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A to Z of Style: The Book Report

Updated on December 4, 2012

Quotes from the Stylish and Others

Author: Amy de la Haye. Ms. de lay Haye holds the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Dress History and Curatorship, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London. She is the author and co-author of several books on fashion.

Publisher: Abrams 2012. Cloth hardback; 129 pages exclusive of Details of Illustrations, Acknowledgements, and References; 143 pages total. Illustrated with color-tone drawings.

Discussion: Ms. de la Hay's research and writings in this area make it inevitable that she would collect her favorite quotations and sayings about style. I would guess such collecting motivated this interesting little book. As the author states in an introductory portion ("How to Use This Book"):

A to Z of Style seeks to inspire, inform and amuse a broad audience, united by their fascination for fashion, style and etiquette, past and present.

In her Foreward to Ms. de la Haye's little book, Devi Kroell, designer and founder of DAN GABLER, defines the concept of style as follows:

Style is having a recognized, unique and personal look. A signature something. This is, of course, easier said than done[.]

Speaking of style, there is a type of non-fiction book these days that has wide margins in which relevant quotes are placed. At times, the quotes are the most interesting part of that sort of book. Ms. de la Haye turns this format on its head. The A to Z of Style is a book of quotations with brief commentaries included in the margins at relevant places. The quotations are arranged alphabetically, obviously, according to topic, such as "Design and and the Creative Impulse" and "Imitations," as well as more expected entries on items such as buttons and "zips." A couple of my favorites are:

  • "The hand is a tell-tale member, and reveals all the character which the face tries to conceal." Source: Modern Etiquette in Private and Public, quoted at p. 55.
  • "Fashion is and has been and will be, through all ages, the outward form through which the mind speaks to the material universe." Source: George P. Fox, writer and influencer of fashion, 1937, quoted at p. 42.
  • "It's a big mistake to intellectualize fashion. Fashion is for the eye, not for the head, unless it's a tiara." Carolina Herrera, quoted at p. 45.

The "References" section (11 pages) is intriguing on its own, listing each person quoted alphabetically with a one-line bio and source material. Contrary to the impression that the TV series Fashion Police might convey (I'm not sure that Ms. de la Haye would take kindly to mention of this series in an article about her), designers are literate.

I enjoyed this attractive, fun little bit of philosophy and frivolity: a piece of "fashion" itself.


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