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In Search of (Books About) Style

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

All winter I’ve been in a not-fit-for-public-appearances outfit of honey-badger-don’t-give-s^%$ yoga pants. I looked at myself in the full length mirror that you can’t avoid by the hand lotion dispenser at the gym and saw not only my mother, but my mother’s 80s-style preference for cardigans… with ducks embroidered on the cuffs. Ducks. The only worser thing might be bunnies. If I were to ask myself the question, “What Impression Are You Making With Your Appearance?” it was obvious, when I looked, it was better not to inquire.

“Mommy, why don’t you wear dresses?” “How ’bout a pair of boots, honey?” My children and husband noodle. But I thought I was above it all, floating in a cloud of comfort jeans and t-shirt that says, “Got baklava?” which I wear because, I want to know. Do you have some?

But then I had to do an interview and realized, I had nothing to wear. And in this I am not joking, as some people with fabulous wardrobes schvitz because they lack an ecru cardigan. I had nothing to wear. Not a shred of suitable raiment. The suit from my days as a office-person? Let’s just hold hands and mouth the words “middle age spread” and then say no more about that.

In a messy ponytail and clogs the dog has chewed up, I camped out for a week in the stacks in the hair makeup fashion sections at the library and got precisely nowhere. Wait. Not true. I got as a far as learning that one should not be 40-something and just learning like it’s a newsflash that pink “wakes up your face.”

Help me, readers. I don’t want to hear that I should just embrace “being me.” I like who I am, but I want to know about leggings.

What are the holy books and blogs of personal style? What’s the canon? Who do you turn to when you want to look elegant, capable, personable and not like you don’t know from clamdiggers?


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