When style savant Stacy London started writing her latest book, "The Truth About Style," she decided to take a new approach and throw out all the fashion cliches, such as the "must-have trench for spring" or the "three ways to rock a poncho."
"Let's be honest," says the co-host of TLC's long-running "What Not To Wear" series: "If 'how to' advice was that useful, you'd all be dressing well, and I'd be out of a job. The 'how to' approach is about changing your look. From years of working with women, I've discovered that that is only part of what they're really after."
Instead, London concentrates on why we often "don't" dress well. "We all put obstacles in our own path toward personal style, myself included. If we understood why we constructed these practical and emotional obstacles, we might move beyond them to healthier, happier perceptions of ourselves and, ideally, a better sense of self-esteem," admits London. "Style can change your look, certainly, but it can also change your life."
London picked nine "real" women - each of whom faces a particular issue when shopping and getting dressed, and then she leads them through "start-overs." London inspires them to celebrate their unique body types and personalities. From a 19-year-old pre-med major in Texas to a petite New Yorker who recently moved from Arkansas and a working mom who has a decade of oversized black clothing in her closet, London takes us on a fashion trip that is chock full of useful advice that all women can use to transform themselves and their wardrobes.
In a holiday season full of one style crisis after another, take a few cues from London's "start-overs" in "The Truth About Style" (You might want to put this one on your holiday wish list!).
-The process of creating an outfit allows you to see your present body more clearly. Give thought to the detail, and take time with it. It's the same process as painting a picture. Assemble your pieces and your color palette. Ask yourself whether you have filled the canvas properly.
-Be strategic when it comes to wearing shiny fabrics, says London. The eye gravitates to shine because it reflects light. If you want to highlight something, put shine there. If you want to camouflage it, go with matte.
-How to do fur, according to London: Fake it. You can buy synthetic fur that looks and feels a lot like the real thing. Use it as a go-to piece to wear with trousers, or to make a pair of jeans look more sophisticated.
-Accessories must be proportional with your frame. For plus-size women, that means a thicker belt, bigger bag, scarf and jewelry. The same rule holds true for prints. The print needs to match the stature of the woman who's wearing it.
-To have presence, small-framed women should wear form-fitting clothes, such as skinny jeans and pencil skirts. Wider-cut clothes look like you're drowning in them.
-Shoes are a game changer for any basic outfit. Look for shoes that have some visual interest, whether it is embellishments, color or shape. These days, there are so many reasonably priced, well-made brands, you don't need to bust the piggy bank, says London.
-Get yourself a jersey dress you can roll up in a ball and leave on the floor for six months, pick it up and it'll still look great. It's the least time-consuming wardrobe item for a mom I can think of.
-Denim is a great wardrobe chameleon, according to London. You can wear it to work or dress it up for evenings or dress down with it on weekends. Think of it as a blank canvas to test out trends that might be too risky head to toe. Anyone in the world - of any size or age - can rock a good trouser jean.