A Review Of Two Useful Style Books, One For Interiors, The Other For Your Grown Up Clothes


I like two different kinds of style books. The first gives you photos or images so glorious you don’t care what the author says. We’ll call those Inspirational Style Dreams. The second kind we’ll call, hmm, Useful Style Friends. Here we want to learn something we didn’t know. We want to hear a voice we recognize, to feel that we could be friends. with the writer. And we’d like the book to be accessible, so we can read, put down, pick up, review, browse, return.

Meet Style Forever: The Grown-Up Guide to Looking Fabulous by Alyson Walsh,

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and Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, by Emily Henderson.

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Useful Style Friends at your service.

  • Alyson’s a real friend, in that I’ve-never-met-her-but-we-email kind of way. She’s a very talented writer, and I love her slightly sardonic Northern humor, and no-hyperbole tone. Imaginary shared outing? Whiskey tasting into the wee hours.
  • I don’t know Emily, but she writes like she’s a friend to everyone. Works for me and others, apparently, as her book’s a best seller. Imaginary shared outing? Morning cake and coffee.

Let’s review!

In Time-Honored Tradition, Compare And Contrast

The books share the known traits of USFs.

  • A recognizable, informal voice.
  • Organization along the lines of a website — you browse, and almost “click” the parts that interest you most.
  • Valuable images. Styled uses scads and scads of photos (the woman is a productivity machine), Style Forever nods to the tradition of fashion illustrations.

But they’re alike in other ways I might not have predicted. Each book:

  • Helps you find a style “tribe” (That’s Alyson’s term, and I like its implications of community.)
    • Style Forever suggests style archetypes ranging from Casual Glamourpuss to Ageless Rocker to the Gentlewoman. Leo Greenfield illustrates with a series of dressed characters both specific and generally inspirational.
    • Styled kicks off with a scored questionnaire to help determine whether you’re Mid-Century Modern, Totally 80s, Traditional, etc.
  • Uses and thus familiarizes you with the language and details that experts understand. Forever covers the Elements of Style — Proportion, Fit and Must-Have Pieces among others. Styled reviews Color, Scale, Balance etc., and her fundamental idea, Start With The Vignettes.
  • Gives a good amount of practical and specific advice.
    • Alyson offers The 10 Best Kickass Jacket Moments (in history), The 10 Best Shoe Styles, What I’ve Learned About Fashion (10 Lessons).
    • Emily takes you through how to style all your rooms, from entry hall to bedroom to bath.

There are, of course, important differences in the books’ approaches, which can be traced back to the authors’ professions.

  • Alyson is a journalist. She’s been writing and reporting on fashion for decades, and brings a sense of history and occasion. She’s also a woman over 50, and addresses – without venom – fashion’s changing attitude towards older women. And she’s interviewed a very interesting group, from Iris Apfel to the older model, Cindy Joseph, to the head of Matches.com.
  • Emily is a stylist and interior designer. She communicates her creative process and on-the-spot resourcefulness with what, I assume, is her trademarked energy. She makes you want to just get going.

And So We Learn — The 3 Most Important Takeaways From Each Book

Style Forever

  1. Alyson gives excellent tips on the details that make an outfit. I’ve spent years thinking about style, and can be prone to thinking I know as much as I need to. Not quite, not quite.
    1. (Related, I need new sunglasses. Aviators.)
    2. Spend money on jackets.
    3. For the rest of her tips I’m going to recommend you buy the book. Alyson is a good egg. Smart, unpretentious, focused. Seriously.
  2. The cultural discourse on women and aging grows ever more robust. Progress.
  3. Women over 50 do well with a no-makeup makeup. Phew.

Styled

  1. High WASPs don’t usually style stuff, we live with it. Hate fuss. So for us the book is most useful in decorative areas, like a fireplace, or credenza top. I am never, ever going to “style” my entry hall. Unless paintings, a basket of garden tools, and the occasional bag of clothes for Goodwill count.
    1. (Related, books are for reading.)
  2. I am 100% going to get a tray for my dresser, on which I will arrange paired objects. Maybe something African. The un-Pottery-Barning continues.
  3. The effect of a drum shade on lamp modernization. Am moving forward with the guest room.

And here’s what I’m learning about how to benefit from style books in general. You aren’t going to agree with everything that anyone says. I’m prone to shaking my head, “No!” but I learn so much more via, “Maybe. Interesting,” and keep myself open to finding the “Hooray!”

