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Fashionable reading list

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Josh Sim's '100 Ideas That Changed Street Style' may surprise even the most dedicated followers of fashion
Typical Nasty Gal advice: 'Find a place where you can flourish. Once you do, you're going to kill it'
'The Glitter Plan,' by Juicy Couture's founders, maps the brand from $200 investment to $200-million sale

Fashion, beauty and business are part of the summer reading plan, thanks to some new books published this spring. Visit the glamourous world of Juicy Couture, get advice from the original Nasty Gal, learn beauty secrets from a pro or be inspired by the streets.

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100 Ideas That Changed Street Style

Josh Sims
Laurence King Publishing: 216 pp., $29.95

Josh Sims' "100 Ideas That Changed Street Style" is the latest in a "100 Ideas" series of books from Laurence King Publishing (other titles include "100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design" and "100 Ideas That Changed Photography"), and the lavishly illustrated softcover book strikes an entertaining balance between encyclopedia and field guide as it sprints through some 70 years of street style.

Many of the movements, trends, fads, statements and style tribes highlighted, cross-sectioned and deconstructed are familiar, with Sims delving into dandyism (idea No. 4), pointing out preppy (No. 15), and tackling steampunk (No. 92). (There's no explanation as to the ordering, but it appears the entries are arranged more or less chronologically.) The aerobics style of the 1980s — think leg warmers — earns an entry, and Japanese street style is well-represented with a handful of entries, including Decora, Kogal and Lolita.

But since the book is headed for the triple-digit mark, the author has the luxury of being able to reach both further afield and farther back in time to introduce even the most dedicated followers of fashion to a look or term they might not have heard of before. Examples here include the zazous of German-occupied France ("akin to the zoot suiters of the United States, and sharing a style with the British Teddy boys of the 1950s," writes Sims), the stilyagis of '50s-era USSR ("members of a style cult that seemed to embody the ideological clash between capitalism and communism"), the paninaro of Milan (named after a sandwich shop near the Duomo) and the of-the-moment magpie style movement (so called, Sims writes, "for its readiness to borrow and radically combine looks from a host of twentieth- and twenty-first-century style tribes and trends").

Also worth noting is that the list includes some less obvious shapers of street style, such as the coffee bar (which Sims calls "the crucible of subculture"), social media (he writes that the ubiquity of affordable digital photography and Internet access "prompted an explosion of street style documentation and analysis") and fast fashion ("[a]fter the late 1990s, perhaps no single idea would define street-level fashion as distinctly as fast fashion").

Whether read straight through from teenager (No. 1) to magpie style (No. 100) or kept close at hand for future reference, "100 Ideas" would make a worthy addition to a summer reading list or bookshelf. —Adam Tschorn

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#Girlboss

Sophia Amoruso
Portfolio Hardcover: 256 pp., $23.95

Part memoir, part business manifesto for millennials, "#Girlboss" is a witty and cleverly told account of Sophia Amoruso's unlikely rise from dumpster diving for vintage duds in San Francisco to discussing profit margins for her rapidly growing Los Angeles-based fashion empire, Nasty Gal, now valued at more than $100 million.

In her first book, Amoruso aims to inspire readers to be a #Girlboss.

"A #GIRLBOSS is in charge of her own life," she writes, using all capitals. "She gets what she wants because she works for it." And it's apparent here that the fashion entrepreneur has worked for it, rolling up her sleeves as a stylist, buyer, retailer and businesswoman to build the Nasty Gal brand.

Though the book is full of career, life and business advice on how to succeed using your talent and individuality (whether that means a Harvard MBA or starting a small online business from your bedroom), Amoruso is the first to denounce any role model labels. "I'm telling my story to remind you that the straight and narrow is not the only path to success," she writes in a chapter called "Why Should You Listen to Me?" After all, her early retail "career" did involve some petty theft before committing to a life free of crime but full of endless and often dirty hunts for the vintage clothes she would sell for a small, and eventually large, profit through the eBay store where she cut her fashion teeth.

