On Tuesday night I went to Nicole Jenkin’s author talk at Berkelouw Books in Paddington (exactly my sort of venue – we were seated near the second-hand book section on screen, stage and literary bios, so I walked away with not only Nicole’s book but also bios of Colette, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford…either very shrewd or lucky seating on the part of Berkelouw). I recognised some old friends from Sydney’s vintage community, including Nora of Nora Finds (dressed exquisitely in 1950s vintage) and Glennis, who used to own Over the Top Vintage at the Sydney Antique Centre, and from whom I’ve bought some lovely pieces. The audience was very relaxed and engaged, as was the speaker, which made for a fun event for all involved. Nicole’s approach in taking questions from the floor took us in very interesting directions, from discussions on specific textiles to hints for styling.
We finished with a fun and practical demonstration, as Nicole – using the lovely Nora as a model – took us through ways in which scarves can be used to achieve different looks. She went through different fabrics, patterns, sizes and how each of them can be used to different effect.
It’s an example of the sort of very practical information that comprises the book, with the same clarity and aesthetically attractive presentation. The concept of the book reminded me of some of the wonderful style guides published from the Victorian era up to the 1950s – invaluable for vintage collectors, and the best of them have advice on colours, shapes, and styling tips that have a certain timelessness to them. Today we tend to turn towards magazines and lifestyle shows, but so often what we see is the same reiterated information, a lot of it strictly prohibitive. “Wear a wrap top if you have a big bust and want to disguise your middle”, “Don’t mix x and y colours.”
I found “Style is Eternal” had a very different approach, encouraging people of all ages and shapes to experiment, giving a combination of solid and specific advice that one could follow to the letter and fall back on for security, and suggestions that are aimed at encouraging the reader to spread their wings. The tried and true advice on topics such as different era-inspired silhouettes and different body types is there, but also suggestions on how to break the “rules”, such as how to team colours like black and navy that conventional fashion advice would have it must never be seen together.
Nicole also tackles some subjects that are often riddled with hidebound advice such as “dressing for one’s age”, giving a nod to the social history behind such strictures for context without ever giving the impression she’s lecturing you on fashion history. This author aims to inspire, to provide the tools to the reader to find their own timeless style and express their individuality, and not to burden the reader with admonitions and rigid rules.
It’s a very good read, easy to dip in and out of – the kind of book you can run a finger down the contents and pick a subject of interest rather than a book that requires you to read it cover to cover, although doing so would bring its own enjoyment, thanks to the diversity of topics Nicole covers. The author has a formidable background in the subject and decades of experience in the fashion industry, but she wears her knowledge lightly and communicates with clarity, precision, and touches of humour. A reader feels the pleasure one would have in conversing with an expert on the subject who enjoys sharing her experience and passion for both fashion and the individuals it clothes, not a fashionista issuing style diktats from on high.