), wrap-around clothes (did people seriously walk around in clothes held on just by knots?), finding cute original 30's pieces in thrift shops (I wish!), and so many fur coats (I think the animal lover in me just died) - kind of did me in. On one hand it's cool; on another, it's just really, really long and detailed, in a way that is boring in its uselessness. I can't blame the authors, of course, because I can tell that their advice would have been much more helpful when Cheap Chic was actually modern, but I can question the purpose for republishing such an old and obviously out-dated book forty years after it originally came out.

Actually, I can question myself for reading it. I mean, I know some people are really into this sort of stuff. I bet this book will be just what some people were dying to read, in all its out-dated, sometimes hilariously-out-of-touch glory. But I am not one of those people, and I lost interest once I realized that every single page was just more of the same micro-analyzing of different outfits and how they were put together. It's like, "here's a picture of some random person! Let's look at every single piece of her outfit, say where it came from, and then analyze how you can use her tactics for making your own outfit." That sounds great, doesn't it? Not when you read that exact same thing like three hundred times. And not when every single woman looks like she just jumped out of some old movie that you've never even seen, let alone want to emulate.

The other problem I had with Cheap Chic is more an issue of morals: it flirts a little too often with the idea that the reader sometimes wants to dress - well, to flirt. The word "sexy" is used many times throughout, and the word "erotic" a few too many times than I would like. There's nothing very explicit, but that also didn't help with the whole "building my outfit" thing. Also, two or three of the pictures were very inappropriate for no apparent reason other than "fashion." I don't find it fashionable to walk around with a bare chest; I also don't want to see a picture of a woman wearing nothing from the waist up. Other readers back then must have had different taste than mine, however, because there are a couple of nude-top pictures scattered throughout the book. All I have to say to that is: why?

Honestly, I only recommend this book if it looks like something you'd like. You know who you are, antique fashion fans. If you've read this review all the way through, you've got a pretty good idea of what the book is like and whether or not you'll like it. If it's up your alley, by all means give it a try - but if you're not sure, then I suggest giving this one a pass.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

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