She candidly recounts the years she spent as a one-woman show, scouring estate sales for valuable vintage, hiring models from MySpace (paying them in hamburgers) and organically growing her business through old-fashioned customer service and building a very loyal customer base. "I also responded to every single comment that anyone left on my page," writes Amoruso. "Many companies were spending millions of dollars trying to nail social media, but I just went with my instincts and treated my customers like they were my friends."

At just 30 years old, Amoruso seems like a friend to her legions of trend-hungry customers, and she offers plenty of advice both for beginning a career and succeeding in business even if you aren't particularly scholastic. "So, #GIRLBOSS, if you suck at school, don't let it kill your spirit," she writes in a section called "School: It's Not My Jam." "It just means that your talents lie elsewhere, so take the opportunity to seek out what you are good at, and find a place where you can flourish. Once you do, you're going to kill it."

It's this kind of honest advice, plus the humorous ups and downs of her rise in online retail, that make the book so appealing. Though the tome seems like an obvious read for recent college graduates and for loyal fans of Nasty Gal's festival-ready frocks and 1980s- and '90s-inspired pieces, Amoruso's unconventional approach to business and her experiences as a rebellious teen and creative outcast would also appeal to anyone's entrepreneurial side. —Melissa Magsaysay

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Toss the Gloss
Beauty Tips, Tricks & Truths for Women Fifty-Plus

Andrea Q. Robinson
Seal Press: 216 pp, $24

Forget the fifty 50-plus. Women of all ages could stand to learn something from author and beauty industry veteran Andrea Q. Robinson in "Toss the Gloss."

Though her book is geared toward women 50 and older, the former Vogue and Mirabella editor packs the pages with easy-to-digest advice anyone can adopt for using makeup to enhance, not hide, one's features, and she imparts some refreshingly honest tidbits about the industry in which she has worked for nearly four decades.

As the former chief marketing officer of Estée Lauder, former president of Tom Ford Beauty and former president of Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Robinson has racked up her share of opinions, and she gladly shares them with her reader.

For instance, she divulges that many major beauty companies use the same scientific ingredient across their various brands, meaning that aside from marketing and price, many do exactly the same thing. She reminds that magazine editors are often instructed on what brands they must include in their pages, due to advertising concerns, so products featured in the glossies aren't always to be trusted.

"There are more anti-aging products out there than George Clooney has ex-girlfriends," Robinson writes in a chapter entitled "Skincare: Getting Clear on Product Help vs. Hype." "The problem? Few of them actually deliver."

Thankfully, she offers plenty of insight on items that do work, in a section at the end of each chapter called "Best Bets." Here, she calls out specific products, plus shades for varying skin tones, that she feels deliver on what they promise. These suggestions are really applicable to women of any age who want a concise list of products vetted by an expert.

Robinson is equally as straightforward with age-related issues such as cosmetic surgery, saying, "Sure, in our twenties and thirties, we probably claimed we'd never use fillers, let alone undergo any form of plastic surgery. I certainly said, 'Never ever!' But guess what? We've changed, and perhaps more importantly, so has the technology."

She is candid about her decision to get a face-lift and advises anyone contemplating going under the knife to above all, "be conservative."

Regarding hair, she instructs not to try to replicate the head of hair you were born with: "You've grown up. So has your hair."

It's this kind of direct advice mixed with her robust résumé that makes for a unique beauty tome that stands out among other similar titles. —Melissa Magsaysay

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The Glitter Plan
How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It Into a Global Brand

Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor with Booth Moore
Gotham: 256 pp., $27

Until Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor came along, tracksuits were worn by retirees and soccer moms.

But in the designers' nimble, well-manicured hands, the tracksuit was suddenly hip and body-hugging, in jeweled brights, and a much-copied global fashion phenomenon.

