Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Illustrated Woman; or, Fashionistas in Red

I do love how an image can complement words. The day after I passed my qualifying examinations in graduate school (five-hour written; two-hour oral!), I repaired to the fabric shop, where I bought cottons in all hues and taught myself to quilt. I hadn’t realized that I was famished for color and design, having focused on words exclusively for so long.

In the literary world, illustrations used to grace novels all the time—see early editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Anne of Green Gables—but the art nowadays tends to be confined to the book jacket (with the exception of graphic novels, of course).

It was with delight, then, that I discovered Nina Garcia’s Little Black Book of Style, sitting on a well-curated table of fashion books at Kirna Zabete. I did not buy it, so you’ll have to comment here with your reviews, but I did appreciate Ruben Toledo’s whimsical illustrations of stylish women throughout.

The book reminded me of two things: a Kate Spade leather organizer I bought many years ago on the strength of its insert pages. My most recent one (from 2003!) has “twelve American cities” as its theme and includes tiny, cunning watercolors on each page of something lovely and appropriate to that city.

I also thought of when Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte was serialized in the Sunday NYT Magazine and delightfully illustrated by Izak. His large-eyed gamines pay a bit of homage to Margaret Keane’s girls from the 1960s (see below), but are thoroughly modernized and confident.

The image at the top left of this entry is an Izak, the one to the right, an Alex Katz portrait of Ada. Katz’s painting reminds me of both the Izak and the wonderful I.M. Pei-designed art museum at my graduate school, where I first saw the Katz exhibit.


K.Line said...

Miss C: I bought this book, which I appreciated for the Toledo illustrations (but which didn't really do it for me on the level of "fashion" guide). I would be happy to gift it to you if you would like. If so, simply email me with your address and I'll mail it along. K

miss cavendish said...

K.line--That's so sweet of you! I too had trepidations about the fashion wisdom between the covers, which is why I didn't spring for the book.

enc said...

I think I'll go see if my local bookstore stocks this one. It'd be worth a few minutes looking, because I like the illustrations.

riz said...

Love Alex Katz! Interesting that we almost posted about illustration at the same time. I haven't been inside Kirna Z for a while now. I do want to check out Nina G's book, and I don'tt hink I will ever understand Toledo being handed the pink slip at Anne Klein!