Mirror, mirror on the wall — here’s the best fashion book of all — so far

   We don’t always get to start over in life, erasing the ugly parts — the mistakes, the decisions made in poor judgment, the causes for regret. Yet always there is the longing for perfection, for beauty. Perhaps that’s why television ‘‘makeover’’ shows are so popular, whether the object of the renovation be a house, a relationship or a face.
   From the earliest times, women have used all tools at their disposal in the quest to make themselves more attractive. One can picture a cavewoman pounding brightly colored rocks into dust and smearing that dust onto eyelids or cheeks. (Many of us still use mineral makeup today; we don’t have to pound our own rocks, but the makeup no longer is free.)
   And as in any quest, guides appear — in this case hundreds if not thousands of fashion, style and makeup advice books. Many are published every year. Generally, they run the gamut from stating the obvious — again — to being silly to dispensing bad advice a savvy woman will ignore. How do I know? Several dozen of these books are collecting dust on my shelves.
   Among them are a few gems. One of the best is "Fashion Makeover: 30 Days to Diva Style" (2007, Chronicle Books LLC), the most recent book by Northern California-based image consultant Brenda Kinsel. I have enjoyed all of Kinsel’s image advice books, but this one is especially good. In fact, if you read and follow this one, you won’t need to bother with any more fashion advice for a while — at least until Kinsel’s next book comes out.
   The book contains a series of exercises to be completed over 30 days — Kinsel calls it beauty boot camp. What’s likely to happen if you become engaged by this book is that you’ll race through it in 30 hours, at least the first time. The goal is to take you and your closet from dowdy to diva, in this case ‘‘diva’’ being a lovely creature who expresses her true self through her beauty and style.
   Among the exercises: discovering what ruts you are in, stylewise, discovering and defining your true style and learning how to express it consistently, taming your closet, shopping wisely and maintaining and evolving your authentic style into the future. There also are chapters on hair and makeup.
   Much of the advice in this book addresses the changing body of a mature woman — someone, say, in her 40s and older. However, it’s also good advice for the younger woman who wants to have style. Those who KNOW, know that having style is something altogether different from being in fashion. Fashion icons — Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, to name a few — don’t follow fashion. Fashion follows their style.
   "Fashion Makeover" is a warm, encouraging, helpful book, one that you will read over and over, for pleasure as well as reinforcement of what you’ve learned from it. The only thing better would be to have Brenda Kinsel living next door.

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