I'm not sure what I expected when I requested a review copy of Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy from Blogging for Books. After all, the book was originally printed in 1975 ... the era of fashion I most abhor! I'm 42 and I cringe when I look back at photos from my childhood. But, the book blurb said it had a timeless quality, so I requested Cheap Chic and waited to see what would arrive.
The cover is very colorful, but the interior of the paperback book is completely black and white. I wish the photos were in color because it would add so much to the many fashion pictures included in the book. Almost every page has at least one photograph. Every two-page spread (except one) has photographs or drawings included. Literally. I checked. If you want to see "what to look for in Europe" you have to turn the page, because those two pages have no pictures.
Some of the information included in the book truly is timeless.
And then there are the pages where you need to read the guidelines and look for ways to apply them to your life without being blown away by the extreme nature of the fashion examples in the book. We aren't all likely to want to wear a full-length fur coat or a kimono - but we can admire them as historical fashion styles and try to apply the lessons to our lives today.
I personally have a strong preference for soft, flowy clothing with bohemian prints. I love florals and paisley and rich colors in cool tones. Because I tend to wear lots of prints, I try to keep my accessories minimal and basic. My hair and makeup are natural, so my clothing and accessories have to blend in with who I am and support that natural look rather than "wear me". The tips on accessories in the book encouraged me to continue with my own style even if it doesn't fit the current trend to bold purses, and bold, chunky, heavy jewelry.
I loved the chapter about Nancy from Minnesota and her "If it feels good, wear it" mantra. Her style seemed to fit in more with mine than many of the other examples.
Since my wardrobe is a compilation of clearance rack items, hand-me-down clothing, and thrift store and yard sale finds, I hoped I could learn a lesson from Cheap Chic. It wasn't quite as helpful as I thought it might be, but it's an interesting bit of fashion history to peruse. There are tidbits I can use. As they say in La Leche League, "Take what you can use and ignore the rest." Mostly, it helped me feel confident in the choices I am already making.
Cheap Chic might be more applicable to someone younger, a little more bold in their fashion sense, the hipsters of the world, or someone pursuing a career in fashion. It would make a great gift for a teen or college student pursuing fashion, but it's not exactly the "how to dress your best on a budget" guide for a 40-something mom in the midwest.
If you're thinking about buying it, I recommend you check it out from the library first. If your library doesn't have it, suggest they order it. It would be an excellent resource for library shelves in communities and in schools.