The Juicy Couture universe, as envisioned by its founders Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor, became to the Los Angeles lifestyle what the tailored pantsuit was to New York, a sought-after symbol of this city's laid-back, sexily thrown-together aesthetic.

In their new book, "The Glitter Plan" (Gotham Books), co-written with Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore, the über-glamorous ladies behind Juicy Couture outline how they met, became best friends and business partners, and came up with an original idea for sophisticated sportswear. They invested $200 and sewed samples in Nash-Taylor's apartment, became a bestselling style phenomenon and in 2003 sold the brand to Liz Claiborne for $200 million.

"The Glitter Plan," penned in a chatty, intimate style, is equal parts business manifesto, motivational tome, biography and a dream read for fashionistas. The designers — who recently launched a new label, Pam & Gela, and are no longer associated with Juicy — interweave their story with how-to tips for budding entrepreneurs, including gems such as: "Don't worry about hiring the best. Find the person who is hungry, sees your vision, feels the vibe, and wants to take the trip. That's the person who treats you like a partner."

A small middle section of photos is a visual chronology of key Juicy Couture moments: a humble office in Pacoima, the duo's scribbled projections on lined yellow paper, limited edition Barbie dolls based on the two women, nights out with their husbands (Nash-Taylor is married to Duran Duran's John Taylor and Skaist-Levy to producer-writer Jefery Levy). The book is packed with charming vignettes and anecdotes: encouraging employees to come to work in their most comfortable clothes, including pajamas; noshing on candy together every afternoon; sending Juicy Couture T-shirts to fashion designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen with an expletive or two on the front; early tussles with their new corporate owners.

Throughout, the authors' shared love of fashion is evident.

"[W]e functioned as a massive creative organism that tried on clothes all day long," they write. "Every day was a celebration because everyone wanted our clothes." —Kavita Daswani

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The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish

Linda Przybyszewski
Basic Books: 400 pp., $28.99

Over the past few decades the hemlines on skirts may have become abhorrently short, the heels on statement shoes ridiculously high and the ubiquity of sweats in public too common, but once there were women dubbed the "Dress Doctors" who aimed to temper any impractical or indolent aspect of women's clothing with their teachings in the art of getting dressed.

Through her well-researched and detailed book, "The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish," author Linda Przybyszewski takes a look at fashion through the first half of the 20th century under the guiding principles of the Dress Doctors.

"The Dress Doctors, who were home economists, created a professional network among themselves," writes Przybyszewski, who is an associate professor of history at Notre Dame University as well as a prize-winning dressmaker. "They reviewed one another's books, worked together on state and national committees, and saw one another at annual meetings. Because they were teachers, they thought about dress systematically and became prolific authors of dress textbooks."

The author describes the Dress Doctors as a kind of extended family made up of women who worked as teachers, writers, retailers and designers and who proselytized about how to dress with practicality and budget in mind.

Whether it was narrow, pointed shoes or the beyond-confining proportions of the hobble skirt, the Dress Doctors delivered their advice on radio shows, in magazines and at women's clubs.

Przybyszewski recounts one Dress Doctor's thoughts on pointed shoes, from a 1927 issue of the Girl Scout magazine: "'If you want to be graceful, to work with fine freedom and to stand without tiring, don't mistreat your feet. Give them their chance to carry your body well.'"

And in regard to the hobble skirt, the author says the Dress Doctors called the style "nothing short of disability."

Przybyszewski paints a fascinating picture of the Dress Doctors as forward thinking, practical and at many times entertaining, with their no-nonsense advice on dressing in harmony with one's body and in consideration of the many roles of women inside and outside the home.

Part history book, part riveting look at the evolution of women's fashion through the timeless lens of the Dress Doctors, "The Lost Art of Dress" is an informative read for fashion students and anyone wanting to re-discover some enduring ideas about how to dress well. —Melissa Magsaysay

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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