 

Affiliate links may generate commissions. Alyson’s publisher provided a review copy of Styled Forever at my request.

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18 Comments

  • 12/02/15
    9:33 am

    Reply

    Northmoon said...

    I seriously admire someone who can put together beautiful table top or bookshelf arrangements. Mine always sort of look hodge podge or random. Looks like both those books could go on my Christmas list.

    12/02/15
    2:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Northmoon, Oh what Emily does with a tabletop! And she describes the process so well. Both books would be great Christmas presents for the right person – in the stockings, for example.

  • 12/02/15
    9:38 am

    Reply

    Tricia said...

    Just put the Styled book on my Amazon wish list — looks great!

    12/02/15
    2:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Tricia, Hope you like it!

  • 12/02/15
    10:21 am

    Reply

    That's Not My Age said...

    Lisa, thank you so much for the fantastic review. Hoping that one day the imaginary shared outing becomes a reality – though we might have to switch the whisky for wine (or beer).

    12/02/15
    2:53 pm
    Lisa said...

    @That’s Not My Age, My pleasure! And imaginary outings are very flexible! That’s what’s so good about them:).

  • 12/02/15
    11:47 am

    Reply

    Mary anne said...

    Just put Style Forever on my Amazon wish list. I am an old dog looking for some new tricks. Thanks for the review.

    12/02/15
    2:53 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, You’re welcome. It’s an excellent modernizer, if we can invent a term.

  • 12/02/15
    2:04 pm

    Reply

    dottoressa said...

    I have and like Stlye forever very much,witty style of writing,illustrations,and I like her blog as well! I wanted it as “real”, hard cover book and I’m sure I’m going to to re-read it from time to time.
    And the other book seems interesting,too (as the review itself)
    Dottoressa

    12/02/15
    2:54 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, I like it in hard cover too – so browsable and thumbable. Witty is the perfect term – Alyson’s humor is so dry you feel its impact 2 sentences after you’ve read the funny bit!

  • 12/02/15
    4:03 pm

    Reply

    Bungalow Hostess said...

    I been meaning to read Alyson’s book for months…will put it on my list.
    Your no fuss approach works and I like the idea of no make up…i am just not there yet.
    I love a tray and have several silver ones that I play around with…one for a Diptyque candle, coasters, and the remote! The other is in the bathroom for all my scents and mirror and a few silver bits and bobs…
    I’d love to see what a “real” decorator would choose to arrange on a tray!

  • 12/02/15
    5:41 pm

    Reply

    SAJ said...

    I want to know my imaginary outing. Maybe it would be an afternoon with a psychologist to tackle my narcissism.
    Other than that, I believe a touch of styling improves our lives. If you’re a high WASP, I think I’m a low one. So maybe that’s why I was able to shed the rigid practicality a little easier. I style my pantry and kitchen shelves and I enjoy them many times through the day.

    12/03/15
    11:35 am
    susan said...

    lol!! :)

    I actually “remodeled” my pantry early this year – painted it in farrow and ball Hague Blue – a fav of their colors… looks amazing and I love it in the pantry. Everything looks just awesome even when it gets a little messy.

    ps: I would think a High wasp would more inclined toward the ocd tendencies.

    @SAJ,

    12/03/15
    2:37 pm
    SAJ said...

    @SAJ, it’s so nice to have a lovely pantry, isn’t it? I was inspired a few years ago by Janet at the Gardener’s Cottage to keep a pretty pantry. It’s one of those little details that shouldn’t be so impactful, but is. Well…the OCD tendencies abound here. I will have to look into your blue. Mine is currently white but about to be repainted.. Hmmm.

  • 12/02/15
    5:47 pm

    Reply

    Sydney Shop Girl said...

    I’ll be on the lookout for these books, Lisa.

    Just in time for my holiday reading list.

    SSG xxx

    12/04/15
    7:34 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sydney Shop Girl, xoxox

  • 12/03/15
    3:08 am

    Reply

    Faux Fuchsia said...

    I met Alyson is London! She is amazing! x

    12/04/15
    7:37 am
    Lisa said...

    @Faux Fuchsia, Next time I’m over I really hope to look her up.

  • 12/03/15
    5:48 am

    Reply

    Mardel Fehrenbach said...

    I love Alyson’s book and keep it out, where I can pick it up and peruse at leisure.

    The Styled book looks interesting, and I may have to pick that up. I’ve learned that I am far more particular about the aesthetics of my home than I had previously thought, and although I still think most design books prompt more no’s than yes’s, I trust your recommendation.

    12/04/15
    7:38 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel Fehrenbach, Emily’s book is good in that you can ignore the no’s and still get a lot out of the principles. It’s a peruse at leisure kind of experience.

  • 12/03/15
    8:18 am

    Reply

    AK said...

    My main goal with my house is that we don’t look like hoarders

    12/03/15
    9:01 am
    Wendelah said...

    @AK, that’s my goal, too. Also new paint, and cat-proof flooring. I have a long way to go before “styling” anything is an option.

    12/04/15
    7:38 am
    Lisa said...

    @AK, Hahahahahahaha!

  • 12/03/15
    9:10 am

    Reply

    TheHuntingHouse said...

    Madame Privilege, do not think this gets you off the hook for writing that Style book that we all think you should/could/must write. Understood?

    ;-)

    12/04/15
    7:39 am
    Lisa said...

    @TheHuntingHouse, Fine fine! Someone has to find me an agent though. I doubt I’ll persevere with that part all on my own;).

  • 12/03/15
    10:37 am

    Reply

    Mamavalveeta03 said...

    I’m obsessed with beauty/fashion and home decor books. You should see my collection! (“Do you wanna’ come up and see my etchings?” ;-) ) Alyson’s book sounds like it’s geared toward women “our age,” so I want to check it out

    12/04/15
    7:40 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mamavalveeta03, It’s definitely geared towards women of our age. Do you have any great recommendations from your collection?

    12/06/15
    10:30 am
    Mamavalveeta03 said...

    @Mamavalveeta03, Lois Joy Johnson, a lifelong beauty and style editor for major magazines, has collaborated with superstar makeup artist Sandy Linter on several books, including my favorite, “The Makeup Wakeup,” and it’s follow-up, “The Wardrobe Wakeup.” There is a new one in the series about to be published called “The Woman’s Wakeup:How to Shake up Your Looks, Life, and Love after 50.” They’re very encouraging and remind us that we’ve got a lot of living to do!

    And when it comes to decorating books, there’s a lot of room for style differences, but my favorite, which tends toward a simple esthetic, is “Remodelista,” by Julie Carlson, et al, after the blog of the same name. One of my favorite publications is actually FREE…The Room and Board catalogue is chock-full of cozy yet stylish decorating ideas!

    12/06/15
    7:58 pm
    Lisa said...

    Cool, thanks!

  • 12/03/15
    11:31 am

    Reply

    Jennifer said...

    I just finished Alison’s book. It was great. I love her humor too.
    Jennifer

    12/04/15
    7:41 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jennifer, Wouldn’t it be a hoot to all gather at a glam boutique and get kicked out? Oh, wait, we did that already…

  • 12/03/15
    11:36 am

    Reply

    susan said...

    the books sound interesting – can’t wait to check them out.

    thanks for posting :)

    12/04/15
    7:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @susan, You are so welcome.

  • 12/03/15
    11:50 am

    Reply

    Christine said...

    Alyson’s book finally convinced me to try a jumpsuit so I got a starter indigo denim jumpsuit from Old Navy for $15 in a petite size.

    I also loved that she recommended a “Lovely Blue Shirt” instead of the white shirt one reads about in all the other fashion guides– so much more practical and flattering for every day– so I got a chambray one from J. Crew that is just perfect.

    It has loads of great information and no holding back on generous and practical advice. Recommended!

    12/04/15
    7:45 am
    Lisa said...

    @Christine, I can’t quite make the jumpsuit leap, although I love the way Alyson looks in hers and I imagine yours suits well. But the blue shirt thing, yes, on my list. Nice to hear more people enjoy Alyson.

  • 12/03/15
    1:14 pm

    Reply

    Paula said...

    Thanks for these fun reviews, Lisa. I want both books now and will check out Alyson’s blog.

    12/04/15
    7:46 am
    Lisa said...

    @Paula, You are very welcome.

  • 12/03/15
    3:45 pm

    Reply

    Susan D. said...

    Lisa, I had to come to terms with drum shades about 8 or 9 years ago. At first, I was opposed–only remembering the horrid drum shades of my childhood. Now, I would not have anything else. Lampshades are important and they need to be updated! So–I am onboard with you.

    12/04/15
    7:47 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan D., Hahahahaha. Drum shade trauma! I’ve ordered 2 plain off-white “linen” ones from Wayfair for the guest room. We shall see how it goes! But I feel better knowing you’ve already made the shift.

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